Since I always took all three of my children to hunting camps with me, one of the requirements I had about joining a hunting lease was that it have a house or a cabin where my children and I could stay whenever we went there to hunt or fish. I also wanted to know before I joined the lease if children of members were welcomed by members of the lease. However, if you own land, or you’re part of a long-term lease, you may want to build your own hunting cabin, either from your own design or, possibly, a log cabin kit. And when you are looking to build, the first place to start is with a good set of hunting cabin plans.
To learn the best information on how to build a hunting cabin and what to consider before starting construction, we interviewed the man who wrote the book on how to build a hunting cabin, J. Wayne Fears. A wildlife biologist and outdoor writer, who has owned and managed two different hunting lodges and has supervised 220 hunting clubs for a major timber company, Fears is familiar with what’s required to build the best hunting cabin with the needed features.
Why J. Wayne Fears Wanted to Build a Hunting Cabin
When Fears bought 300 acres of woodlands adjoining a national forest, he knew he wanted to spend a lot of time with his children and grandchildren on the property. He longed for a place where they could camp and enjoy a true log-cabin experience. So, he decided to build a log cabin with the help of his children, neighbors and friends.
“Because I’d built log cabins in Alabama and helped build three log cabins in Alaska and one in British Columbia, I had a fairly-good idea of what was required to build a sturdy log cabin,” Fears explained. “Although plenty of good log-cabin kits are on the market, and you usually can get hunting cabin plans and floor plans from log-cabin manufacturers you can find on the Internet, I wanted to design and build a log cabin that I felt met my requirements and the needs of my family and friends. Luckily, I had grown sons with carpentry skills.”
Fears and his boys decided they would take a year to build the cabin of their dreams. They realized that they had three choices when building a log cabin. They could:
- design and build it themselves, which would require much more time but save money and possibly prevent some problems that they might encounter if they purchased a log-cabin kit;
- build it partially themselves; and/or
- have a log-cabin company build the kit for them.
What to Consider Before Starting to Build a Log Cabin
You must decide whether:
- to build a log cabin or a hunting cabin from your land’s timber. Not many people have timber on their property that they can cut, take the logs to the saw mill, have those logs squared-up and build a cabin from the logs they cut off their land.
- to use a log-cabin kit. According to Fears, “I’d suggest going to Google on the Internet and search for log homes, log-home manufacturers and/or log-cabin manufacturers, look at the floor plans and the prices and choose the kit and the price that fits your budget.”
- to use round logs, “D” logs that are square on the inside and round on the outside or Appalachian logs that are squared logs. “Once you decide the type of logs you want to use, then you can better decide which log-home company you’ll buy from for your log cabin,” Fears mentioned.
- to build your cabin yourself, if you have plenty of help from family and/or friends with woodworking skills. Or, you can take time off from your work to build your cabin, or you can hire someone in your local area with skills and experience building log cabins that you oversee. These options usually will cost you less money.
- to have the company you buy the log-cabin kit from send in its crew to build the cabin for you;
- to use a log-cabin kit that’s three-fourths finished, with you buying the roofing and flooring materials, floors and windows yourself; or having the company provide the finished roof materials, flooring materials, doors and windows.
“To make these decisions to determine how much time realistically you and your family are willing to invest to get the cabin built, you must consider all these items,” Fears reported. “My experience has been that if you only work on the cabin on off-days, holidays and weekends with four or five people helping you, you may spend 1-1/2 years building your cabin.”
“There’s a lot of lifting involved in building a log cabin, and those people need to have some home-building experience as well as carpentry skills. You may learn that your costs to build will be almost as much as if you let the kit company crew build it for you. The company can build your log cabin in a matter of days or weeks, instead of 1-1/2 years,” Fears pointed out.
