Grant's Answers → Habitat Management
Jump to a Question
- Why does it seem that over the past few years acorn production is no longer occurring on our oaks in Pennsylvania?
- Which would be your preferred method for clearing food plots: a dozer or a timber mulcher?
- Can you hack & squirt sweet gum trees with round up ?
- Will you help me and my family do a prescribed fire on our land in Wisconsin?
- Would using prescribed fire in planted pines or hardwood produce the browse?
- How long should I wait to cut trees after using the hack and squirt method?
- Should we clear junipers from our land in the Texas Hill Country?
- What herbicide should be used to control Eastern Red Cedars?
- Is native grass good cover during periods of deep snow?
- How can we encourage deer to use our 20 acres near Westfield, Wisconsin?
- How can I control Autumn Olives?
- Should I hinge cut burr oaks?
- What practices can be used to improve a 40 acre parcel of land in northern Wisconsin covered with mature trees?
- Do you think tree plots are a good tool?
- Any suggestions on how to manage CRP ground in western Kentucky?
- Should I use hinge cutting as a habitat management tool on my 40 acres of wide open hardwoods?
- Should I clear the cedars on my land in Missouri?
- Should bush honeysuckle be piled or left spread out before using prescribed fire in the area?
- Will deer use a native grass area on a ridge top?
- What can I do to improve the habitat on 100 acres in middle Tennessee?
- Is Japanese Honeysuckle good deer browse?
- Do you have any suggestions about planting apple trees near the Iowa/Illinois border?
- Will vegetation germinate through a thick layer of leaf litter?
- How should I manage property in a CWD Management Zone?
- Are large corn fields good cover for deer?
- Can you recommend a wildlife and habitat management biologist in Vermont?
- What should I do to improve the 114 acres where I hunt in central New York?
- Where can I find information about habitat management?
- Would a narrow valley in northeast Arkansas be a good bedding area?
- Should I remove some osage trees and try to create better bedding habitat?
- Will you help us with a forestry plan on our 100 acres in Pennsylvania?
- Should I harvest hemlock due to wooly adelgid
- How can I improve the habitat in this stand of mature timber in Tennessee?
- What’s a good plan to convert a stand of park like red oaks to bedding cover?
- Should I control Cockspur Hawthorn?
- What do you charge to create management plans?
- Do you help landowners develop habitat management and hunting plans?
- How fast to Sweet gum stumps rot?
- Do you work assist with habitat management plans in Pennsylvania?
- What’s the best habitat management plan for a 15-20 year old Christmas tree farm?
- Should I remove the bush honeysuckle from my farm?
- Should I try to control bush honeysuckle on the 24 acres where I hunt?
- What can I do on public land to improve the habitat quality?
- Do I recommend hinge cutting trees?
- What do you suggest to improve the 10 acres where I hunt in Salem, North Carolina?
- What is the best time of year to do timber stand improvement?
- Can I make a food plot in swampy habitat?
- How can we improve the 110 acres of timber we hunt?
- What’s the best way to control Buckthorn trees?
- Should multiflora rose be controlled?
- Do you know a forester that’s approved by the NRCS?
- What percentage of my 250 acres should be in food plots?
- What should we do to improve the habitat at our property near Bristol, Vermont?
- Do deer consume hickory nuts?
- Have you know properties that bucks don’t use?
- Do you have any suggestions to improve our lease in the Appalachian Mountains in Virginia?
- Do you have any suggestions of how we can improve a recently timbered area in the Arkansas Ouachita Mountains?
- Will mowing by a scrape cause deer to stop using it?
- How can the quality of native browse be improved in pasture habitat?
- Is the pond you created using bentonite and the one with a liner still holding water?
- How can I use a dry pond to improve deer habitat?
- Should I control Russian Olive?
- What herbicide works well to control sweetgum trees?
- How do I control Japanese Honeysuckle?
- How can I improve bedding cover in areas where hing-cutting has been completed?
- What type of plant is this?
- How should I create a screen of vegetation to reduce the visibility into my property?
- What episodes on GrowingDeer.tv are about ponds or watering holes?
- What perennial grass should I plant to provide cover for deer?
- How can I control lespedeza in Oklahoma?
- How much would it cost to have you develop a plan for the 40 acres where I hunt in Ohio?
- What should I do to maintain or increase the number of critters using my 55 acres northeast of Dallas?
- Do you use and/or recommend the hing cutting technique?
- What should I plant where the soil is very wet?
- Should I plant clover, rye, and turnips in the same plot?
- What should I do to attract deer to my 12 acres of timbered land in Tennessee?
- What should I do to improve the habitat at my property in southwestern Virginia?
- Will prescribed fire help native grasses become re-established?
- Will green vegetation burn?
- Does work on a property disturb deer?
- What crops are good for growing deer in southern Ontario, Canada?
- Wondering what herbicide do you use in your hack and spray tree elimination?
- Is prescribed fire good for hardwoods?
- Why do southern Missouri oaks bear more frequently?
- Cover Crop near Public Road
- Maintain Apple Trees
- Help with Prescribed Fire
- Improving Bedding Areas
- Using Hinge Cutting to Create Bedding Areas
- Controlling Bamboo
- Do Deer Have a Learning Curve
- How do I manage my small property for the best deer hunting?
- Percent of Habitat to Burn Annually
- Establishing Chicory
- Eagle Seed Soybeans in Virginia
- Establishing Native Warm Season Grasses
- How should we manage our hunt club food plots in an area that is heavy timber?
- Fuel Mixture for Drip Torch
- What can I do to rid my property of wild hogs?
- Best Switchgrass for a Buffer
- Pasture Grass for Deer?
- Fertilizer Spikes
- When to Start Habitat Projects
- Supplying Nutritional Needs
- Broad-based Dips
- Mineral Rocks
- Marking System for Hack & Squirt
- Creating Cover in Shade
- Pines for Cover in the South
- Cows, Deer & Electric Fences
- Creating Bedding Areas
- Plant Identification
- Minimum Size of Cover Areas
- Managing 4,000 Acres
- Identifying Habitat Needs in the Mountains
- Where Have the Mature Bucks Gone?
- When do I open my food plot fence?
- Holding Bucks on a Property
- Spacing of Feeders
- Native Warm Season Grasses as Forage?
- Crops Matched To Equipment
- Establishing Food, Cover & Water
- Too Much Food?
- Using Corn as Cover
- Which Crops Do Deer Prefer More Than Acorns?
- Should I Establish Food or Cover?
- Developing Mineral Stations
- Mineral Sources
- Timber Stand Improvement
- Trophy Rock
- Food Source in Non-Ag Areas
- Deer Habitat Improvement
- Developing Cover in Ag Fields
- Calendar of Deer Management Activities
- Keeping Mature Bucks on 210 Acres
- Monitoring the Food/Deer Ratio
- Maintaining Cover for Deer
- Improve Herd Quality on Lease in Florida
- Sanctuary Quality and Location
- Deer Population at The Proving Grounds
- Trophy Rock Compared to Cattle Mineral Blocks
- Deer Body Weights
- Plants – Nutrient Transfer Agents
- Plant Identification Book
- Coyotes and Deer
- Food or Cover
- Where Should I Locate Small Ponds?
- Which are the most important minerals to provide for whitetails?
- Does Dr. Woods offer wildlife and deer management consulting services?
- Buck Addiction
- How Important are Deer Sanctuaries?
- Minerals to Include for Whitetails
- Benefits of Timber Stand Improvement
- Switchgrass as Deer Cover
- Do Deer Consume Cannabis?
- How to Deal with Buckthorn
- Predicting Acorn Yield
- Nutritional Value of Acorns During Spring
- What to Plant in Fire Breaks?
- Cover for Whitetails on Small Acreage
- Holding Antlers during Late Winter a Good Sign!
- Source of Drip Torches
- How to Make Maps
- Touring The Proving Grounds
- Is my goal of growing and hunting a 200″ buck realistic for my property?
- Topo Maps
- Project X Research Project
- Broomsedge Grass
- Does Composted Chicken Litter Spread Disease?
- Loquat Trees in Alabama
- How to Plant Fruit Trees
- Cut Cedars for Cover?
- Size of The Proving Grounds
- Road Maintenance in Hilly Topography
- Will Hogs Hurt a Deer Herd?
- Differences between Managing in Missouri and Vermont for Winter Cover
- Do NWSG Stands Provide Sufficient Cover?
- Will Hinge Cutting Create Bedding Areas and Increase Forage?
- What is the Real Benefit of Corn?
- Where do Bucks get Antler Genetics From?
- Supplemental Deer Feeding in the Ozarks
- How Many Acres do I Need to Have a Deer Management Program?
- Is Feeding Corn Harmful to Deer in Winter?
- Why do Deer Eat Dead Leaves?
- Limiting Factors and Learning Curves
- Do Raccoons Hurt Deer?
- Will Spikes Always be Inferior?
- How to Improve Small Properties
Why does it seem that over the past few years acorn production is no longer occurring on our oaks in Pennsylvania?
Which would be your preferred method for clearing food plots: a dozer or a timber mulcher?
Can you hack & squirt sweet gum trees with round up ?
Will you help me and my family do a prescribed fire on our land in Wisconsin?
I was wondering if you would ever consider helping me and my family use a prescribed fire? We are from Wisconsin and would like to use a prescribed fire but would like someone who knew what they are doing to be there with us and help us out.
I’m glad you are considering using prescribed fire and realize the need to get assistance from someone trained to use that tool.
When to use prescribed fire is depending on weather. So we rarely travel far to do prescribed fire as it’s difficult to get an accurate weather prediction enough days in advance to plan travel, etc.
Most states offer prescribed fire classes. I encourage you to check with the forestry and/or wildlife department near you.
March 2, 2016
Would using prescribed fire in planted pines or hardwood produce the browse?
It depends on if more sun is reaching the soil in the hardwoods or pines? Another factor is the past cultural practices at both stands. If the planted pines are in an old crop field there may not be a good native browse seed base left due to past practices.
I suggest looking for hints. Are there more desirable plants growing under the hardwoods for pines now? Whichever one is showing the most potential is probably the one I’d select to use prescribed fire.
February 21, 2016
How long should I wait to cut trees after using the hack and squirt method?
How long do I have to wait before I can cut the trees to about 6 foot high to
let sunlight hit the ground and plant a food plot, or can this be done at all.
There’s no need to cut the trees that have been terminated by the hack and squirt method. Without any leaves plenty of sun will reach the soil. The smallest limbs will dry out and fall first. They tend to be so dry they begin disintegrating very soon after falling. I never cut down trees I terminated using the hack and squirt method unless I’m clearing the area. I simply broadcast fertilizer and seed among the standing stems.
February 21, 2016
Should we clear junipers from our land in the Texas Hill Country?
I really like the Texas Hill Country. I’ve worked a lot in Real County!
The article at this link does a great job of explaining several aspects of managing junipers in the Hill Country.
Clearly it’s not a one size fits all answer.
February 15, 2016
What herbicide should be used to control Eastern Red Cedars?
I was getting ready to clear out an area to make a food plots that has some small cedar trees in it. I was wondering if you would recommend what type of herbicide I should use to kill them. Also should I wait for it to get a little warmer since I live in northern Missouri? Thanks! Taylen
There’s some great information about controlling cedars at: http://www.noble.org/ag/wildlife/redcedar/
I prefer to simply cut the cedar below the bottom limb. Cedars won’t from sprouts if cut below the bottom limb. One cut and down and there is no need to treat the stumps.
Anytime is a great time to control cedars using the cutting method since they won’t from sprouts.
February 15, 2016
Is native grass good cover during periods of deep snow?
Does your theory behind the best bedding cover take into account snowfall? I live and hunt in Syracuse NY and once we get significant snowfall (usually in early December) the native grass areas are all knocked down. I rarely see deer using these areas to bed outside of the summer months, instead they prefer stands of mature pine/cedars when the snow really starts to fly.
I also have seen deer seek cover from deep snow in closed canopy evergreen forest. If the stand of evergreens is large enough deer can also find shelter from the wind deep within the stand. However, there’s rarely any food within a closed canopy forest and certainly deer don’t receive any benefit from the sun’s radiation when under a closed canopy forest.
Even where such evergreen stands exist deer seem to use the thermal qualities of a good stand of native grasses especially if they are available on a southwest facing slope.
February 11, 2016
How can we encourage deer to use our 20 acres near Westfield, Wisconsin?
My family and I have land in Westfield Wisconsin. We have not seen any deer in the past 10 years on our property. I think it might due to the fact that we have absolutely no source of food on our property so my question is, how do we get more deer to come on our property?
Also, if my family and I were to try and grow a food plot, what type of food would you recommend growing? We only have 20 acres and it is all pines and timber so I am not sure if we should clear a section of land and start chopping down trees to clear a place for a food plot?
Thanks for providing great tips!
If the timber on your property has a closed-canopy then I’m not surprised there’s not much deer activity there. Part of what determines deer use of a 20 acre parcel is what’s happening on neighboring properties. Do deer commonly frequently the neighboring properties? If so, are there lots of dogs, etc., on your property that would discourage deer from passing through your property?
If and win the pines are thinned a great technique is to covert each thinned row to a food plot! I really like this technique! There’s usually enough sunlight that will reach the soil just after thinning and for a few years until the tree crowns grow enough to intercept most of the sun. I’ve had good success with clover, brassicas, and wheat in such applications.
There will be more moisture if the pine rows are oriented north and south and more sun if the rows are oriented east and west.
If deer actively use the neighboring property then be sure to reduce disturbances on your 20 acres so deer are not alerted there and provide a source of quality forage.
February 9, 2016
How can I control Autumn Olives?
Fortunately there are no Autumn Olives at The Proving Grounds. There’s some great information about controlling Autumn Olive at: http://mdc.mo.gov/your-property/problem-plants-and-animals/invasive-plants/autumn-olive-control
February 8, 2016
Should I hinge cut burr oaks?
What benefit do you expect out of the hinge cut oaks? If the oaks are young acorn production will be minimal. Bur oak forage isn’t as valuable as the likely forb species that would grow if enough sun is allowed to reach the soil. There may be more to your mission than I understand.
February 7, 2016
What practices can be used to improve a 40 acre parcel of land in northern Wisconsin covered with mature trees?
First off, I really enjoy the show and appreciate all the work you guys do for public knowledge. I love that I am able to access your show and learn something new every week! My question relates to habitat improvement in the Northern Hardwoods of Wisconsin. I bow hunt on a 40 acre parcel of land (I attached a picture) that is mainly old growth eastern hemlock, white pine, and silver maple. There are a few White oaks on the property but I could probably count them on two hands. There is also a small pine plantation (red pine) that is on the property along with an ag field that is usually corn or alfalfa. The property does not really hold deer so much as serves as a transition area for them. We see deer moving through daily, mainly does with their fawns with a yearling buck every now and then. There are plenty of other big ag fields around to the south and the East of the parcel. Deer usually have ample amounts of corn until harvest season in late October to mid November. To the North and West are just more hardwoods for pretty long tracks of woods, maybe a couple hundred acres both ways. With the wooded parcel of the 40 acres basically being a biological desert at deer level, what sort of both immediate and long term improvements would you recommend? What are some of the fastest ways to make a forest that is primarily tall standing timber into a useful land for deer management?
Thank you for taking the time to help out,
The property is in a good location if deer are passing through it daily! I’m not surprised many don’t spend much time there given you didn’t describe any cover. Cover is often the resource deer seek during daylight hours. Hopefully the pine plantation is ready to be thinned as this would allow more sun to reach the soil and cause cover to grow.
If you have permission to cut a lot of trees (say a minimum of five acres), you can create a lot of cover! If that’s not an option, can you create some smaller openings for tree and food plots? Planting fruit trees in areas where not many are available often creates a very sought after limited resource. I really like tree plots combined with a quality forage planted in between the trees. For more information about fruit tree species appropriate for your area contact the folks at http://www.FlatwoodNatives.com.
February 7, 2016
Do you think tree plots are a good tool?
I do believe tree plots are a great tool to attract bucks! Often times when a quality food source is plentiful, it’s plentiful on a broad scale! For example, you mentioned 20 acres of soybeans. There’s probably soybeans on neighboring properties also. This means that when the soybeans are attracting deer, bucks can feed at many places. This makes it very difficult to pattern deer.
Buck’s love fruit and there’s rarely fruit available during deer season on most properties (except in the northeastern states where there are lots of apple trees). Having the only sugary fruit available during deer season within a buck’s range is a GREAT attractant! The folks at http://www.FlatwoodNatives.com have taught me a lot about which species of fruit will grow best where I live and how to plant and care for those trees. I suggest you reach out to them at: 863-767-0446.
February 7, 2016
Any suggestions on how to manage CRP ground in western Kentucky?
Lower grain prices result in more acres being enrolled in CRP. Usually CRP contracts allow for 10% of the acreage to be established in wildlife food plots. I have many clients in multiple states that do this. It can vary by the local NRCS personnel, etc. I’d check that option first. It may be too late to amend contracts where this language was included.
If no food plots can be established I consider the CRP fields primarily bedding areas and determine where the deer are traveling to food. Hunting areas where the cover and food sources are clearly different can make it relatively easy to pattern deer travel corridors.
CRP in areas like western Kentucky are almost always relatively close to prime crop ground. I suspect there’s plenty of quality groceries for deer in the area.
February 5, 2015
Should I use hinge cutting as a habitat management tool on my 40 acres of wide open hardwoods?
There are several variables to consider such as how mature and what species of trees are present.
In most situations I prefer to kill the trees rather than hinge cut and allow maximum sun to reach the soil.
The limbs from hinge cut trees rapidly growth out of reach of deer and don’t provide cover from 0′ to 3′. The forage quality from hardwoods rarely is close to that of herbaceous plants. Native grasses and forbs provide much better cover that most hinge cut trees.
The occasional hinge cut tree to encourage deer to travel closer to a stand can be a good technique.
February 5, 2016
Should I clear the cedars on my land in Missouri?
If there are “big oaks” then the land probably hasn’t been tilled in a long time! This is good as it’s likely there’s a rich native seed bank below the cedars. I recommend cutting the cedars and allowing them to dry for about two years. Then use a low intensity, backing fire to burn the cedars native grasses and forbs will germinate! These provide much better cover and food than cedars. Deer and many forms of wildlife will benefit from this habitat improvement (and use the area more).
February 5, 2016
Should bush honeysuckle be piled or left spread out before using prescribed fire in the area?
I have started my war on honeysuckle where I hunt. Today I cleared about a half acre, would you suggest making large brush piles or leaving the brush scattered? Would I be better off burning the areas that I clear or seeing what happens when sunlight actually gets to the ground? Thank you for the response and keep up the good work growing deer!
I’m glad to hear you are actively controlling honeysuckle! Piling obviously takes more energy but will like result in better consumption of the debris. Piles produce a lot more heat and this intense heat will damage near by trees.
Leaving spread out and then doing a whole areas prescribed fire will have less risk of damaging trees left on the site and do more to stimulate the seedbed to germinate. My preference would be to use prescribed fire if you have the training and permission.
February 5, 2016
Will deer use a native grass area on a ridge top?
This sounds like you may have some great views from these areas!
Deer and turkey will certainly use the ridge top areas when grasses come and take over this area. Ridge tops generally offer consistent winds. This allows deer to feel safe as they bed down. They can face the opposite way the wind is blowing from and see in the direction their nose does not cover. If you have seen deer on a day with gusty winds, they tend to be on edge. This is because the wind is not as consistent and they do not feel as secure in conditions like this.
Ridge tops offer consistent winds which allows for better hunting as you can feel confident hunting these locations. Here at The Proving Grounds, we tend to hang most of our stands on ridge tops or areas where we can hunt and have the thermals work in our favor. Some of the best stands are those where the wind will blow consistently.
I think clearing this land could help your land become more attractive for wildlife and easier to hunt.
What can I do to improve the habitat on 100 acres in middle Tennessee?
My family has a property of 100 acres 50% mature hardwoods, 50% hay pasture located in middle Tennessee. The timber mainly consisting of GIANT Yellow-poplar, various oaks, and American beech. Hay pasture has very little clover. Field edges are clean so not very good deer habitat. There are two good things: a nice clean creek and tons of acorns. Which acorns are not as nutritious as people think like you have said before.
I want to cut 1/4 of the timber every 5-8 years, have a succession of hardwood maturity and plant the fields in soybeans, but my grandfather owns it and does not like the ideas. I do have an 1 acre brassica/clover plot and am planning on planting Eagle seed soybeans in the late spring this year.
