Every now and then, hunters get stuck in a predicament close to the opening of deers season when their opportunity to hunt a property vanishes. It’s tough to shoot a wallhanger without having a tract of land to hunt. While there are several million acres of public-hunting opportunities across the Carolinas, access to a private tract of land gives hunters more control over their hunting missions. But what types of properties make for a good hunting lease this late in the game? 

Fortunately, deer are extremely adaptable creatures, thriving on 10,000-acre plantations filled with hundreds of acres of agricultural fields and acorn-stuff oaks trees, as well as wooded, 20-acre tracts adjacent to a subdivision full of lush daisies and award-winning tulips. By Sept. 1, the large hunting tracts owned by various land-holding and timber companies are locked up tight, but some of the best late lease opportunities are small tract away from the massive hunting regions of the county and sometimes located near developed areas. 

 Chris Manley, a land broker and wildlife consultant for Mossy Oak Properties in southeastern North Carolina, spends countless hours in the woods every year consulting with prospective sellers and buyers or perched in a tree stand himself.

“Finding a hunting lease in September or October can be challenging, but you can also find a diamond in the rough this time of year, because you are looking for something specific that nobody else is looking for,” saids Manley (919-616-7779). “You need to completely change the way you are thinking.

“You aren’t looking for that landowner who normally would lease it; you are looking for that landowner that normally would not or hasn’t thought about leasing land out for hunting.” 

Manley said the best late-leases properties will have some the attributes of a large hunting plantation, but in a smaller package. As long as deer have plenty of food, cover and access to water, they won’t have any issues thriving and providing a stellar place to encounter a trophy buck.

“Hidden pockets of land with development near them can harbor big, mature bucks living high on the hog without a hunter anywhere in sight,” he says.  

Most large hunting clubs overlook smaller tracts or avoid tracts near populated areas. Manley looks for smaller chunks of land in the 30- to 50-acre category with all the right components. 

“The best small tracts have immediate access to agriculture fields with natural drainage ways leading to or bordering these fields,” he said. 

While most hunters are looking for a permanent replacement for their hunting needs, Manley recommends they not overlook temporary lease options. 

“We come across tracts frequently where the owner/seller has either moved away or the hunting club dropped the lease because the land is for sale,” he said. “Usually, these places are still great places to hunt. Sometimes, these are properties where just the owners hunted or parcels that didn’t allow hunting. In either case, these tracts could be really good opportunities for the hunter willing to take on a temporary lease that can end at any time when the property sells.”