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Natural Forage and Cover

87894 Views 331 Replies 57 Participants Last post by  Neal
Food plots are fun and helpful in attracting and holding whitetails but sometimes I get concerned that landowners put to much emphasis on them and not enough on the natural sources of food and cover that whitetails really rely on.

If you have timber or even brush...it can be improved and if you need trees and screens they can be planted and if you need cost share assistance it is usually available.

Managing our land for whitetails and wildlife in general covers a broad spectrum of things of which food sources from crops are only a small piece of the pie.

Right now is the perfect time to start inquiring about cost share assistance and I have a complete list of federal, state and private source of cost share programs that I would urge you to be aware of.

Conservation Cost Share Programs

Contact your NRCS office or private lands biologist and find out what programs are available because $$'s are tight these days and the supply is not unlimited.

Planting trees and shrubs is something I have been doing for nearly 50 years and I am passionate about this subject. At my age I will most likely never see the fruits of some of my labors but I do it anyway because I see the results of what others before me have accomplished.

The 80 year old white pines on my place are full of turkeys every night and when I hear the winds softly blowing through them I imagine the people who planted them years ago and silently thank them.

I concentrate mostly on mast production and especially on hybrid oaks and chestnuts in my hardwood plantings and many different varieties of soft mast producing shrubs that provide screens, travel corridors as well as food sources for wildlife large and small.

If you have an interest in planting trees next spring regardless if it is a 1/2 dozen or 10,000 seedlings take a look at my informational threads that will help you better decide which trees, the right herbicides and other planting information might be best for you.

Tree Planting

This thread is longer but covers everything including direct seeding of acorns and ideas to start your own seedlings from top producing trees in your area.

Tree Planting 101

Those threads include a list of some great nurseries and sources of all kinds of supplies and herbicides as well regardless if you plant by hand...

or with a tree planter...

I have hundreds of pictures that make it interesting and helpful as well.

Most likely you have timber, woodlots or forest on your property and managing it properly can be both profitable and help you attract and hold whitetails at the same time.

Begin by truly understanding what Timber Stand Improvement (TSI) means and learn to identify the trees on your property. Utilize your area forester and learn all you can before cranking up the chainsaw!

TSI is primarly releasing crop trees by killing cull trees close to them and doing so also allows oak seedlings to grow and replace shade tolerant less desirable species.

I put together these threads to help everyone understand how to better manage their own timber and get paid to do it!

Learn TSI

Understanding Timber Stand Improvent

Once you have learned to properly identify your trees then your in a position to decide where to create bedding areas or which trees to edgefeather.

Hinge cutting is a great way to create both cover and new browse at the same time and opening up small areas will increase both bedding and feeding areas.

All of these things make your property more attractive then the neighbors and you can see not only mine but others who have shared their successful work in my thread on edgefeathering.

Edge Feathering and Bedding Areas

A number of knowledgeable landowners share their own pictures and experiences in these threads to provide a great deal of information to landowners eager to learn how to improve thier property.

Ideas that share how to funnel deer, which trees produce the sweetest acorns the quickest, what shrubs provide the best screens the soonest and what timber is valuable and which is not are all in those threads.

Plant food plots but don't forget your greatest natural assets...your trees! :)
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Dbltree your thread on hinge cutting on Outreach Outdoors is excellent. Thanks.
I had a great day today. The snow had completely disappeared, and then we got about three inches that ended late afternoon yesterday. I decided to go into my bedding areas in my Gravel Pit property--47 acres across the road and behind my in-laws property.

It was a great opportunity to see what deer were using it, since they are still pretty close to their pressured hunting season patterns.

Here is a pic of a trail into about a 15 acre area that is pure bedding area. It is untouched, unentered after the antlers of the deer are hard.

Hmmm...it appears some deer used this trail within the last 20 hours. Note the tree with the arrow. It is the source of my question and we will revisit it on the way back out of the bedding area.

As I strolled around the bedding area, I noted that many deer were using this small area. I saw at least 25 beds that were used in the last 20 hours. Here are a couple of shots straight down on a doe bedding area. I apologize for those pesky branches being in the way, they seem to prefer to lay underneath them.

Be patient, my question is coming...

