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Grant's Blog

Thoughts from the field

How To Hunt A New Property

Obtaining a new piece of hunting land can be one of the most exciting things for a hunter! There can be something said about hunting a new area with new bucks, new stands, and an entirely new look, but there is also a great deal of concern that goes with this.

Brian hangs a Muddy treestand

Adam and Brian hang Muddy tree stands on a property they haven’t hunted a lot in the past.

Starting with a clean slate can be an awesome experience for any hunter, but the first time you step on that property it can be exciting and downright overwhelming. You are probably thinking “Where do I even begin? I have no idea where or what the deer are doing.” This is one of the most important times for that property. By choosing to be aggressive you can alter the travel patterns and the very demeanor of the deer.

That’s why when I start out on a fresh piece of property I always tread lightly. I never want to begin the search for stand locations by finding the thickest, nastiest area and deciding to hang my stands there. Chances are, that big buck could be living close by and I may bump him out and ruin any chance of killing him that year. When selecting my first few stands to hunt, I usually set up in more of an observation view. I’ll hang back 75 to 200 yards, depending on the terrain and visibility, and observe the deer movements. Once I’ve gotten a good feel for their travel pattern, I’ll find a tree to hang in close to those trails and I’ll move in for the kill.

Another important part of selecting my stand locations is hanging a stand for every wind. I always do this step to ensure I will have a place to hunt no matter what the wind direction is! I made the mistake in my younger days of hanging five stands and all but one could only be hunted on a north wind. Bad move! These days I enter a new property so cautiously that I alert very few deer and ultimately see and harvest more deer.

Daydreaming of whitetails,

Adam

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Deer Stand Locations: Ambush Strategies

I recently read a report by the University of Michigan’s Museum of Anthropological Archeology about an interesting find at the bottom of Lake Huron. A research team discovered a network of structures that they suggest are hunting blinds and funneling structures left behind by caribou hunters. Their findings indicate that the ancient hunters had built rock structures to funnel caribou past ambush points.

Starting a chainsaw

Hinge cutting is a deer manager’s tool that places the tops of trees at ground level.

Reading this struck me in a pretty cool way. Not only had I been working on a new Redneck Blind location that day, but I was also making plans to enhance the natural funnel to that particular blind. Apparently some hunting techniques never go out of style! I observed deer at this location last year and noted that there are two main routes the deer take past the location of that blind. One is at twenty and the other is at sixty yards. By strategically felling a couple of trees on the sixty-yard trail, I hope to increase the percentage of deer that pass the blind on the twenty-yard trail.

I always try to learn from observations and often move stands according to patterns I observe. However, there are some situations when it is easier to bring the deer closer to me, than it is for me to sit closer to them; this is where the chainsaw comes in. By felling or hinge cutting trees in a way that persuades deer to move around them, I have enhanced many stand locations. Deer often choose the path of least resistance and I prefer that path to be in prime range of my bow.

The next time you are in the stand, remember it is important to record deer encounters while hunting. That information can be very useful in developing your own ambush strategies for use in future hunts!

Happy trails,

Hunter

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Protecting Fawns For The Future

Like most hunters, this is the time of year that I get really excited to see velvet antlers. I get just as excited when I see a flock of turkey poults or twin fawns! On these hot summer days seeing the next generation of wildlife, or more importantly – when I don’t see them, my thoughts turn to predators. It’s a good time to consider how beneficial my past trapping/hunting efforts have been and how I can improve on those efforts in the years to come. Are my techniques and timing helping the survival of deer and turkeys as I think they should?

Coyote carrying off a dead fawn

My friend, Mark Pugh, had a trail camera that caught this coyote just after killing a fawn.

Balancing predator populations can be an important part of any deer or turkey management plan. As it should, the subject has gotten a lot of attention over the last few years (watch episodes 122 & 220) by the hunting and science communities. It is important for hunters and land managers to note that the timing of predator removal is a critical component of predator removal.

Spotted fawns and turkey eggs and poults are most vulnerable to predation. The removal of predators during the spring and summer months is a critical component of predator control.

At first glance this may seem simple; however, the difficult part of the equation is that in many states, trapping season is restricted to fall and winter months. In my home state of Michigan it is only legal to trap coyotes from October 15th to March 1st. In contrast, our neighbors to the south in Ohio have no closed season on coyotes, allowing trap lines to be out through the critical time of the fawning and nesting seasons.

Check your local regulations and see if there are any summer predator seasons. Whether it’s the challenge of predator calling or you setting a Duke trap line, consider putting in a little extra time during those crucial months when the next generation of game species is most vulnerable to predation.

Happy trails (and full trap lines),

Hunter

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Controlling Invasive Plants to Improve Deer Habitat

The heat of summer is upon us and our food plots and native vegetation are starting to mature. For me, this sea of green is a reminder to look at all the plants that are growing on the land that I hunt. Specifically, I am looking for invasive plants. When I find them, I mark the locations of these invasive species on a map. This helps me to more efficiently implement a control plan as well as track the spread of individual species from year to year. These plants take valuable resources such as sun, space, nutrients, and water away from other native vegetation that are more beneficial to a variety of wildlife species. Controlling invasive weeds is an important management tool to promote plants that provide quality cover and nutrition for whitetails.

A joint project by the University of Georgia and the U.S. Forest Service has a website that can help you identify potential invasive plants in your area (www.invasive.org). There are numerous invasive plant species throughout the United States. Each region of the US has different types of invasives that might include plants such as: princess tree, Russian-olive, mimosa trees, Japanese privet, nandina, Japanese barberry, shrubby nonnative lespedezas, bamboo, kudzu, Johnson grass, etc. After identifying an invasive species to target, it is important to consider multiple control methods. Many invasive plants can be controlled through prescribed fire, herbicide, or physical removal. Check out GrowingDeer.tv episodes 81, 185, 221, 222 for more information on a few of these methods.

One problem species in my neck of the woods is Berberis thunbergii or Japanese barberry. This spiny, deciduous shrub was introduced to the United States as an ornamental landscaping plant. Due to its resistance to deer browsing and ability to grow in full sun or shade, it is highly invasive. In the area I live, entire hardwood forests are laced with an understory of barberry.

Hardwood forest with invasive plants

This hardwood forest is laced with an understory of Japanese barberry, a highly invasive species.

Through chemical control (application of Glyphosate) and physical removal of Japanese barberry, it has been possible to transform undesirable habitat into a biologically diverse savannah that benefits deer and other wildlife. It is important to note that invasive control is often an ongoing process. Although this property has seen some success I must actively control new sprouts from the seedbed to prevent the return of barberry. Each year I walk all of the established savannahs with a back pack sprayer full of Glyphosate and treat any emerging barberry. If barberry is a problem on your property, click this link for more detailed information on alternatives for control.

Treating invasive plants with back pack sprayer and herbicide

Controlling invasive plants is a yearly task.

There is no doubt that controlling invasive plants is a long process punctuated with a lot of hard work. However, a little extra boot leather each year ensures that my initial investment will pay huge dividends for the wildlife here for years to come. Whether you have a large invasive problem or just a few plants starting to pop-up next to that new food plot you put in last spring, controlling invasive plants is a beneficial tool to improve the wildlife habitat on the property that you hunt.

Happy trails,

Hunter

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