Attached you will see a picture of the "rough draft" plan I have concocted for our little piece of dirt. The property is 80 acres, but the picture shows about 45 acres that I will be devoting my attention to this year.
Some things I won't get to this year, but do want to leave room for are:
Fruit and Mast tree plantings | More switchgrass | Norway Spruce for thermal cover and overall landscape appeal | Shrubs and bushes that will add diversity to a very barren area. Again, the picture is just a rough sketch that I did on my phone, so to clarify, all bean | corn plots are roughly 1 acre each, and clover mixes range from quarter to half acre. Switchgrass will be planted about 20 feet wide, and the Egyptian Wheat will also be that wide.
I need to close this property in and take some pressure off of the deer while giving myself some access. As it stands now, the deer can see you coming from about 200 yards away...it's pretty tough to hunt due to exposed access. That's why I'm planting the tall grasses. I read that it takes about 2-3 years for Switch to grow tall enough for screening, so I'll probably have to grow the E Wheat for a couple of years or I won't be able to sneak back there to hunt. My plan is to just walk through the middle of the Wheat, almost like a tunnel that will veer off depending on which blind/stand I am trying to hunt.
I would love to hear some feedback from those who are experienced with laying out ground for deer habitat.
Are there any potential pitfalls with this plan or things I could improve. I don't want to set the property back, so I figured switch and Egyptian was a good start because everything is easily reversible. Honestly, I couldn't make things much worse. The deer have every advantage possible. Bedding high with little understory to block their view. This year I saw two whitetails almost 300 yards away before I even passed the lake. Hilarious.
Anyway, attached are two more pictures. The first is where the deer bedding sign is most prevalent (changes with the wind), and the second is the surrounding properties.
To be clear, I have permission to hunt everything you see except the big CRP stuff to the West. So the tract south of me is 150, and the tract N and E of me is about 45. I do not have permission to do habitat improvements on the 150.
The 45 is kind of a sanctuary with lots of good bedding cover.
Seems like you are surrounded by a lot of Ag. I’d focus my plots on things that feed deer after the Ag has been harvested. Small 1 acre plots of beans can be overwhelmed quickly if deer numbers are high.
Switch can grow 6’ tall the first year with proper weed control. Realistically 4’ would be a good first year. You can help with access and the sight lines with a chainsaw and few hours of time. You can edge feather beddding areas and block off access. This creates more browse introduces sunlight and makes the edge more effective at predicting deer movement. If you have a lot of closed canopy hardwoods removing canopy can also be a good thing.
Every improvement you make in the beginning should be to give you an access and exit advantage over the deer you want to hunt. I’d aim for bombproof access to all stand locations and create great ambush spots between bedding and food.
I should have been more specific about the clover mixes. Anything in the CRP fields is Legume|Forbs (up to 50%) interseeding that I can initiate during mid-contract management years. So it will have food in it, but it won't actually be food plot style offerings.
You are right in regards to giving the deer something after crops are harvested. Most of the beans and corn are gone by November.
The Egyptian Wheat and Switch screen is absolutely my top priority. Access is incredibly difficult.
Hingecutting will definitely be in the future plan. But I need to research more about it, and ask more questions. These deer are bedding up way higher than I am accessing, which makes this tricky. I'm going to have to get inside those bedding areas and fell trees in order to manipulate what they can see. But I don't want to close them in so much that they feel a lost advantage and move to the a different area altogether.
The trees on this piece are absolutely canopied and offering no stem count. So you are on the right track for sure.
The purpose for the acre plots was just to introduce deer to this property as a "food hub" and not just a place they pass through in the middle of the night.
I honestly think I get more buck pictures than anyone else around me, but this is because my location connects so many big woods and they are all just using me to pass through to the next property. Sometimes they will find a doe on the way through and stay a couple days, but I want it to be more consistent than that and give them a reason to live in those beds vs. just using them during a pit stop.