VANDALIA --- The white tails bouncing in an out of farm fields are a welcome sight for Matt Robinson.
“It is the quality of the deer that bring many hunters, especially those from the southeastern part of the United States, to Missouri,” this avid hunter says. “And, Missouri is a very hunter-friendly state.”
The Missouri White-Tail Deer is known throughout the country for producing trophy bucks. Hunting enthusiasts clamor to the region for the opportunity to bag the big one.
However, instead of traversing the back roads, scoping out the terrain and knocking on farmhouse doors to find the perfect hunting venue, many sportsmen are turning to Robinson to help find their own honey hole.
Robinson has been chasing Missouri’s deer, waterfowl and wild turkeys for more than 20 years. He farms and owns and operates Midwest Wildlife Services, a habitat-management company that specializes in assisting landowners improve their property for wildlife and hunting.
Being a landowner and an avid hunter, he understands the benefits of a hunting lease. Robinson logs countless hours on the road as the Missouri manager for the Hunting Lease Network (HLN).
HLN is a division of Farmers National Co., which has specialized in farm management for more than 80 years. The network focuses on matching landowners with sportsmen. Robinson says landowners do not have to be Farmers National customers to be a part of the network.
“It is open to anyone,” he says. “I meet with any landowner throughout the state who wants to lease their ground to hunters. Then, we manage the lease on their behalf.”
For farmers, that can result in extra income for their property. Robinson takes care of writing the lease, handling insurance and liability issues, marketing, and money collection.
“The only work the farmer has to do is to have the original meeting with us to establish the rules and terms they are willing to lease their property under,” he adds.
Before the meeting, he sends out a landowner packet, which includes a questionnaire to help farmers formulate their guidelines. Farmers will review questions like which hunting season, whether ATVs are allowed and how many hunters can be in the party. “They (farmers) set their own rules,” Robinson adds.
And, it is all free.
Robinson will then look around the property. He admits not all farmland can be listed.
“We look at it from a hunter’s point of view,” he says. “There are some standards.”
He says the company looks for property with some timber and cover. Large, open agriculture fields are not prime hunting grounds for his clients. After looking over the lay of the land, Robinson assesses the market value of the hunting parcel.
When the process is completed, the land is listed on the company’s website, www.huntingleasenetwork.com, where it is put up for bid. The site receives close to 3 million hits per month.
“There is no cost to the landowner,” he adds. “The hunter pays 100 percent of the lease up front. We collect the money and pay the landowner and all the other fees out it.”
Robinson is paid on a percentage of the lease amount.
Typical leases run year-round. “Once they experience the deer hunt, they want to hunt spring turkeys.”
Farmers can increase the value of their lease by providing cabins. “You add value with hookups for electric and water,” Robinson adds. “That is one thing you might want to consider.”
He sees the process as a good fit for farmers looking to harvest extra income on their property. But, it is also offers benefits for hunters.
“We do all the leg work for the hunter,” Robinson says. “We look at every parcel from a hunter’s point of view. We can tell them if it is a good hunting property because we have been there.”
The website offers an aerial view of the property along with some characteristics and guidelines for each. This allows prospective hunters to search for just the right property without leaving their home, office or even state.
Missouri has more than 40 counties with leases available. However, Farmers National serves 22 states.
“There is some type of hunting ground available that will fit every sportsman,” Robinson adds.