Some folks call them the "good old days", the extended period in which most of us my age grew up that allowed us to hunt on just about any land we chose; posted signs were few and far between.
We'd find a suitable looking scope of woods, ask the land-owner's permission and in most cases, we got a positive response. Our immediate task was hurriedly putting up stands and signs, discouraging other hunting groups from horning in on our woods.
That scenario all drastically changed a couple of decades or so ago when owners of large tracts of land, mainly timber companies, saw the opportunity to enhance company revenue streams by carving out blocks of land they owned, leasing chunks of real estate to hunting clubs.
At first, many hunters were dejected and some downright hostile. The very idea of having to pay for something they had enjoyed for free all their lives didn't set well. I admit I was one of those hunters who resented being faced with "Private...ABC Hunting Club" signs on lands I'd hunted all my life. The very idea of having to pay for something that was a life-long tradition didn't set well either.
That was before I was invited to join a hunting club. My first venture into the arena of private clubs was rather unusual. The owner of 500 acres I had hunted for years approached me about the possibility of forming a club of friends with the idea of helping him protect his property. He'd seen fences cut and over-run with parts of the property being used as a garbage dump. The wonderful thing about it was the fee.....absolutely nothing; he just wanted a group of fellows he trusted to assist him in looking after the property.
I contacted half a dozen friends and we formed a club, built stands, planted food plots and had several years of outstanding hunting.
Nothing stays the same forever. The property owner passed away, the land was divided and much of it sold and is now an upscale housing development. As sad as I was to move my deer stands and vacate the property, I will forever be thankful to the land owner who eased me into the hunting club arena in such a positive way.
Just as my tenure on this club ended, I was invited to join another club by friends who had leased property from Willamette Industries, which later became Weyerhaeuser Co. Although the change of clubs meant I had to dip into my bank account to pay my share of the annual lease fee, the experience has been a satisfying one.
Today, roughly 2,000 acres in Jackson Parish is leased by our 16 member club. We enjoy a great time together and we're glad to pay for the exclusive rights to get to hunt this prime chunk of land. Even so as stated above, nothing stays the same forever. Changes are forthcoming for our club as well as other clubs leasing land from Weyerhaeuser in the form of increased lease fees.
A meeting was recently held of representatives from each club with Weyerhaeuser personnel to discuss and explain changes just ahead.
Peyton Weeks, Weyerhaeuser spokesman, conducted the meetings, stating reasons for the fee increase.
"The timber market has been down for several years. Weyerhaeuser is a business and we have to make money and show earnings. Research has revealed that other companies are charging lease fees significantly higher than we charge and to keep pace, we want to be sort of in the middle and not charge the most nor the least. Personally," said Weeks, "I'm in two hunting clubs leasing Weyerhaeuser land and I don't like paying an increased amount any more that members of other clubs. However, should our company see the need to sell off some of our land, who knows what you'd have to pay for a lease under different ownership."
The solution? We'll either have to dig a little deeper in our wallets next year or add additional club members to help absorb the cost. Either way, I'm betting we'll find a way to remain involved with our hunting club membership. Why? We're hunters and we love our little piece of ground.
Glynn Harris Outdoors is proudly sponsored by DSK, Ltd. of Minden.