About Sullivan County real estate for hunters and sports enthusiasts
Sullivan County is the closest point to New York City where outdoor enthusiasts can find houses on larger acreage for hunting and other outdoor recreation at an affordable price. To put it in perspective, 40+ acre parcels of raw land suitable for hunting and recreation typically cost from $2,000 to $3,500per acre here. There is less expensive land on the market on a cost per acre basis, but often bargain land is very steep, rocky or boggy, limiting its recreational use. The cost of land upstate is very related to distance from New York City and Long Island, so prices do drop the further north you go, particularly into Delaware and Otsego counties. A small cabin or home on 30+ acres starts here in the low to mid $200’s. The rustic hunting cabin on 50 acres for $150,000 or a 100 acre parcel of raw land suitable for hunting for $100,000 doesn’t really exist here in Sullivan County.
Areas of the county best for hunters and sportsmen
There are larger acreage parcels in every town in Sullivan County, but due to density, terrain, demographics and accessibility to public land, some parts of the county are better suited for hunters and sportsmen.
The towns of Fremont and Rockland in the northern part of Sullivan County have low density, with a lot of wooded acreage, and are a favorite of hunters. There’s more public land in the Town of Rockland than Fremont. The 14,800 acre Willowemoc Wild Forest is largely located in the Town of Rockland, and abuts the 33,500 acre Big Indian Wilderness in neighboring Ulster County.
The towns of Callicoon, Delaware, Cochecton and Tusten are also relatively low density with larger acreage parcels available, but with the exception of Tusten, there is more farmland, so you’ll likely find mixed wooded and open parcels here.
In the northeast part of Sullivan, the Town of Neversink is fairly low density. Because of limited development due to the proximity of New York City drinking water reservoirs, it’s harder to find larger acreage parcels here, but the NYC DEP generally permits hunting on its lands, and there are thousands of acres of NYC DEP land here. (Note though that, while hunting is permitted on most state forest and NYC DEP lands, and snowmobiling is also permitted on much state forest land as well, ATVing and off-road motorcycling is not.) The area north of Claryville and up into the Town of Denning in western Ulster is a public land paradise. There are thousands of acres of state forest land as well as NYC DEP land here accessible for hunting. However, the availability of private land, particularly in larger acreage parcels, in this area can be limited.
The Frost Valley YMCA camp located near Claryville offers sporting memberships affording members access to over 5,000 acres of Frost Valley YMCA land for hunting, hiking and flyfishing. Memberships are very reasonable.
The northeast part of Sullivan County (Rockland and Nevesink) have the added benefit of having some of the top fly fishing rivers in the U.S., and there is public access to fish these rivers. Note, though, that some parts of these rivers — particularly the Beaverkill in the Lew Beach area — are off limits to public access.
The towns in the southwest part of Sullivan — Forestburgh, Lumberland and HIghland — are also low density and primarily wooded, not open farmland, and this is also a good area for hunters and sportsmen. There are two large acres of state land open to hunting in this area, the 11,000 acre Mongaup Wildlife Management area and the 1,100 acre Hickock Brook Multiple Use Area. (Note: there is a private right of way access to the back of the Hickock from the Pine Ayre community, making PIne Ayre very appealing to sportsmen.)
Real Estate Options for Hunters and Sportsmen
There are a number of different real estate options for hunters and sportsmen to get access to get access to recreational acreage.
Own your acreage
Owning the acreage you play on gives you the most control. You can generally build your own tree stands, cut ATV and snowmobile trails and create clearings to tailor the property to the way you want to use it. Note, though, that some areas (particularly in the New York City watershed) may have some restrictions on what you can do, so it’s important to check out what you can do with a property with any authority that may have regulatory influence. An added benefit of owning your own land is that if there is other private hunting land adjacent to yours, owners are often amenable to trading rights with neighbors to expand their huntable land. Even small cabins on 40 or more acres typically start in the low to mid $200’s and raw land runs $2,000 to as much as $4,000 per acre. If you’re thinking about buying raw land and parking a travel trailer on it, you need to check with the town about whether that is a permitted use. Many towns here have zoning restrictions prohibiting travel trailers.
