It's no secret that much of the best hunting out West is on private land. Trouble is, landowners all over the region have learned the value of their hunting rights and have closed their properties to inquiring hunters. True, you can still find ranchers who will let you hunt for nothing, but most now either lease their hunting rights to outfitters (who turn around and book high-dollar guided hunts), become outfitters themselves or at least charge individual hunters a trespass fee. Another, lesser-known way ranchers market their hunting rights is by leasing them to hunting management organizations, or clubs, that sell memberships. The granddaddy of this type of hunting management organization was the old American Sportsman's Club. They operated from 1969 to 1988 and controlled hunting access on more than two million acres in California, Colorado, Nevada, Utah, Texas and Louisiana. They offered hunting on private land for big game, upland birds and waterfowl, and allowed fishing and camping on most of their areas. The organization came apart in the late 1980s due to a general decline in the economy and questionable business management practices. The void created by American Sportsman was quickly filled by several smaller companies. Some of them are still around today and are prospering. In most cases there is a one-time membership fee and annual dues, and in some cases additional hunt fees.
One hunting club that has been around since 1987 is Wilderness Unlimited. It was founded by Rick Copeland who still owns and operates the company. Wilderness Unlimited has 250,000-plus acres under lease in California and over 100,000 acres in Oregon. The California properties are in the northern and central counties and offer good blacktail deer, mule deer, black bear, wild hog and limited pronghorn antelope hunting. The Oregon ranches are concentrated in the northeastern portion of the state where mule deer and Rocky Mountain elk are the main quarry. Fees for the California properties are a one-time $700 membership fee and annual dues of $900. To use the Oregon properties the one-time enrollment fee is $500 plus $300 annual dues and each hunt is an additional $250 to........(continued)