Reducing Risk Through Hunting Liability Insurance

The last thing many of us want to think about when going out on our lake to fish or entering the woods on a hunt is the potential that exists for accidents to occur.  Furthermore, even when we observe safety standards and practices, accidents do occur. While other forms of recreation generate far more accidents per activity (including fatalities), hunting and fishing could generate far more inherent liability than most people’s homeowner’s policies will cover.  Therefore, it is recommended that all hunting clubs and landowners take steps to reduce their exposure and protect their personal and/or family assets from these liability risks.

As more landowners began recognize the revenue potential from leasing their land for hunting purposes in the 1960’s and 1970’s, more private land began to be hunted and leased.  The first hunting liability policies began to be issued in the 1980’s as more people began to hunt on leased private lands (thereby increasing the landowner’s liability).  In some instances, landowners and hunting club members attempt to reduce their liability exposure by having their lessees/other members sign liability waivers.  However, the liability coverage afforded by these waivers is limited and should always be combined with a hunting liability policy.

What does it cover?

The three highest risk activities associated with hunting are treestands, ATV use, firearms.  Recent estimates from the International Hunters Education Association estimate the most common type of hunting-related accidents are related to falls (www.ihea.com).  ATV accidents generally account for the second-most injuries associated with hunting club activities.  Only about 1,000 firearm-related hunting club accidents occur annually and approximately 10% of those are fatal.  Most of these firearm accidents occur from the failure of the shooter to identify the target.

Generally, all policies cover exposure for the insured parties on these high risk activities.  Standard policies, recommended by many insurance agents, provide $1 million per occurrence general liability coverage and $2 million general aggregate coverage, with minimal or no deductible.  Additional coverage often includes:

  • $100,000 damage or fire legal liability;
  • $5,000 medical supplement;
  • Member-to-Member Coverage;
  • Premises Based Coverage; and
  • Guest Liability Coverage.

Policies may also often cover some limited watercraft use, hunting dogs, electronics, cell phones, and electronics.  Finally, it is important to understand all exclusions that may apply on each specific policy.  For instance, most policies exclude the operation of commercial hunting operations and guide services.  Some policies fire liability coverage may only cover timber damage, while other policies would cover cabins and houses.  Other policies may provide strict definitions on the coverage afforded to ATV use for “hunting activities.”

How much does it cost?

Insurance premiums for hunting liability insurance have decreased dramatically since their peak in the early 1990’s.  These annual premiums for hunting liability insurance are commonly based on the acreage associated with the club.  A general rule, regardless of issuing company, annual premiums are approximately 10 to 15 cents per acre for land and clubs over 1,000 acres.  Smaller clubs and lands under 1,000 acres generally have a set minimum fee of $200 to $300.  Hunting clubs on industrial forestland generally enjoy even more reduced rates, since the landowner obtains the policy across the entire landbase and passes those savings along to the clubs.

Landowners may require the hunting clubs on their property to obtain, maintain, and provide proof of hunting liability insurance as a condition of the lease.  The landowner may also require the hunting club to list the landowner “additional insured” on the policy to protect them from the activities of the club.  If the landowner purchases the policy, the inverse is true.  The landowner can require a list of all hunting club members from the club to list as “additional insured” on the policy.  This option is appealing to many landowners because they can insure a policy is written and maintained for the property, add additional family and friends on the policy as “additional insured”, and maintain the policy in the absence of a hunting club.  In this landowner-held policy option, the cost of these premiums can be passed along to the hunting within the per acre price of the lease.

Southern Forestry Consultants and Wiregrass Ecological Associates offer wildlife, fisheries, and land management services to meet the needs of your forest, pond, or hunting club.  We have experience and expertise leasing properties for landowners and managing leases of all sizes across the southeast.  If you have any questions about these services or the liability associated with your land, lessees, or hunting club, call Austin at 229.246.9651.

NOTE: Similar to all other insurance policies, you should consult your insurance agent on the levels of coverage and options available to protect the level of exposure unique to your club and land.  These options may differ between properties and states, as the listing of admitted vs. non-admitted carriers may change.  Additional information regarding the financial-strength and issuer credit ratings of each insurance company (i.e., their ability to pay your potential claim) can be found through the US-based rating agency, A.M. Best (www.ambest.com).