Until I am able to implement major plans like logging and 50 acres of beans, What are somethings I can do to create better habitat for bedding, native forage, and cover/nesting?
The picture shows the property, the creek and the small food plot(colored in green).
Improving wildlife habitat has become one of my passions the last few years and thank you for imparting some of your knowledge to people like me.
You are blessed to have access to hunt family land!
It is important to honor your grandfather’s wishes. You might start on a smaller scale and request permission to establish a food plot in an additional acre or two of the pastures. This would allow you to have multiple food plots to hunt during different wind directions, etc.
You are correct that acorns are relatively low in nutritional value. However, deer are certainly attracted to them! I suggest scouting the timber and knowing when the different species of oaks are producing acorns and select stand/blind locations accordingly.
You may consider developing one or two Trophy Rock Four65 stations. Deer will certainly seek a good source of trace minerals frequently.
Deer certainly seek security daily. I recommend developing a enter an exit strategy for each wind direction. They may mean creating clean walking paths to each stand/blind before season by using a weedeater and/or leaf blower.
January 14, 2016
Is Japanese Honeysuckle good deer browse?
I find much talk about vine honeysuckle as a premier browse choice for deer, yet I have a hard time finding reliable ways to id it. Google searches result in “garden variety”. Can you provide any pics or links for us to id it? Is it something you recommend planting? I have and will burn and or cut areas to open up the forrest floor to sun. If scattering seed is inexpensive and easy to establish, then it seems a great way to go. However, I assume it’s not cheap or easy, which leaves me with wanting to identify native vine honeysuckle and encourage it’s growth/hunt it.
Please provide any help you have with identifying it. The attached photo is a pic of a common plant I see. Is it vine honeysuckle?
There are several varieties of honeysuckle. I believe Japanese Honeysuckle has the widest distribution of any of the honeysuckle varieties. Japanese Honeysuckle is an invasive species. It does way more damage than good. Deer will eat Japanese Honeysuckle but it’s rarely a preferred food source. I’ve never seen deer browsing on honeysuckle when more preferred forage is available. As an illustration, I’d eat some foods when steak isn’t available but wouldn’t even look at them when steak is available.
I don’t recommend trying to plant honeysuckle. There are many native and cultivated forage species that are much better than honeysuckle.
There’s some good information about Japanese Honeysuckle at: http://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=LOJA
January 12, 2016
Do you have any suggestions about planting apple trees near the Iowa/Illinois border?
The Lord has blessed myself and a friend with the opportunity to develop a 50-60 acre section of old CRP land and cropland in the bottoms near the Illinois/Iowa border.
We know there are alot of deer around and that they’ve never really been hunted. They bed on and/or near the property, so that’s a huge plus. However, there is a good sized coyote and coon population along the creek/river that borders our property.
We are trying to come up with a game plan on how to make the most of our time and money. We were thinking we could start planting some apple trees in the spring and try to lower the number of predators asap.
Do you have any good bits of advice to help us in the right direction? We are both experienced hunters and plan to only bowhunt unless serious deer population control is required, then shotguns/muzzleloaders.
I really like Tree Plots as a tool to attract deer. Tree plots take time to develop but can be the only source of fruit around and deer love most varieties of fruit! Check out the tips for establishing and maintaining a tree plot at FlatwoodNatives.
I also believe it’s good management to work toward balancing the predator and prey relationships! Trapping is a great tool to accomplish that. There are many techniques about trapping coyotes on GrowingDeer. Go to the Videos tab at the top of the page and then the trapping tab on the left.
Sounds like you have a good plan. Be patient with the trees and take care of them. Tree plots are a great tool!
January 6, 2016
Will vegetation germinate through a thick layer of leaf litter?
Typically sunshine must reach the soil to cause native vegetation to germinate. The activity associated with the timber stand improvement usually exposes the soil some areas and results in some germination. Certainly conditions won’t improve if no action is taken.
I’d start the project and continue to educate the landowner about the benefits of prescribed fire!
January 6, 2016
How should I manage property in a CWD Management Zone?
I am feeling quite lost on how to manage my property.
Do you have any advice?
I feel certain the person you spoke with provided incorrect information. The Missouri Department of Conservation (and others states) have prohibited using grain or minerals in areas where CWD positive deer have been found. However, Missouri certainly hasn’t limited food plot or timber management practices and has shown no sign of doing so. There have been CWD Management zones in northern Missouri Counties for years and there has been no move to limit these habitat management options.
I suggest you continue striving to help the deer herd and other wildlife by providing the best habitat feasible.
January 6, 2016
Are large corn fields good cover for deer?
I hear guys talk all the time about how big AG fields of standing corn hold huge amounts of deer I could see good numbers of deer hanging around close to timber draws or crp but not just anywhere in the field & it does`nt seem to even fit your 3ft and lower criteria for good cover. I am really curious what you have seen first hand. thank you and have a great year!
Deer frequently use large corn fields as a source of cover and food! There is very little to no human disturbance in large corn fields. Deer do frequently use such areas as cover. Unlike corn, there’s very little quality food among thick young trees. In addition, where there are large corn fields there usually not much native habitat as the land is more valuable as crop production areas.
January 3, 2016
Can you recommend a wildlife and habitat management biologist in Vermont?
Me and my dad are diligently trying to find ways to improve the habitat on our land in Vermont. We have some rough ideas of what we need to do but would like some guidance. I was wondering if you’d be able to put us in contact with a deer biologist near us or maybe even yourself taking a look?
I’m glad you and your father are working to improve the habitat. Unfortunately, I don’t know any wildlife biologist in Vermont. I have several clients in New York. Matt, one of my employees just returned from a project in Ohio. We’ll be happy to assist you and your with developing a wildlife and habitat management plan. If you’d like more information, write me at info@GrowingDeer.tv.
January 2, 2016
What should I do to improve the 114 acres where I hunt in central New York?
There is good deer movement on the property, with plenty of buck sign. The issue I am having is deciding what to do next to promote buck movement and deer growth while developing habitat that will keep them coming back.
In your professional opinion what action(s) should I take to manage this portion of the property?
Thanks for all of your time and effort
It sounds like you have permission to hunt a nice property! Deer use food, cover, and water daily. They will use the best of these resources within their home range that they don’t associate with danger.
I assume there’s plenty of water where you hunt. You also described an area that deer could use as cover. I’d be cautious to not alert deer in the cover. You might develop, if you haven’t already, ways to access the cover without alerting deer in that area. Further, you might develop hidey hole plots between the cover and larger ag fields where deer will stage before entering the larger fields to field after dark.
Security is a huge factor in encouraging deer to spend a majority of time within a relatively small area.
January 1, 2016
Where can I find information about habitat management?
I am relatively new to hunting and recently got interested in buying a hunting land in PA. Since I am still in the decision making process and as mentioned, new to the game, I was wondering if you could point me to some good reading or series of videos where I can learn about habitat and how to manage it.
You may wish to watch some of the 300+ episodes at http://www.GrowingDeer.com. There’s many episodes about habitat and habitat management. Go to the Videos tab at the top of the video player and you’ll see several habitat subjects on the left. You may also use the search feature.
The Quality Deer Management Association publishes a bi-monthly magazine that offers a good source of information.
You may wish to attend one of our FIeld Events to see several example of habitat management in person. We’ll share more information about these events soon.
Finally – I suggest you have someone evaluate the property you are considering purchasing before you buy. Properties are usually a significant investment and a second option from someone trained in wildlife and forestry is often a wise step.
December 30, 2015
Would a narrow valley in northeast Arkansas be a good bedding area?
Here in the ridge covered areas of Northeast Arkansas, you’re hard pressed to find any amount of soil that lacks an ample amount of rocks. There is a specific track of land I would like to utilize for bedding area, yet I have no clue what to plant. The ground flash floods occasionally but drains very quickly and is found between two ridges. It’s minimum width is around 12′ and maximum width being around 25′, all of this occurring in a span of around 100′. What should I plant? Would this even be a suitable place to try and create a bedding area?
Thanks! God Bless.
Deer bed in different areas to meet their needs. They may bed in valleys to avoid extremely windy conditions, etc. Typically in mountainous terrain deer bed on slide slopes where the wind swirls so they can detect predators from all angles. Deer tend to bed on north or east facing slopes when the temperatures are warmer than normal and south or west facing slopes when the temperatures are colder than normal.
I like bedding areas that are several acres. Smaller areas tend to become predators “food plots” as they can get downwind of small patches of cover and smell all prey species in the area.
Deer will use any vegetation that provides cover 0′ to 3′ tall! Native grasses tend to work best, but deer tend to use the best cover within their home range.
December 30, 2015
Should I remove some osage trees and try to create better bedding habitat?
Deer will readily use the best cover around. I suspect it’s fairly open under the osage trees. However, if deer are using it I’d leave the area alone! I’m a big believer in the “…don’t fix what ain’t broken…” principle. Thick cover from 0′ to 3′ tall would offer better protection. However, I suggest you use your time on other projects if the deer are already consistently bedding in this area. You might consider making a tree plot or hidey hole food plot at the edge of this bedding area and create a staging area!
December 29, 2015
Will you help us with a forestry plan on our 100 acres in Pennsylvania?
Thank you for responding to our question.
Sorry we missed Matt when he was in Ohio. I was actually in South Dakota pheasant hunting.
You had mentioned you would be in PA in February.
We were wondering what it would cost (quote) for you to come visit our 100 acres in PA?
Looking for a management plan.
Like we said we have a mix of red oaks, maple, beech, poplar, cherry, shag bark hickory, a few white oaks etc.
We have had two different foresters take look but unfortunately they gave us two different opinions and we were more confused after talking to them.
We are killing deer but we feel the property could be better.
Looking forward to hearing from you.
Duane and Lois
Duane and Lois,
There are always lots of options of how to manage timber. A good plan will be based on the landowners’ objectives, local timber markets, etc.
I’m traveling literally portions of every week during January, February, and March. If you are close to one of the towns where I’ll be speaking I might be able to alter my flight and tour your property. Why don’t you send your address and more details about your property to info@GrowingDeer.tv.
December 26, 2015
Should I harvest hemlock due to wooly adelgid
The wooly adelgid can kill a stand of hemlock relatively quickly.
If there are wooly adelgid confirmed in your area then it may be best to go ahead and salvage the hemlock. Unfortunately the wooly adelgid are destroying hemlock stands throughout the eastern states.
I suspect deer will still use the creek at a travel corridor. If the hemlock are harvested I would create cover (early succession vegetation) and a food plot. I’d design this so the plot can be approached, hunted, and exited without alerting deer (as best you can). You’ll have an open canvas if the hemlock must be harvested so this will be a great time to create some ideal habitat and stand/blind locations.
December 22, 2015
How can I improve the habitat in this stand of mature timber in Tennessee?
Deer need food, cover, and water daily. Mature timber rarely provides quality food or cover. If you have permission, you could remove some of the trees from an acre or so and create a food plot or area of cover. The easiest and safest method to allow sunlight to reach the ground is to use the Hack n Squirt technique. Check out the Hack n Squirt technique at:
December 21, 2015
What’s a good plan to convert a stand of park like red oaks to bedding cover?
A safer and easier plan than trying to fell trees with a chainsaw is to use the Hack n Squirt method. I prefer this to the hinge cutting technique for several reasons. I simply use the appropriate herbicide and a hatchet and kill most or all the trees where I want bedding cover. With the sun now reaching the soil grasses and forbs will likely grow and provide both food and cover.
To learn more about this technique watch: https://www.growingdeer.tv/#/bow-hunting-big-nebraska-gobblers
December 21, 2015
Should I control Cockspur Hawthorn?
The woods I hunt in is small in Wisconsin and is being overrun with Cockspur Hawthorn. I am wondering if there is any wildlife value of it to deer or turkeys or if it would be better to be cut down and taken out? I know it makes small fruit but the deer don’t seem to eat it due to the huge Ag fields around. It has taken up most the woods and I am trying to put in more bedding areas. If it does need to come out I will being doing so with the hack and squirt method because I have over 5 acres that is thick with it and I have limited time that I will be home to work on it. What would work better on it Tordon RTU or glyphosate if the hack and squirt method is the way to go? Lastly, I am going home the next few weeks and it is expected to be in the 40’s for highs and low 30’s at night. Will it work treating trees at this time of year in Wisconsin or will that be a waste of time? I won’t be home at all in the spring when the prime time is to treat the trees due to sap flowing. Thank you for your time and God bless!
Grouse and turkeys will consume the Cockspur Hawthorn berries. However, this species spreads easily and is considered a noxious weed in some areas. I suspect there’s much better vegetation that can grow on your farm. I suggest controlling enough of it to keep it from spreading if not more.
For more information, check out: http://www.kingcounty.gov/environment/animalsAndPlants/noxious-weeds/weed-identification/common-hawthorn.aspx
I’ve never tried to control Cockspurr Hawthorn and didn’t find which is the preferred herbicide during a quick internet search. I suggest you research this a bit more. Be careful working around those thorns!
December 16, 2015
What do you charge to create management plans?
I might be willing to trade a 1/2 crappie fishing for 1/2 day of touring the land and discussing how to make it more beneficial to wildlife! I really like to catch and eat crappie!
Let me know!
December 16, 2015
Do you help landowners develop habitat management and hunting plans?
We offer a couple of ways to help. We host Field Events each year and allow 100 folks to come for detailed tours of my property near Branson, Missouri. These events fill quickly. I tentatively plan to host a Field Event April 1st and 2nd and August 12th and 13th. We teach a lot during these events but it’s not specific to your property.
We also tour properties and develop very detailed habitat management and hunting plans. Matt, Adam, and.or I will tour the property and then create the maps and plans. Finally, we do some work where we have a map of the property and visit during a phone. This is faster and cost less, but isn’t as thorough as walking the land.
Feel free to write me at info@GrowingDeer.tv if you wish to me to call you and discuss these options.
December 16, 2015
How fast to Sweet gum stumps rot?
Thanks for your help, Don
Imazapyr based products are probably the best options for killing sweet gums using the hack n squirt method. Unfortunately the stumps probably won’t rot between now and spring. I suggest you treat the trees now, and either cut them off at ground level this spring and use the broadcast or no-till drill to plant or treat and then have equipment remove the stumps.
December 16, 2015
Do you work assist with habitat management plans in Pennsylvania?
Do you ever come to Pennsylvania to discuss property plans?
We have 100 acres in the northwest part of PA. . 75 on one side of a dirt road and 25 on the other side.
The property has a mixture of red oaks, beech, shagbark hickory, maple, cherry and a few white oak. It is becoming very open but we don’t feel it is ready for a timber cut. Was looking for some advice.
Duane and Lois
Duane and Lois,
I have helped clients in Pennsylvania for 20+ years. I’ll be in Pennsylvania twice during February – speaking at wild game banquets. Please feel free to write me at info@GrowingDeer.tv if you’d like a quote on helping you develop a plan.
Matt – one of my employees – is from Virginia. He’s assisting a landowner in Ohio next week. Maybe he could swing by your property if it’s on the western/southern side of Pennsylvania.
December 16, 2015
What’s the best habitat management plan for a 15-20 year old Christmas tree farm?
I suspect the Christmas trees have matured enough that they aren’t providing any cover and are shading most of the beneficial forbs and grasses. I assume you have determined there’s no market for the trees – even if you used a tree spade and sold them as living trees for landscape?
If there is no market, then you could doze the trees or simply cut them off at ground level and use a no-till drill to plant forage or cover crops between the remaining rows. I do this frequently where pines have been thinned. Is common practice to remove every third or fifth row of 15-20 year old pines in southern pine plantations to allow the residual pines to grow faster.
We typically design, based on each specific site a plan to plant food and/or cover between the rows. This creates great deer habitat! Deer are very comfortable when they can bed very close to food. This type of habitat will hold a BUNCH of deer and is relatively easy to hunt. The rows of trees serve to channel the wind and keep it from swirling! This is one of my favorite habitats to hunt!
I strongly recommend you have someone design a plan before you go to the expense of knocking down trees. You will only get one chance at getting this correct. Trees don’t stand back up! We do a lot of work in New York – there is much potential to have great bucks and good hunting with the correct management plan!
December 16, 2015
Should I remove the bush honeysuckle from my farm?
I suspect the bush honeysuckle will cross the stream. It’s a very invasive species. I would work to remove the bush honeysuckle and promote native vegetation in that area. Deer tend to prefer native warm season grass and other vegetation much more than bush honeysuckle.
December 15, 2015
Should I try to control bush honeysuckle on the 24 acres where I hunt?
Bush honeysuckle is very invasive! I’ve noticed deer tend to avoid areas where it dominates the landscape.
I suggest you do try to remove/control this invasive species. Check out the following link for more information.
December 14, 2015
What can I do on public land to improve the habitat quality?
I hunt public land by my house here in eastern Oklahoma and I have been mainly inspired by your videos to be more of a selective hunter as far as letting the younger bucks walk and to harvest more does to balance the sex ratio if it is unbalanced. I would like to do what I can year round to see the deer be very healthy. So that bucks will reach their max potential and does be successful in raising their fawns. The land I hunt is roughly 900 acres, has lots of hardwood forest, plenty of thick cover areas, and good water sources. I believe there is good genetics in the area as I have seen good bucks and also a friend of mine killed a very nice buck on his land not far away. Being that it is public land I cannot clear land to create food plots. Also I know that others may not have the same goals as I do, but, is there anything I could do to help the growth of the deer?
I’m not sure about the public land you hunt, but most government agencies don’t allow folks like you and me to alter public land, especially without a permit. It sounds like you are doing a very good job of passing young bucks and harvesting does. I call this trigger finger management and it’s a great tool! Keep up the good work!
Sometimes you can partner with a landowner and trade habitat management work for trespass rights (hunting access). That may be the next step in your hunting career.
Enjoy creation and keep up the great work!
December 13, 2015
Do I recommend hinge cutting trees?
Have you ever heard of hinge cutting trees to create deer cover? If so, do you recommend it?
I have heard and seen the results of hinge cutting to improve the quality of cover. The limbs of hinge cut trees tend to rapidly grow above the effective cover height for deer and most forms of wildlife. In most scenarios I’d rather hack and squirt the trees to promote better quality native forage and cover! For more information about the hack and squirt technique check out: https://www.growingdeer.tv/?ep=bow-hunting-big-nebraska-gobblers&#/bow-hunting-big-nebraska-gobblers
December 13, 2015
What do you suggest to improve the 10 acres where I hunt in Salem, North Carolina?
Thank you for taking time to read this, I am a hunter in Winston Salem NC, and I am hunting on a small 10 acre piece of land with two houses on one side and one on the other. I am set up directly behind the church that owns the land at about two hundred yards. This is the first year I have hunted the land and was unable to get permission to hunt until late November. I have harvested a small doe for the venison, but was wondering what I could do to improve deer movement on the property. I know that there are deer traveling through and around the area, and it seems like it could be a funnel for the deer to go from bedding to feeding their is a large field about a half mile a way. I was just wondering what you suggested to bring deer in ? Thank you again for your time and thank you for always pointing people to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Congratulations on tagging some venison!
Your setup sounds like a great spot for a hidey hole food plot! Deer often will use such small plots at staging areas between food and cover. Make sure the plot receives at least 1/2 the normal amount of sunlight (more is better) and you can approach, hunt, and exit without alarming deer.
Thanks also for sharing the encouraging words!
December 10, 2015
What is the best time of year to do timber stand improvement?
My property (and the entire surrounding area) is 100% standing mature timber. I want to do some work to improve the deer habitat. What is the best time of year to do timber stand improvement work (such as hinge cutting or other methods of opening up the forest canopy)?
I frequently use the hack and squirt method to remove unwanted trees. You can learn more about this method at: https://www.growingdeer.tv/?ep=bow-hunting-big-nebraska-gobblers&#/bow-hunting-big-nebraska-gobblers
Hack and squirt can be used anytime sap isn’t rapidly rising in trees (typically anytime except March through May or so).
I’m not a huge fan of the hinge cutting technique. The limbs from hinge cut trees tend to grow above the cover zone (0′ – 3′) rapidly. This is messy for us to walk through, but wide open where a deer lives. I’d rather kill the tree and allow native forbs and vegetation to grow once the canopy is removed and sun is allowed to reach the forest floor.
December 6, 2015
Can I make a food plot in swampy habitat?
Food plot forages don’t grow well with wet feet. I’m not aware of any food plot crops that will grow well in swampy soils.
