I take the cover option if you have really good cover you should have some forage in it as well naturally for the deer to eat but tif there is now cover to protect them in the severe weather and to fawn in etc there is now reason to have plots as they won't be there anyways JMO
On my property in the U.P. it's all cover. It's all cover on the neighboring properties, and except for roads, lakes, ponds, swamps, or waterways, it's all cover over the entire areas..literally for miles. I guess around here I'd have to go with food plots because it's the most lacking ingredient (food). A good food plot can provide as much as 10X's more food than a clearcut, at double the nutrition, so I guess I can't say wildlife openings would make up the differances. I guess for hunting having diverse habitat managemenet, including wildlife openings, AND feeding stations with bait would do just about as much as a large food plot program, in terms of holding and harvesting deer...maybe even more because of the lack of open food plot space and even more potential prime bedding location, but for the rest of the year you couldn't have as much impact on the number of fawns, overall health, antler growth, and winter mortality rates. On my property, if my goal is year-round nutrition and an increased health of the herd it would have to include food plots for the simple reason I can offer more food, at double the nutrition rates with 12 planted acres in a 120 acre parcel, than clearcutting that ENTIRE parcel. You can't underestimate the power of 1 acre of a quality food plot. You just have to look at the numbers...clearcut=1000#'s of forage per acre, and a food plot can offer up to to 5tons or more per acre, at DOUBLE the nutrtion rates, not to mention that woody browse is tough to digest for especially fawns.
On the otherhand, where I hunted for 11 years in the thumb, our lease in WI, and most ag areas across the county, cover is vital, including high-quality bedding cover. I'd quickly choose a diverse habitat including multiple ages of timber and cover on a property located in and surrounded by ag land.
Really depends on your individual property's needs, but basically food plots in all-cover timbered or wilderness type settings, and quality cover in food-rich ag land areas.
Anyways, tough poll question! Not sure I can answer because it depends on the property location...one one hand you can offer more food on 1 acre of food plot than 10 acres of clearcut, at DOUBLE the nutritional values, not to mention higher palitibility, attraction, and digestibility levels. Then, on the otherhand, cover is king in many ag land areas and is the key to holding and harvesting deer...including mature bucks.
Cover is more important than food plots. Deer live in cover and move into food plots for their dinner. You want the deer to live on your land not the neighbors, then have deer move over to your food plots, with the neighbors getting first crack.
Get the thickest cover emaginable established, make deer beds in it and make it off limits, (sanctuary) then have trails of conifers, brush, tall grass, combination grass and legume etc leading from these sanctuaries to other sanctuaries and or your food plots. For bow hunters, set up staging areas along these trails, where deer can observe the food plots from a distance of 15-30 yards. These medium cover, (edge) staging areas give the deer a feeling of security, while they check the area out , with you up in a conifer bow blind in this staging area taking your pick of the quarry.
Open areas on hunting properties should be at least 10%, cover should be at least 30% and timber should be at least 30%. Start with these minimums and things will happen. It is possible to have cover and forage together, open areas consisting of tall grass, (warm and cool season) for cover and interplanted with perennials, clover, chicory etc, for forage (all purpose fields). These all purpose fields should be at least three acres.
These all purpose type plantings make for a very effective deer trail leading to your attractant food plot. They can munch on forage and feel secure as they mosey slowly toward your attractant food plot. You can also make deer beds in these dense trails. These all purpose trails are not mowed but once every three years and are a part of the staging area. You do not want the deer to have any sense of danger as they move to and observe their final destination, (your luscious attractant food plot) for deer know that food plots are a dangerous place to venture.
Are we in the right thread? Must be, for a moderator started it.
This is odd, I just finihed an article for WNW with this very topic being my article. Good question Ferg.
I'd have to say foodplots for the same reason as Jeff. My parents property for the most part is all cover and bordered by thick cedar swamp to the south. There are several acres of CCC planted redpine stands that dominate the landscape for the most part. The soils here suck so very little forage is available other than the acorns on my parents property and the foodplots we supply for them.
Best answer is site-specific; if you've already got a ton of cover, and more limited foodstuffs, obviously, providing quality, varied food will be a huge plus.
In farm country, he with the mostest cover, wins.
As to what kind of cover - our old friend BSK, who's forgotten more about these things than I'll ever know, believes that a large number of small thickets, spread across your property, is more effective in holding deer on your place than is one great big sanctuary. I tend to agree.
This has a lot to do with someones experience and perspective of where they actually own land, or hunt. With a lot of different experiences it's easy to be torn on this issue. It's kind of funny though, but basically it's best to offer what the surrounding area doesn't, to look at it in more simplistic terms. For example, in ag land I've hunted in areas where cover is very sparse, so the more cover you have, the more "different", your property is, and as a result, more attractive and benificial to the herd. On the otherhand, more cover up here on most properties would be like saying a full bath tub needs more water. Up here, on most properties, by offering any type of quality food sources, you set your property a part from others sometimes for miles around, and of course your property would certainly be "different"!
I don't see how there is any general right answer..only a "right" answer relative to each individual property type.
it has to do with offering what is not already being offered around the area -
My thought was, in a vacuum, you have to decide - cover or food plots.
If I knew nothing of the surrounding area - say I'm blind, and I don't know anyone else in the world - and nobody will tell me what the heck is going on around me - and I have to decide, I have to put it writing or something -
Really it's tough. Even in the U.P. here you could rarely or never fill an entire property with a food plot due to wet lands, water systems, topography, land features, etc. If I had to choose, planting all my existing acreage that COULD be planted into food plots, into plots, would do much more for the local herd and my hunting enjoyment, but still probably wouldn't total 20 acres out of 130 because of all the brush and garbage (cover) in the wet areas...I'd have cover by trying not to have cover on this peice. That's why your thread is a great one because of the discussion, it's not very "black and white", even if some make it out to be. I've completed lots of wildlife openings, thinned less desirable species of trees, fertalized native vegitation,but none of it even comes close to making the impact of just 1 acre of food plot, on this type of property. Really, by managing with say 10 acres of food plots, and doing everything possible to habitat, on this 120 acre property, you are talking 10's of thousands of pounds of differance in food, not to mention greatly limiting nutrition levels....just in talking only 10 acres of food plots compared to either offering the 10 acres, and doing nothing else to the property, -OR- doing as much as possible to the entire 120 acres in terms of native vegitation management...there is still 10's of thousands of pounds differance in total food on the 120 acres.
On the otherhand...in ag land it's a "no-brainer"....."Cover".
This is still a good discussion...even if I'm not playing totally within the rules!
If the property is smaller, a quality food source is even more important in wilderness settings because that is the only way to make your property attractive with small acreage...on the other hand, the smaller the property the more cover is important in ag land.
For example, you can put 6.4 acres of food plot on a 10 acre wilderness parcel, offer up to 30,000 pounds of forage, and have enough food production in those 6.4 acres of plots to noticably change the health of the deer herd within a 1 mile section (ref. the Quality Deer Management book).
On the otherhand, you can clearcut that entire parcel and would only be able to offer enough food for 213 acres of deer herd....at 1/2 the nutrition value.
Making the property smaller...makes the choice even tougher, and more important by location.
COVER! I don't have much and it's what I need most. Neighbor owns 40 acres of sand but it's all pines and that's where the deer hang out. They come onto mine for food but early in the a.m. and late at pm.
I would say in the 10 acre vacuum, I would chose cover.
Since in the real world, I have 45 acres of cover, surrounded by 50,000a of cover, I bought a chain saw, Ed Spin's book, an old 8N and I'm having more fun than ever! Don't look now, but here come the food plots!:lol:
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