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Private Land Pheasant Hunting Economics - 101

December 29, 2017 by

Considerations in Producing High Quality Fair Chase Hunting

The following is a current real-life scenario that depicts the finance requirements behind a private land, fee shared, fair chase pheasant hunting model.

The Challenge

Simply put the challenge is to produce limits of pheasants, daily, for 90 guests at a farm, across 9 weeks of the season (or 9 groups), hunting either 3 or 4 days per week.  For these purposes the starting point is a 3 day hunt so we will use that in our model.

The Demand

Guests always say “It’s not always about the birds”.  However, guests always seem to be much happier when they average 2+ birds per person per day as opposed to 1 or less per person per day.  Fair chase pheasant hunting means farming for naturally produced pheasants which is dependent on the farmer and also on mother nature.  The season of 2017 has taught us how a certain level of drought can impact even the best of properties regardless of quality of habitat.

The Outlook

In South Dakota, while the DOW heads north and sets record after record in this administration, land price and the agricultural economy are heading south.  Maybe a good thing after $8.12/Bushel Corn prices in 2013 turned the Ag economy on its ear and most farmers would agree we are feeling the impacts of that now.  My local elevator where I could take my corn to if I had to sell any lists a prices of $2.70/Bushel.  They say to break even corn price needs to be $4.00/Bushel.  Land prices have been higher but are currently settling at $4,000/Acre in this part of the corn and pheasant belt.  While the DOW is not in a correction the Ag sector is certainly deep in the throes of one. 

The Proposition

In the UGUIDE Cooperative Model, both guests and landowner/farmers, consider what it takes in land and management resource to either add a day of hunting, add more guests or at the very least offer the guests the opportunity to get a chance at a limit of ringnecks, daily, during their stay.  This balance is met on a given farm when the rate to hunt meets with the experience of the guest.  I suspect this year there will be a lot of turnover, in the state, of pheasant hunters looking for better bird numbers when in actuality mother nature made it all but impossible even on the best managed farms in the best areas of the state.  Welcome to Fair Chase.

The Scenario

Over years of managing ground personally and recounting events of guests we have learned that a day of hunting for any size group requires a land resource of between 100-160 acres.  Fully optimized might get by with 100 acres but lightly managed ground might take 160 acres or more.

This scenario seeks to spread the cost burden of a farm seeking to add enough land to add a day of hunting or just get closer to producing more consistent limits for guests.  Again, as above, our assumptions are 90 hunters, across 9 weeks, groups of 10 hunting 3 days per week and resting 4 days per week (the land rests).

With land at $4,000/acre the group (farmer and hunters) decides they are going to fully optimize 100 acres of crop ground for naturally producing more pheasants and create a day of hunting per week in the Coop model.  No cash crop sales will be generated from this land.  Assuming we could find 100 acres of crop ground nearby the sale cost would be $400,000.  Mortgaged over 20 years with no down payment (usually banks require 20% down to finance but we will not use it to spread cost across groups in rate structure) the annual mortgage payment would be $31,680….at 5% interest.  Property taxes are running $17.00/acre so add $1,700 to that annually.  $33,380 annual payment for 100 acres.  This does not include any costs for habitat implementation or annual habitat management and upkeep.

As a reference is one were to simply cash rent the ground to a local farmer or put it all into a CRP contract the ground would rent for $125/acre so income would be $12,500.  Right now we can’t even put any land into CRP, nationwide, because we need a new farmbill with a higher nationwide acreage cap.  But assuming we could, the group would enjoy adding a $12,500/annual federal taxpayer conservation subsidy to its fair chase hunting coop.  This for the term of the CRP contract which is either 10 or 15 years in length as selected by the landowner.

So $33,380 annually in mortgage and tax less $12,500 in CRP rent leaves $20,880 to spread across the Coop (guests) for this addition. So $20,880/90 guests = a rate increase of $232/person.  This again does not include any costs for habitat work which could add up to another $50-100/person on top of the $232.

We can begin to see and justify where a common daily hunting rate of $200-300/person is reasonable in the fair chase realm.  Whether trying add a 4th day of hunting per group or just get that group closer to limits on a 3 day hunt the cost burden seems to be the same.

Land prices in other parts of the state may be closer to $1000/acre but rents are also relative at about $30/acre rent.

Other costs factor in such as lodging building costs, equipment costs and other labor as well.

We hope this helps!

Posted in: UGUIDE News, Conservation, Habitat Management, Agriculture


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