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Property Layout Advice
I'm really struggling with figuring out this piece of ground. A couple buddies and myself bought this 160ac piece a few years ago and this is what we have layout so far. Our deer almost all come from the big swamp to the East and the Land from the south (We have a neighbor with over 600 acres of land to the south).
Our Woods is open it was all logged about 25 years ago so the timber is harvestable at this point. I have been hinge cutting in the sanctuaries trying to create cover and have planted a lot of pines and will do another 1000 Norway pine this spring. We have planted 40+ fruit trees and have about 7 acres of food plots.
My problem is access and morning hunting which we have bad options for both. The middle section we leave alone but I have thought about leaving it park like and open and using it to access stands. We don't hunt morning at all until Oct 25th. Despite our light hunting and sanctuaries we are not see the deer and our bucks are leaving from poor access is my guess. We have food and left 4 acres of standing beans this year.
I just can't wrap my head around access and if I should make major changes to how the land is laid out?? Should we have less Sanctuary? Other than hinge cutting anyone have any better ideas to creating thicker areas without a logger coming in (no value in it for them)? Just looking for ideas. Pines and slowly hinge cutting areas take time and maybe I just need to wait but any ideas are welcomed.
I'm not going to give management recommendations, but you should post a topographic map of the place as well.
You have great access options. You have access from both the north and the south. Those options don't happen a lot.
Some things for you to think about, my initial thoughts: (1) Create the best bedding areas/sanctuaries on you property that you can. You want as many deer to bed on your land as possible. You can do this when you log. Create clearcuts, openings, etc. (2) Access your stands from the outside edges of your property as much as you can. (3) You can focus on hunting the deer that are bedded on your land. So, when you access your stands your scent is blowing onto your neighbors property. You also don't want the deer to hear or see you access your stands. (5) When you choose stand sites, pick for wind direction for what is best for the deer bedded on your property but then try and pick based on movement from the neighbors if it you can. (4) North winds, come in from the South. South winds come in from the North. You can follow those rules but you have other options such as W winds, access from the NE corner so your scent is staying off your property. E winds, access from the NW corner are other options. (5) Of course, if you get heavy deer movement from the neighbors you may want to adjust your access routes if you can. But, as much as possible, keep your scent off your property. (6) That should get you thinking of the options you have. You are lucky with as many options as you have. I wouldn't recommend walking through the center of the property for access, or very much limit it as much as possible.
You may want to move some of your food plots, hard to tell. Maybe more away from the property lines. Create the best food options on your property for the months of Oct/November and December if you hunt then. This will keep more does bedded nearby your food plots and the bucks will come.
I see your in Wisconsin, I'm in Waunakee, our farm is near Tomah. If you want to meet up and go over, I'm willing to take a look. All I charge is a cup of coffee or a Busch Light, depending on the time of day. :) BC
Looks to me like that land to the East is ideal bedding which is why they are bedding there. Looks like big bush. If it is unpressured I don't see how you can fight with that for bedding? They've got the perfect bedding and lots of it. Only way you could battle that for bedding is to turn your whole piece totally wild, but then you wouldn't have the feed.
Why don't you accept the fact that the majority of bedding is going to happen there, and focus on your food and travel. Maybe change the shape of your bush that you do have and try and create some ideal funnels to your food. It's hard to say without knowing the hunting pressure and the ins and outs of the land but it looks to me like you're going to have a hard time out-bedding the bedding there, I'd rather focus on the way things are currently working and maximize it for success. They are travelling to your area to feed. Find a way to kill them as they do so. You can cut down timber, build some fences to "nudge" them certain directions. Not every piece can have everything, but by still keeping up ideal bedding in some of your acreage some deer will always bed there. And if something changes on the pieces surrounding you they'll use it.
I'm no habitat expert so don't weight my opinion heavily. That's just what I see and may not be what you want to hear.
Vino, Question, are all three of you hunting the 160 at the same time and using different access points? Setup suggestions above are good but I would take a hard look at the pressure and how access by multiple hunters impacts your sanctuaries. Are the sanctuaries areas the deer want to be, are they thick and have good cover? Do you see beds in there all season? Where do the deer winter? I ask these questions because those answers can be more important than what you are asking.
Is the land to the south and to the east hunted?