Deer need food, cover, and water daily. Water is obviously present given the swampy habitat. Creating food plots may not be an option. You may be able to limit alerting the deer by hunting the area cautiously. You might consider treating part of the property as a sanctuary – where deer are never alerted and always return for safety. Sanctuaries are great tools to encourage deer to use a property!
December 3, 2015
How can we improve the 110 acres of timber we hunt?
Bucks seek sources of food, cover, and water that they don’t associate with danger. Unless timber is cut, it will be difficult to improve the quality of food and cover. Without habitat work the best strategy may be to hunt smart and intentionally limit the disturbance to deer on the property. This may encourage deer to use the 110 acres more frequently.
In addition, I suggest you study neighboring properties using maps, etc., and determine other sources of food, cover, and water in the area and how deer may travel across your property to use those resources.
December 3, 2015
What’s the best way to control Buckthorn trees?
Thanks and enjoy all the knowledge from you and your staff!!
Buckthorn can be very invasive and require lots of labor to control. Glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup) will control Buckthorn. Young saplings can be pulled by hand, but that can be very labor intensive.
There are some great tips for controlling Buckthorn at: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/invasives/terrestrialplants/woody/buckthorn/control.html
I suggest you dive in and get control of this invasive species. This process will require some follow up as Buckthorn seeds can remain viable in the soil for years. However, it’s relatively fast to treat young saplings/seedlings with a small hand sprayer.
December 3, 2015
Should multiflora rose be controlled?
Multiflora rose is an invasive, exotic species from Japan. It tends to spread without stopping. For more information, check out: http://mdc.mo.gov/your-property/problem-plants-and-animals/invasive-plants/multiflora-rose-control
I haven’t heard of a disease that’s killing multiflora rose.
Some wildlife will use it for cover, but usually prefer native vegetation more! I’ve spent considerable time trying to kill all of it on my place. Whether to kill it or not probably depends on what vegetation will replace it? If there’s a native seed bank, then it’s probably best to remove multiflora rose. If by removing multiflora rose allows a more invasive exotic to populate then it may be best to simply try to keep it from spreading.
November 24, 2015
Do you know a forester that’s approved by the NRCS?
Congrats on purchasing property in Douglas County! Adam is from Mansfield and his family farm is in Douglas County.
I’m not familiar with what the NRCS requires. I thought they or MDC personnel wrote their plans.
We create wildlife and habitat management plans all the time! We’ve shared several episodes filmed while we were consulting with clients. Our plans are very detailed and not part of government projects. You may consider attending one of our Field Events and checking out first hand how we manage my place!
November 23, 2015
What percentage of my 250 acres should be in food plots?
Thanks so much for your great feedback on our bedding situation.
I have another question, on 250 acres, about how much of it should you have to food plots? or what is a good number?
There are many variables including the forage quality available on neighboring properties, quality of native habitat, etc.
A good rule of thumb is that a minimum of 10% of a property is in quality native vegetation (early succession) or food plots.
November 18, 2015
What should we do to improve the habitat at our property near Bristol, Vermont?
It sounds as if you and your father have worked hard to improve food resources on your farm!
If the decrease in daylight deer observations coincides with the corn harvest then cover may be the limiting factor at your farm! As you know deer spend most of the daylight hours in an area where they feel secure (cover).
Deer prefer cover that’s from ground level to approximately three feet tall. Typically this type of cover grows where the sun reaches the soil and can be easily maintained by prescribed fire.
If the hardwoods you mentioned are mature or mature enough to have a canopy that shades the ground I doubt there’s much vegetation growing underneath them. It may be wise to create some bedding areas by clearcutting or heavily thinning a few 10 acre patches and allowing natural succession to occur (or even better establishing native grass). I have used this plan at some of my clients in New York and the results have been impressive! Once the cover areas were strategically located and the plan implemented deer used their property daily year round.
It’s very important to consider exactly where to create the bedding areas. This decision should include timber management plans, preferred deer bedding sites, factors that determine the huntability of the locations, etc.
It may be more cost efficient to simply leave some of the corn standing. Standing corn is excellent bedding cover as well as late season food.
November 17, 2015
Do deer consume hickory nuts?
#1 are hickory’s beneficial to deer in any way
#2 ive been trying to start Oaks from acorns just because its cheapest but most of the acorns ive been able to find are post oaks and water oak
so my question for the oaks is which one do deer like more on a scale 1-10 and over all compared to all the other oaks how do post oaks and water oaks crank on a deers desirable list to eat
Deer rarely eat hickory nuts.
Deer tend to prefer pure white oaks over all other acorns. Post Oaks are in the white oak family and tend be a bit more drought resistant that white oaks. Water oaks tend to drop over a longer period of time. Each has advantages and disadvantages. There’s often a very high failure rate of planting acorns. In the long run it may be less expensive to plant high quality nursery stock (check out http://www.FlatwoodNatives.com). I often prefer soft mass trees more than oaks. Usually there are way fewer soft mass trees than oaks in most areas. Therefore it’s easier to pattern deer using fruit trees than oaks. It addition fruit trees often mature to fruit producing age much quicker than oaks.
November 16, 2015
Have you know properties that bucks don’t use?
I’m thrilled to learn that you are enjoying managing your property! It sounds as if you are doing a great job improving the habitat!
Bucks tend to use the best habitat within their home range and does are being bred in your area so bucks are present. Yearling bucks can and do bred does. It may be that not many bucks are surviving past 1 1/2 years old in your neighborhood. It would be interesting to visit with neighboring property owners and see if they are seeing mature bucks.
You might consider if there are any disturbances at your property such as free ranging dogs, etc., that would discourage mature deer from using the area.
Are deer consuming all the corn in your plot? Deer tend eat chopped corn faster than when it’s standing. However, chopping the corn will also make it easier for rodents and birds to consume. If you have corn left during the spring chopping may be a good plan. If it typically snows a lot in your area or critters consume all the corn before spring then leaving it standing is probably a better option.
November 16, 2015
Do you have any suggestions to improve our lease in the Appalachian Mountains in Virginia?
My family has a lease in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in Virginia. It’s logging country. The owner of the land has been clear cutting a few hundred acres each year. The clear cut provides good browse and bedding for the deer. The landscape, as we have known it, though is changing. Do you have any recommendations on how to improve the land for the years to come?
Thanks for everything you do!
Will the landowner allow the establishment of food plots on the logging decks and skid trails? If so, this could be a significant improve to the lease!
Could you create a few hidey hole plots in the clear cuts next to the mature timber? Deer often travel the edge between different aged timber stands. Establishing hidey hole plots near this edge could make tremendous stand/blind locations!
November 12, 2015
Do you have any suggestions of how we can improve a recently timbered area in the Arkansas Ouachita Mountains?
I have an interesting situation for you. The property (200 acres) we own is located in the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas, encapsulated by National Forest and mountains that have a minimum of 1000 ft elevation. The majority of our property sits in a valley and is heavily timbered with oaks, pines, and gum. We do however have 2 or 3 areas that are small open fields. We also have several ponds, creeks and springs. The only kicker is we do not have a tractor or equipment to make drastic habitat improvements.
After a tornado hit our area this summer we decided to hire loggers to remove the fallen trees and a sizeable portion of land (50ish acres) that is infested with gum trees. I feel like this winter/spring is a golden opportunity to create a food buffet for the wildlife in the newly logged area and our existing fields.
I feel like it is a great idea to plant some soft mass bearers and an assortment of oaks from Flatwood Natives in the newly opened area along with an array of food plots to offer food year round. I would love to hear your opinion on how you would try to accomplish this idea without a tractor/equipment, what food plot seed/tree types you think would be beneficial, and any other idea that comes to mind while reading this! If you feel a visit would further help you determine a plan of action please send me an price estimate, I would enjoy meeting you in person as I have spent countless hours watching almost all of your videos trying to gain more knowledge on deer habitat improvement and hunting.
That’s a beautiful area! I suspect there are plenty of oaks on and around your property! I like to create tree plots that produce fruits and/or nuts that are available only at that location. This creates a source of desirable food that’s only available where I can hunt. I suggest you focus on fruit producing trees and plant multiple species so there’s fresh fruit available during the early, mid, and late season.
The folks at http://www.FlatwoodNatives.com were very helpful in designing such a tree plot at my farm. Give them a call and discuss your location and what varieties of fruit trees will perform best at your location.
November 12, 2015
Will mowing by a scrape cause deer to stop using it?
I included a picture from last year of the deer I am trying to grow. Any idea for age?
The overhanging limb is almost always the most important part of a scrape! I doubt mowing by the scrape, establishing a food plot, etc,, will result in deer abandoning the area. Simply avoid damaging the overhanging limb! Deer make and maintain scrapes along the edges of my plots and commercial ag fields year after year.
There is some good information at the following link about methods to control Sericea Lespedeza: http://mdc.mo.gov/your-property/problem-plants-and-animals/invasive-plants/sericea-lespedeza-control
Those are nice bucks in the pictures! They appear two and/or three years old based on the quality of the local habitat, etc.
November 11, 2015
How can the quality of native browse be improved in pasture habitat?
Some state wildlife departments will assist landowners with implementing prescribed fire. If assistance isn’t available in your area mowing or a combination of mowing and herbicide might be the next best option.
Most vegetation is more palatable and better quality when it’s young and/or actively growing. Mowing sets back the stage of maturity of most types of vegetation. If there are areas with fescue or other species that deer don’t eat you might use a herbicide to remove that vegetation and hope something more desirable replaces it – or reseed the treated areas with a better quality forage.
November 11, 2015
Is the pond you created using bentonite and the one with a liner still holding water?
Due to the amount of gravel in the “soil” at The Proving Grounds rarely can a pond be created that holds water. I’ve created two that have worked well! One I placed a polypropylene liner in the bottom – on top a two layers of used carpet. The carpet was simply to keep the liner from being punctured by rocks. This pond has held water for five years!
I created a second by spreading bentonite clay two to three inches deep across the pond (pond has a 20′ diameter). This pond has held water also! It has went dry during a drought (I built it too shallow) but held water once it rained!
The polypropylene cost less per unit area, but that pond produces more algae (pond scum) than the other pond. I’m not sure if this is due to the polypropylene, location, etc.
November 9, 2015
How can I use a dry pond to improve deer habitat?
I am trying to build a deer habitat that I can build sanctuary as well as food source to entice plentiful hunting on the location I have enclosed. There’s lots of hickory and oaks in the cover you see with red berries of which I’ve seen the deer eat. Where I dropped the red pin,I’ve started a throw and grow food plot and in it laid down a solid patch of turnips looking for more ideas and tips. The coordinates : long:-92.011, lat:38.820 the field to the south is always planted with alfalfa and the tree line just north of the pin is the property line, all the way west to the second picture with the next marker.
There is an old dried out pond in the west field any and all thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks very much,
I’m glad you are working on improving the habitat! Dry ponds often make great hidey hole plots. I simply remove any weeds and duff so seed can make contact with the soil. I then lime and fertilize appropriately and plant during spring or fall. For you, the local ag fields will feed deer during the spring and summer and your efforts should be focused on establishing quality/attractive forage during the hunting season.
Deer will most likely continue feeding in the large ag fields during deer season but will use the hidey hole plot as a staging area. I like that you can use the edges of the property and approach without alerting deer by entering from all directions. This may mean you walk a bit further but will likely increase the number of deer you see while hunting!
I always evaluate the best sources of food, cover, and water in the neighborhood and consider how deer are using each resource – and how this changes throughout the year. I believe based on what you’ve shared with me that hidey hole plots or staging areas may be the limited resource and key to improving the habitat and hunting on this property.
November 5, 2015
Should I control Russian Olive?
Thank you for your service to our nation!
Russian Olives are very invasive and will likely keep spreading! I suggest you to work to control/eradicate them. Even with concentrated efforts they are tough to eradicate.
If you do remove them something else will grow there. I’m not worried about a lack of cover as anywhere the sun reaches soil vegetation will grow unless there are outstanding circumstances.
You might enjoy some of the information about Russian Olive at: http://wwx.inhs.illinois.edu/research/vmg/autolive
November 2, 2015
What herbicide works well to control sweetgum trees?
On a past episode of growing deer tv I watched you clear a small plot of small diameter trees by cutting them off close to the ground and apply a herbicide via a sponge brush to the small stump left behind. As a recent deer steward level 2 graduate I am just getting my feet wet when it comes to herbicide applications. I wanted to know if I cut down some large sweetgums say 1 1/2 – 2ft in circumference could I use this same method to completely kill the trees roots and what herbicide would I need.
Thanks for any advice and have a blessed day!
Those are some large sweetgum trees? I’d make sure there isn’t a market for them before felling them. Trees that large will be difficult to remove from the food plot site without using heavy equipment. Most of the imazapyr based herbicides do a great job of killing sweetgum trees! Many folks use the hack n squirt method and simply add 1 ml of imazapyr per each 3″ of tree diameter. If you fell and wish to treat the stumps, it is most effective to treat within five minutes or less of cutting the tree. If you wait the tree’s sap will limit the amount of herbicide that penetrates the tree.
Remember that only the cambium layer of a hardwood is living. There’s no need to treat more than a 1/2″ inside the bark level. I mix a blue dye with the herbicide so it’s easy to tell which stumps have been treated.
Be careful and enjoy creation,
October 19, 2015
How do I control Japanese Honeysuckle?
Honeysuckle can be very invasive. Often times it must be controlled or it will take over large acreages. There are some good tips about controlling Japanese Honeysuckle at:
You will need to confirm it is not another variety of honeysuckle before using these control techniques.
October 19, 2015
How can I improve bedding cover in areas where hing-cutting has been completed?
Thank you for your reply.
I’m not a huge fan of hinge cutting for the reasons you described. Trees that have been cut and continue to grow shade the ground. In addition, the limbs from the cut trees rapidly grow upwards and don’t provide cover from the ground to three feet tall.
Better cover (and forage) almost always occurs when trees are completely felled. This allows more sunlight to reach the forest floor. You might consider completely felling some of the hinge-cut trees and seeing if this results in more herbaceous plant growth.
Removing the leaf litter is a good idea also! You could us a hand rake, blower, or prescribed fire (with proper training and safety concerns). Fire does a great job of stimulating forage and cover growth!
October 9, 2015
How should I create a screen of vegetation to reduce the visibility into my property?
I really dislike trespassers and poachers.
If the native vegetation will grow tall enough AND remain standing throughout the winter than that sounds like a good option. Often grasses will lay down during the late season and hardwood trees lose their leaves.
If you are worried about the native vegetation providing enough protection, then planting pines may be an option. If there’s a market in your area the pines should be considered an investment as they can be harvested and sold in 15 + – years!
I often design bedding areas next to roads. The thick, narly vegetation not only serves as visual screen, but also as a barrier for folks to walk through. I like deer bedded by a road and them moving into the center of the property to feed.
What episodes on GrowingDeer.tv are about ponds or watering holes?
Thanks for the encouraging words! You can see ponds being established in these videos:
What perennial grass should I plant to provide cover for deer?
I would suggest to you a Native Warm Season Grass (NWSG) mixture on the sloped area. There are many mixtures of different warm season grasses you can choose that will accomplish your goal. I have planted Big bluestem, Little bluestem and Indian grass in my mixtures and had some great success in providing safety cover.
For the best results, spray the fescue with a glyphosate to kill it off first, then use a no-till drill that has a specific planting box for warm season grasses. Your local ag-extension may have this piece of equipment you can rent or borrow. Also, you generally have the option to buy pre-mixed warm season grasses or choose to mix your own. If you choose to mix your own, I suggest planting a mixture similar to this, 2 lbs Big bluestem, 3.0 lbs Little bluestem, and 2 lbs Indian grass per acre planted in early June. NWSG usually take 2-3 years to fully establish, however once established they provide excellent cover and are easily maintained by simply mowing or burning every 3-5 years.
Growing Deer together,
How can I control lespedeza in Oklahoma?
Sericea Lespedeza is a long-lived perennial plant that’s tough to control. Deer and other wildlife species don’t consume sericea lespedeza forage. It’s truly a noxious weed.
There’s a great explanation of this plant and the control options at: http://www.okrangelandswest.okstate.edu/files/invasive%20species%20pdfs/NREM-2874.pdf
It’s a lot of work to control sericea lespedeza. However, if it’s not controlled it will continue to spread.
How much would it cost to have you develop a plan for the 40 acres where I hunt in Ohio?
Thank you for inquiring about our services! I suspect the travel expenses, lodging, etc., would be cost prohibitive. It might be a better value for you to attend one of our Field Events and see first hand how we manage land, place stands, hunting strategies, etc.
We’ll host another Event during August 2016.
What should I do to maintain or increase the number of critters using my 55 acres northeast of Dallas?
I recently purchased 55 acres located 1 hour northeast of Dallas. The land is surrounded by a 1,000 acre ranch to the east and south, and a few 50+ acre farms to the west and north. Hunting pressure seems to be moderate, though I am still meeting my neighbors.
It has been uncultivated for over 30 years, and overgrown in every way possible (trees, weeds, grasses, etc.). In my opinion it’s perfect because it is an empty canvass, just waiting to be shaped.
The southern boundary is a seasonal creek which floods about 13 of the properties acres under heavy rains. Here you will find large hardwoods and dense cover, with well established trails coming onto the property.
Most of the property north of the creek features heavy patches of saplings (up to 5 inches in diameter) much of which is honey locust, bodark, and young pecan trees. The remainder of the property features overgrown fields anywhere from 0.5 – 2.0 acres in size, some of which feature wild blackberries.
We have deer and pigs both bedding and crossing this property, and my fear is I will remove something that will adversely effect the attractiveness of the land. What steps would you take to turn this property into a sanctuary for my family to hunt for years to come?
I always start by evaluating the best sources of food, cover, and water on the property and in the neighborhood.
Are there permanent sources of water on your land or the adjoining properties? What/where are the deer eating during the hunting season? It sounds like there’s great cover on your property. Of the three, food, cover, and water I normally prefer cover because this is a resource that deer seek daily and use the most during daylight hours.
If the deer are using your farm as a sanctuary, then you may not need to change anything. You’ll need to carefully plan how you hunt/use this property. There’s more to cover than good structure. Deer need to not associate an area with danger to consider it “good cover.”
Finally, knowing that locust trees will continue to grow and spread, I’d very very tempted to suggest you start using the hack and squirt method to remove this invasive species!
Do you use and/or recommend the hing cutting technique?
create buck beds. Do you think that really works? Cutting an area that will make
a buck bed under certain trees?
Oh have you been to Terry’s new duck hole yet?
The hing cutting technique seems to have originated in northern locations. In those areas deer readily eat maple twigs, etc., during the winter. It also provides some cover in areas where the most of the forest have a closed canopy and very vegetation grows at ground level.
Most of the trees in Tennessee are oak and hickory. Deer will eat twigs from these species if they are extremely hungry. However, they are not a preferred food or very nutritious. I hope deer at my farm have access to better groceries than twigs.
Some folks use hing cutting to make cover. This technique can result in quality cover for a year or two. However, the limbs of felled trees will grow rapidly and shade out the ground. This is especially true in the southern states. Within a few years the hing cutting technique results in a mess but no cover from the ground to three feet high.
I’d rather remove the trees in an area and encourage herbaceous vegetation that provides quality cover at ground level.
I haven’t toured Terry’s new property yet. i’m very confident it will be a gem after he manages it a while!
What should I plant where the soil is very wet?
I have a question regarding foodplots. We have about 3 acres that is in a great spot to be a foodplot for winter use by deer. The problem is more years than not this ground is very wet, almost to the point of standing water. If we were to make this area into a foodplot, what practices would help with the wet soil? Currently a neighbor cuts and bails the grass for his cattle so the ground can hold a tractor on sod, but I fear if we break the sod the ground will be too wet to drive on.
Also, what are some good things to plant in a wet soil?
Thanks in advance!
Most soils that are wet hold even more water during the winter. This is because there is lower evaporation rates when the temperatures are low.
I’m not aware of any good forage for deer that prospers in wet soils – especially standing water. Tilling can serve to help dry out soil, but can also result the soil packing and create other problems.
A better plan may be to use a herbicide to terminate the grass and then broadcast a mix of wheat and clover in the area. However, if the area is likely to hold water I recommend leaving it as it is and finding a different location for the food plot.
Should I plant clover, rye, and turnips in the same plot?
I was also wondering what you thought on burning a section of woods that is really thick but deer use for a bedding area. There is a section of woods about 3 to 4 acres that’s so thick that you cant hunt it. I was thinking about burning it to let some sun reach the ground and also so we can see in to it but I’m worried about spooking the deer from the area.