What Physical Characteristics to Assess Before Carrying Out Hunting Cabin Plans
When Fears’ bought his 300 acres, the property had three hollows (drainages coming off a mountain) through it, with one of the hollows containing a creek that had year-round water running through it. He knew he wanted to have a creek nearby, so, his cabin could use the water from the creek to boil water and wash dishes, pots and pans, to bathe in during the summertime and to get water to boil for a hot bath in the winter months. However, Fears realized that a creek wouldn’t remain at the same level all year long.
“I found an older gentleman who had lived on the land for many years before I bought it and knew the history of the creek,” Fears reported. “When I asked him about the highest water level he’d ever seen on that creek, he pointed to the belt on his blue jeans to indicate that the water had come up to waist-high. So, I knew I must build my cabin above the ground, possible on stilts, more than waist-high to keep the cabin from getting flooded when the area had unusually large amounts of rain coming down the mountain in that little creek.”
Fears required a high-enough, dry ridge, close to the creek to build an outhouse on that wouldn’t leak into the water supply. He also wanted a secluded location to deter people from breaking into the cabin when no one was there. So, he chose a site 1-1/2 miles from any public road and in an area that either had been farmed or used for pasture with no trees on it insuring that during a storm, a tree wouldn’t fall on his cabin. Fears spent about two years researching the best site to build his cabin and designing hunting cabin plans and the outhouse, before he and his sons ever put boots on the ground to build the structure.
“You can save a lot of problems, headaches, disappointments and destruction, if you’ll spend the time to thoroughly research the site where you want to build a cabin, learn what type of permitting you’ll need to build the cabin and other considerations and spend time studying, planning and researching what type and size of cabin you want to build before you ever start construction,” Fears emphasized. “If you do that, you won’t wake up one morning and say, ‘Oh, my gosh, I never thought about so and so!’”
Build a Solid Foundation
Mike Hayes has built and repaired the foundations of numerous hunting cabins ranging from simple to enormous. One of the points you must consider is the soil in a given area. “Many hunting cabins are built on land with poor soils that are prone to shifting. The solution for some is a lot of time spent hauling out the poor soil and hauling in better dirt. One of the ways you can save a lot of time and money in building your foundation is through the use of a Helical Piering System. This system will get down to the stable soil and allow for the hunting cabin to be placed on these piers, saving you a lot of time and money in the process.” A lot of people who are interested in a simple hunting cabin are buying a piece of property that already has an old cabin in place. It’s often questioned whether one should replace the cabin all together or repair what is there. Mike almost always recommends repairing an existing foundation over building a new one. “If you have sagging joists on an existing hunting cabin, you can use our SmartJack® System system to sure up those joists. This can also be used in conjunction with the Helical Piering system where it is needed.” Regardless of whether you are building new or repairing an existing hunting cabin, the foundation needs special attention. If you have more questions on setting the right foundation for your simple hunting cabin, you can contact Mike at 251-250-4855or online at https://mdhfoundationrepair.com/.
How Fears Built His Cabin
“My log cabin wasn’t really a log cabin,” Fears sayed. “Everyone thought it was a log cabin because it looked like a log cabin. My log cabin was a conventional cabin built with log siding on the outside and the inside. State foresters who were friends of mine wanted to have a meeting in my cabin, and the first thing they asked me was, ‘Where did you get those logs?’ When I told them that the logs actually were log siding I’d gotten from the sawmill, they were amazed. A sawmill can cut siding to look just like a log but that’s actually a board. Most of these boards are planed from a piece of two by eight foot lumber, so if you put the log siding on the outside of the cabin and the log siding on the inside of the cabin, then your cabin looks exactly like a log cabin, plus you save not only money but also labor.”
“We actually built a box shape like you’d build a shop in your backyard and then covered the exterior walls and the interior walls with log siding,” Fears pointed out. . “I spent a lot of time by myself working on the parts of the cabin that I could build myself, but I also had my three boys to help. We built our cabin in about six months, working part-time when we could.”
Fears explains he built the cabin in 1991 for $7,000. “I’m sure that I’d have spent much more money to build today. I also had many of the materials donated for editorial consideration in the magazines I was writing for at that time, most of which no longer exist today. I mentioned all the products that I used in the articles I wrote,” Fears said.
