25 Best Ideas to Improve your Hunting Land’s Potential
May 7, 2020 Land For Sale
If you are investing in having a place to hunt, you should put the time in to get the most out of the property and season. If you recently came across a new hunting property and made the purchase, you likely have a blank slate to build the property how you want. If you have a lease, there are simple things to consider doing in case you have the lease for a few years, but that won't be a significant loss if you lose it. And if you've been hunting the family farm your whole life, there are probably some tweaks you can make to get better success.
- Plant winter food plots
This may seem obvious, but winter food plots are crucial to maintaining a high producing hunting property. It is essential to make sure the animals on your property have a food source come late winter when much of the other foliage has been picked through. Even if you like to spot and stalk, run dogs, or hunt game trails and movement areas, having food plots on the property help keep the deer from moving off to another property and make sure they stay healthy and well-fed.
- Plant summer food plots
Similar to winter plots, summer plots should be planted and maintained every year. While winter plots serve as a significant food source in the dead of winter, summer plots are around during a time of growth when most properties have plenty of natural food. It may seem like a waste, but there are plenty of reasons to maintain summer plots. First, they help you maintain your plots and parcels by preventing weeds and other nuisances from retaking it over the summer. You also will be assisting the deer to remain used to using the area as a feed source so that they will be more comfortable in the area come hunting season. The other main reason is summer plots are typically a higher protein percentage than most plants, so bucks can get all the nutrients they need to grow big sharp antlers.
- Feed year-round
Besides food plots, many hunters like to hunt over a feeder of some sort. Feeders are expensive and time-intensive to keep filled, but they should be maintained year-round. This is for the same reasons you plant summer food plots. Switch to a high protein food for the summer to help you bucks regrow their antlers. This also helps keep deer used to the presence of the feeder throughout the year.
- Maintain quality bedding area
Deer need a place to sleep. Some hunters come to a property and try to use as much of the land for placing stands and setting up hunting areas as they think the increased options will increase opportunity. This isn't necessarily true. It is essential to have an area of dense cover that would be very difficult to hunt where deer can bed down comfortably. They need a place to sleep and relax without worrying about getting eaten by predators or shot.
- Have pine forests on regular burning schedule
If your property has a large section of the pine forest, be sure to maintain the area with a regular burn schedule; about every two years. This will keep the underbrush from growing so thick that it's difficult for deer to travel through. It also provides new growth that deer enjoy munching on.
- Manage your herd’s age
Many properties are managed under an 8 point or better rule, but this can be improved upon. It is important to maintain the age of the deer on the property. Bucks need to get old enough to produce large antlers and reproduce but too old, and they start getting in the way of progress. Same with does. It does need to mature enough to be able to reproduce before they are taken.
- Manage herd ratio of bucks to does
Depending on the area, there are desired ratios of bucks to does. This helps with both reproduction and hunting. If there isn't an abundance of does, there will be more competition for bucks driving them to move around during daylight come hunting season.
- Manage all species
While hunting whitetail is the most common reason to obtain a hunting property, many species thrive on the properties. Spend some time researching and managing the other species, and you will open up new hunting opportunities. Early season dove hunting or spring turkey hunting can be great additions to your season. And who doesn't love an early morning shoot over a wood duck hole?
- Hunt or trap predators
You are not the only one on your property interested in venison or turkey. Foxes, coyotes, bobcats, raccoons, and opossums can threaten wildlife at different stages. It is essential to have these species as they are a part of the natural balance but well-managed population control and contribute to healthier populations of animals you want.
- Maintain trail cameras year-round
Everyone puts up trail cameras to see what's coming by their stand and to figure out the deer's schedule come hunting season. Why not leave it up year-round? Having the cameras out there is like a security system for your house. You'd be surprised how many people get caught snooping around by trail cameras. Plus, you can maintain an eye on the deer herd throughout the year.
- Do your best to discourage trespassing and poaching.
You can put in all the work only to have someone else come out and ruin it for you. Put up signs, maintain cameras, put gates on roads, and visit the property regularly. Anything to negatively influence people from wanting to trespass on your property.
