The listed properties are so-called "16th section" lands owned by school boards across the state, and the new system is the culmination of a campaign promise by state Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann.
"When I started (as Secretary of State) two years ago, I promised to put all (16th section) leases online in the first 90 days," Hosemann said. "We put 7,000 leases on the Web site within 88 days."
There ultimately was more than 640,000 acres included in the searchable online system, and Hosemann said the response was overwhelming.
"I wasn't sure if this was just something I was interested in. I thought that maybe it was just me," the avid outdoorsman said. "But we had 186,000 hits in the first month after putting the information online. So there were a lot of others interested in hunting and fishing."
And while outdoorsmen searching for property were given a lot of information, they had to sift through the information to figure out which pieces of property were coming up for lease.
And then any prospective lessee had to put in some driving time to track down and look at the property to see if it suited his needs.
The new GIS-based online system makes the process a matter of a few clicks of the mouse.
Hosemann said his office was helped when Hurricane Katrina cut a swath of destruction through the state and the federal government provided money to obtain aerial mapping of the state.
Those maps are an essential part of the new graphic database of hunting and fishing leases.
The database, accessed at maps.thegeospatialgroup.com/SOS/HuntingLease/#, is simply incredible in terms of the amount of information available.
First, the map doesn't just list all property – it focuses on those that are either currently up for bidding or will be available this year.
"We wanted people to be able to look instantly at what's available this year," Hosemann said.
Deer icons indicate those tracts that come up for lease this year, while crosshair icons indicate those that are currently available for bidding.
By zooming in and clicking on an icon, the user can see a wealth of information: lease expiration date, county, school board that owns the property, map section, number of acres, how much is currently being paid (shown as "rent"), minimum cost per acre, bidding status, and GPS coordinates.
The GPS coordinates allow potential lessees to know exactly where the property is located in case they want to make a personal visit.
But that's actually not necessary in many cases, since the GIS system includes topographical and aerial map overlays.
"Instead of having to get in a truck and driving around, you can sit at home and cover six counties and not move 6 inches," Hosemann said. We wanted hunters and fishermen to be able to look at these maps and see where the creeks are and what kind of woods are there."
And that is possible, since the zooming function allows for very close examination of the maps.
"You can zoom way in," he said. "You can see cars on the road."
By switching between topo and aerial maps, a hunter can get a very good idea of whether or not the property would suit his purposes.
Leases are award based on bidding, but Hosemann pointed out that there is one caveat.
"If you hold a lease and someone bids more than you, you have the right to match that bid," he explained. That provides some continuity."
Bids must be mailed to the specific school board that owns each piece of land. Contact information for each school board is accessible via links contained within each property's detail listing.