I’m not a big fan of rye (especially ryegrass). Most varieties of rye mature much quicker than wheat which means it provides quality forage for deer for a shorter period of time. In addition rye usually cost more than wheat.
I like the idea of mixing wheat and clover. The clover won’t produce much forage this fall and the wheat will serve as a cover crop and attract/feed deer. As the wheat begins to mature next spring the clover should come on strong and dominate the stand.
Turnips can shade out the clover and make it difficult to control weeds next year. I suggest planting the turnips by themselves or with wheat.
Prescribed fire can be a great tool! Like all tools, it should be used for a specific mission. I assume you wish to use fire to set back the cover because it’s maturing (getting to tall) to work well for deer? If that’s the case, then using prescribed fire may be a great action. It’s currently very wet near Lebanon. I doubt you will be able to conduct a successful burn till next year.
Be careful and enjoy creation,
What should I do to attract deer to my 12 acres of timbered land in Tennessee?
I always start such projects by evaluating the sources of food, cover, and water on the property and neighboring properties. You mentioned several sources of water and it sounds like there is ample quality cover throughout the area.
There was no mention of food sources in the property description. There are probably oaks on or near your property given it’s in northern Tennessee. So when acorns are available it will likely be tough to pattern deer given a preferred food source will be present throughout the area, even in areas with good cover.
However, it sounds as if food would be a major attraction for deer during times when acorns aren’t present. I recommend you start developing some food plots in locations that allow you to approach without alerting deer in the area. Consider all the access points to your property and areas where the least amount of trees, etc., will need to be removed.
Small hidey hole plots created with hand tools in areas where at least four hours of sun reaches the soil could be used to attract deer to multiple areas of your property. This would allow you to have stand/blind sites for all possible wind directions.
What should I do to improve the habitat at my property in southwestern Virginia?
I have watched may video on hinge cutting (my land is already thick) and foot plots.
My question is, what should I do to improve the land for better deer habitat?
I worry that they are starting to travel in all direction and I can’t pattern them. More importantly, I’m not sure I holding deer do to lack of bedding and food.
If you want to look at the land on a map, go to the link. https://firstname.lastname@example.org,-81.074285,1415m/data=!3m1!1e3
I always start by analyzing the quality of food, cover, and water on the property where I hunt and adjoining properties within the likely home range of deer in that area. Remember that the best sources of food, cover, and water likely change throughout the year. For example, it looks like there’s the potential for lots of acorns to be available on surrounding properties. Deer could easily leave your property to feed on acorns during the fall.
Cover is usually my highest priority because that’s where deer, especially mature bucks, spend most of their time. There should be plenty of cover in the 7 year old clearcut to hold deer. It doesn’t appear there are many food plots in the area. I suggest taking a soil sample each year and making sure the plots on your property are super productive! Healthy plants tend to taste much better/attract deer better than malnourished plants.
Finally, thermals are huge factor in mountainous topography. You’ll probably need to approach your property from the lower elevations during morning hunts!
Will prescribed fire help native grasses become re-established?
Prescribed fire can be an excellent and relatively inexpensive tool to promote native warm season grasses. The best results usually occur when prescribed fire is used before the native warm season grasses have started growing during the late spring. Most other herbaceous and woody plants will have already greened up before the native warm season grasses. Fire will set back these other species and stimulate the established native warm season grasses and their seeds to grow!
In areas where ag is the predominate land use, cover can be a limiting factor for wildlife. Native warm season grasses can provide great cover as well as build huge amounts of organic matter!
Will green vegetation burn?
Two things: Last weekend I ran into a road block with a 2 acre plot I have. I really needed to burn the plot because there was so many leaves on it. However, I was unsure as to how to properly burn a food plot. I’ve seen your videos on how to do a prescribed burn on woodland, but not a plot. Will the green vegetation not burn? Please help!!
Next, I’ve been hearing loads of people take about the new craze of hinge cutting. I’ve read you can actually funnel the deer from the bedding are you have made, to the travel corridor you have also made, to a blind setup where you are waiting. How come you have never talked about this/added this to your arsenal?
Green vegetation usually won’t carry a fire very well. Green vegetation is usually full (literally) of water. Some plants are composed of 70% water! In situations where you are trying to remove such vegetation it’s often best to mow the vegetation and allow it to dry then carefully use a prescribed fire to remove the duff. The fire can also create a clean seedbed!
I very rarely prescribe hinge cutting. It can work well the first year or two. However the limbs will rapidly grow toward the sun and shade out any vegetation below. Deer and most critters need cover from ground level to three feet tall. Most hinge cutting creates cover above three feet. In a few years when the hinge cutting shades out the ground it’s an ugly mess that’s difficult to redirect to better type of cover.
Does work on a property disturb deer?
As a weekly watcher of your series, I can’t help but notice on your shows you and your team are always out on your property. It seems like you are consistently working, hunting or taping for the show. This is where my questions lies, how are you always doing something on your property and not pushing the deer to become nocturnal or just leave the property all together?
One of the biggest issues around my WI property is pressure in the terms of people, machinery, etc. always pushing deer out of our area. I have 160 acres which isn’t chump change in our parts, but it seems like by the end of summer they have had enough of people and vacate the area.
Do you ever worry about being in the field too much? Are there areas you never go in? Are there times of the year you back off working in the field? Need some help from the Dr. Thanks,
We are constantly working or hunting on our place. To offset this level of disturbance we have sanctuaries or places that we never go in except to retrieve a harvested deer, look for sheds, or limited management activities such as prescribed fire.
Sanctuaries are a critical part of our habitat! We design/designate sanctuaries on all of our clients’ properties. Is their 20+ acres on your farm that serves as a sanctuary?
Thanks for watching GrowingDeer!
What crops are good for growing deer in southern Ontario, Canada?
Sounds like you have permission to hunt a good farm! Corn and millet are both great sources of energy for deer (and other species of wildlife)! However, they don’t provide much protein for deer. A combination of soybeans and corn (on different parts of the farm) would be great – with the soybeans providing protein during the growing season and corn providing energy (carbohydrates) during the winter. If some of these crops (odd corners, etc.) were left standing during the winter, they would be a great feeding and hunting area! You might consider trading the farmer work days during the off season for him leaving a bit of grain standing for hunting during the winter. Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.tv!
Wondering what herbicide do you use in your hack and spray tree elimination?
What herbicide do you use in your hack and spray tree elimination?
The herbicide used depends on the species of trees to be treated. Glyphosate will work on several species and Tordon RTU works well on locust. Glyphosate doesn’t work well on maples. I suggest you Google “hack and squirt” and the type tree to be treated – like “hack and squirt maple” and find information from your area. Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.tv!
Is prescribed fire good for hardwoods?
Thank you for the kind words and for watching GrowingDeer.tv! I’m a huge fan of using prescribed fire. However, prescribed fire under a closed canopy – where limited sun is reaching the forest floor – won’t result in much growth of forbs or grasses. Oaks and some other hardwoods are fire adapted and low intensity fire rarely results in much damage to the trees. However, fire can damage cottonwoods and willows. It’s best to define the mission and then learn what tools/techniques are appropriate for that mission.
Why do southern Missouri oaks bear more frequently?
Why do southern Missouri oaks bear more frequently and heavier crops than oaks in northern Missouri? It obviously isn’t soil quality. Do you think it might be minerals that are more readily available in the Ozark rock? The white oaks and swamp white oaks bear very infrequently in spite of releasing them with chain saws and even fertilizing. These oaks range from 20 to 100 years old. The only oaks to bear a decent crop are pin oaks.
Thanks in advance,
I suspect it’s due to later frost dates in the north. Oaks produce flowers and the flowers make acorns. If the flowers are damaged by frost, they won’t mature into acorns.
Cover Crop near Public Road
The forage soybeans I referenced are produced by Eagle Seed. It is a family owned business, and that family has been selecting soybean traits for literally 40+ years.
However, I’m not sure you should plant the Eagle forage soybeans within sight of a public road. Deer find the Eagle Seed soybean forage and pods very attractive. I suspect that may make the deer more visible — at least the corn provides some cover. This is especially true during the early growth stages when the soybeans are 4’+ tall.
A cover crop that I frequently recommend for similar situations is Switchgrass. Switchgrass provides great bedding/escape cover and typically stands all winter (even through snow and ice). I plant it next to public roads so poachers can’t see and don’t wish to walk through it.
Growing Deer together,
Maintain Apple Trees
Our hunting property contains an abundance of apple and crabapple trees. Over the past few years they have been growing larger and larger and producing fewer apples. We have also seen a dramatic increase in the growth of pricker bushes and briars. What is the best thing to do to allow the apples to grow? Do deer like the prickers? If not, is there a way to control them?
Almost all apple trees should be pruned annually (during the dormant season). They should be pruned significantly – enough that most folks squirm! The specifics of how and how much to prune is very detailed. The QDMA web site has some great articles about maintaining fruit trees.
Fruit trees are a crop, and benefit from being fertilized. The blend and amount of fertilizer depends on the local soils and types of trees.
As I work throughout the whitetails’ range, I realize that different species of plants are often referred to by the same name. So “prickers” could mean blackberries, hawthorns, multi-flora roses, hedge trees, etc. However, in general deer may consume “prickers” during some portion of the year. This is usually when the plants are young or have fresh growth during the early spring. The species you are referring to may be consumed by deer, but will not be enough to provide a high quality diet by itself.
Growing Deer together,
Help with Prescribed Fire
Prescribed fire is a great tool, but it can also be dangerous and even deadly. I helped combat a wildfire recently that was started by folks attempting to do a prescribed fire that didn’t have sufficient training, knowledge, or equipment. You are wise to seek assistance!
Many state and federal agencies provide workshops for prescribed fire planning and implementation. Some states require participants to be certified before they can help with prescribed fire. I’m not sure what the policy is in Arkansas, but a call to your local county or forestry extension office should provide you with the correct information and hopefully an opportunity for training! Don’t dare drop a match without help or adequate training!
Growing Deer together,
Improving Bedding Areas
Is there anything you can do, planting or building up, to make deer bedding habitats better?
Keep up the fantastic work!
Quality bedding cover for deer is cover that is thick from 0-3′ high and open above 3′. It needs to be on south facing slopes if it is to be used during the winter. If it is to be used during the summer it needs to have a partial canopy for shade and be on a north facing slope. The size of the bedding area is also important. Deer will use small areas (an acre or two in size) if that’s the largest block around, but prefer larger blocks so predators have difficulty isolating them. I usually create bedding areas that are at least 10 acres or larger.
In addition to creating bedding areas, I make them sanctuaries. That is I stay out of them except during the spring to shed hunt or to recover a shot deer during season.
Growing Deer together,
Using Hinge Cutting to Create Bedding Areas
Although phragmites is a very invasive weed, it does provide great bedding cover. Deer prefer to bed in habitat similar to phragmites. I doubt by hinge cutting some trees, you will change where deer bed in your area. If the phragmites are controlled (by using specific herbicides), the deer might rapidly adapt to the next most suitable bedding cover. On the other hand, if closed-canopy forest was the only cover type within the home range of those deer, they would readily adapt to using the hinged cut trees for cover.
If you do opt to hinge cut for the purpose of developing ground-level cover, you should burn first, then hinge cut. The timing of fire is more important than the timing of hinge-cutting most trees. Please always use caution when using prescribed fire!
Growing Deer together,
We have 230 acres of land with 50 acres in prime hardwood bottom land. Wild bamboo has started growing in this bottom land and is about 4 feet high. We want to control about half of this bamboo. What chemical would you recommend to spray the bamboo to kill it and prevent it from spreading so fast?
Tom (west central Georgia)
I’m not aware of an effective herbicide for controlling bamboo. This is especially true for the varieties that spread by runners. The American Bamboo Society has more detailed information on their web site.
Growing Deer together,
Do Deer Have a Learning Curve
I had the same experience when I first planted soybeans at The Proving Grounds! There are no soybeans within a couple of counties in any direction of me, and during the first two years I planted soybeans I couldn’t tell that a single leaf had been removed by deer. Now they readily consume them. Deer certainly can and will learn to consume new forage types. It’s up to the landowner to decide if the variety of forage he is planting has enough benefit to weather the duration of the learning process. I felt (and still do) that Eagle Seed Forage Soybeans were so productive and high in nutritive value that weathering the learning process was well worth the wait!
Growing Deer together,
How do I manage my small property for the best deer hunting?
If you have really small tracts of land, 80 acres to 1 acre, how would you go about managing it?
Shane (central Minnesota)
I usually start by identifying if food, water, or cover is the most limiting factor in the neighborhood. I do this by combining information gathered from using Google Earth and driving around the neighborhood. If one of these critical habitat elements is limited in availability, I begin by establishing that resource on the property I’m managing. I also attempt to determine the amount of hunting pressure locally, and how that might impact deer activity in the neighborhood. I also insure when I hunt the property, my approach to the stand doesn’t alert deer to my presence. That often means approaching using a non-direct route such as walking the border 1/2 way around the property so I can approach with the wind in my face. Don’t forget that the smaller the property, the more critical sanctuaries may be. Deer need an area where they always feel secure. By providing this on your land, deer are more likely to spend the days on your property. Having deer present on your property during daylight hours is a huge advantage!
Growing Deer together,
Percent of Habitat to Burn Annually
I burn approximately a third of The Proving Grounds annually. The percentage varies based on weather and other factors. The correct prescribed fire program for a pine plantation would depend on the type of pines, the age of the stands, other management activities such as herbicide and fertilizer, and the management objective. I would mislead you by offering a simple answer. Prescribed fire is a great tool when used appropriately, but can be extremely damaging and/or dangerous if misapplied. If you work with a consulting forester, they may be able to offer you site-specific advice.
Growing Deer together,
I planted a one acre food plot with BioLogic Maximum last August. It was the best food plot I have ever planted as far as growing a full lush field that really attracted deer. My 15 year old son and I both killed very nice 2 1/2 year old bucks off this field with compound bows, one 9 pt. 176 lb. and one 8 pt. 165 lb. buck. A friend also scored on a 2 1/2 year old 8 pt. in archery season, as well as two relatives killing nice 2 1/2 year old 8 pt. bucks in rifle season. All of these on just 80 acres in southeast Pennsylvania, 3 of them off this food plot.
It worked so well I was tempted to replant the field again this fall, but decided instead to take advantage of the present conditions of the ground to do a frost seeding, saving time and money on tilling. I will plow and plant my other food plot with BioLogic Maximum this fall. I am planning to frost seed a mix of white ladino clover and red clover, a mix that has worked for me in the past. However, I would love to also establish chicory or alfalfa in addition to the clover mix. In the past, I had once tried frost seeding both chicory and alfalfa with poor results. Is it worth trying again, or is there something else you recommend frost seeding? Based on my results with conventional planting, I would like to establish chicory in with the clovers. I do not have a no-till planter and must till before spring or fall plantings, which is a lot of work.
I appreciate any advice or recommendations you can give.
Wow – sounds like some great hunting on your farm last season!! Congratulations!
Clover is easily established using the frost seeding method (GDTV 68). However, alfalfa rarely can be established as well using that technique. Alfalfa germinates best when there is a firm seedbed and very good seed to soil contact. This is rarely the case when frost seeding.
Chicory is a softer seed and often will crack or rot before germinating when planted when frosts are still occurring. To establish a good stand of either alfalfa or chicory, you will need to either till or use a no-till drill once the soil temperatures warm up a bit. Many counties rent no-till drills so be sure and check with the local county extension or NRCS office.
As I write this, there is snow covering portions of Pennsylvania. I’ve established great stands of clover by spreading it directly into late season snows and letting the seed be placed by the melting snow.
Growing Deer (and crops) together,
Eagle Seed Soybeans in Virginia
I’ve planted all of those varieties of Eagle Seed forage soybeans at that latitude with great success!! There is a great description of each variety/blend on their website. I think you will be amazed at the production of Eagle Seed’s forage soybeans.
Growing Deer together,
Establishing Native Warm Season Grasses
I purchased a small farm in southern Iowa last spring. I had a small field planted in corn but I would like to plant this same field in switchgrass. It’s a low lying field with a 58 CSR. What would be the best procedure in accomplishing this?
I enjoy your website. It is very interesting and educational.
I’ve had my best results establishing switchgrass following a crop of Roundup Ready soybeans. The Roundup Ready soybeans add nitrogen to the soil and allow weeds to be controlled. The following spring, I simply use Roundup to remove any weeds and no-till the switchgrass seed into the weedless field. Corn uses most of the available nitrogen, and therefore the switchgrass will be slow to become established and allow more weeds to develop.
Growing Deer together,
How should we manage our hunt club food plots in an area that is heavy timber?
I’m a member of a hunting club that owns 700 acres of strictly timber ground in northern Pennsylvania. We have the necessary sanctuaries and we are adding 12 acres of food plots in the center of the property. What is the most profitable food that will hold deer and increase harvest opportunities?
Also, have you ever tried to no till brassicas in late summer into clover plots?
Keep up the great work!!
The 12 acres is only 1.7% of the property in food plots. If the remainder of the property is closed canopy forest, then clover might be the best option. Do the existing plots receive a lot of browse pressure? If so, more palatable crops such as forage soybeans would most likely be over browsed unless they were protected by a food plot fence.
I have used a no-till drill to seed brassicas into an existing clover stand. This technique works well if the clover is dormant from drought conditions. The brassicas will struggle if the clover is lush and blocking the sun from reaching the soil.
No matter what you plant, it’s critical the crops are as productive as possible given the food plot to timber ratio. I recommend you do a soil test annually and request the lab base their recommendations on a maximum yield.
Finally, I also recommend using a utilization cage in each plot so production versus utilization can be compared.
Growing Deer together,
Fuel Mixture for Drip Torch
I love the show, and have shared it with lots of buddies. Keep up the great work.
I use 1/3 gas (at max!!) and 2/3 diesel. Make sure you don’t use more than 1/3 gas as it can be extremely explosive! Also, make sure the drip torch has a backflow control (usually a 360 in the spout).
Growing Deer together,
What can I do to rid my property of wild hogs?
Do you have any wisdom that could help us control these aggressive pests?
I am sorry to hear that hogs have reached your property. They can wreak havoc. The most effective method of reducing hog numbers is trapping. I strongly recommend you attempt to limit the hogs with a very aggressive plan. This will be much less expensive than the damage they will cause. This requires setting up a large trap (fenced in area with a gate) that allows a group to fit within. There are gads of setups out there. The second recommendation is to never let any leave alive. Hogs are highly intelligent animals and quick to learn.
In addition to trapping always take the opportunity to remove any you see while hunting or working on the property. I’ve worked on properties in that part of the world that removed over 180+ hogs per year and they kept on coming. So buckle down and be prepared for a long road ahead. I consider wild hogs extremely damaging to native habitat and critters. I dispatch each one I can.
Growing Deer together,
Best Switchgrass for a Buffer
You were most informative recently at the National Wild Turkey Federation convention.
Which switchgrass do you recommend for a buffer?
Thank you for the kind words! I typically plant Cave-in-Rock switchgrass as a buffer around properties because it grows tall and stands up well to winter wind/snow/sleet. In addition to screening a property from poachers it also serves well as bedding and fawning cover.
Growing Deer together,
Pasture Grass for Deer?
Blessings in abundance,
Deer don’t eat orchard grass – or any pasture grass. They will eat the clover, but the grass will outcompete the clover for nutrients. Seeing clover grow and deer getting good nutrients from clover are different. Certainly deer will benefit from the clover more than solid grass. However, it is like fishing from ski boat versus a bass boat. It can be done, but not as well.
I would use a Gallagher fence in a portion of the horse pasture. This will simply (and relatively inexpensively) exclude the horses and quality deer forage can be established and maintained. Another huge advantage of this is that the owner will know exactly where the deer will feed – not just simply watching an entire horse pasture.
Growing Deer together,
Have you ever used fertilizer spikes to “sweeten” acorns and would this even work? Would lime or some other fertilizer around oak trees be effective? The theory is that it will make one specific band of oaks more desirable than others.
I’m not aware of any research that proves acorns from fertilized oaks are more palatable to deer than from non fertilized oaks. Certainly fertilizing oaks won’t result in the same increase in food yield as fertilizing a forage crop like soybeans. This is because a much greater percentage of a soybean plant is palatable to deer than an oak tree. However, fertilizing pecan trees has proven to increase pecan production. I think it’s a safe assumption that adding enough fertilizer to oaks would also yield an increase in nut production, and possibly a nut that tastes better to deer. I doubt that a few fertilizer spikes will add enough nutrients to impact the quantity or quality of nuts produced by a mature oak tree. Remember that the entire tree is using the fertilizer, not just the acorns.