Bow crazy thank you for the detailed breakdown. I’m near Rice Lake so a meet up might be more difficult but I appreciate the offer. I to enjoy talking about this stuff. Most of the deeer come from our east and being our border is the food the good deer aren’t making it before shooting light outside the rut. I am trying to create bedding cover on our piece because it’s 25-30 year old forest with over head canopy and not much in reach for the deer. Yesterday I took off and clear cut and hacked and squirted about three acres in total. We also struggle to protect our nice 3 yr olds because of neighbors to the east. They are not bought into passing younger bucks and we lost a really nice 3 yr old 8pt that we passed several times. I’m thinking for access I could maybe use the middle woods (picture attached) because it’s fairly open and because it’s hilly and we stay out deer sometimes bed there. My thought is maybe leave it open and start using it which would kick the deer out. It’s middle access but there is only a field to the west??? Any thoughts on that?
APauls- thank you and you are spot on with the easy bedding. Our only issue is that we have neighbors that way that will kill our best up and comers. Our Southern border is neighbors that have a lot of land and QDM agreeemnts with other neighbors to the south. I’ve started doing clear cuts (picture attached) and hack and squirt areas to encourage regeneration hoping to create food and cover they will stay in. I like your idea of blocking them. What type of fence have you seen used? We don’t own any land west so I’m thinking we could create some limited access to our fields using a fence on our edge. Thanks
Xman- thank you for your perspective. The deer don’t Winter on us much once our crops are gone. They finished off our standing beans in early January. I am planting Norway Spruce this spring to try and improve our thermal cover options. The only time there is more than 2 people hunting at once is our 9 day gun season and our deer vanish fast. Even though we don’t set foot in the woods. Because of wind we end up accessing the same side at the same time. Our northern sanctuary is probably our best bedding. I’ve made some hinge cuts in there and we never go into it. The south has a creek that flows through and it’s a little thick but not thick enough. The middle woods and the west sanctuaries are not favored bedding because the middle is open and the West has a neighboring land owner that is out on atvs everyday and the Deer stay away. Thank you Xman
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My family has owned 60 acres(not much but situated great) in Missouri for the last 6 years. I have been working my tail off to improve the property, but have not seen the results. Tons of pictures in the summer and early fall, then a huge disappearing act (bucks and does alike). Couldn't figure it out, then I got a hold of a habitat specialists. He and I walked the property and I learned more in 2 hrs then the previous 5 years. Then he turned me on to Habitatsolutions360. Jake is a "rockstar" in the habitat management community. Primary points - the deer will tell you what they want. It's all about food, cover and security. Security (cover), while they are bedding, security while they are traveling and security while they are feeding. We even hinge cut some travel corridors (at Jake's suggestion). Huge difference in deer sightings and # of deer staying on our little 60 acre piece.
You have a great Quality Deer Management Association Branch in your area, Northwest Wisconsin QDMA Branch, here is there website: https://www.northwestwiqdma.com/. You can search for them on Facebook as well. They will be a great resource for you and your buddies. They have a banquet coming up in April and a property tour in May. One of their members from the area, Joe Bartylla, does this for a living. He is really good, I just walked a property with him on Saturday, a 120 acre piece with serious access issues.
I would say the general rule is, the less you access your land through the center the better. They would be considered high impact I would think.
Creating more/better bedding areas on your property would be top priority in my book. I wouldn't depend on your neighbors for that. If they figure out the deer are bedding on theirs and leaving for yours to eat could provide them awesome hunting opportunities at your expense. Now, certainly there is no way you can prevent the deer from bedding on your neighbors. Use that to your advantage where you can. Create more reasons for the deer to stay on your property will make the hunting better.
Can you move the food plots on the east side to the west more? Maybe something to think about. BC
Using your access photo, access this area from the NW corner with east winds. The wind will blow off your property, across fields/open areas for the most part. I don't think you need to walk through the woods too much here. I guess, if your stands are located where the yellow lines run you may have to. Can you move the stands?
One thing. When looking at a forecast and you see that it's calling for a North wind, that means the wind will be coming from the North, not that it's blowing from the South to the North.
Vino, Apauls nailed your bedding issue. This is a huge problem since primarily the wind will come from the West Or Southwest. This will somewhat negate some stands based upon this fact. Morning sets could prove more productive since deer will be moving easterly but your entrance will be more critical.
Also, it appears that you have three features of high ground to the East. If not pressured these are ideal bedding site for big dominate bucks. I would assume cold weather and hunter pressure would be the primary forcing agents to push them into the swamp to the Far East. My evening sets would focus on the trails coming from high ground when I had favorable wind direction.
