How to Create the Perfect Deer Habitat | Part 1

by HuntingFreak

Creating Deer Habitat

Through a series of articles, we are going to be turning an average hunting property into a hunter’s paradise. I will be helping with others to do all of the planning, planting, and farming as we give this piece of property an extreme makeover.

The property right now consists of 160 acres. Approximately 40 acres is wooded and the rest is tillable. It has been farmed for decades on a rotation of soy beans and corn. The surrounding properties offer plenty of beans and corn as well. Just to the west is 80 acres of deer sanctuary on land that has been in a wildlife program for some time. A neighboring south property consists of a dried up swamp area with rows of mature pine trees to the SE. The deer love these areas and only come on to the 160 acres to feed in crop fields that are usually harvested by November.

This leaves us with a huge area of open ground that is tough to hunt. A lot of our stands are close to the west and south borders just so we can see deer as they move all day long in these thicker areas. At first, it is nice to see deer but then it just gets frustrating after numerous attempts to lure them across the fence. The woods on the property will normally hold some does that will bring by the occasional buck when the time is right. There is also a man-made ditch winding through the property that provides a little cover in between wood lots. The SW corner holds a small grassy area with trees that used to be a swamp before the farmers installed field tile. Though a nice 140 class 8 point was taken in early November of this year while checking some does, opportunities like this are few and far between especially with a bow. This is what we intend to change.

The first step in the right direction was to not resign the contract with the farmers and break the news to them. They completely understood and seemed to handle it as well as they could. They farm thousands of acres in the area so losing 120 was just a drop in the bucket. After kicking out the farmer, we are now in the planning and meeting with the wildlife experts stage. With areas of woods, high sandy fields, low muck ground, and a ditch it really opens the door for many different programs. We plan to combine a few that will reimburse the landowner each year and also provide the best hunting ground possible. This will also help to better the water quality and aid in soil erosion. We will meet with a forestry department person, someone specializing in CRP programs, and a ditch and wetlands expert. Together we will find what works best.

In the meantime we are figuring out what pieces of land to set aside from the programs so we can plant our own food plots and thicket areas. We’ll also need lanes for access and to separate any CRP fields from other areas so we can do controlled burns when it is required. Taking out all the crops has us a little concerned that deer will leave to feed and only come back to bed. We want to provide the deer and turkey with everything they need to survive so we’ve decided to set aside 20 acres to be farmed. We will lease it to a farmer willing to plant alfalfa. There isn’t a lot of it in this area as it is usually soy beans and corn like mentioned, but the occasional alfalfa field can be a real deer magnet. Alfalfa farmers have come to realize they will loose 30-50% of their crop to deer but that will be fine by us. Plus we can buy a few round bails from their fall harvest to feed the deer once hunting season is done. This is a good strategy to help them survive the winter and to keep them on the property.

Besides the alfalfa, we will set aside our own food plots that will draw in deer once the alfalfa is final cut and goes dormant in the fall. Adjacent to these plots we want to create thickets or deer sanctuaries. We will not go into or bother these areas so the deer will have somewhere safe to go once hunting pressure is abundant. This will help to allow more young bucks to mature which will increase our quality of trophy deer on the property. In later posts I will get into types of food plots and what we’ll plant for thicket areas and so on. Along the borders, especially by the roadway, we will plant several rows of fast growing tress to create a barrier. This will deter poachers which unfortunately is an ongoing problem. These natural walls of protection will probably be a combination of white pines and hybrid poplars.

Creating deer habitat part 2 will cover what we learn from the wildlife experts. I’m not sure what to expect or how much will be accomplished at this first meeting but I’m excited to say the least. Hopefully they’ll cover what native grasses and trees we can plant and how we can utilize the existing terrain, woods, and old dried up swamp to get the most out of our hunting property. Stay tuned!

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