Growing Deer together,
When to Start Habitat Projects
I need to clear an elongated “S” shaped swath down in my timber bottom to create a killing plot for bowhunting. I have already determined the size and location. However, I have found little information on what time of year will impact the deer the least. Having a bulldozer and chainsaws running will cause a considerable amount of noise. There are bedding areas less than 100 yards from where this plot will be located. Your insight would be greatly appreciated. Ron
I need to clear an elongated “S” shaped swath down in my timber bottom to create a killing plot for bowhunting. I have already determined the size and location. However, I have found little information on what time of year will impact the deer the least. Having a bulldozer and chainsaws running will cause a considerable amount of noise. There are bedding areas less than 100 yards from where this plot will be located. Your insight would be greatly appreciated.
Most habitat improvement projects cause a temporary disturbance to deer, especially during the daylight hours. However, as long as the project is finished and the improvement (food, cover, or water) in place at least a few weeks before deer season, deer usually readily adapt to the new habitat feature. This is proven over and over again during pond construction, planting of ag or CRP fields, etc. Usually there will be deer tracks on top of the dozer tracks every morning during the construction phase. Deer, especially mature deer, rarely leave their home range because of construction disturbance of that scale. They will certainly adapt their behavior to avoid disturbed areas while the disturbance is occurring, but usually check it out at night and readily use the habitat feature during daylight hours soon after they sense no danger is present. I believe my hunting activities at these habitat improvement areas likely alert deer more than the activities associated with creating them. So, start the project anytime you want and try to finish it at least a month before deer season. Then slip in with much caution and enjoy the fruits of your labor during deer season!
Growing Deer together,
Supplying Nutritional Needs
Grant, I hunt a small 50 acre woods containing hardwoods and thick cover. I hunted last year for the first time. Although I do not own the land I am the only one who hunts it. I have permission from the owner to do what I need as long as it doesn’t pertain to the fields. It has a lot of acorns and this year it had corn on three sides (the front side is a county road). I saw several large rubs and a few decent sized scrapes. I harvested a few does but was unable to harvest a mature buck. What can I do to help buck growth? Mineral licks? What are your suggestions for my little piece of heaven? Thank you for your time, David
I hunt a small 50 acre woods containing hardwoods and thick cover. I hunted last year for the first time. Although I do not own the land I am the only one who hunts it. I have permission from the owner to do what I need as long as it doesn’t pertain to the fields. It has a lot of acorns and this year it had corn on three sides (the front side is a county road). I saw several large rubs and a few decent sized scrapes. I harvested a few does but was unable to harvest a mature buck. What can I do to help buck growth? Mineral licks? What are your suggestions for my little piece of heaven?
Thank you for your time,
Sounds as if you have a nice place to hunt! Having commercial agriculture on three sides should supply most of a deer’s nutritional needs. This is especially true if there is both corn and soybeans available within the deer’s range. Corn is very high in energy, but not protein. This is why deer having access to both corn and soybeans provides a much better diet. The toughest part of hunting 50 acres is making sure you don’t repeatedly spook deer from the area. I strongly suggest you always approach the area with the wind in your favor and avoid over hunting the area.
Trophy Rock provides 60+ trace minerals. Deer need a very small quantity of each of the minerals to express their full potential. By placing a couple of Trophy Rocks in the area you hunt would insure that each of these trace minerals are available to the deer that use that area! Take care of the landowner as it sounds as if you have permission to hunt a great location!
Growing Deer together,
I am a hunter and landowner interested in the techniques that you have for stopping road erosion. Pat
I am a hunter and landowner interested in the techniques that you have for stopping road erosion.
Road systems are one of the most important aspects of any property. In many cases they also require the most attention of all management activities. By installing a few structures these maintenance costs can be significantly reduced.
The main cause of road degradation is water movement. When water accumulates on a road surface and has no way of getting off it builds up momentum. This accumulation and momentum lifts gravel and other sediments and carries it down the hill. With this known the main goal of any road project is to get the water off the road surface as quickly as possible.
A system that works well is the creation of broad-based dips (BBD). A BBD forces water to run off and across a roadway while allowing smooth travel by vehicles. When determining placement of a BBD look for natural dips in the road that may need only minimal modifications to remove water from the road surface. Also, try to preplan where BBDs will be positioned before beginning. Generally, BBDs should be every 20 or 30 yards depending on slope. A BBD should be positioned at a 30-45 degree angle to the roadway. Start by removing soil from the uphill portion of the road and dumping on the lower portion until the dip is of sufficient depth to cause water to run off the road during all rainfall events. When creating the dip, slope the entire dip and 20 feet of the road above the dip, toward the edge of the road. The entire BBD will require a minimum of 30 feet to allow smooth travel of vehicles and equipment over the BBD surface. Rock may be placed on the outflow portion of the BBD to slow water and reduce erosion. Rock is not necessary if adequate vegetation is present after BBD completion. Once a BBD is completed use the entire surface of the road when traveling over it. By spreading the vehicle compaction and wear across the surface of the BBD, little maintenance will be required in the future.
BBDs are a great tool to stop erosion of roads. I use them extensively at The Proving Grounds.
Growing Deer together,
What is a mineral rock? Ken
What is a mineral rock?
A “mineral rock,” at least as I use the term, is a Trophy Rock. Trophy Rock is simply a “rock” mined from a deposit of sea minerals in Utah. There are only three such veins of salt sea minerals known in the world. In other salt deposits, the minerals settled out and left just salt. Each of the known salt sea mineral deposits have a slightly different composition. I like the mineral composition in the vein that Trophy Rock mines in Utah. It is 100% natural and a great blend of 60+ minerals that benefits deer.
Growing Deer together,
Marking System for Hack & Squirt
Grant, We have some multi-age timber to thin (hack/squirt) and in some areas there will be a lot of stems to treat. How do you keep track of what you’ve treated and where to treat next? I plan to mark the trees which are treated and work within long narrow sections delineated by a string line. Is that the way to do it? How do you do this? Doug (Arkansas)
We have some multi-age timber to thin (hack/squirt) and in some areas there will be a lot of stems to treat. How do you keep track of what you’ve treated and where to treat next? I plan to mark the trees which are treated and work within long narrow sections delineated by a string line. Is that the way to do it? How do you do this?
You are more systematic than me! I let the scar from the hatchet serve as marking the treated tree. These scars will remain visible until the tree falls. I do try to make all my cuts (or at least one on the larger diameter trees where multiple cuts are needed) in the same cardinal direction. For example, if I begin working the timber stand from north to south, I make all of my cuts on the north so when I reenter the stand I can easily determine which stems have been treated without walking circles around the trees. I tend to simply move through the woods and consider each tree in relation to the surrounding trees and other habitat features, especially if they are the same species. I typically treat all sassafras, unless they are abnormally large. If there are five oaks in a group, I favor the stem with the best form, etc., and treat the others.
There is one exception. I’m always on the lookout for good treestand locations. I don’t treat trees that may be positioned perfectly in relation to the surrounding habitat for stand location. Shaping the future of a timber stand is as much art as it is science. Don’t let the systematic approach get in the way of creating a productive, aesthetically pleasing and huntable forest.
Growing Deer together,
Creating Cover in Shade
Grant, What is the best thing I can do to thicken up my property? It has a lot of mature trees but still tends to be on the thin side in a lot of areas. It just seems that thorns and other underbrush do not grow naturally. I want to try to create that bedroom that I don’t currently have. I have the food and the water but I know I lose a lot of deer off my property due to insufficient bedding and cover! I have been doing some looking at millet but I’m not sure this is the answer. Basically I want to broadcast whatever you suggest and let it go to town. My main concern is that it will be heavily shaded and needs to be established before the leaves fall or else it will be smothered by the multiple oak and sycamore leaves! Thanks, Chris
What is the best thing I can do to thicken up my property? It has a lot of mature trees but still tends to be on the thin side in a lot of areas. It just seems that thorns and other underbrush do not grow naturally. I want to try to create that bedroom that I don’t currently have. I have the food and the water but I know I lose a lot of deer off my property due to insufficient bedding and cover! I have been doing some looking at millet but I’m not sure this is the answer. Basically I want to broadcast whatever you suggest and let it go to town. My main concern is that it will be heavily shaded and needs to be established before the leaves fall or else it will be smothered by the multiple oak and sycamore leaves!
All plants need sunlight to grow. I’m not aware of any crop (be it for food or cover) that will be very productive if it is heavily shaded. I suspect the best prescription to create cover on your property is to open the forest’s canopy. Then you can choose a type of cover that’s best for your area.
Without creating areas where the sun reaches the soil, no crop is going to grow well.
Growing Deer together,
Pines for Cover in the South
Dr. Woods, You say you like as large of areas of bedding as possible, such as NWSGs. I have a 10 acre part of my property that I want to turn into cover that has a 1 acre food plot in the middle of it. Is there any benefit to increasing edge by putting half that acreage surrounding the plot in SG/NWSGs and the remainder in loblolly pines? Or would it be better to plant just one type of cover in this situation (all loblolly or all SG)? Also, being in the South where pines grow well and are a good form of income, do you recommend planting pines or still prefer SG in terms of cover? Longleaf (which I understand might be a better choice) won’t grow where I am as well as loblolly, so I’m stuck with loblolly although I plan on increasing spacing to 15 x 15 feet. Eric
You say you like as large of areas of bedding as possible, such as NWSGs. I have a 10 acre part of my property that I want to turn into cover that has a 1 acre food plot in the middle of it. Is there any benefit to increasing edge by putting half that acreage surrounding the plot in SG/NWSGs and the remainder in loblolly pines? Or would it be better to plant just one type of cover in this situation (all loblolly or all SG)?
Also, being in the South where pines grow well and are a good form of income, do you recommend planting pines or still prefer SG in terms of cover? Longleaf (which I understand might be a better choice) won’t grow where I am as well as loblolly, so I’m stuck with loblolly although I plan on increasing spacing to 15 x 15 feet.
I’ve used pines many times as cover for wildlife. This strategy works fine! In fact, excellent cover can be created by using a 15’ x 15’ spacing, suppressing unwanted hardwoods such as sweetgum with the appropriate herbicide, and thinning the stand as soon as economically practical. The key to creating cover in pine plantations is to ensure sunlight reaches the soil. Not only can cover be created, but if managed correctly, a good forage base that is drought resistant can be maintained by using the correct combinations of herbicides and prescribed fire.
I often create food plots in the thinned rows of pines. This creates fabulous wildlife cover that is relatively easy to hunt. You might watch GDTV 19, Food Plots in Thinned Pine Stands, where I visit with Bobby Watkins and show a mature pine stand managed as I’ve described above.
Growing Deer together,
Cows, Deer & Electric Fences
We lease some Midwest farms to hunt and there are cows in some areas for part of the warm months. One owner fears us having multi-row electric fences because he thinks some of the cows might get caught between the wires and have problems getting out. Do you have any experience with this type of situation? Cows are gone by hunting season and we can open the electric fences. After letting deer in for a few weeks to graze forage bean green leaves, can we close them out again until late season when we want them to enjoy the bean pods or will habit lead them to force their way back into the groceries? Are you seeing or hearing reports of fewer deer in your parts of the Midwest? In our areas of southeast Nebraska and northern Kansas we have experienced a drastic decline in deer numbers in the past 2 years. We see fewer deer and we see the same deer multiple days so there seems to be fewer total deer. More tags are being issued. Late antlerless seasons are allowed after bucks have shed antlers. There is a new 10-day Nebraska antlerless gun season that was added in the midst of bow season. We have not seen evidence of big EHD problems. Lots of hunters are practicing QDM in our areas so why the big drop in buck numbers? Fewer does produce fewer buck fawns but why does it seem like such a sudden event? We have gotten similar reports from several counties in southern Iowa and west central Illinois this year. Do you think it is the result of official actions, over-harvests, weather cycles, voodoo, or just a really unlucky season? Surely, it is not a matter of ALL of the bucks being in lockdown arrangements for the whole season, right? Thanks, again, you are a GREAT resource and we appreciate your guidance. Lennie
We lease some Midwest farms to hunt and there are cows in some areas for part of the warm months. One owner fears us having multi-row electric fences because he thinks some of the cows might get caught between the wires and have problems getting out. Do you have any experience with this type of situation?
Cows are gone by hunting season and we can open the electric fences. After letting deer in for a few weeks to graze forage bean green leaves, can we close them out again until late season when we want them to enjoy the bean pods or will habit lead them to force their way back into the groceries?
Are you seeing or hearing reports of fewer deer in your parts of the Midwest? In our areas of southeast Nebraska and northern Kansas we have experienced a drastic decline in deer numbers in the past 2 years. We see fewer deer and we see the same deer multiple days so there seems to be fewer total deer. More tags are being issued. Late antlerless seasons are allowed after bucks have shed antlers. There is a new 10-day Nebraska antlerless gun season that was added in the midst of bow season. We have not seen evidence of big EHD problems. Lots of hunters are practicing QDM in our areas so why the big drop in buck numbers? Fewer does produce fewer buck fawns but why does it seem like such a sudden event? We have gotten similar reports from several counties in southern Iowa and west central Illinois this year. Do you think it is the result of official actions, over-harvests, weather cycles, voodoo, or just a really unlucky season? Surely, it is not a matter of ALL of the bucks being in lockdown arrangements for the whole season, right?
Thanks, again, you are a GREAT resource and we appreciate your guidance.
Great to hear from you! I hope we get to visit again this February at the Deer Study Group.
I would have no fear of cows or calves becoming entangled and/or hurt in the 2-tier Gallagher electric fence I use to protect food plot crops. I’ve grabbed the fence (on purpose and by accident) and besides wishing I hadn’t, I was not injured. I think the fear of a cow or calf being injured is totally unwarranted. I think there is a much greater chance of a cow being injured by being chased into a barbed wire fence by dogs, coyotes, etc.
I’ve been very pleased with the results of the Gallagher fences at mine and several clients’ properties from New York to Alabama. However, I haven’t tried opening the gates, then closing them again. I believe this will work as long as the remainder of the fence is maintained with a charge. If you give this a try, please keep me posted about the results!
I’ve heard a mix of reports from friends having their worst to best hunting season in the Midwest. I do feel strongly that as more bucks are allowed to mature, the herd’s behaviors change. I think herds with several bucks 4+ years old show much more of a lockdown style rut than herds with the biggest majority of bucks being 3 years old. Three year old bucks tend to be more active and aggressive. Once a herd has several big, mature bucks, the younger deer don’t tend to be as rowdy. That’s not to say that hunting 4 year old bucks is boring, but that it requires a different strategy to be successful on a sustained basis.
I suspect the post rut hunts may be some of the best hunting during the 2010-11 season. Let’s visit during February and see if this prediction is accurate.
Growing Deer together,
Creating Bedding Areas
I am having a lot of the old pine trees cut off my property and plan on putting a larger food plot in the center of the property. How do I build bedding areas with hinge cutting (height and direction of cut)? Is there a difference between buck and doe bedding areas? Thanks, I’m looking forward to your answer. Craig
I am having a lot of the old pine trees cut off my property and plan on putting a larger food plot in the center of the property. How do I build bedding areas with hinge cutting (height and direction of cut)? Is there a difference between buck and doe bedding areas? Thanks, I’m looking forward to your answer.
Deer like to bed and/or rest in areas where the cover at 0-3’ above ground level is very thick. Anything above 3’ only serves to provide shade when it’s hot. Such cover can be created by hinge cutting. However, trees, even when they are hinged-cut, grow up rapidly. Without additional cuts every few years, the cover will rapidly grow taller and shade out the critical 0-3’ zone that’s important to deer. That’s why deer prefer to bed in thick grasses or other types of cover that doesn’t grow up as fast as trees.
With that said, deer will readily use the best cover within their range. If the area where you planned the hinge cutting is primarily forest or open pasture land, then deer will most likely use any cover created! Deer tend to select the best food and cover in their range. By creating the best food and cover available in the neighborhood on your property, deer will use it disproportionately more than the surrounding areas.
Growing Deer together,
Dr. Grant, I had this plant come up in my turnip plot. I have never seen it before. There is only one of them in the whole plot. It has a stalk like broccoli and a seed head similar to broccoli. The leaves are about eight inches across. Do you know what it is? Any thoughts would be appreciated! Looks like you have grown some beautiful deer on The Proving Grounds! Thank you, Andrew (Michigan)
I had this plant come up in my turnip plot. I have never seen it before. There is only one of them in the whole plot. It has a stalk like broccoli and a seed head similar to broccoli. The leaves are about eight inches across. Do you know what it is? Any thoughts would be appreciated!
Looks like you have grown some beautiful deer on The Proving Grounds!
I don’t know for sure what the plant is. However, given that there is only one, that it looks like a brassica, and is among turnips in a food plot, I strongly suspect it is a forage brassica and the seed happened to be mixed with the seed you purchased. If you are concerned, simply pull it before it can go to seed.
Growing Deer together,
Minimum Size of Cover Areas
Grant, Is there a minimum acreage that’s necessary for switchgrass or other NWSGs to be effective as bedding? I read where you recommend as big of blocks of cover as possible, such as 10 acres. I have some areas that are only 2 to 5 acres and am wondering if it’s worth planting switchgrass for cover? If there’s no use should I plant food plots there instead (although I don’t really need more food)? Thanks, Garry
Is there a minimum acreage that’s necessary for switchgrass or other NWSGs to be effective as bedding? I read where you recommend as big of blocks of cover as possible, such as 10 acres. I have some areas that are only 2 to 5 acres and am wondering if it’s worth planting switchgrass for cover? If there’s no use should I plant food plots there instead (although I don’t really need more food)?
Native warm season grasses and other types of cover in any size acreages will be used by deer and other game species. However, the smaller the area of cover the easier it is for predators to detect the game within the cover. In addition, deer are not herd animals like elk. They, especially mature bucks, like their space.
So, if your property has a limited supply of cover, I’d convert the larger plots into cover if you have more than enough quality forage available during both the late summer and late winter stress periods. I wouldn’t convert food plot acreage to cover if there is not enough food during those stress periods as you would simply be spending resources to solve one problem and create another.
Growing Deer together,
Managing 4,000 Acres
Dear Grant, Our hunting club has been following a management program for many years. On a 4,000 acre farm we plant around 80 acres in a mixture of clover, Eagle Seed forage soybeans and a wheat/oat combination in the fall. We maintain about 40 mineral licks on this property and we feel we are at a point where we may have reached our potential. We only harvest about 8 to 12 mature 4 year old bucks a year. We feel that on some parts of the property we can carry more deer while others parts may need additional harvest of does. Our pre-season camera survey shows our fawn recruitment may be low as we have also seen a significant increase in predators on the farm. Should we hammer the predators, slack off on the doe harvest and continue to provide quality year round forage? If we can’t grow deer over 140” can we can grow more of them? Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Lance (northwest Alabama)
Our hunting club has been following a management program for many years. On a 4,000 acre farm we plant around 80 acres in a mixture of clover, Eagle Seed forage soybeans and a wheat/oat combination in the fall. We maintain about 40 mineral licks on this property and we feel we are at a point where we may have reached our potential. We only harvest about 8 to 12 mature 4 year old bucks a year. We feel that on some parts of the property we can carry more deer while others parts may need additional harvest of does. Our pre-season camera survey shows our fawn recruitment may be low as we have also seen a significant increase in predators on the farm. Should we hammer the predators, slack off on the doe harvest and continue to provide quality year round forage? If we can’t grow deer over 140” can we can grow more of them? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Lance (northwest Alabama)
It sounds like you have a good deer management program. I’m glad to hear that you are collecting data before making management decisions. Camera surveys are a great method of learning deer herd dynamics, however caution must be given to actual fawn recruitment totals from a pre-season survey. During this time of year some fawns are not old enough to be at the doe’s side. It is best to look at these numbers as trends from year-to-year. Collecting hunter observation data is another way of collecting fawn recruitment data and if implemented correctly can provide more accurate results.
Determining how many does to harvest should be based on both a camera survey and the foraging pressure on food resources, with more emphasis on the available food during the two stress periods – late summer and late winter. To easily and accurately monitor this I place at least one utilization cage (4X10 ft piece of woven wire with the ends tied together) in each food plot to see how much deer are eating compared to growth inside the cage. If the forage in food plots in some areas of the property is heavily eaten it may be time to harvest more does or increase food plot acreage in that area.
