Finding productive and affordable land for hunting—and water for fishing—is one of the biggest obstacles facing outdoorsmen and women today. In most states, you currently have two main options besides hiring an outfitter.
You can take the do-it-yourself public land route, which means doing your homework, scouting the terrain, showing up early and hiking in deep to beat the crowds. Alternatively, you can take the pay-to-play route by leasing ground, joining a club, or paying a the landowner a trespass fee.
Infinite Outdoors, a new start-up venture based in Wyoming, is attempting to offer another option. The company’s founders have created an internet- and app-based platform that seeks to connect private landowners with hunters and anglers looking to lease their land by the day. The company is based on the same peer-to-peer business model as apps like Lyft or sites like Airbnb.
Now in its second year, the start-up received an entrepreneurial grant from the University of Wyoming in April. Competing with 40 other young companies, Infinite was awarded the “audience choice award,” which provided $6,500 in immediate funding, along with a share of the University’s $50,000 seed fund.
They’re not the first to try this idea. And they will likely encounter obstacles as they attempt to create a marketplace that mirrors Airbnb but caters specifically to the outdoor community. But their early success is a good sign for hunters who are searching for better ground.
Recognizing the Demand for Day Access on Private Land
Sam Seeton is one of the lucky ones who grew up with plenty of acreage to hunt on. The native Colorodan and his family would split their time between a ranch in Buena Vista and their farm in the northern part of the state, where he says his dad taught him to embrace the ranching and outdoor lifestyle.
While in college at the Colorado School of Mines, Seeton was helping manage a pheasant club in eastern Colorado in return for hunting access and references. One of those references turned into two, then three more clubs to manage. Realizing there was such a large demand for upland bird hunting in his home state and seeing the vast amount of land that was privately owned but not being leased out, Seeton saw an opportunity. He started thinking about a different type of access besides traditional leases and hunting clubs—which typically force the landowner to give up some level of control of their land and require the renter to pay a large sum of money upfront. He envisioned a system where landowners could rent out their property to hunters on a day-by-day basis without sacrificing any control of the land or asking the hunter to pay any more than a day use fee. Essentially, it would be an Airbnb style business designed for hunting access. Seeton wasn’t aware of a platform or a service that would facilitate this exchange. So, he decided to create one.
“I took a leap of faith. I connected with my roommates and friends who were smart enough to develop the technology to support the business model I had accidentally created,” Seeton says. “And it’s just grown like crazy from there.”
Since launching Infinite Outdoors in 2020, Seeton says they have brought 114 properties into their system, which add up to roughly 300,000 acres in private land access. Aside from one property in Oregon and a couple in southern Wyoming, all this land is currently in Colorado.
“We just felt like that market needed the most immediate attention,” Seeton says. He explains that due to population growth in his home state, and the influx of out-of-state hunters, public lands there are getting more crowded. And people who don’t want to compete with other hunters in these areas aren’t given many options besides booking with an outfitter.
“There just isn’t anything for those DIY, middle-of-the-road guys,” Seeton explains. “One of their only options is to pay for a fully guided and outfitted hunt, which is extremely expensive, and a lot of people have enough skill and desire that they don’t need somebody holding their hand. That’s the real market we’re focusing on.”
Dialing In a Business Model
Infinite’s Director of Operations Sam Brunner explains that their hope is to eventually expand in a radius beyond Colorado into Kansas, Nebraska, and other nearby states. And although the idea might have its roots in a field full of pheasants, Brunner says that Infinite is also providing access to waterfowl, turkey, and big game hunters, as well as anglers looking to fish private water for the day.
“We’re trying to make a difference in terms of accessibility and letting people get out on private land,” Brunner says. “That way, they don’t have to go battle a line of folks trying to get on the river or hunt public land. They book a property with us and that’s their property for the day.”
The app- and internet-based platform features an advanced mapping system that helps hunters and anglers find their way around the properties. Infinite also takes most of the hassle off the landowner’s plate by streamlining the booking process and providing a $1 million insurance policy to ease their liability concerns.
On the renter’s side, anyone who’s used Airbnb or VRBO will find it easy enough to search for properties, find available dates on the calendar, and book with a credit card. Users pay a non-refundable reservation fee (which is typically around $50-$100) and an outdoorsman fee (per rod/gun) to secure their spot.
Looking at Infinite’s website, the outdoorsman fees vary widely depending on the properties. A day of pheasant hunting at Red Barn Run in eastern Colorado, for example, costs around $130 per hunter, while a day of trout fishing on a private stretch of the White River runs closer to $85 per angler. On the higher end of the spectrum, Horse Thief Ranch near Buena Vista charges $5,000 per hunter for a five-day elk hunt with lodging included.
Before they can book a property, however, users must pay a $40 annual membership fee—a percentage of which is donated to conservation.
“A portion of each user’s annual membership fee goes to a conservation group of their choice,” Brunner explains. “We’re putting that money back into wildlife conservation. So we’re not only giving hunters and anglers more access. We’re also trying to make a difference in the hunting world.”
Putting lofty notions aside, however, the fact is that any successful business model has to generate profit in order to succeed. And while the startup is still in its infancy, Brunner says there is plenty of potential for everyone involved to turn a buck—especially the landowners themselves.
Making the Switch
“I’ve been a part of a couple different hunting clubs,” says Cade Brobeck, who owns Gander River outside of Greeley, Colorado. “And after multiple seasons with those, I was kind of disenchanted with what they offered. There wasn’t much flexibility and limited control on the part of the landowner.”
