I took my hunting beagles out for our first official rabbit hunting trip of the season Sunday afternoon. They’re still a bit slow and not quite keeping the track the way I would like, but it’s only the first week of season and things will get better.

I had hoped to make it out on Saturday, but I was busy all day at a family relative’s farm auction near Loudonville. She passed away in the spring, and her 185-acre farm, as well as her household goods, were all sold during the day.

The property sold well — easily surpassing the million-dollar threshold. And, fortunately, it mostly sold as one piece.

I had a chance to speak to the owner afterward, and he granted me rabbit hunting permission through the current hunting season. Truthfully, the last thing I wanted to do was bother him at the sale about hunting permission. But there were some guys from far away who were there for the same, and I knew if I wanted a chance, I had to act.

I’ve hunted rabbits on that farm since I began hunting as a kind, but the reality is the rules often change when a property changes owners.

Hunting leases

More and more, we’re seeing land owners who set up programs to lease their land. You pay them a set amount of money for the right to hunt.

Some see it as a way to make some extra money. Some see it as a way to promote wildlife management on their farm, and protect themselves against liabilities.

I’m happy to say, though, in the farms that my family has owned, I don’t recall us ever once charging someone to hunt.
And our free, owner-permission hunters managed the wildlife just fine. We never had any liability issues, and when there were trespassers, we ran them out or called the law.

That’s the way it’s been done for generations, and that’s the way we did it.

Why pay?

Maybe that’s why I don’t care to pay someone else in order to hunt. Most of the things you can get done with a hunting lease, you can get done with out one, and you can keep your money to spend on something that you really need (like more shotgun shells, your kid’s education, etc.)

In my time as a free, non-lease paying hunter, there have been dozens of times when I’ve tossed rocks and tree branches out of a farmer’s fields, told the farmer about some faulty fence I saw while hunting, or an area where a stream is getting out of control.

Owner relationship

I remember one time when my dad and I quit what we were doing in the middle of the day, to go shoot a rabid raccoon for a farmer a couple miles away.

We knew the people we hunted on, and they knew us. We took them some of our bounty each year. We didn’t pay them to hunt their land, but they knew if they needed help with something, we’d be there a lot sooner than any lessee — especially a lessee who isn’t even from the county, let alone the same state.

Of course, hunting leases are legal in Ohio and you’re not doing anything wrong by having one. Perhaps you support leasing, as many do.

I just hope, though, that this growing system of leasing doesn’t end up costing people the opportunity to hunt — especially young boys and girls that come from families that can’t afford to pay a lease.

And I feel bad for hunters who only hunt for the venison (and could care less about trophy buck racks) — so they can have something affordable to eat throughout the year.

Our “outdoors” and “wildlife” is being turned into a commodity, in my opinion, and I don’t think we’ll be better off for it.

Chris Kick lives in Wooster, Ohio. An American FFA Degree recipient, he holds a bachelor’s in creative writing from Ashland University. He spends his free time on his grandparents’ farms in Wayne and Holmes counties.
Chris Kick
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