A little bit north of there, I found a buck bed. How do I know? Well the tracks were just short of 3 inches wide and about 5 inches long. the impression was humungous, it was solitary, and when I got down and smelled it, it reeked with that tarsal gland smell that only a good sized buck can muster up, even though it is late season, there are still lots of doe fawns being bred. It had an entry area that came right over the brush and logs seen beyond the bed in the photo (so he feels hidden with his little tennis ball sized brain:lol:), and there is a rub right at his entry point (arrow).

Now, this bedding area is somewhat of a dead end. I have created a tornado zone, which is meant to be mainly a barrier to hunters, but is also a pretty significant barrier to deer if you read the snow. It is programmed rabbit habitat. There is no good reason for a deer to go past that zone in day time, because there is wide open, park-like woods with sneak-on trespasser types on the other side, hence the need for the tornado zone. But it is so thick that, even for a deer, there is not much reason to enter it, because it is a lot of work for them,and no reason to go beyond it. Plus there is plenty of wonderful bedding and escape habitat to the west, north and south (all directions that go to properties of co-op members--I am blessed to be almost completely surrounded by co-op members--oh, I forgot, I elected to be surrounded by co-op members). Here is a pic of the barrier, or tornado zone:

Question coming, please be patient...

Now, there are two main pathways out of this area. There is a north pathway, that goes by one of my stands, into a food plot past the "key" stand, into another food plot, and then to my neighbor's destination fields. I saw at least 15 rubs on the 3 trails that converge on that stand, but to address my question, I will go back to where we originally entered. That is the south pathway, and it also goes by one of my stand, and then pinches to meet the other trail and go past the "key" stand. This is a spot where I saw a number of bucks emerge this year. No shooters for me, but plenty of bucks. This is not a pass-through area as I indicated above, but is a path to a bedding area. So here is the other side of the tree pointed out in the first picture.

This is a fresh rub. I have only had this property since April but I cut that tree around May and I know it did not have a rub. The top of the rub is at 52 inches.

Now here is my question. If I had a trail camera of a buck walking through here, would it have any more significance or meaning than the presence of this rub, which was obviously made by a mature deer?

By the way, the fact that there is a tree stand in this picture, in a spot where a buck coming through has to quarter away within 20 yards at some point, is not a coincidence.

I own about seven or eight trail cams but choose not to use them in sensitive areas. Here is an example of why:


Is a picture of a buck walking though a funnel between a bedding and feeding area worth more than a rub like this (and the other numerous examples I could show but would take up too much bandwidth)?
The most important part of a trail cam picture is the date and time stamp on the picture. It lets you know if that mature buck living on your property is a huntable buck.(not soley nocturnal) You are missing the boat not using trail cams. The example you give of the spooked deer is a very poorly placed trail cam. Put that camera 15 ft high angled down at the scent rag then show me the pictures. You had to walk into their bedroom to confirm deer were bedding there.(I'm sure you already knew) A few well placed trail cams put between their bedroom and feeding area would have told you how many, what kind and time of movement. Really a no brainer.
Black Flash photography Black-and-white Deer Plant

I have about 75 pictures of this deer over a 2 yr. period. All but 3 pictures were between 10pm and 5am. I put a stand on the obvious runway he was using 2 yrs ago. For some reason the deer changed the second week of Oct. this year and moved at dusk twice in the same week. I killed him the third week of Oct. the first time I sat in the stand I put up 2 yrs ago. All because of a trail cam.


I agree.
The title of this thread is not Creating Natural Forage and Cover for Micro Managers. If you want to cover that aspect then start a thread on the topic. Personally, I don't care anymore what direction or where the deer lay in the bedding area. I don't care if they lay under an overhanging branch or hinge, I don't care if they lay beside a stump or log. I do care if they have cover to lay in and feel safe without human intrusion and natural forage to eat. Hence the title of the thread: "Natural Forage and Cover".

This thread is for people that for whatever reason don't buy into the TL micro manager way to do things. If you want to do things the TL way, knock yourself out. There are plenty of threads explaining the techniques...or lack thereof. Why are some people constantly trying to push TL concepts onto these threads. There are other widely accepted ways to build bedding and cover for those that don't want to spend money to learn how. We are not micro managing in this thread. We are creating hinge cut areas for "cover and natural forage".
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