Got land and wonder what to do with it? Maybe you're not ready to build on it or sell it and instead you're looking for an alternative that brings in a nice cash flow.

Leasing land for hunting, fishing, camping and other outdoor recreational activities is making land an appealing investment.

"This has been going on in Europe for 500 years where the wealthy people own the land and allow other people to shoot the game on there and the hunting makes more money than the cattle and the farming," says Texas landowner John Baen.

Baen, a real estate professor at University of North Texas, has been investing in land for about five years now and owns several thousand acres free and clear.

"My criteria for buying the land were: I wanted it to have a lot of topography, a lot of relief, a lot of trees and a lot of wildlife on it as well as the possibility of having cattle on it," says Baen.

So with each piece of land, Baen used a critical eye to determine first for how much he could lease the land for hunting and then for cattle raising, which helped him determine his maximum mortgage payment for it.

Once you have the land, finding the people to lease it from you is the next challenge. That's where Troy Langan manager of the Hunting Lease Network comes in.

"It's an internet-based system that allows landowners to post property on a system that they want to go ahead and market out for a hunting lease," says Langan.

On the website is where landowners wanting to lease their sites converge with about 19,000 sportsmen wanting to bid on the land leases.

"These are sportsman looking for spots to hunt or fish and they will travel for good spots," says Langan.

Baen says sportsmen and other various groups are willing to pay a healthy price too.

"On one ranch we leased the hunting to one party, the cattle to another party, the oil and gas rights to another party, and the camping to another party. [When it's not hunting season] then we also have an archeological group that comes and digs during the summer. They pay $1,000 each and we have $14,000 in income a year," says Baen.

Each year more than $624 million is spent on hunting leases in the United States according to a 2001 national survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Before you jump in the game of leasing your land for recreational sports, Langan says it's important to make sure you have insurance issues squared away. The Hunting Lease Network is a subsidiary of Farmers National Company.

"We do make sure that all sportsmen carry the proper hunting liability insurance. This covers everything from all-terrain vehicles to firearms, tree stands and all the kind of stuff that's associated with hunting," says Langan.

It's basically a million-dollar liability insurance policy that the sportsman must carry that is liability coverage for the landowner as well as member versus member in the network. The policy is secured with the hunter before any activity has taken place on the property.

Langan says his organization can also help landowners determine the amount they might get if they were to lease the property.

"We have wildlife biologists, aquatic biologists here on staff that we can talk to as well as people in different regions who we can ask what the going rate is or market value is for a piece of property and then we can give them a good recommendation as to where to put their starting bid," explains Langan.

In states that are suited for hunting, the network is seeing a growing interest in nontraditional land leases for other activities such as fishing, hiking, camping, bird watching, dirt biking and even paintball.

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