In either case I highly recommend implementing a sustained predator control program. Coyotes, in particular, can cause a huge amount of stress on adult deer and mortality on fawns. A recent study in Alabama suggested that fawn recruitment rose 150+% after a heavy predator reduction program. There is no doubt that coyotes can have a huge impact on deer population quality and quantity!
By maintaining ample high quality food on a year round basis, practicing quality deer management, and reducing predators, the herd’s health will most like improve substantially.
Growing Deer together,
Identifying Habitat Needs in the Mountains
Dr. Woods, Great website! I appreciate your dedication to this great sport. I have 1,500 mountainous acres that have been stripped for mining and logged. The strip pits have been planted in food plots and adequately support our deer herd. The loggers left several logging roads cutting around these mountains that have since become overgrown. With the steep terrain, the deer use these logging roads as much as possible. My question involves how to manipulate this terrain to allow a more huntable setup while providing natural food and cover. I am fortunate to have a very skilled dozer operator to help with this. Should I “touch up” these logging roads and create bottlenecks with the dozer? Should I clear off ridge tops and wide benches and allow undergrowth to grow back? I’m looking to manipulate these hard-to-hunt areas with a dozer and a chainsaw. Any suggestions? Mark
Great website! I appreciate your dedication to this great sport.
I have 1,500 mountainous acres that have been stripped for mining and logged. The strip pits have been planted in food plots and adequately support our deer herd. The loggers left several logging roads cutting around these mountains that have since become overgrown. With the steep terrain, the deer use these logging roads as much as possible. My question involves how to manipulate this terrain to allow a more huntable setup while providing natural food and cover. I am fortunate to have a very skilled dozer operator to help with this. Should I “touch up” these logging roads and create bottlenecks with the dozer? Should I clear off ridge tops and wide benches and allow undergrowth to grow back? I’m looking to manipulate these hard-to-hunt areas with a dozer and a chainsaw. Any suggestions?
As you have noticed deer readily adapt to man-made roads, especially after they grow up providing concealment for both bedding and movements. This short, brushy habit is very important for cover but can quickly grow too tall to continue providing cover and is also very difficult to hunt. If the brush on the roadways is wrist thick or smaller in diameter at the base, a prescribed fire may help to set it back.
You mentioned you have plenty of food plots. Does this mean there is ample quality forage left over during the two stress periods of late summer and late winter? If so, you have the ability to produce bucks that are expressing their full antler growth and body weight potential! Also, if food is over abundant, then creating large clearcuts on ridge tops may be a good plan. I like food on the ridge tops as the wind is usually more predictable on the ridge tops and therefore easier to hunt. Deer will bed anywhere there is cover, so you can create bedding areas on the side slopes, etc., and leave the prime hunting areas for food.
With that said, gads of deer are harvested from clearcuts every year if a few suitable trees are left along the edges for stand placement. Large cover areas can be great all day hunting locations. Just remember to approach such areas from downwind to minimize disturbance during entry. Here again, prescribed fire and herbicide application of unwanted cut stumps will keep the cut in an early successional stage.
The problem with using hardwood regeneration for cover (or food) is that they rapidly mature past the cover stage into a closed canopy that goes from quality cover to a desert for whitetails. To maintain hardwoods as a source of cover, be prepared to do frequent thinning or aggressive prescribed fire to continue reducing the growth to a non-closed canopy stand.
Growing Deer together,
Where Have the Mature Bucks Gone?
Hi Grant, I have taken several big bucks over the past ten years. I have six stands on 2,000 acres. I have hunted and scouted hard during bow and gun season. I only saw one shooter buck and he was busted up so I let him walk. I saw a bunch of spikes and forked bucks. Any ideas what has happened? I had several pictures of 135” to 160” deer last year on five cameras and now I don’t have any buck pictures this year. Marlon
I have taken several big bucks over the past ten years. I have six stands on 2,000 acres. I have hunted and scouted hard during bow and gun season. I only saw one shooter buck and he was busted up so I let him walk. I saw a bunch of spikes and forked bucks. Any ideas what has happened? I had several pictures of 135” to 160” deer last year on five cameras and now I don’t have any buck pictures this year.
The presence and observability of bucks on any property is largely affected by variables such as the size and duration of the acorn crop, crop rotation by farmers, age structure of bucks, actions of neighbors, etc. This year I had a bumper crop of red oak acorns and the deer herd responded to them in a big way. My food plots look better than ever with the primary reason being the deer weren’t using them until last week. I had to adjust by placing more stands in acorn areas and travel corridors between acorns and bedding areas. Many hunters throughout the Midwest report the same observations. However, now that the temperatures are dropping, many of the acorns have been consumed, and the food plots/crop fields are sure to be hot spots soon.
All across America more and more people are allowing young bucks to walk in the hope of seeing/harvesting mature bucks. Older bucks by default are more wary and more difficult to see/hunt. Everyone, including myself, has to think about our hunting strategies and develop new tactics to successfully pursue mature bucks year after year.
Growing Deer together,
When do I open my food plot fence?
Dear Grant, My question is in regards to the Eagle Seed forage soybeans. I am considering planting some forage soybeans next season. I have two destination food plots that are approximately ¾ to 1 acre in size. However, in my past experience with either corn or soybeans, there has been immense browsing pressure from deer and turkeys during the early development stage of my plantings. This has ultimately disrupted the growth of the plots and my ability to establish a good stand. This coming year I plan to employ the two-stage fencing system that you discuss, in order to increase my ability to establish those plots. After employing the fence, how long would you leave the fence in operation before allowing the deer to enter the plot? I know that the forage soybeans are designed to provide forage through the summer months via their leaves, and then of course the added late season forage. However, when should you start to allow that browsing pressure to happen, in order to not stunt the growth significantly? Also, do you completely remove the fencing at The Proving Grounds, or just allow one area of entrance, leaving the remaining fence in operation? What are your thoughts on the size of my food plots for growing forage soybeans? I know you discuss planting soybeans and corn in large plots. Unfortunately, my property is mostly hardwoods. Without incurring significant clearing costs, I may be able to expand some of my plots to 1 1/2 acres. Do you think with the implementation of the food plot protection my plots would be large enough? Thanks for your thoughts! Rob (Michigan)
My question is in regards to the Eagle Seed forage soybeans. I am considering planting some forage soybeans next season. I have two destination food plots that are approximately ¾ to 1 acre in size. However, in my past experience with either corn or soybeans, there has been immense browsing pressure from deer and turkeys during the early development stage of my plantings. This has ultimately disrupted the growth of the plots and my ability to establish a good stand. This coming year I plan to employ the two-stage fencing system that you discuss, in order to increase my ability to establish those plots.
After employing the fence, how long would you leave the fence in operation before allowing the deer to enter the plot? I know that the forage soybeans are designed to provide forage through the summer months via their leaves, and then of course the added late season forage. However, when should you start to allow that browsing pressure to happen, in order to not stunt the growth significantly? Also, do you completely remove the fencing at The Proving Grounds, or just allow one area of entrance, leaving the remaining fence in operation?
What are your thoughts on the size of my food plots for growing forage soybeans? I know you discuss planting soybeans and corn in large plots. Unfortunately, my property is mostly hardwoods. Without incurring significant clearing costs, I may be able to expand some of my plots to 1 1/2 acres. Do you think with the implementation of the food plot protection my plots would be large enough?
Thanks for your thoughts!
I think a fencing system is a tremendous tool that allows deer managers to provide quality nutritional forage such as Eagle Seeds forage soybeans. If providing forage throughout the summer and fall is the goal I would open the fence about four to six weeks (depending on growing conditions) after they germinate. This will give the soybeans time to completely shade the ground after your second glyphosate application (when using Roundup Ready soybeans). At this point their roots will be well developed and if the crop was planted fairly early in the planting season over 5 months of leaf foraging time. If your desire is to provide maximum grain production for fall forage I would leave the fence shut all summer. Factors affecting these decisions are the number of deer in the local herd and the amount of food resources available in the area.
I would just open a gate in the fence and leave the rest of the fence hot. This way come hunting season you know where the herd is entering and leaving the plot. The important aspect is to never leave the fence in place without electricity running to it or the deer will learn they can safely jump over it.
To allow deer to express their full potential I like to provide more forage than the herd can eat, so if a couple more acres are available I recommend adding them to your food plot program.
Growing Deer together,
Holding Bucks on a Property
Every year I have some great bucks show up on my trail cameras in September and October. Unfortunately, my neighbor’s (a local farmer) property is overcrowded with hunters. Because my property primarily holds food (agricultural fields and small food plots) and his property contains most of the bedding areas (large wooded areas) what do you think is the best way to hold bucks on my property and keep them away from the neighbor? Ryan
Every year I have some great bucks show up on my trail cameras in September and October. Unfortunately, my neighbor’s (a local farmer) property is overcrowded with hunters. Because my property primarily holds food (agricultural fields and small food plots) and his property contains most of the bedding areas (large wooded areas) what do you think is the best way to hold bucks on my property and keep them away from the neighbor?
As bucks mature, many of them will use a smaller home range to avoid danger. The smaller the area that contains quality food, cover, and water, the smaller their home range size can be. A great plan to maintain mature bucks on your property a larger percentage of the legal hunting time is to insure that everything they need is available on your property.
Within that large goal, my priority is cover (as you’ve discovered). Deer will spend the majority of the legal hunting hours in cover. Hence, by providing the best cover in a deer’s home range, you’ve substantially increased the odds they will be on your property from dawn until dusk.
It sounds like you’ve identified what you need to work on when you stated “…his property contains most of the bedding areas…” The bucks in your neighborhood are likely on the neighboring property during most of the legal hunting hours.
Growing Deer together,
Spacing of Feeders
Hi Grant, I hunt on 300 acres in north central Texas. How many free-choice protein feeders should I be deploying during the year? Do you recommend a certain feeder/acre ratio? Thanks! Phil
I hunt on 300 acres in north central Texas. How many free-choice protein feeders should I be deploying during the year? Do you recommend a certain feeder/acre ratio?
Reducing competition at feeders benefits the herd. So, it’s always a tradeoff of the amount of work and resources required to maintain additional feeders versus the benefits of reducing stress. A good rule of thumb is one feeder per 100 acres, depending on the local deer density and habitat quality.
Growing Deer together,
Native Warm Season Grasses as Forage?
Hello Grant, Are there any native grasses that deer forage upon? I have been planting eastern gamma grass from remnant stands in northern Missouri and noticed some light browsing on them. Is this possibly deer or do they not really browse any of the native grasses? If they do browse some of them I would like to know so I can add that particular species to my prairie restoration project. Phil
Are there any native grasses that deer forage upon? I have been planting eastern gamma grass from remnant stands in northern Missouri and noticed some light browsing on them. Is this possibly deer or do they not really browse any of the native grasses? If they do browse some of them I would like to know so I can add that particular species to my prairie restoration project.
If I wanted to provide forage for my deer herd I would concentrate my resources on well fertilized forage crops. Although a few warm season grasses can provide some forage value, forage crops will do it in a much more efficient way. Deer simply don’t consume much grass. Certainly legumes can be incorporated into the warm season grass mix. Legumes, with the help of rhizobium, fix nitrogen and are great sources of protein. Plants like partridge pea or Illinois bundle flower are examples of native legumes. However, this technique will not provide near the tonnage per acre as a crop managed for forage, and it will cost much more per pound produced.
I’m a huge native forage fan, but managed forage crops will certainly produce more tonnage of higher quality food per acre. I tend to manage cover for cover and food for food to maximize the quality of both.
Growing Deer together,
Crops Matched To Equipment
Dr. Grant, I stated in a previous question that we are very new to food-plotting. We planted 2 acres this fall and growth inside the cage is pretty good but outside the cage deer are consuming the forage before any of it can mature. The equipment we have to work with includes an excellent tractor, a disk, harrow drag, and a broadcast spreader that mounts on a 4-wheeler. Are there certain types of crops you recommended we stick to based on the equipment we have to work with? I ask this because one issue we struggle with is planting depth. Thanks! JP
I stated in a previous question that we are very new to food-plotting. We planted 2 acres this fall and growth inside the cage is pretty good but outside the cage deer are consuming the forage before any of it can mature.
The equipment we have to work with includes an excellent tractor, a disk, harrow drag, and a broadcast spreader that mounts on a 4-wheeler.
Are there certain types of crops you recommended we stick to based on the equipment we have to work with? I ask this because one issue we struggle with is planting depth.
I would concentrate on planting high quality winter wheat food plots. This requires planting the seed a minimum of 45-60 days before the first average frost. A soil test would also be beneficial in determining exactly what the lime/fertilizer requirements are. When submitting a soil test ask the testing agency for maximum yield results. Because most agencies are geared toward agricultural production soil test results are often geared toward economic return instead of maximum yield.
Winter wheat grows well when broadcasted and can be a covered from 0-1 inches deep with soil and germinate. Planting just before or during a rain ensures the best germination rates. Winter wheat can jump during warm spells and is quick to come out of the gate in the spring.
Your equipment can also plant almost any other small seeded crop that doesn’t need to be buried to a specific depth like clover, brassicas, etc. By adding clover to the wheat, the time the plot will be productive for deer and turkey can be extended well into the spring or summer depending on the amount of soil moisture available. If you use this mix, make sure you mow or spray the wheat once it begins to make a stem versus a blade. Once wheat forms a stem, it is not palatable to deer and will create enough shade to substantially reduce the clover’s production.
Growing Deer together,
Establishing Food, Cover & Water
Dear Dr. Woods, My folks have a 30 acre farm which is roughly 75% pasture and 25% woods. I’ve convinced my dad of the need to plant food plots, add more springs for water sources, possibly add some fruit and nut trees, and add some pines for shelter. I realize that without seeing the property and the topography it is hard to make suggestions and recommendations, but could you tell me what types of plots and seed mixtures to start with in the spring and carry on through winter with? I want to establish perennial plots for antler growth and the overall health of the deer. Is there a need for transition zones for cover for the deer to feel safe if the plots are planted along the edges of the fields where they meet the woods? What is the best way to establish shelter for the deer? Also, is it better to have a larger pond or more small to medium size springs as far as water sources? I would greatly appreciate any advice you can give me. Amen to spending time with our Creator. Dexter
Dear Dr. Woods,
My folks have a 30 acre farm which is roughly 75% pasture and 25% woods. I’ve convinced my dad of the need to plant food plots, add more springs for water sources, possibly add some fruit and nut trees, and add some pines for shelter.
I realize that without seeing the property and the topography it is hard to make suggestions and recommendations, but could you tell me what types of plots and seed mixtures to start with in the spring and carry on through winter with? I want to establish perennial plots for antler growth and the overall health of the deer.
Is there a need for transition zones for cover for the deer to feel safe if the plots are planted along the edges of the fields where they meet the woods? What is the best way to establish shelter for the deer? Also, is it better to have a larger pond or more small to medium size springs as far as water sources?
I would greatly appreciate any advice you can give me.
Amen to spending time with our Creator.
Most pasture areas, just as you mentioned, are lacking food and cover in a big way. Cover can be created in several ways. The easiest method is to simply allow an area of a property to grow up and periodically be set back with fire, mowing, or some other disturbance. However this method only creates quality cover if good cover species are already present, such as native warm season grasses. If the pasture is primarily cool season grass species, like fescue or smooth brome, it will probably be necessary to kill those species and plant grasses like switchgrass and big bluestem.
For food plots to attract deer well fertilized/limed winter wheat is hard to beat. Clover mixes are good during most times of the year but can leave you hanging when you want to hunt. If a few acres are available I suggest you try Eagle Seed’s forage soybeans. Even if it is heavily browsed, as long as a few leaves are present, it is providing nutrients and would be very easy to transition into a cool season green plot if needed during late summer.
One or two perennial water sources should be efficient for the property. Enjoy improving the habitat! I find that as much fun as hunting!!
Growing Deer together,
Too Much Food?
Sorry for all the questions! Every time I watch one of your videos I think of more. I know last year you planted corn. If you have planted corn this year, why haven’t you hunted over it? Could you make a video telling us more about why you hunt a particular area? Oftentimes you mention where you hunt regarding to food plots, but I’m referring to why you choose particular trees in the woods. It’s something I struggle with and often see people on television and wonder how a particular buck can walk within 15 yards of that ONE tree the hunter chose. I have a lot of food this year (too much I think) and I already had a lot of thick bedding cover (20 acres of food and 25 acres of thick cover). I’m seeing tons of deer but can only do so by hunting over the big plots. I want to try to create some sort of transitional cover where deer can stage so I can hunt there and not spook deer over plots. I have 30 acres to play with. Any recommendations? Pines would grow well here, in the South, but would take some time to grow. NWSGs would grow pretty quick but might act more as a sanctuary/bedding area. I haven’t seen you hunt over NWSGs, do you use them only as cover? Eric
Sorry for all the questions! Every time I watch one of your videos I think of more.
I know last year you planted corn. If you have planted corn this year, why haven’t you hunted over it?
Could you make a video telling us more about why you hunt a particular area? Oftentimes you mention where you hunt regarding to food plots, but I’m referring to why you choose particular trees in the woods. It’s something I struggle with and often see people on television and wonder how a particular buck can walk within 15 yards of that ONE tree the hunter chose.
I have a lot of food this year (too much I think) and I already had a lot of thick bedding cover (20 acres of food and 25 acres of thick cover). I’m seeing tons of deer but can only do so by hunting over the big plots. I want to try to create some sort of transitional cover where deer can stage so I can hunt there and not spook deer over plots. I have 30 acres to play with. Any recommendations? Pines would grow well here, in the South, but would take some time to grow. NWSGs would grow pretty quick but might act more as a sanctuary/bedding area. I haven’t seen you hunt over NWSGs, do you use them only as cover?
Most of the corn I planted this year was consumed by wireworm before it germinated. I wish I had some corn to help feed the deer and as a hunting location!
I do try to discuss why I select where I’m hunting. However, I’ll try to focus on that a bit more. Picking the correct tree is about as much art as it is science. For me, how the wind behaves (swirls, eddies, etc.,) at that tree and my ability to approach that tree without disturbing deer are key factors in my selection process.
The only problem with too much food is the volunteer crops the next year (they are never as good as planted crops at the appropriate spacing, etc.). Not every property has existing bottlenecks. However, they can be fairly easily created by placing multiple bales of hay, using a Gallagher fence, cutting a few trees, or other features that deer don’t wish to cross.
I like hunting NWSG stands! If I know where the deer are bedding and the preferred food source, I can find the travel corridor. I can use the tools listed above to narrow that travel corridor to create some great stand locations that are approachable without disturbing the deer.
I agree with you, I’d much rather hunt the transition zones rather than the food sources, especially in the mornings. Remember that spooking a deer doesn’t just impact that hunt, but hunts for the next several weeks in that area.
Growing Deer together,
Using Corn as Cover
Dr. Woods, Thanks for all the help this year, my property is improving because of it! I planted 20 acres of corn on my 100 acre parcel with 5 acres of green fields, mostly surrounded by cover. Corn has been a huge attractant, with 30 deer per site, but that number is tapering off. 95% of the deer are does, but I did have a shot at a mature, 3.5 year old deer last week which made me excited (I missed). Tonight I saw 8 does and my dad saw 2. We are not seeing a lot of bucks which could be due to lack of cover. We had a lot of bucks in the summer, but they’re not showing up on trail cameras now. All that sounds great, so maybe I shouldn’t change much but since deer sightings (especially bucks) are dropping I’m thinking it is best. Most of my hunting has to be over the corn/food plots because of limited cover (I have a centralized 20 acre bedding area, but hunting it would ruin my “sanctuary”). I’ve basically been gun hunting the edges of the food source outside of the bedding area. I want to add more cover for next year, as I believe I actually have too much food. If I plant new cover with SG will corn make all that much difference in what I see next year? That is, if I had all the food a deer could eat in the form of clover (which stays green here throughout hunting season) would it act as good of an attractant as corn, or can corn REALLY attract deer? As you know, corn is a land consuming crop and I was hoping it would act as good bedding cover, but it really hasn’t. It is good for cover as a transitional area, but I don’t find deer bedding in it, they prefer the thicker forests next door or in my central sanctuary. If I turned the rest of my property that’s not part of a sanctuary now (40 acres) to SG and put in several small clover attraction plots, would it give me a better chance of seeing the same number of deer throughout the season while providing more cover? I also know that hunting does usually leads to bucks. I’m just not seeing them. Any thoughts? Should I plant more cover or not try to fix it if it isn’t broken? Eric
Thanks for all the help this year, my property is improving because of it! I planted 20 acres of corn on my 100 acre parcel with 5 acres of green fields, mostly surrounded by cover. Corn has been a huge attractant, with 30 deer per site, but that number is tapering off. 95% of the deer are does, but I did have a shot at a mature, 3.5 year old deer last week which made me excited (I missed). Tonight I saw 8 does and my dad saw 2. We are not seeing a lot of bucks which could be due to lack of cover. We had a lot of bucks in the summer, but they’re not showing up on trail cameras now.
