Land Mangement for Hunting

February 20, 2009 by  

Jeremy Elbert

Quality deer management starts with the management for whitetail deer beds

Quality deer management starts with the management for whitetail deer beds

While the recent weather has not given any indication of spring actually becoming a reality, we all know it’s just around the corner. As snow gives way to wonderful green growth and spring gives way to summer, it’s time to start thinking about how to improve our hunting properties. If your list is as long as mine, our only hope is we can begin to make a few minor strides through-out the year that will benefit wildlife and ultimately the hunter. Deciding what to tackle first can turn into a chicken-or-the-egg discussion. As is the case with our property, the list of projects includes improvements to bedding areas, food and hunting plots, deer travel routes, entry and exit strategies and building comfy box blinds. Here’s a closer look at each.

Management for Whitetail Deer Beds

Bedding areas are probably one of the most important aspects to evaluate when purchasing or looking to improve your hunting ground. If you can’t hold deer, because they don’t feel safe within their sanctuary, your property has limited appeal. While the word sanctuary is used far too often, there is truly some value in a place where deer feel totally comfortable and free from continuous predator disturbances. A good bedding area should have not only heavy wooded cover but tall native grasses, dead falls, brush thickets and other cover most hunters would not want to walk through. Improving your property by clearing tall, shade creating trees and planting switch grass or related tall grass mixes will give your wildlife some additional diversity in their habitat. Start first by understanding where your sanctuary is and then evaluate whether improvements can be made. With a chainsaw to clear the trees and a walk-behind tiller to turn the earth, you’ll be on your way to creating a new grass hideaway.

Food and Hunting Plots

A lot has been said on this topic, all of which hopefully has benefited the hunter through stronger deer herds. From experience, I can say, unequivocally, that hunting plots are far more productive than food plots. Hunting plots are productive in their ability to provide killing opportunities (thus the name hunting plots) as compared to the food creation and nourishment productivity created with food plots. Too many people think they are going to plant a 1 or 5 acre corn plot and without question set up a stand and kill a mature deer. I can honestly say it is more likely the exact opposite will occur, assuming we are only bowhunters in this example and have limited effective ranges. Hunting plots on the other hand, less than 1 acre in size, are commonly placed in remote areas where mature bucks feel more comfortable visiting and taking in nourishment. These plots can usually be covered from one end to the other with standard archery equipment, making them perfect ambush sites. We were fortunate this year to harvest a 14pt. non-typical in a newly created hunting plot after two years of only seeing this buck on trail camera. I can honestly tell you we did nothing fancy with this little plot. In one late July afternoon, we went in with a mower to cut the 3’ high grass, turned the soil with a moldboard plow, ran a tiller to create the seed bed and finally spread the winter and buckwheat seed. By mid-September the plot was four to six inches high and extremely palatable with fresh green growth. Trail camera pictures suggested the deer were congregating in this plot and my harvest of the following buck on October 4th was first-hand proof.

Quality land management for hunting doesnt hurt to add technology such as a trail cam

Quality land management for hunting doesn't hurt to add technology such as a trail cam

Travel Routes – Entry and Exit Strategies

 

Getting to your stand may be easy, getting out without busting the entire herd is usually a challenge. After having hunted a piece of ground for a few years, you likely have a core set of locations that you hunt every year. These are the stand sites you can enter and exit with very little disturbance. If not, consider creating walking paths to your stand sites, utilizing topographic changes in your property, fence lines, water access or any path that can hide your movements. What I think you’ll find is the overall deer herd taking advantage of these newly created travel routes, as animals often take the path of least resistance. The paths we created last summer turned into relatively consistent funnels of deer movement. Consequently, we fine-tuned our stand placements to take advantage of the slightly modified travel routes. On your properties, find the most actively used trails and improve them. Take a chainsaw and clear the path right down to the dirt. Don’t be afraid to improve the travel routes from feeding areas back toward bedding. Again, I think you’ll find these routes become increasingly more popular.

Comfy Box Blinds

We have a box blind on our property that’s often referred to as the “The Penthouse.” Box blinds can serve a variety of practical purposes. When the weather gets nasty and most bowhunters decide to head home, box blinds can provide the ability to stay warm and dry, while remaining in the woods. As we know, most deer don’t take the night off from feeding just because of inclement weather, however, 3 hours on stand during a 30 degree evening with sleet and wind will test even the hardiest hunters. In the off-season, box blinds also provide a comfortable refuge for scouting and property observation, especially with kids and family members that come along. What a great time to bring along the video camera and record some footage of your best velvet bucks. Finally, box blinds can also serve as a great place to train in new hunters who need a little hand holding. They definitely like it better than being strapped to a tree.

Most important of all, keep it simple. Don’t get caught up believing you need expensive equipment or a complete Quality Deer Management review before you begin improving your properties. A few well thought out improvements made over the course of the next couple years will likely put you in a position to reap the benefits each fall. Check us out at www.elbertoutdoors.com and follow our journal as we work to improve our properties in 2008 just like you. Have a great spring and enjoy your hunting grounds!


Comments

One Comment on "Land Mangement for Hunting"

  1. ron cotter on Sun, 29th Nov 2009 8:10 pm 

    I have a 145 acre farm just south of Madison, Wi. When I bought it 16 years ago it was a treeless corn or soybean operation. There were a few trees along fence rows. I leased 120 acres for crops with much of the rest in pastures. Today 80 acres are still under plow but I have improved the fenceline areas with trees and tall grasses creating some travel lanes. I’ve added several pine stands that are 7 rows wide and break up large fields creating cover and travel lanes. Last year I added two 1 acre ponds and surrounded them with 8 acres of native prairie. The prairie mix also contains tall grass varieties (big blue, switch grass etc). This fall I bought 100 trees from a local garden center and planted them on 2 acres. I needed a 36″ auger for these balled and burlaped beauties. The group included 3″ oaks, crabapples, serviceberries, maples and about 30 evergreens. I’m trying to create some bedding areas. I am still trying to figure out what to plant on this two acres as ground cover. I have 2 food plots of 1.5 acres each so I’m not sure if tall grasses wood work well around these trees. Therer are only small woodlots near my farm (3-6 acres) surrounded by bean or corn fields.

    Suggestions?

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