A house or land that backs up to state land
Property that backs up to state land is a very common request. But it comes as a surprise to a lot of buyers that property that abuts state land isn’t that widely available, given the large amount of public acreage in Sullivan County. The holy grail for buyers is a little cabin in the woods on 5 acres under $150,000 or so that backs up to a large swath of public land. They occasionally do come to market, but I usually only see a couple a year. Given the limited availability, consider something located in an area with a lot of public land, like Willowemoc, Claryville or Sundown that doesn’t actually abut public land but is close.
A community with recreational acreage available to owners
There are three communities in Sullivan County — Merriewold, Wolf Lake and Black Forest — that own between 800 and 1,500 acres of undeveloped land for hunting and other recreational use by homeowners. All three also permit ATVing and snowmobiling on their common land. Wolf Lake and Merriewold are lake communities with very appealing (non-motorboat) lakes for summer recreation. At Wolf Lake, houses are typically on smaller parcels of one acre or less, while at Merriewold and Black Forest, houses are on three or more acres. But at all three you have access to a lot of private land to play on. One note about Black Forest. There are generally a few undeveloped raw land parcels on the market at Black Forest at pretty reasonable prices (e.g. a 4 acre parcel for $40,000). You may think it would be a great option to pick up one of these parcels to get access to black Forest’s 800 acres for hunting. But at Black Forest, hunting rights are only available to members with a house on their property. New raw land owners may be extended the courtesy to hunt for one or two years while they build, but if they don’t build a house within the time frame, the owner will lose the right to hunt (until such time as they build a house.)
There are a few other communities, namely Yankee Lake and Lake Muskoday, with smaller tracts of common land available to owners. There are also a couple of clubs that are organized more like coops, where a member owns their actual house but not the land under it, which is owned by the club. These are very difficult to finance, and generally require an all cash purchase.
Price wise, at Wolf Lake you’re looking at $300,000 to $500,000 for a lakefront house, and from $200,000 to $400,000 for a non-lakefront year round (winterized) house. At Merriewold, there are only a handful of lakefront houses and I haven’t seen one on the public market in years. For a winterized, year round non-lakefront house at Merriewold, expect to pay from $300,000 and up. At Black Forest, there are occasionally small cabins in the loww $100’s, with larger, 3 bedroom houses generally starting in the $250,000 range.
Lease acreage or join a hunting club
Every fall I get at least a dozen calls about finding hunting land to lease. I don’t handle leases or rentals, and am not on that grapevine to hear about any land available to lease. But I hear from hunters I know that there isn’t that much land available to lease, and when an owner is considering leasing their land they often approach an adjacent land owner or one of the hunting clubs in the area first.
Joining a hunting club that either owns or leases acreage can be an affordable option to get access to large raw land parcels. One club I know of is the Whitetail Hunting Club in Forestburgh, but there are quite a few others in Sullivan County. Unfortunately, there isn’t a directory or list of them that I know of. You’ll need to do some leg work to find out about them. Ask around the taxidermists or gun stores in the area. Another good source for hunting club leads is volunteer firemen. A lot of them hunt, and many belong to a hunting club. Stop by the fire houses around the county and ask.
When To Shop for Hunting and Recreational Property
The best time to shop for hunting and recreational property is January through September. If you look for hunting property outside of the main deer rifle (hunting) season, you’ll be seen as a serious buyer by most real estate agents. Buyers who ask about hunting property in October and November are taken by most agents with a grain of salt. And once hunting season is in full swing, a lot of agents are hesitant to walk large acreage parcels. So if you’re serious about buying hunting or recreation property, start looking in the spring or summer. Don’t wait until late fall.