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