I would focus on creating food and doe bedding areas because you probably already know where the bucks are bedding to the East. The doe will prefer to bed away from the bucks and closer to the food source.
Also, your stand sites all appear to be on food sources. There re three or four bottlenecks that I would pay money to set for all day when bucks start cruising. I see food, access, and discipline to not use a set in with unfavorable winds as your biggest challenge. Getting three people at one time would present a challenge if everyone was not willing to work together when all were hunting at the same time.
P. S. I had an old Army buddy named Bruce Smith who hailed from around Rice Lake. Last I heard he was a state trooper or something in law enforcement.
Couple quick observations. Your bean and brassica plots are right on the east edge. And it looks like most of your access requires an east wind which is difficult. I’d seriously consider some dozer work and completely reconfigure this property. Drop those two food plots on the eastern border and drop those sanctuaries entirely since they are bedded in that swamp anyway. Swap that NE clover with brassicas and excavate a standing bean or corn field where that west sanctuary is located. Surround those fields with a strip of clover but nothing too big. Let your current bean and brassica plot go to brush or native grass. You can also create a natural barrier there by felling trees or consider a fence to force the deer north as they go to bedding. Assuming you have a long term lease on the rented ground there’s probably not much you can do there. If you can, and you don’t need the income, get rid of it. That farming activity is not helping you and you will be competing with it until the crops are harvested. You have great potential here, but the current setup is a mess. iMHO.
Pat, very nice advice! I am I’ll advised in land management but your comments make perfect sense plus it may promote greater daytime movement due to longer distance from bedding area.
I'm not a Norway pine fan myself. I have several acres of that stuff and I hate them. They drop needles like crazy and cover the ground so nothing else will grow except more pine and balsam's. I cleared under these five years ago and there is still no underbrush growing up under them.
Thanks Pat and Pigsticker for the great advice. We have a real mess and I appreciate your thoughts on this. I like the thought of putting in a food plot in the middle of the property. We could probably then let go of some of the soybean and brassica plots. We are stuck with East wind hunting for the majority of our stands. We are pretty strict with wind but fortunately when bad weather is coming we get east and Northeast winds which is our best hunting anyway. The East hilltops are having bucks bed on them some now but not all year. I have been hinge cutting on those tops to thicken them up in a hope that they will stay on us. I also plan to plant spruce this spring in these bedding areas for thermal cover and to block their view of the plots. I planted white pines around the perimeter of the food plots for a screen last year. Come Gun Season all the land around us lights up with blaze orange and gun shots. Our shooter bucks disappear only to resurface again the following Summer. Even with standing beans this late season the shooter bucks didn't hang around. Our neighbor has some awesome bottlenecks but we are really too far away from them to take too much advantage of them. The farming lease saves us about $6k per year in both taxes and rent so at this point we are stuck with it. I really appreciate all the input.
Rodb- my plan is to plant Norway spruce for cover. I think they are a little different than Norway pine.
No rows or major plantings, just random to create little patches of thermal cover.
Deer don't prefer them as much as white pine and so they have a better chance of survival.
I asked the questions I did because of exactly what Pat suggested, your access is extremely tough to those two plots. If you have open mature woods, your bumping deer every walk in or they are winding you well before you get to those plots. I would seriously consider moving those two plots and converting those two fields to bedding by enrolling it in WRP. If you own the land maybe a select cut would help and use the money to make a new plot.
I know this probably not what you want to hear. I hunt very heavy pressure in upstate NY and the more and more work I do the more and more I realize that I don't need to be on my property at the ass crack of dawn.
With all the great food and browse you are creating deer are flocking to your property at night. You coming in when the world is dead quiet at 5 am the entire woods is being alerted to your presence.
If you don't want to completely revamp your entire property as it is extremely expensive and time consuming I would consider hunting from 8-9 am on.
Last year I shot my buck at 10 am and my trail cameras are showing great activity mid day during the rut.
I would sleep a little later and let the deer get into the bedding areas where you can slip in much more quietly once the world wakes up...
Just some advice
The tax reduction and rent from crops is important but it is worth checking into switching to CRP or CREP programs, some of which let you plant trees. I would plant white pine before Norway. I think switch grass would make your land hunt noticeably better.
Looks good to me. The soybean and corn field to the left on the lake could use more cover surrounding it in some spots. Maybe line the outsides of it with fruit trees and oak trees to provide cover and extra forage. You would then have everything a deer wants in one area.