Finding good hunting land can be an enjoyable and fun process. To do it right requires some research and time on your part.
Download the latest version of Google Earth (free). You can use this program to gain a bird's eye view of potential hunting land. It allows you to measure distances, view elevations, find water and bedding sources; as well as view wooded and open areas. It is one of the best software programs out there for exploring land. It gives you a bird's eye view of the world in great detail.
How to Find Land: Before I start exploring the aerial view of a property with Google Earth, I first find a potential piece of land listed for sale. There's no point in spending your time exploring land if it's not for sale. I use websites like landwatch.com, landsofamerica.com and my local MLS website to help me find potential hunting land. You will find there is a great deal of land for sale, so use criteria such as minimum number of acres, maximum price and the area you want to own in order to narrow your search down.
If you have the time to drive around for awhile, you can also look for "for sale" signs. Although the majority of land is listed for sale on the Internet, not all land is. I recently found 160 acres of great deer hunting land while driving to view a neighboring tract of land. The owner of the land had nailed a small piece of plywood to a tree with the words, "160 Acres for Sale", followed by his phone number. It was in a secluded area and I doubt very many people saw the sign. However, I did! His asking price turned out to be $400 cheaper per acre than the property I had driven to see which happened to be across the road. It turned out to be exactly what i was looking for. This time of diamond in the rough is few and far between, but if you have the time and know the area you want to own, give it a try.
What to Look for: After you have found a few tracts of land that match your price and acreage requirements, open Google Earth and navigate to those tracts. Use the software to explore the property.
Look for water sources on or near the property listed for sale. Look for creeks, rivers, ponds, lakes or reservoirs. All animals need water. If a property has water on it, be prepared to pay more for it. I've also found that the larger the body of water, the higher the price per acre. Properties with lakes or large ponds will require a larger investment upfront. If you have the equipment or time, you may be able to build your own pond or have one dug for you.
Look for the type of topography that the animals you will be hunting prefer. For example, if you are hunting whitetail deer, look for a mix of wooded and open areas. If you will be hunting duck, look for low lying marshy areas with lots of water.
Although software programs like Google Earth can save you time by identifying potentially good hunting land from above, nothing beats actually walking the property. When walking the property, looks for signs of the animal you will be hunting. For example, if you are wanting to buy deer hunting land, look for deer tracks, scrapes, scat and rubs. Try to do your walk at times when the deer will be active so you can actually see deer.
Talk to the seller or seller's broke when out on the land. Alot of times you will get very good information about the property and area by speaking with the seller. If you have hired a broker yourself, ask your broker to have the seller or seller's broker meet with you when viewing the property. You can gain some valuable insight into the property by speaking directly to the party most closely associated with it.
Ask the seller if he/she is a hunter and if they have pictures of the animal you will be hunting. If you are wanting to trophy hunt deer, ask for pictures of bucks they have shot on the property.
Easements: Ask about what easements, if any, are on the property. This is important because it may give others legal access to your property. For example, if there is a gas well on the property, someone working for the gas company will most likely be driving in and out of the property on a regular basis checking the wells. Ask yourself if that will be a problem or not.
Some easements can be of value, such as electric lines. Electric lines running through the property may mean that you can get electricity on the property cheaply. Easements such as electric and gas pipelines typically do not require much attention by utility employees. Therefore, the amount of access needed by those individuals will be few and far between.
Comparables: When looking for that perfect hunting property, be sure to look at the prices of similar properties in the area. This will give you a better understanding if the owner's asking price is reasonable and in-line with market values.
County Assessor's Website: After I find a piece of land I'm interested in, I like to go to the county's assessor (tax) office and view some data on the property. Each county is different, but many will show the tax bill, name of the owner, and a rough outline of the property from an aerial imagery program. It basically lets me know what my annual tax bill will be and who I will be potentially buying the land from along with a good idea of its boundaries.
Negotiating: After you have found that perfect hunting property, it is time to make an offer. If the market is hot and their are lots of buyers, you may want to agree to the seller's asking price or get close to it. If there are not many buyers in the area or the market is a buyer' market, make an offer based on what you can afford and something that is not an insult to the seller. Some sellers may not take you serious and eventually ignore you if you bring a low ball offer to the table. I like to offer within 5-10% of the seller's asking price. That let's the seller know I am a serious buyer, but also puts a little extra money on my side. It also leaves a little room for negotiating.
Closing: After a price has been agreed upon, I like to use a local closing agency to transfer title of the deed from the seller. A title agency can also help find an attorney to perform an attorney's review of the abstract to offer his/her opinion on the accuracy of the ownership of the deed. Alternatively, you can purchase title insurance from most closing agencies that insures the accuracy of the title.