- Talk to your neighbors about management practices.
Whether you are fortunate enough to have a multi-thousand-acre property or 50 acres, your neighbors can make a big difference to your success. While you don't want to sound rude, it can benefit you to befriend your neighbors. They may want to work together, or you can agree upon different management practices, so you both have more success.
- Provide a sanctuary area on the property
Similar to maintaining a bedding area on the property, if your property is large enough, it can be very beneficial to set aside a separate area as a sanctuary for the deer. Avoid that specific area at all costs, so the deer are comfortable and have a place to relax. This can be the most attractive piece of your property come mid hunting season when the deer have been pushed around and come in from other properties and surrounding land.
- Set up travel plans to and from stands based on hunting scenarios
When you layout the food plots and put up your stands, think about how you will enter it come hunting season. You don't want to walk through your plot, and you don't want to spread your scent downwind into it. Set up options that you can take based on the wind that heads straight to your stand.
- Have stands set up for every wind and weather scenario
Similar to the trails to get to them, consider your stand placement before the season. You want to make sure you have a stand for every wind direction. You may have one plot for each scenario, or you may, or you may put two stands on a single large plot. Also, think of the cold or rainy weather days. Have a few stands with a roof and cover so you can get out there these days.
- Clear trails for deer to get to food plots
While deer hide and sleep in dense foliage, they don't like to walk through it. If you are establishing a plot that doesn't already have massive game trail action around it, mow a strip out of it in each direction. The deer will use this as a highway, and they will find your plot that much easier.
- Make sure your trails are clear of limbs and leaves come hunting season.
Imagine it's a little bit before sunrise, and you are creeping to your stand. You have had a trophy buck on camera at first light every day for the past week. You are almost to your stand and and "snap," you step on a fallen branch. Then you hear something blow and run off into the woods. Don't live in this scenario. Clear your trails of anything that may make noise as you are entering the woods. Check everything before the season, but keep an eye out for new risks throughout the season.
- Plant trees that provide food for deer year after year
Food plots are something that typically gets planted every year, and hopefully, twice a year. If you're on the property long term, why not plant some trees that feed the deer and come back year after year with little to no more work? Check your area for what grows naturally in your area as it has the best chance of surviving.
- Have an area of dense cover near a food plot
Deer are smart and timid, especially big bucks. Big bucks will sit and watch other deer in the plot before they feel safe and step out. Give them somewhere comfortable to do that. Leave the foliage thick on one side of the plot or plant something there that will grow thick.
- Keep foliage and some trees deer height.
If you plan to have apple trees or a variety of other food sources, keep them trimmed to about 6 feet tall. This not only allows deer to continue to reach the food source, but they also force the plants to grow wider, producing more desirable food for the deer from each plant.
- Add mineral licks
In some areas, no matter how much food you provide deer, they may still be missing some of the key ingredients to healthy antler growth. Insert salt and mineral licks. These are like humans taking vitamins when working out. They are also tasty and will keep deer coming back for more.
- Build a watering hole
The key ingredients of any living creature are food, shelter, and water. You've got food plots set up to keep the deer full. You set aside an area for bedding, so the deer have shelter. Does your property have a water source? If not, you can build a small pond with a tractor in a couple of hours and significantly improve the living conditions on your property.
- Check plots for weeds.
Many hunters get their plot seeded, it starts to grow, and they forget about it. Then they come back only to find a ton of weeds spread throughout the plot. Keep an eye on your investment and if you see this becoming an issue, spray some weed killer or pick the weeds by hand.
- Add extra fertilizer to established plots.
You may have had great success with your food plots, but wouldn't you like to get a little more out of them? Come back later and add another round of fertilizer to the plot to give the crop a little extra boost. You'd be surprised how much potential is left in your plot.
- Bring out a professional
Have a management professional come out to the property. They are likely familiar with the area as well as having a load of experience. They can set you up on a plan to manage your herd, and get your property in order. From soil tests to population studies, some businesses will come out and help you get set up.