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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
How do you manage hunting land for older age class bucks? Here are some of my ideas:
1. Attract does to your land by providing food, water, bedding, and safety.
2. Make it easy for deer to travel thru your property by keeping trails clear.
3. Create safe areas that deer can use all year long.
4. Plant trees and shrubs along the road frontage so poachers can't see into your hunting spot.
5. Create mock scrapes beginning in late summer.
6. Don't disturb the deer during feeding times.
I am on my 4 wheeler most weekends of the year outside of hunting season. The deer get used to it. It's the "unfamiliar" things that bother deer.
The deer aren't bothered by my tractor either. Sometimes they watch me from 25 yards away as I drive by. We started out over 10 years ago by getting a wildlife plan written by a biologist. That helped a lot. Contact your county Farm Service Agency for more details. We've had foresters come in and do some logging. We've put small ponds in for the wildlife. We've cut down lots of trees and half cut lots of others. You need sunlight to hit the ground so the thick, nasty stuff that attracts deer will grow on your land. Think brush and you'll get a good idea of a spot that is attractive to deer. We also hired a land consultant that specializes in big bucks. His name is Tony LaPratt and you can hire him to come to your land to set it up for deer hunting. He has a website. You can find it at www.ultimatelandmanagement.com/. He also holds classes on hunting trophy bucks.
We also planted switchgrass fields for bedding and cover. It has been a lot of work but now we see lots of deer and other animals. We also see some dandy bucks in the fall. They may not live on your land, but they will be there in the fall if you provide them with what they want. Let me know what your ideas are for attracting big bucks to your land. I realize that how you hunt and when you hunt is important if you want to see big bucks.
 

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Mike:

I think you hit on the big points and well. If I can add a bit I would take your point no. three , (make safe areas for deer to use year round) and make that your focal point.

Safe areas, AKA sanctuaries, can do wonders and the more emphasis on them the more will be the outcome. I recommend a minimum of 20% of the land area be safe areas with 50% being your goal. Try to locate them centrally if you can. Think of using the densest part of your property or make it dense to be used as the safe area. If that happens to be located on your border, that's OK especially if that density is also part of your neighbors property, example, a tag alder swamp. On your side of this swamp, place a high quality attractant type of food plot.

You can have more than one safe area and connecting them with dense travel corrodors (60 feet wide strip of conifers) helps keep the boys feel at ease. Planting a variety of food plots in the safe area helps. A decent size (3-5 acres) open field combination bedding and feed plot inside this safe area along with a water source gives your deer no reason to leave.

This combination feed plot is a permanent plot with minimumi intrusion and maintainence. Here is my formula for this combination bedding and feed plot.

One full year of plot preparation comes first. Soil test and state that you intend to plant clover in your soil test application form. Apply lime to reach a ph of 6.0 minimum and apply fertilizer according to soil test recommendations. Spray round up at two quarts per acre in early May, (wait for the weeds and/or grass to be 6 inchs tall). spray again at one quart per acre in late June. Two weeks later disk and disk every two weeks till the first of September. three weeks later spray round up at one quart per acre.

The following early spring as soon as you can drive over your field,(mid april to early may) broadcast 200 lbs of 19-19-19 per acre. Mix together and broadcast the following seeds. One lb per acre of chicory and two lbs per acre of the following seeds, medium red clover, alske clover, ladino clover, birdsfoot trefoil, grazing type alfalfa (alfa graze, ameri graze) and timothy (full sized). Broadcast seperately due to its light weight and oblong size two lbs per acre of big blue stem warm season grass. Follow with two passes with a cultipacker.

Maintain with 200 lbs of 19-19-19 fertilizer per year in early August and mow once every three years in early august. This field will be used as a bedding and feed area. Does will use it for their fawning location and don't be surprised to find bucks use it as their summer bachelor rondeyvous. The bigger you can make this field the better.

Have you ever seen an intense rut and breeding field? Well, this is the formula, but of course you will not experience this visual activitiy because it is a part of a safe area.

Keep the fun in hunting!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Ed, I've planted Big Bluestem and Switchgrass on our property. We don't have the room to plant a field (3-5 acres) with clover and warm season grasses, but it sounds like a winning combination. I don't think the deer use our switchgrass for bedding as much as we thought they would. The switchgrass serves as erosion control on one of our sloped fields and it does a pretty good job of holding the soil in place after a heavy rain. Probably 50% of our 60 acres is safe area most of the year. We have a system of trails to enable us to move about the property. The deer get used to us using these trails and they don't spook from their safe bedding areas only a few yards away when we drive by. The food plots are a very important part of our program. However, having food plots without adequate cover and safe areas will probably lead deer to feed in your fields after dark. It's a labor of love.
 

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Mike, your right, Deer may or may not use a bedding area that is primarily switchgrass, but they do like to bed in a grassy field at night. That's the reason I combine forage type plants in the grass bedding areas. You will find that the deer will eat the legumes as they lay in their bed. There is an eaten area where their head is located and you can visulize them stretching their necks out as far as they can. Interesting situation.

I stay away from switchgrass because it has very little food value for deer (actually zero) and it becomes invasive, which means if I planted a forage type plant along with switchgrass it may be sqeezed out of existance. Not that switchgrass is a bad choice, for it grows tall and stays upright through the winter. It's just that I prefer to feed them and hide them at the same time. Big bluestem is eaten by deer at times and is not nearly as invasive as switchgrass. The reason the combination feed plot needs to be planted in spring is because of the warm season grass being part of the mix. Warm season grass is hard to catch and dosen't do well with a lot of competition when starting to grow. So the above mentioned planting method is designed to eliminate as many weeds as possible (the full year of plot preparation). The timothy (a grass), which is somewhat eaten by deer seasonally can under good growing conditions grow to a height of 5 feet and will stay up usually all winter long and well into the next spring. Of course big blue stem being a warm season grass grows in mid summer even during a drought and grows tall and stands well.