All that sounds great, so maybe I shouldn’t change much but since deer sightings (especially bucks) are dropping I’m thinking it is best. Most of my hunting has to be over the corn/food plots because of limited cover (I have a centralized 20 acre bedding area, but hunting it would ruin my “sanctuary”). I’ve basically been gun hunting the edges of the food source outside of the bedding area.
I want to add more cover for next year, as I believe I actually have too much food. If I plant new cover with SG will corn make all that much difference in what I see next year? That is, if I had all the food a deer could eat in the form of clover (which stays green here throughout hunting season) would it act as good of an attractant as corn, or can corn REALLY attract deer?
As you know, corn is a land consuming crop and I was hoping it would act as good bedding cover, but it really hasn’t. It is good for cover as a transitional area, but I don’t find deer bedding in it, they prefer the thicker forests next door or in my central sanctuary.
If I turned the rest of my property that’s not part of a sanctuary now (40 acres) to SG and put in several small clover attraction plots, would it give me a better chance of seeing the same number of deer throughout the season while providing more cover?
I also know that hunting does usually leads to bucks. I’m just not seeing them. Any thoughts? Should I plant more cover or not try to fix it if it isn’t broken?
I’m a big fan of the “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” strategy. With that said, I’ve experienced deer adapting to the use of standing corn as cover in areas where corn is not traditionally planted many times. I think corn can be a great source of cover eight or more months out of the year. Any cover or food source can be easily over hunted to the point that mature bucks will only use that area at night or will stop using that area totally.
I’m curious, did acorns become available about the same time deer reduced the usage of the corn plot (even acorns not on your property)?
Corn needs to be rotated with another crop. So preparing enough food plot area to allow corn and soybeans to be planted in rotation is a great technique. In addition, it’s always a good plan to have smaller hunting plots scattered throughout the property so they can be approached and hunted in any wind direction. In addition, these plots will reduce the hunting pressure on the feeding plots (corn and soybeans).
By providing multiple food plots, feeding plots in a sanctuary, and ample cover, you should have some great opportunities to hunt throughout the season while producing quality bucks.
Growing Deer together,
Which Crops Do Deer Prefer More Than Acorns?
I have a friend here in Missouri that is a conservation agent. He is also in charge of Peck Ranch Wildlife Refuge. He had the opportunity to visit one of your farms and took notes on how to get the most out of food plots. I posed this question to him and he said that I needed to ask a real professional, you. I have always been told that the outcome of your acorn production depends on the weather and rain from the previous year. Is there any truth to that? I know that deer prefer acorns over any other food source here in southeast Missouri. Is there another food source that deer will frequent even if you have a bumper crop of acorns? I have about 300 acres that I manage very strictly with 105 in pasture and the rest in thick cover, but I don’t have an abundance of mature oak trees. I have very little pressure during the hunting seasons and I would love to utilize my farm to its fullest extent. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Brian
I have a friend here in Missouri that is a conservation agent. He is also in charge of Peck Ranch Wildlife Refuge. He had the opportunity to visit one of your farms and took notes on how to get the most out of food plots. I posed this question to him and he said that I needed to ask a real professional, you.
I have always been told that the outcome of your acorn production depends on the weather and rain from the previous year. Is there any truth to that? I know that deer prefer acorns over any other food source here in southeast Missouri. Is there another food source that deer will frequent even if you have a bumper crop of acorns?
I have about 300 acres that I manage very strictly with 105 in pasture and the rest in thick cover, but I don’t have an abundance of mature oak trees. I have very little pressure during the hunting seasons and I would love to utilize my farm to its fullest extent. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
There is some truth to the statement that acorn production depends on the weather during the previous year. Acorns on red oaks develop from flowers from the previous year. A late frost can damage or kill those flowers and when that occurs there won’t be many acorns the following year. The flowers on a white oak tree develop into acorns the same year. Therefore a late frost, drought, etc., can reduce white oak acorn production the same year it occurs.
There are gads of factors that influence acorn production such as insects. This year Jumping Oak Gall caused most of the white oaks on my property to lose 90% of their leaves during the summer and all emerging acorns. Given all the uncontrollable factors that can impact acorn production, I never count on them as a food source or hunting location. I view them as strictly opportunistic – that is I select stand sites near acorns when deer are feeding on them.
When acorns are available, deer do prefer them over most food sources. Even in ag production areas, deer will leave corn and beans to feed on acorns. They do the same thing at The Proving Grounds. However, as soon as the acorn crop is gone, deer will readily use the corn and forage soybeans grown here. Therefore, I always want great crops. I’ve seen significant increases in antler development, deer herd density, and body weights at The Proving Grounds as a result of our habitat management program which includes growing an Eagle Seed forage soybean and corn rotation. If practical, I encourage you to consider converting all or a portion of the pasture area at your farm to crop production. Such a program could have a huge impact on the quality of the deer at your farm! We’ll be hosting two field days during 2011. I hope you will consider joining us and seeing the habitat management techniques we use to improve our herd quality and hunting opportunities!
Growing Deer together,
Should I Establish Food or Cover?
Grant, I have a 120 acre property with a bedding area in the middle and food sources on the southern end of the bedding area. I have a 15 acre ag field that is located on the NW end of my land that I’m trying to figure out what to do with. It is currently open land and abuts my neighbor’s property. He is a hunter and his property has mature oaks. I can’t decide if I should plant a small perimeter of screen like pines on the boundary and then plant the rest in corn, hunting the interior corner of my property with mowed strips, or if I should convert the entire part into bedding with a small clover or wheat plot on the interior corner? The interior corners would allow me access without spooking any deer. I feel like if I make it bedding then the deer will go to the neighbors property, especially during good acorn years. If I plant corn will deer transition through his woods giving him first crack before they enter the corn? Will the deer bed in the corn if I leave the outside 10 acres of it standing and then mow the interior 5 acres to hunt (or even plant a couple small 1 acre green plots within the corn)? I’m treading cautiously since ag land is hard to remake (clear) and I don’t want to convert it to timber until I know for sure what I should do. Most of the properties around me are all cover with not many crops being planted. Thanks for your time, Garry
I have a 120 acre property with a bedding area in the middle and food sources on the southern end of the bedding area. I have a 15 acre ag field that is located on the NW end of my land that I’m trying to figure out what to do with. It is currently open land and abuts my neighbor’s property. He is a hunter and his property has mature oaks. I can’t decide if I should plant a small perimeter of screen like pines on the boundary and then plant the rest in corn, hunting the interior corner of my property with mowed strips, or if I should convert the entire part into bedding with a small clover or wheat plot on the interior corner? The interior corners would allow me access without spooking any deer.
I feel like if I make it bedding then the deer will go to the neighbors property, especially during good acorn years. If I plant corn will deer transition through his woods giving him first crack before they enter the corn?
Will the deer bed in the corn if I leave the outside 10 acres of it standing and then mow the interior 5 acres to hunt (or even plant a couple small 1 acre green plots within the corn)?
I’m treading cautiously since ag land is hard to remake (clear) and I don’t want to convert it to timber until I know for sure what I should do.
Most of the properties around me are all cover with not many crops being planted.
Thanks for your time,
It sounds like you have been working hard to develop a solid plan. As you’ve said it’s far easier to make the correct management decisions the first time than to have to redo them.
From what I know, I recommend planting the outer seven or eight acres in a mix of tall warm season grasses like switchgrass and big bluestem. This will provide deer cover plus allow them to bed near the edge of the property and come toward its interior to forage. The interior acreage can then be planted in corn/soybean rotation. Again, leave the forage standing if possible. I frequently create habitat plans for clients that include establishing cover near their property boundaries and food on the interior. When quality food, cover, and water are close in proximity deer tend to remain in the area.
When creating these habitat features, remember to design stand locations and an approach or two for each stand that allows the hunter to enter the stand without being detected by deer.
Growing Deer together,
Developing Mineral Stations
Grant, I’m interested in starting a “mineral station.” How, when, where, and with what do you recommend going about this? Thank you, Kasey
I’m interested in starting a “mineral station.” How, when, where, and with what do you recommend going about this?
Providing mineral is a great way of ensuring the deer herd is acquiring all of the trace minerals required in body growth and antler development. Mineral stations are also good for attracting deer. Whenever possible I try to place them near another attraction such as a pond, food plot, etc. This way I can maximize the number of deer utilizing them and capture some great images of each deer on my trail cameras. Just remember that if you are placing them by a pond to place them below the pond so the high salt content doesn’t pollute the water.
Create the mineral stations as soon as possible so that deer can begin utilizing them. Although they use them most during high moisture times of the year like spring, our trail camera images indicate deer are physically licking mineral throughout the year, even in the snow.
The mineral I use is Trophy Rock. Trophy Rock is different from the average trace mineral block because it is a true rock mined from the earth out west. With over 60 minerals present in each rock I am providing many of the minerals required in the herd’s daily growth. I like to have at least one Trophy Rock per 160 acres.
Growing Deer together,
I would like to know a mineral block or mineral that I could use year after year. I have bought several different ones and some the deer won’t even touch. Keith
I would like to know a mineral block or mineral that I could use year after year. I have bought several different ones and some the deer won’t even touch.
I use Trophy Rock and am very pleased with the amount of use it receives year round. It has 60+ trace minerals! In fact, it’s the first source of mineral I’ve tried that deer used constantly throughout the winter. I have a Trophy Rock out about every 100 acres at The Proving Grounds and last winter it was easy to monitor the use as deer keep the snow tramped near around them.
Growing Deer together,
Timber Stand Improvement
I too have a farm in southwest Missouri that is used only for raising wild critters and a little bit of cultivated crops. It used to be a 325 acre beef farm, but we decided to jettison the herd a few years back and have slowly been converting it to a more biologically friendly environment for turkey, deer, and quail. We have already seen tangible improvements in our deer herd and a population increase in turkeys. We know the best is yet to come, however, we still have a lot of room left for learning and improving, which you continue to have a hand in. I really enjoyed your theory on cedar thickets being a “biological desert” (GDTV 15). I had always looked at cedar thickets as great cover for deer, but now realize they serve little purpose. We have several acres of cedar thickets that I now plan to either thin out or completely eradicate. I plan to establish mixed stands of WSGs and switchgrass in their place. As good bedding cover is certainly the limiting factor on our farm, the conversion of the cedar glens to bedding cover will be a huge boost in the biodiversity of our little corner of “deer heaven.”
Just wanted to drop you a line and say thanks for your efforts, the information you dole out is always interesting and helpful. If I may be so bold to suggest future topics, I think people might like to hear your theories on timber stand management; specifically, choosing cull trees/species and understanding forest biology in general. I know some of our woodlots are way too thick, but I just don’t know where to start. I’m apprehensive because I never want to cut down any tree. Heck, my Dad had to twist my arm to agree to have one of our many cedar thickets bulldozed and planted into a 3 acre clover, chicory, and lespedeza field! Any help would be appreciated and thanks again Dr. Grant.
Thanks for the kind words. It sounds as if you have a great project! If the topography is steep where some of the cedar glades are, there may be a good native grass seed base present. There was a great native seed source at my place. I simply cut and felled the cedars, allowed them to dry for two to three years, then burned them where they fell. A fabulous composition of native warm season grasses and forbs recolonized the area. The state botanist and I have identified 176 species of native warm season grasses and forbs. The only maintenance I’ve done on those sites since the original fire has been additional prescribed fires on a three to five year rotation.
Cedar glades that became established on tillable land usually don’t have a good native plant seed base as it was disturbed during the previous tillage.
TSI is very site and mission specific. It’s a great tool, but be prepared for the response time to be much slower than most other types of habitat improvement. The most important tip I would offer concerning implementing a TSI project is to make sure the stumps of the cut trees are treated with the appropriate herbicides. Stump sprouts rarely develop into good quality timber and rapidly grow out of being a beneficial habitat component.
Growing Deer together,
Grant, Hello from north Georgia. I have had a trail camera out since June watching a Trophy Rock. Deer have been using it but in the last two weeks none of my good bucks have showed up. I’m guessing they quit needing the mineral and moved to the acorns. There is no other food source, other than small gardens, as most have been harvested now. Thanks, Dewayne
Hello from north Georgia. I have had a trail camera out since June watching a Trophy Rock. Deer have been using it but in the last two weeks none of my good bucks have showed up. I’m guessing they quit needing the mineral and moved to the acorns. There is no other food source, other than small gardens, as most have been harvested now.
Deer at The Proving Grounds are still using Trophy Rocks. They are also consuming acorns. So, I wonder if the deer at your place simply shifted their range in search of food. Are you seeing deer sign in the area? You might place your trail camera on another resource, such as water that is near the Trophy Rock, just to get an indicator for deer activity in the area. Deer tend to back off the salt products during the cool season, but continue using Trophy Rock because of the many trace minerals it includes.
Patterning deer in areas where acorns are the primary food source is difficult. Food plots are tremendous tools in these areas!
Growing Deer together,
Food Source in Non-Ag Areas
I live in NW Arkansas, and we have little to no agricultural crops for wildlife (deer) to eat. Other than acorns in the fall, what do deer mostly consume in areas like this, from fall to winter? Thanks, Justin
I live in NW Arkansas, and we have little to no agricultural crops for wildlife (deer) to eat. Other than acorns in the fall, what do deer mostly consume in areas like this, from fall to winter?
Deer in non-agricultural areas are forced to be browsers. That is to say they consume the tips of woody twigs and dead leaves during the winter. During the growing season they seek herbaceous plants, berries, fruit, etc. This relatively low quality diet is why deer in non-agricultural areas are usually much smaller in size than deer living in areas with commercial agricultural such as corn and soybeans.
Deer living in areas where there is not specific food sources, such as an ag field, tend to be difficult to hunt as they don’t travel to a specific place to eat on a regular basis. Some of the best hunters I know learned to hunt in such areas. They rely on great woodsmanship and scouting skills to locate and harvest deer. The skills you learn hunting near your home will serve you well wherever you travel in the future!
Growing Deer together,
Deer Habitat Improvement
Dr. Woods, I live in northeast Missouri and have access to 3 farms around 200 acres a piece. We have planted food plots and now we are interested in improving our native browse and cover. We have many oak, hickory, and other native Missouri trees. There are many places that you can see 100+ yards without difficulty. The forest floor is pretty open, covered in oak leaves and little vegetation less than 5 feet tall. The majority of the bigger trees are 15-18″ diameter. We have a mix of younger trees that include a lot of hickory which are 5-10″ diameter. There are younger oaks, elm, ash, and other species. We are interested in improving our timber stand with cutting. Would you recommend cutting ourselves or talking to a logger? We do not want to get rid of too many acorn producing trees. Would loggers be willing to take the less desirable trees, especially the medium sized trees (8-15″ diameter)? I would appreciate any recommendations on improving our current habitat. Thank you for such an informative website. Jeff
I live in northeast Missouri and have access to 3 farms around 200 acres a piece. We have planted food plots and now we are interested in improving our native browse and cover. We have many oak, hickory, and other native Missouri trees. There are many places that you can see 100+ yards without difficulty. The forest floor is pretty open, covered in oak leaves and little vegetation less than 5 feet tall. The majority of the bigger trees are 15-18″ diameter. We have a mix of younger trees that include a lot of hickory which are 5-10″ diameter. There are younger oaks, elm, ash, and other species. We are interested in improving our timber stand with cutting. Would you recommend cutting ourselves or talking to a logger? We do not want to get rid of too many acorn producing trees. Would loggers be willing to take the less desirable trees, especially the medium sized trees (8-15″ diameter)?
I would appreciate any recommendations on improving our current habitat. Thank you for such an informative website.
The ability to sell timber is always dependent on the current market in each region. Generally, the current timber market is slow. To improve the quality and quantity of native vegetation, the forest canopy will need to be opened at least 30% to allow sunlight to reach the soil throughout the day. This can only be accomplished by removing lots of trees. I suggest you work with a local forester (state employee or private consultant) to evaluate the timber stand and learn accurate information about the local timber market. The forester can also mark the trees to harvest based on your objectives. They should also be able to help you time the harvest to maximize income produced. Timber prices can move slowly, so you may have to wait months or longer if maximizing the income is a priority.
If the existing timber stands are thinned without any additional follow-up treatment, the residual stumps will produce multiple sprouts each. The forage produced by these sprouts is relatively low quality food. In addition, within 2-5 years the sprouts will grow to a point that they fail to provide quality cover or food within the reach of a deer.
Timber harvest can be a good wildlife habitat management tool, but usually requires follow-up treatment (prescribed fire, herbicide, etc.) to maintain the stand’s ability to produce quality food and cover. If the treatment isn’t appropriately applied and/or maintained, the habitat quality is rarely improved. The timber harvest should be designed specifically for wildlife habitat improvement on a site-specific basis to ensure the habitat is improved.
Growing Deer together,
Developing Cover in Ag Fields
I recently purchased a piece of property which adjoins my existing property to the North. The new property is almost devoid of cover and consists of agricultural fields. What is the best way to establish cover quickly in an area that was previously managed for agriculture? Your latest video (GDTV 45) was great! I was especially excited to see the hay bale blind. Any idea what they made that out of? Great Idea! Ryan
I recently purchased a piece of property which adjoins my existing property to the North. The new property is almost devoid of cover and consists of agricultural fields. What is the best way to establish cover quickly in an area that was previously managed for agriculture?
Your latest video (GDTV 45) was great! I was especially excited to see the hay bale blind. Any idea what they made that out of? Great Idea!
Thanks for the kind words and congratulations on purchasing additional property! Standing corn works well as cover, especially if it is not next to a public road. Switchgrass is my favorite type of cover. However, it requires time (at least two years) and substantial financial resources to establish. It is perfect to block the view from public roads and serve as cover simultaneously! I like to make cover areas at least 10 acres so predators can’t easily cruise along the downwind side and smell every prey species within the cover area.
The hay bale blind was a great tool in that setting! It was constructed with a wire panel or heavy webbed wire forming the round portion of the ball with straw held together between a plastic weave to give the “hay bale” appearance. The flat ends of the bale were constructed from plywood and covered with the same plastic weave that held the straw in place. I liked that blind!
Calendar of Deer Management Activities
I would love to see an annual working calendar for The Proving Grounds. I have enjoyed your website. Lawrence
I would love to see an annual working calendar for The Proving Grounds. I have enjoyed your website.
That’s a good idea! However, I’m hesitant to publish such a calendar as each year seems significantly different due to changing weather conditions.
For example, I like to plant the fall food plots during mid to late August or a minimum of 45 days before the average first frost date of October 14th. However, it was so dry this year that we are still planting plots today! The same is true for the timing of planting our spring plots, etc.
There are some constants such as the start of hunting and trapping season. However, most management activities are based on current conditions and not calendar dates. That’s one reason why we publish a new episode of GrowingDeer.tv each week. Our mission is to provide deer hunting and management information in a real time format. I realize this doesn’t provide advanced notice for planning, but it is real world, real time information. Thanks for watching!
Growing Deer together,
Keeping Mature Bucks on 210 Acres
Hi Dr. Grant, A tough, maybe simple question. On our farm (210 acres) we’ve been managing for 15 years and things have really improved over the years. I never thought I would be passing up 15″ to 17″ spread deer. The problem is every year we’ll see a couple of nice deer during the summer but nothing to really get your blood boiling. During the rut in the fall bucks will start showing up on our farm that we hadn’t seen during the summer, but some we saw from the previous fall. They’ll stay until January and then disappear, no sheds or anything. It’s like they left. I’ve joked that our farm was a doe farm. They last few years things have gotten slightly better. A good number of 1.5, 2.5, and a few 3.5 year old deer. The doe numbers have gone down, the problem being we can’t seem to get “Mature/Monster” bucks to call our farm home. They visit during the rut period, but never call it home. We manage our woods with food plots and water holes while trying not to pressure them. The one thing we are trying this year is pushing the sanctuaries on the farm. Is there anything that you would recommend to help mature bucks call our farm home and not just to find girlfriends? Thanks, Kevin
Hi Dr. Grant,
A tough, maybe simple question. On our farm (210 acres) we’ve been managing for 15 years and things have really improved over the years. I never thought I would be passing up 15″ to 17″ spread deer. The problem is every year we’ll see a couple of nice deer during the summer but nothing to really get your blood boiling. During the rut in the fall bucks will start showing up on our farm that we hadn’t seen during the summer, but some we saw from the previous fall. They’ll stay until January and then disappear, no sheds or anything. It’s like they left. I’ve joked that our farm was a doe farm. They last few years things have gotten slightly better. A good number of 1.5, 2.5, and a few 3.5 year old deer. The doe numbers have gone down, the problem being we can’t seem to get “Mature/Monster” bucks to call our farm home. They visit during the rut period, but never call it home. We manage our woods with food plots and water holes while trying not to pressure them. The one thing we are trying this year is pushing the sanctuaries on the farm. Is there anything that you would recommend to help mature bucks call our farm home and not just to find girlfriends?