So Brobeck made the switch last summer, listing his 40-acre riverfront property on Infinite Outdoors as a duck hunting property. A dedicated waterfowler himself, Brobeck says he’s been pleased with the experience thus far, which gives him enough control to block off the calendar on days that he wants to hunt or spend time out there with his family. And during his first season on the Infinite platform, he was still able to put plenty of duck hunters in the blinds he has situated around the property.
“On the far north side of the property, there’s actually a warmwater slough that stays open all year no matter how cold it is,” Brobeck says. “And the ducks just dive bomb in there. So I put a blind on the slough, and then I have three blinds placed strategically along the river.”
As for how much profit those blinds are generating, Brobeck admits that he didn’t make as much money last fall as he did in years past by renting out to hunting clubs. But he says that being able to maintain control over his property is worth the trade-off, and he’s already looking to provide other hunting opportunities on the 40 acres that could bring in additional revenue. Brobeck opened Gander River to turkey hunting this spring, and when we spoke in April, he already had some bookings on the calendar.
Another important aspect from the landowner’s perspective is the amount of pressure that their property receives. When leasing his land out to hunting clubs, Brobeck says, they would provide access to their members seven days a week. But with Infinite, that’s not even an option. The company works with landowners to set required rest days, which helps prevent any given property from being over-hunted or over-fished.
“The only thing we require of landowners,” Seeton clarifies, “is that it can’t be hunted past a certain threshold. They can always hunt less but they can’t hunt it more. Same with fishing.”
Seeton adds that with waterfowl in particular, Infinite has a blanket policy requiring every property to get rested at least three days a week. Determining how many rest days a property needs (or how many animals can be harvested) gets a little more complicated when it comes to big game and other species. So Infinite brings in wildlife biologists, who work with landowners to analyze their properties and set guidelines for sustainable yields.
“Biologists help us by getting their boots on the ground and looking at properties,” Seeton explains. “We also analyze the numbers that state fish and game agencies put out, and using the ratios that state biologists have, we try to reduce [the number of tags that] would be issued if it were public land hunting.”
These biologists also make recommendations for habitat improvement projects, with the goal at the end of every season being to “make sure that habitat is improving and never taking a step back,” as Seeton puts it.
Brobeck says he’s been able to take advantage of this program, and he plans to meet with a representative from Ducks Unlimited sometime this summer to determine what he can do to improve bird habitat on his property. Looking toward the future, he says he’ll also consider opening Gander Ranch to deer hunters this fall.
Building a Marketplace for Access
Taking a broader perspective, there are already a variety of websites that list hunting leases. Sites like Hunting Locator and HLRBO have long provided an avenue for hunters interested in traditional leases, and there are several smaller sites (such as Deer Texas) that advertise leases on a more localized basis. Social media has also created its own microcosm of outdoor opportunities, with countless Facebook groups connecting hunters with private landowners.
Infinite might be taking this a step further, but they aren’t the first to build a hunter- and angler-specific platform. There are similar websites, such as Outdoor Access, aiming to fill the same niche. And as it turns out, another young entrepreneur and dedicated hunter took a similar approach to expanding day access back in 2013.
“My initial idea was to create a marketplace for places to hunt and fish—a sort of ‘Airbnb for hunting,’” Eric Dinger says of his inspiration to start Powderhook. “I spent three years working on that idea, along with millions of dollars building a beautiful product and creating relationships with 900 landowners. And then I had to take it behind the building and shoot it in the head.”
Dinger says he had a hard time getting Powderhook to scale because hunting access—unlike a vacation rental or rideshare—isn’t what he calls a “known commodity.” Part of the difficulty, he explains, is defining access.
“Is it a butt in a duck blind for a day?” he asks, “Or is it an acre of land per hour per hunter? You can cut it up a thousand different ways.”
Furthermore, as most hunters well know, all access is not created equal. Waterfowlers require a different type of access than deer hunters, for example, and there are individuals in both groups with different priorities, needs, and expectations.
“Your deer guy is pissed because he wants to scout ahead of time, while the turkey guy wants his blind already set up,” Dinger says. “Then you have one [landowner] who allows dogs, and another who has chickens, so he doesn’t allow dogs.”
As another example, he points to an imaginary, 640-acre tract in the Midwest with 632 acres covered in corn and beans, along with 8 acres of timber. A bowhunter targeting whitetails will want to hunt the timber, and because it’s a higher quality spot, it can be rented out at a higher rate.
“But it’s only a higher quality spot the first couple times you ever go in there, before you blow everything out of there,” Dinger adds. “So how do you decide what that’s worth?”
Providing fishing access on private land is much easier, he says, because anglers don’t need to scout as much (if at all), and they don’t need a blind. And if they’re practicing catch-and-release, a private stretch of water doesn’t necessarily lose value every time someone comes out to fish it.
Trying to satisfy different groups of hunters, by contrast, provides endless opportunities for complications, Dinger says. Which is precisely why scaling to the national level becomes such a challenge. But regardless of the headaches that Powderhook may have caused him, he still hopes that Infinite Outdoors—or another competitor—can overcome the challenges associated with building a marketplace for hunting and fishing day access.
“I think day access is an important part of the future of access,” he says. “It’s needed. And I friggin’ hope they make it work.”