Creating a Management Plan for your Hunting Property
A successful management plan is like a fingerprint; no two property's plans or policies will ever look alike for different hunting properties. That doesn't mean they can all be created using the same general steps. A successful management plan considers all aspects of the land, from animal population and gender ratios to food plots, camp locations, and anything that could negatively or positively affect your hunting experience.
- Put together a list of existing property features.
This may take some time exploring the property if it's new to you, but if you're trying to revamp an old hunting property or farm, this may come easy. Include things like different habitats, primary plant species, invasive plant species, deer population, existing food plots, roads, buildings, and trails. It's important to know what you're starting with before you put together a plan.
- Plan your property layout
For the next few steps, we are working in an idealistic world. Set up what you want for each subject when you are done with it, although you may never finish, you can still significantly improve your property. Take an aerial view of the property, understanding where the property lines are. Draw out where you want to have food plots. Where on these plots will you have stands? Will these stand locations fit the prevailing winds of hunting season, as well as a variety of wind and weather situations? How will you travel to the stands? Where will the deer bed? Where will the deer have sanctuary from hunting and human pressure? What natural food and water sources are there? Especially for smaller properties, which of these aspects can you rely on neighboring properties or farms provide?
- Plan your game management
You can do everything correctly but still have poor results if you shoot every animal you see. You need to set up a plan for harvesting deer as well, especially if your property is big enough to avoid neighbors from ruining your work. You may be able to work with a neighbor to achieve better results as well. What ratio of bucks-to-does do you need to take to balance everything out? What antler restrictions will you put into play to let young bucks mature? If you can keep an eye on your herd with trail cameras, you may find deer with poor genetics that needs to be taken out of the gene pool. Put them on a hit list for the season.
- Food Plots
In your property layout, you should already know where you want food plots. Now you need to figure out what you need to do to make those plots successful. What land needs to be cleared? Get the soil tested and make sure to start prepping the right fertilizer for the area. First, you should know what kind of plants you want in each plot, and which different plant species for which benefits. Some plants grow better in certain areas and better serve different species or times of the season. You may want one ¼ acre plot to explode for bow season and have another 10-acre plot that lasts late into the winter. You'll also want to plant summer species in these plots, have that planned out as well. Summer plots are usually geared towards protein and the growth of antlers and fawns.
- Annual Plan
If you are like most hunters, you dream big, and the plan you have laid out so far would be expensive and very time-intensive. Now you need to break up your end goal into manageable chunks that take into account your time and money. You may only be able to make a couple of food plots this year and add one or two each year until they are complete. Maybe only a couple stands are in this year's budget? Put a climber or pop up blind on the list so you can move around until more stands are put up. Do you need to plant new timber? Plant it in sections every year. If you have forestry guys come out, you may be able to recoup some funds and get some work done without using your own time. Understand that anything you do to move the property towards that goal will make your property better, so be patient. In a few years, you'd be surprised how far you'll be able to go.