Fears reported that if he had to build that same cabin today, following the same hunting cabin plans and buying all the materials he needed, that the cabin probably would cost $30,000 or more, about what you’d pay for a nice kit cabin. The size of his cabin was about 900 square feet which was the perfect size for his needs, since his three sons and three grandsons and himself all would be using the cabin.
“My cabin was an Alaskan trapper design,” Fears explained. “Anytime you’re building a cabin you really are building a box. The first thing to consider is how many people will use that cabin, and what kind of sleeping accommodations you’ll need. In my cabin, I decided on bunk beds. So, I took a piece of graph paper and drew the size of the rooms I wanted inside my box (cabin). I wanted one room to be a sleeping room and the other room to be a great room with a kitchen, a stove, a dining area and a sitting room.”
Fears shaped his kitchen like an L in the corner of the cabin to contain a sink, a stove and cabinets for storing food and pots and pans. He allowed enough square footage in the kitchen for two people to cook at the same time. He required a space for a table big enough to sit six or more people at mealtime, a wood stove or fireplace and enough room for people to sit and tell hunting and fishing stories.
“Another very-important part of the cabin that wasn’t really figured into the size of the cabin was a front porch,” Fears emphasized. “I wouldn’t have a cabin without a front porch for sitting on and fellowshipping. We did a lot of cooking on the front porch and sitting there, especially during the summertime, because the cabin wasn’t air conditioned.”
Fears pointed out that not included in his hunting cabin plans, a bathroom. “I built a first-class, nice-looking outhouse with a partial moon cut out for ventilation. I wanted my sons and grandsons to experience what I did growing up when we had to take a flashlight and walk to the outhouse on a frosty morning to go to the bathroom,” Fears said.
Fears’ cabin also didn’t have running water or electricity. His family brought water in, using five gallon containers for drinking and cooking, and boiled water to purify it for taking baths or washing dishes. Most people today would want a flush toilet. However, a well for running water would cost about $15 a foot to dig, and then you’d have to hire a plumber to put all the plumbing in the cabin. To have electricity, you’d spend a good bit of money to get on a grid or have to buy a gasoline generator and the gasoline to power it. These modern amenities were left out of Fears, hunting cabin plans.
“I wanted my grandchildren to experience what living in a log cabin in years gone by was like,” Fears recalled. “Those amenities would cost a lot of money, and the landowner would have to go through a lot of permitting to get those amenities.”
Financing Your Hunting Cabin Plans
Taylor Hart, the branch manager of First South Farm Credit, explained that First South Farm Credit is a rural lender. If you decide to build a log home or a hunting cabin on your property, Hart reports that First South loans money for those kind of property improvements.
“Absolutely. We can make construction loans and turn those loans into long-term loans, if need be. Some landowners are building secondary homes, hunting cabins or lodges, and others are wanting to put their primary residences on 20-30 acres,” Hart said. “First South can make loans for anything a landowner wants to do to develop his property. If you’re playing in the dirt, we want to be in there with you, as long as you’re improving the value of the dirt, which is the collateral of the loan.” Contact Taylor with more questions at 334-826-2563 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
What Advantages Are There in Using a Log-Cabin Kit Company
One of the advantages of using a kit company is once you decide how big you want your box, and how many people you want it to accommodate, a log-cabin company will send you the specifications and the cost of the materials required carryout your dream hunting cabin plans and/or the cost to have them partially built or completely built by its crew. If you have the company send its crew in to build your log cabin, the crew will stay on-site and work on that cabin until it’s completely built. Due to their experience and know-how, they can build that cabin much faster than you and your crew, but that time frame still depends on the weather and the size of the cabin you are building.
Rich memories and nostalgia are associated with having a log hunting cabin today like early hunters and settlers had during the founding of this country. Today you can have much or all of the work of building a log cabin done for you, or you can build it yourself.
Check out J. Wayne Fears’ book, “How to Build Your Dream Cabin in the Woods”