How You Should Improve Your Hunting Property Right Now

In my last post I pointed out that food, water, and cover are the three things that deer need. I also said to focus you effort on whichever needs the most improving. This is good advice but is not appropriate for immediately after you acquire a new hunting property.

Once you acquire a new hunting property you should clear cut most of it immediately. Wait to have it cut no later than the first spring after you acquire the property. Cutting down lots of trees has all sorts of benefits but the deer will not see any improvement until a year after you cut. Cut immediately so that and in three or four years you will have the best deer bedding area in the area.

Once you have cut down most of your trees you should plant some more. Apple trees, pear trees, oak trees, etc will take a few years to produce their fruits and nuts, so the sooner you start, the sooner you will reap your rewards. You should have a few thousand dollars from the loggers, so put some of that towards planting lots of fruit and nut trees right away.

Planting a thicket of cover trees should be done immediately too. Here in Wisconsin white pine trees that are 12-18″ tall are very easily planted and, if planted in groups, will provide cover from 5-15 years after they are planted. After that they get too big.

Improve or add food, water, and cover to your hunting properties as time, and money, allows but you should not wait to clear cut or plant trees. The longer you delay, the longer you will need to wait so see any reward.

Hunting Property Improvements

One you have your own hunting property you will want to improve it. You will want to get pictures of bucks like this:

IMAG0058 (2)

Nov wk 2 Gravel Roadt 080

The very best thing that you can do for your hunting property is different for every property, but it will be to add or improve: cover, food, water.

Consider those three deer needs and first improve whichever is most lacking on your hunting property. Think about the surrounding properties too.

If your hunting property is surrounded by cornfields, then adding your own food source will not be the most efficient use of your time or money. That isn’t to say that you should not add food sources, because corn gets cut before the deer hunting season ends, and a variety of food is good. No matter your property, and its location, adding a variety of deer food is always a good idea. But if you are already surrounded by food, then adding more won’t give you the most bang for your buck.

If your property borders a creek or a lake, or one is nearby, then adding a water source may be helpful, but it shouldn’t be your first project.

If your hunting property is filled, and surrounded, by thick brush, or a swamp, then improving the cover on your land will help, but it shouldn’t be your first priority.

On the property that I deer hunt the best thing that my dad, and I, have done is to clear cut most of it. (When I say “clear cut” I mean cut nearly every tree, but leave a few for future treestands.) For a year or two after there were no trees and no cover. But after about three years our property is thicker than anywhere in the area. The two buck pictures above are on the north and south sides of ten acres of nothing but brush.

The best way to improve your brushy bedding area is to not shoot guns, not allow snowmobiling, don’t drive atvs all over, don’t have picnics, and don’t shoot paint-balls on your hunting property. All of those things are fine things to do, but the more that you do them on your hunting property the less the deer will want to be there.

Thick cover is a good start to creating a bedding area, but here’s the secret: don’t go into the dedicated bedding areas. Never. Never, ever, ever. If a deer smells you in there, then they will not feel safe and they will avoid bedding there. The only exception to never entering is when you hit a deer and you follow the blood trail in. If you are not following blood, then never enter.

Creation of cover cost: Call a logger, mark the very few trees you want to keep, and the logger will pay you for the wood. The amount of money that you will get depends on how much you cut and how good the wood from your trees are.

More food = more deer

More food variety = healthier deer, bigger antlers

There are several ways to add deer food to your property:

  • Cutting down trees will encourage plant growth
  • Plant food plots
  • Plant fruit & nut bearing trees (apples, pears, and oaks are the usual suspects)
  • Bait (not legal in all areas)

Adding any amount of food is a good idea. Even if you are surrounded by food adding another variety of food will improve your deer population.

Cost of adding food:
tens of dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. Once your food plots are established it will cost not more than $200-300 per year to maintain, although you may wish to spend a lot more.

If I owned hunting property in the South, then my land improvement priority would be to create a water source.  Water is necessary for deer and where it is hot, that is especially true.  Create a pond, or whatever you can do to add water.  And that’s true everywhere, although its most important where it is hot.

Cost of creating a water source: a few thousand dollars up to  tens of thousands

Those are the three ways to improve your hunting property.  Pick whichever you most lack and focus your time, money, and effort there.  Then move on to whichever is then most lacking, and so on.

Shed Hunting

A good article on hunting for shed antlers at 323 Archery Shoot.

excerpt:

Think about where you commonly see deer as you’re driving. Talk to people about where they see deer, even if they’re not the deer-hunting type, and don’t be afraid to ask for permission to search for antlers. The worst someone can say is no, and who knows, you may find an antler gold mine and make a new friend in the process.

A situation involving one of my co-workers illustrates this point nicely. She frequently sees bucks in the back yard of her 2-acre wooded lot. Deer hang out in her yard because the neighboring area is a heavily hunted parcel of public land. Also, deer make frequent use of her garden and bird feeders. She is not a deer hunter, but she knows the habits of the bucks on her lot because she enjoys watching wildlife, and as a result, her small property has yielded multiple sheds.

Once you’ve got a place to explore for sheds, key in on specific areas where deer are likely to spend most of their time or will somehow have a better chance of shedding. Again, because deer spend a lot of time eating and resting in winter, check feeding and bedding areas, especially the southern exposure of a hillside or the south side of any forest edge or lone tree.