Keep the fun in hunting!
 

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You can have more than one safe area and connecting them with dense travel corrodors (60 feet wide strip of conifers) helps keep the boys feel at ease.

Any suggestions as to the type of conifer to use for this application. Do any shrubs work better then conifers
 

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Thumbum, Norway Spruce has been my choice. Having planted over 12,000 trees and shrubs for wildlife, Norway sppruce is hard to beat. It grows in a variety of soils, deer do not browse it unless very very hungry. It is the fastest growing spruce. My trees grow 2 feet a year. I know I have said this many times on this thread, but spruce retains its lower limbs. Pines will drop their lower limbs with age. Red pine has virtually no wildlife value. White pine will be browsed heavily. They say that if sun reaches the lower limbs of white pine, self pruning is minimized.

Mark Sargeant a Michigan biologist, recomended planting Norway, I am glad I listened. I have white spruce also, they grow nearly as fast. When I plant travel corridors, I like Norway or a fast growing shrub thats not browsed. The preffered browse shrubs, will take a long time to grow, from all the deer browsing. I would recomend Autum Olive or Speckled Alder for shrubs. They grow very fast, and browsing is not an issue.

Ed, my brother just picked up 60 acres 1 mile from my land. I have been helping him select loggers, ect. He has 5 acres for foodplots, we are reserving a good piece of that for a Big Bluestem clover mix. We are going to spray roundup through the summer, then plant the mix next spring.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Yesterday I talked with a tree mover that said he would move some of my spruce trees to other locations on my property for $80.00/hr. Some of my spruce trees are getting crowded so I'll thin out those areas and move some trees to my switchgrass field so there will be some islands of cover in the field. That should make the switchgrass field more attractive as a bedding area for deer. Some of my spruce trees are 10-12 feet tall so they should provide instant cover. I also plan to plant some speckled alder in the switchgrass field this spring. The areas to be planted were mowed last year and sprayed 3 times with Roundup. I will probably spray one more time this spring before planting the alders.
 

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Sancturary areas are extremely important, in fact, during the majority of the year, I only travel to and from stands, so 90% of my land is untouched for most of the season. I really don't think the deer knew it was hunting season last year.

Multiple access routes, to and from stands. Much of this for me depends upon wind direction, frequency of use, and feeding/bedding locations.

Not letting the deer know you are there! Sure, the deer get used to me driving my tractor or ATV during the summer....but they still know I am there. I'd prefer to enter the woods, or land, and get to my stand without the deer hearing or smelling anything other than just natural noises. Basically, hunt the deer, but don't let them know you are hunting the them....in any way.

Wind direction for access to and from stands. Wind direction for bedding areas you may walk by, feeding areas, etc., as well as entering the property into prevailing wind patterns. For example, if you always enter your property from the west side, and your prevailing wind patterns are westerly, then you alert a large portion of deer before you even begin to hunt, and could lower the effectiveness of holding areas on the western borders of your property.

Multiple stand sites, with infrequent usage.

As Ed stated, a large(most likely your largest) centrally located food plot that is never entered, hunted over, scented over, or disturbed in any way. Basically, a safe spot to feed for all deer, all the time.
 
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Mike,

I have requested a quote from Tony L. I am somewhat interested in having someone who really knows land management take a look at my place. Several questions for you.

How many acres is your place?
Is it state or privet around you?
Did Tony find ways to use grants to assist you?

I see that you where happy with what he did, what one thing would you say was most valueable that you might not have done without his input?

Please provide as much info as you can. A friend tried this aproach and was not satisfied (not with Tony). I hate to waste good money, but if his knowledge will really help me turn my piece of heven into just that, then I might try it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Joshua, we have 60 acres that is surrounded by private property. There is some farm and some woods on the neighboring properties. Tony has lots of ideas about grants etc. to help out landowners. I was already involved with several government programs because we had begun our program several years before I met Tony. I would recommend that you have Tony out to your hunting ground and also attend his boot camp. That's a 2 day program that will really help you out. Tony has a lot of experience with big bucks so he knows how they use terrain in their movements. He helped me out a lot with stand setups. Tony is an expert big buck hunter. His seminars are always packed at the Deer Spectacular in Lansing and at other shows as well. I attended Tony's boot camp last year and there were guys from as far away as Iowa that drove all the way to Coldwater(where Tony lives) to attend. You will learn a lot. Tony will show you his property as well as the other properties he hunts. Also, if you have any questions on habitat management, there is always somebody on this site that is willing to help. I would also get a biologist to write a habitat plan for your property. You may be able to get cost share for the plan as well as some financial help for implementation of the plan. That's what we did. Contact your county Farm Service Agency. Also, there is a lot of good information at the county Cooperative Extension Office(pamphlets and such) and it's all FREE!. I hope this helps.
 
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Thanks Mike,

It does help. I'm anxious to create better habitat on my place. My wife and I love to watch the animal year round (hunting in the fall is a bonus). However, purchasing this land put a dent in my wallet. A new baby (2 months old) finished the wallet off.

I'll wait for Tony's quote.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Joshua, since we began creating wildlife habitat, we see lots of different animals. We had our first brood of pheasants last year. We often have a brood of turkeys and we always have deer. Good luck with your projects.
 
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