Also consider places where a buck is likely to lose an antler from a jar to the body or because of contact with brush or low-hanging limbs. Check fence crossings, trails on steep embankments, creek crossings, fallen logs on trails and anyplace else where a buck might jump over an obstacle and knock off an antler. Also pay attention to trails going through thick brush or with low-hanging branches. To borrow a fishing term, these are the “spots on the spot” once you’ve got a parcel of land to search for sheds.

Hunting Apparel: Pants

What to wear on your legs while deer hunting is rather simple.

If it is warm out, then wear you usual underwear and your camouflage pants.

If it is cool, or cold, out, then wear your usual underwear, usual pants, and camouflage pants.

I don’t bother with long underwear even when it is below zero. Long underwear may help keep you warm, but my fingers, toes, nose, and ears will be very cold a long, long, long time before my body or legs get cold. If it is really cold out, then my feet (my particular cold weakness) will prevent me from staying out long before my legs get cold.

What sort of camouflage pants should you get?

Your hunting pants should be camouflage, the pattern doesn’t really matter. I wear one medium/ heavy pair year round, but if there were more warm days in September , in Wisconsin, then I’d get a light pair too.

The case could be made for scent stopping hunting pants, and its probably better to err on the side of too much scent reduction rather than too little. But if the rest of you is very scent free (you don’t smoke, don’t wear your hunting clothes in public, aren’t sweating, etc), then you would be fine with any ol’ pair of camouflage pants.

Buy camouflage pants that are a few sizes too big. They should easily fit over whatever pants you usually wear.

Over-alls are a good idea if your lower back gets cold while hunting.

My current pair of camouflage hunting pants is excellent. I have an older version of the Scent-Lok TimberFleece pants.

You don’t want to wash you hunting clothes too often because of the UV effects that will happen. Any camouflage pattern is fine, as far as deer are concerned. But some fabrics will glow in low light conditions. There are some UV sprays that prevent some of the UV glow. If you want to see UV glow, then wear your blue jeans outside at dusk on a night with a bright moon, and see your jeans glow.

One last point: buy a dedicated hunting belt for your oversize hunting pants. Your belt should be able to fit around your normal pants and camouflage pants. It should also be a dull color, not make any noise, and not have any shiny metal.

Hunting Magazines

There are lots of outdoor magazines and they are as responsible as anything for informing most outdoorsmen about new outdoor ideas an methods. But, for the most part, they are not all that useful.

My dad thinks that there are about six different fishing articles and each new article is just a variation on one of those six. I talked to a muskie fishing guide this past year who says he doesn’t know how he comes up with anything to write for the magazines he regularly writes for. He says that he doesn’t bother reading them because they are not all that useful.

Magazines are nothing but pictures of things that you can’t have.

But magazines are useful for learning about new products which you learn about the existence of in the advertising.

That lack of useful information in hunting magazines is one of the reasons why I started this blog. I eventually hope to have all the information you might need right here.

Hunting Apparel: Footwear

Here in Wisconsin the hunting season goes from the end of September through early January. The temperatures during hunting season ranges from 80 degrees to negative degree temperatures. One type of hunting boot will not be sufficient to last through the whole season. (This information is especially important for me because my feet get cold and sore a long time before any of the rest of me gets cold or sore.)

For the last few years it seems that deer hunters wearing knee high rubber boots was the best new idea in footwear. All but one of the deer hunters I regularly talk to has thrown away his rubber hunting boots, because of how badly they always fit and because of how little warmth they provide.

The reason rubber boots were a trend is because of the idea that they reduce the smell coming from our feet while out in the woods. This is a good idea and reducing your smell is undoubtedly a good idea.

Even if leather boots are not as scent proof I will continue to wear them because of the warmth and comfort that they provide.

You should be careful not to wear your hunting boots when you are not hunting. When you wear hunting clothing outside of hunting situations all that can happen will be the clothing’s collection of new smells. In particular, you should avoid wearing your hunting boots while pumping gas, because nothing will add smells to your clothing like gas.

Ideally you will wear your everyday shoes to your hunting property and then switch to your hunting boots once you leave your car to hunt.

A light pair of hiking boots is all that you need in the hunting footwear department during warm days. Light hiking boots are comfortable to walk around in and to climb trees in. Any pair of hiking boots should be fine when it is warm. And any pair of socks is fine. Go to a hunting store or any shoe store and buy whatever brown hiking boots that you like. My current pair are from Columbia. They are fine, but I would be open to replacing them with some other brand boots.

When it gets a bit colder add a heavy pair of wool socks to your light hiking boots and normal socks.

When it gets colder still you will want heavy thick insulated boots. It won’t matter too much what brand or style they are. But get heavy boots that go nearly up to your knee. Make sure that you try them on with your thick wool socks before you buy them. These won’t be very easy to walk in but if you hunt from a tree stand you won’t be walking much in them, and they will need to be thicker for sitting still than they would need to be for walking. My current heavy boots are a Cabela’s brand and they are fine. Find whatever boot that looks like it will keep your feet warm.

The toe warmers that stick to your socks are excellent for hunting in the extreme cold. If you put them on the outside of your thickest socks they will give you a few hours of heat and your boots will stay a bit warmer for a few hours even after they stop being hot.

Keeping comfortable is a very important aspect if deer hunting from a stand. If you are not comfortable, or comfortably warm, then you will fidget in your stand which will spook deer, or you will not stay in your tree as long. Buy whatever quality boots that you can to stay warm and comfortable.