Deer require food, cover, and water. If you provide those habitat elements and limit disturbance, mature bucks should use your property year round. So, ask yourself what habitat element might be better on the neighboring properties. Consider any habitat features or actions that might discourage mature bucks from spending more time on your property. As bucks mature their home range tends to become smaller. By providing the better food, cover, and water sources on your property than what’s available on the neighboring properties, some of the mature bucks you are observing should be using your place year round.
One last thought…finding sheds and observing mature bucks is very difficult. Are you using trail cameras to study the deer using your property year round? If not, give that a try and see what you learn.
Growing Deer together,
Monitoring the Food/Deer Ratio
Do I have enough food for my deer? I own 276 acres in east Texas. We are bordered on one side by a 3200 acre timber company lease with about 20 hunters. The other 3 sides receive very little pressure. I have 134 acres in woods consisting mainly of Oak trees and Yaupon. The other 140 acres is in pasture land. I have 32 acres in Ball Clover and Ryegrass and plant another 10 acres in Forage Oats and Chicory. I also have 4 protein stations on the ranch. I have 4 ponds ranging from 1/4 to 3 acres in size. There are thick areas that we do not hunt or even venture into near drainages to provide sanctuary areas. What else can I do to improve the land for deer? Steed
Do I have enough food for my deer? I own 276 acres in east Texas. We are bordered on one side by a 3200 acre timber company lease with about 20 hunters. The other 3 sides receive very little pressure. I have 134 acres in woods consisting mainly of Oak trees and Yaupon. The other 140 acres is in pasture land. I have 32 acres in Ball Clover and Ryegrass and plant another 10 acres in Forage Oats and Chicory. I also have 4 protein stations on the ranch. I have 4 ponds ranging from 1/4 to 3 acres in size. There are thick areas that we do not hunt or even venture into near drainages to provide sanctuary areas. What else can I do to improve the land for deer?
Sounds like you have a great property and solid deer management program in place. The most practical method (and one of the least expensive) is to monitor the forage quantity/deer herd density ratios by using utilization cages. I construct utilization cages by simply using a 10’ long piece of 4’ tall web wire (often called hog wire) and attaching both ends. This creates approximately a 3’ cylinder of web wire. Stake the utilization cage solidly to the ground. It’s best to place the cage in the plot just after a crop is planted so the placement isn’t biased by forage height, color, etc.
As the forage grows, simply monitor the height of the forage inside the cage compared to outside the cage where the deer can forage. Depending on the crop, the forage shouldn’t get more than twice as tall inside compared to outside the cage. If the forage is the same height inside and out of the cage, then deer are not consuming much of the forage. If the forage is much less tall outside than inside, there are more deer than quality forage in the area.
It seems as if you are providing quality food, cover, and water. This is the foundation of a good habitat management plan. Use utilization cages and other techniques to make sure you are providing enough of each of the critical habitat elements.
Growing Deer together,
Maintaining Cover for Deer
Dr. Grant, I live in Orangeburg County, South Carolina where we recently purchased 90 acres. 45 acres are planted in corn and 45 acres are 2 year cutover with great bedding and early succession browse. My plans are either to establish longleaf or continue to manage the cutover for bedding and browse. If I continue to burn the cutover, will that be enough to maintain this early succession habitat, or would you recommend planting some of the property in longleaf, say 25 acres? I really have enjoyed using your website. It is too often people are concerned with hunting and not managing. Thanks, Mark
I live in Orangeburg County, South Carolina where we recently purchased 90 acres. 45 acres are planted in corn and 45 acres are 2 year cutover with great bedding and early succession browse. My plans are either to establish longleaf or continue to manage the cutover for bedding and browse. If I continue to burn the cutover, will that be enough to maintain this early succession habitat, or would you recommend planting some of the property in longleaf, say 25 acres? I really have enjoyed using your website. It is too often people are concerned with hunting and not managing.
I would recommend establishing a longleaf stand in the cutover. If the appropriate herbicides are applied during the site preparation they will actually encourage the growth of many native species that are beneficial for deer. These include, but are not limited to, several herbicides in the imazapyr family. In addition, it is usually much easier to hunt pine stands, as long as the spacing is at least 10’ x 10’, than a cutover that is not managed. Cutovers in your area typically are composed of 70+% sweetgum which is of very limited value to wildlife and won’t provide much of an economic return in the future. A longleaf pine stand that is established and managed will provide some quality food, excellent cover, and excellent hunting opportunities for decades to come, while providing a source of income when the stand is thinned or by adding value to the property. In addition, I think a well designed longleaf stand is much more aesthetically pleasing than most cutovers.
Thanks for the kind words and for watching GrowingDeer.tv! By the way, I’ve worked a lot in the Orangeburg area.
Growing Deer together,
Improve Herd Quality on Lease in Florida
I have a 2100 acre hunting lease in northeast Florida. This area can be brutal to hunt during the archery season. We maintain year round feeders and this year we started some food plots and defined some off limits areas for the does. For two years now, this being year 3, we have maintained the beginnings of a QDM program by instituting size limits. I have had my cameras out for a few months and I have a large quantity of does and fawns on camera while others are getting some really nice bucks. What would be the best method of sustaining our deer population and increasing their size? I’ve been in touch with the local forestry office but since I lease the land from a large timber company I don’t think I’ll get the support for controlled burns and so on. Can you help? Bill
I have a 2100 acre hunting lease in northeast Florida. This area can be brutal to hunt during the archery season. We maintain year round feeders and this year we started some food plots and defined some off limits areas for the does. For two years now, this being year 3, we have maintained the beginnings of a QDM program by instituting size limits. I have had my cameras out for a few months and I have a large quantity of does and fawns on camera while others are getting some really nice bucks. What would be the best method of sustaining our deer population and increasing their size? I’ve been in touch with the local forestry office but since I lease the land from a large timber company I don’t think I’ll get the support for controlled burns and so on. Can you help?
It sounds as if you have a good deer management program underway! I hope you have some “off limits areas” for bucks also. Sanctuaries area a tremendous tool to improve both the hunting opportunities and herd’s quality.
It is likely that you will accomplish your buck management goals quicker if you use age limits rather than size limits. There is usually a wide range of antler size for each age class. Therefore, size limits usually result in the bucks with the largest antlers of the age class you hope to protect being eligible for harvest.
Trigger finger management (the appropriate buck and doe harvest for your management objective) paired with increasing the quantity of quality forage is the recipe for improving the herd quality at your lease. This usually means increasing the productivity of existing food plots and adding additional food plots. Improvements can be made in the quantity and quality of native forage, but management actions that would promote such improvements may be in conflict with the landowner’s objective. If that’s the case, then you seem limited to increasing the quantity and quality of the food plot program and/or increasing the quantity and quality of the supplemental feeding program. I caution you to ensure the supplemental feeding program is administered correctly or it can cause more stress instead of providing benefits to the deer and turkey population.
You need to do a detailed analysis of your deer management goals and the possible and practical management actions necessary to meet those goals.
Growing Deer together,
Sanctuary Quality and Location
Between my farm and two adjacent pieces of property we have close to 60 acres of woods that border a small river which is to the south of my 180 acre farm. Eleven acres of this woodlot is mine and borders my marsh. The only time this area is disturbed is during the deer season, when the neighbors are hunting their piece of woodlot. Not the best scenario, but the best I have at the present time. I do not hunt my 11 acres and consider it my sanctuary. With all of the rain we have had this year the area has flooded several times but drains out within a couple of days. Will the deer use this area as a sanctuary as it is secluded and does offer some browse and acorns in the fall? Steve
Between my farm and two adjacent pieces of property we have close to 60 acres of woods that border a small river which is to the south of my 180 acre farm. Eleven acres of this woodlot is mine and borders my marsh. The only time this area is disturbed is during the deer season, when the neighbors are hunting their piece of woodlot. Not the best scenario, but the best I have at the present time. I do not hunt my 11 acres and consider it my sanctuary. With all of the rain we have had this year the area has flooded several times but drains out within a couple of days. Will the deer use this area as a sanctuary as it is secluded and does offer some browse and acorns in the fall?
Deer will use almost anywhere that provides cover and protection from being disturbed. Woods that flood rarely have much vegetative cover at the ground to three foot tall level. This is the critical cover zone for deer. If your woods are open like a park, they are not providing high quality cover. Deer may use it if it’s the best cover around. However, better cover might reduce their stress and allow them to express more of their antler growth potential.
I typically like to create sanctuaries toward the middle of my property. This allows deer to feel comfortable during daylight hours well within the borders of my property. The benefit of this design is that it allows me an opportunity to hunt these deer before they venture to the neighbor’s property. Deer departing from sanctuaries built on the edge of a property may only bed on my place but instantly venture onto neighboring properties.
Growing Deer together,
Deer Population at The Proving Grounds
How much land are you working? Acreage? What were the deer numbers before you started this project and when did you start this project? What are the results in deer numbers now? Great site! My sons and I watch all the time. Brian
How much land are you working? Acreage? What were the deer numbers before you started this project and when did you start this project? What are the results in deer numbers now? Great site! My sons and I watch all the time.
Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.tv! The Proving Grounds is 1,576 acres of rocks and ridges. If we could flatten it out, I’m sure it would be more than 3,000 acres. The first year I owned the property I walked very often simply to learn every nook and cranny. I saw one deer and found 11 sets of deer tracks (however, the soil is so rocky deer tracks are very hard to find). Based on the camera survey last year (2009), I estimated there were 70+ deer per square mile. I’ve really enjoyed working on the habitat improvement projects and watching the deer herd quantity and quality respond.
Growing Deer together,
Trophy Rock Compared to Cattle Mineral Blocks
Hi Dr. Grant, I recently went and bought two Trophy Rocks. Your videos talking about them convinced me to try them. What is the difference between Trophy Rocks and a mineral block from an ag store (red colored block)? I had some thoughts on it, but I know you are more knowledgeable on them. Thanks, Kevin
Hi Dr. Grant,
I recently went and bought two Trophy Rocks. Your videos talking about them convinced me to try them. What is the difference between Trophy Rocks and a mineral block from an ag store (red colored block)? I had some thoughts on it, but I know you are more knowledgeable on them.
Both Trophy Rocks and the standard mineral block sold at ag stores include some trace minerals. However, there are 60+ trace minerals in Trophy Rock while the most trace minerals I’ve seen in a standard mineral bock is six. Deer require a large number of minerals, but only require literally a trace of these minerals. Deer will ingest some of these minerals as part of the forage they consume. However, the mineral composition in soils and plants varies widely throughout the whitetails’ range. Therefore, I want to provide more than six trace minerals to the deer I’m managing to ensure their growth is not limited by missing trace minerals. Trophy Rock is a very practical method to ensure I’m providing 60+ trace minerals to a deer herd.
Growing Deer together,
Deer Body Weights
Grant, Is a yearling buck in Saskatchewan, Canada as big as a big buck in western New York? I know a huge deer around here weighs 200 pounds tops. Does a yearling buck in Saskatchewan, Canada weigh about 200 pound in its first year of life? Cliff
Is a yearling buck in Saskatchewan, Canada as big as a big buck in western New York? I know a huge deer around here weighs 200 pounds tops. Does a yearling buck in Saskatchewan, Canada weigh about 200 pound in its first year of life?
Body weights of deer are a function of the deer’s age and the quality and quantity of forage available, as well as the stage of the rut or pregnancy.
This varies more by resources available within a deer’s home range than comparing geographic region to geographic region. For example, deer living at The Proving Grounds tend to weigh MUCH more than deer in other portions of the county (literally only a few miles away) because of the quality food plots at my place compared to the normal hardwood/fescue pasture habitat commonly found throughout most of the county.
200 pounds would be a very large free-ranging yearling buck in most areas of the whitetails’ range! Deer from Saskatchewan and New York should weigh about the same if they are the same sex, age, and have access to the same quality forage.
Growing Deer together,
Plants – Nutrient Transfer Agents
Most of the nutrients that deer, turkey, etc., require are in the ground in a form that isn’t readily usable or digestible. Forage plants extract these nutrients from the soil and transport them and/or convert them to a form that is usable and digestible by converting them to foliage, seeds, fruit, etc. For example, deer require gads of phosphorous to produce antlers. They primarily obtain phosphorous from consuming plants rich in phosphorous. If a usable supply of phosphorous is not available in the soil, the plants can’t transfer it to deer or other critters. This is exactly why it is critical for deer managers to have the nutrients available in the soil analyzed annually (submit a soil sample to a quality lab) and make sure the lab knows what crops will be planted. Different crops require different amounts of different nutrients and also transfer different nutrients to their forage (leaves) and seeds. So the amount of fertilizer required for each food plot will depend on the crop to be grown, the amount of nutrients that are currently in the soil, and the objective of that field. Except for allowing bucks to mature, making sure the appropriate nutrients are available for the appropriate crops is one of the most important tasks a deer manager can do to allow bucks in his area to express their maximum antler potential. Plants are nutrient transfer agents, but they can only serve this role if the nutrients are available!
Growing Deer together,
Plant Identification Book
I have several plant identification books. One that I use more than others is the Forest Plants of the Southeast and Their Wildlife Uses by James H. Miller and Karl V. Miller. I believe this book is available through the Quality Deer Management Association. I often use a combination of books and the internet. If I think I know the name of the plant, I go straight to the web as it’s easy to find several color images and descriptions rapidly. If I don’t have an idea of the plant’s name, I either attempt to key it out based on the standard scientific process (not much fun), or grab one or two plant identification books that have color images. The problem with most books is that they only show the plant at a certain maturity. A huge advantage of searching the web is that usually I can find images of each plant at multiple maturity stages.
Growing Deer together,
Coyotes and Deer
After watching your rabbit problem on video (GDTV 33), it got me thinking. Is it worth harvesting and trapping all of those coyotes when the rabbits will then boom in number and destroy your crops? Do you have any research or information about how many deer are actually killed by coyotes each year? Or perhaps how many rabbits a coyote will kill each year? Just trying to get some justification as to why you prefer rabbit problems over coyotes?
It is true that coyotes eat rabbits. It is also true that coyotes eat deer, lots of deer. I recently advised a graduate student at the University of Georgia, Cory VanGilder, who completed his thesis on coyote-deer interactions. He found that fawn survival increased 150+% after one year of trapping coyotes.
A more recent study placed transmitters in the vagina of does that were expelled when fawns were born. When the transmitters were expelled, they sent a different tone to the receivers which allowed researchers to locate the fawn within an average of four hours. Sixty-seven percent of the fawns were killed and consumed, the majority by coyotes, before the researchers arrived at the birthing site. Many recent university research projects have documented similar results.
In fact, some states are considering reducing deer season/and or bag limits due to the amount of deer being killed by coyotes. Remember that there is only a fraction of the trappers working today compared to just ten years ago. In addition, fur prices have been extremely low during recent years and gas prices high. There is very little motivation for trapping except for recreation and predator reduction.
Coyotes are clearly having a huge impact on many deer herds and other game species.
Growing Deer together,
Food or Cover
I have 215 acres in Dent County, Missouri that was 100% hardwoods when I purchased it. I have knocked down 4 small food plots and put in a 2 acre pond to open areas up for browsing. I’ve been doing selective logging (TSI) to assist with the understory as well. I have been considering clear cutting a significant portion of the ground and doing controlled burns in coordination with making that area a sanctuary. After watching the information on your site, I’m now rethinking that logic and considering making some larger food plots instead. What do you think the advantages are of doing one over the other, or even a combination of both?
You are very wise to weigh the options before making changes to habitat that can’t be undone during your lifetime! Both cover and quality forage are critical to allowing deer to express their full potential. To make the decision, I’d carefully analyze your mission for the property and what the limiting factors are to fulfilling your mission. For example, if there are huge production ag fields adjoining your property then cover may be more of a priority than food. If there is no production ag on or adjoining your property then establishing ample quality forage may be necessary to allow the local herd to express their potential.
I would not simply create a clear cut and count on the natural regeneration to provide quality cover on a sustained basis. The resulting stump sprouts will grow past the stage of providing cover in just a few years. In addition, woody browse never produces as many tons of quality forage per acre as production agriculture. These are just a couple of guides to help you think through your options.
I strongly recommend you take ample time to evaluate your long-term objectives. Missing a season is much better than spending a lifetime wishing you would have considered all the possible options.
Growing Deer together,
Where Should I Locate Small Ponds?
Over the past year or two I have thought about making a small watering hole on our property. I found a spot where I might be able to put one in but I am not sure what to look for. What I was going to try and do was put it near a drainage ditch. We had some large pipes given to us, and I was hoping to use one of those to divert some of the water into the watering hole. I had also thought about putting it back in the woods a bit, but then I would have no way for it to fill up besides by rainfall.
Another question I had is what kind of fertilizer do you put on clover, and when should you apply it?
I much prefer hunting near ponds in cover versus in open areas. Deer are usually more likely to use ponds located in cover during daylight. It doesn’t take a large watershed to fill and maintain a pond designed to provide water for wildlife. I’ve found ponds with a 15’ or so diameter and a depth of three feet on the deep end will hold enough water to not evaporate dry during most droughts. I prefer my ponds located where they will be in the shade during the afternoon. If the soil at the site where you wish to create the pond will not hold water (have enough clay content), then it will be necessary to add clay. I usually purchase Bentonite from a local farm store for this purpose. Bentonite is a type of clay that expands several times when wet and helps to seal the pond.
I always base fertilizer recommendations on a soil analysis from a good lab. Clover is a legume so it requires very little nitrogen. Clover will last much longer and be more palatable to deer if it has ample nutrients available. Be sure and add plenty of phosphorous and potassium and the necessary trace minerals such as boron. Many agricultural stores sell a 6-24-24 blend of fertilizer that can be used to add the proper amount of phosphorous and potassium to legumes such as clover.
Growing Deer together,
Which are the most important minerals to provide for whitetails?
I was wondering, could you take a minute to talk about minerals, antler development and the overall health of whitetail deer? I was in a pretty serious debate with another fellow hunter the other day about minerals and am looking for more input on the subject.
When looking for a product what should we look for it to contain? A friend of mine uses a product that is full of calcium and phosphorous. Everything you read says these are the two single most important minerals for antler development. I was also taught that those two minerals are usually very available in most areas, with about 80% of the calcium they need being available through the food they eat. Some may think that the more you give them the better off, but is it true that they can only use so much of one mineral, just like humans? I can take three mutli-vitamins per day but my body will turn any excess into waste. If that is true in deer than it’s a waste to give them what they can get in their environment and better to focus on minerals and nutrients that are not available to them.
I also want to get your thoughts on salt as a vessel. No deer is going to consistently come back to just mineral so you need an attractant or something that tastes good so they will come back as much as possible and get the benefits. Isn’t it true that during spring and throughout the summer deer have a sodium deficiency? Although a lot of sodium year round probably isn’t good for anyone, is it good during the key times of year when they need more mineral? I had someone say that if you give them a lot of salt then they will drink more water and then you’ll have deer full of water. That doesn’t make any sense to me, I thought water was good.
I am sure I gave you enough here to think and write about. Thanks for taking to the time to answer my question and thanks for putting the show out every week.
The answer to your question is probably better material for an article or book chapter than this format. There is a good chapter, Mineral Supplementation for Antler Production, in Quality Whitetails, The Why and How of Quality Deer Management book. I just filmed a webinar at Clemson University for QDMA on this subject. I’m not sure when and where that webinar will be released in the future.
I agree with your statements. However, we should all be aware that there is no definitive evidence that supplementation of any mineral will increase antler production in wild, free-ranging deer (or captive deer). Almost all plant material contains some calcium, phosphorous, etc. Sometimes it is in a digestible form and sometimes it’s not. Many of the record book deer harvested didn’t have access to supplemental minerals. However, most record book deer harvested have had access to production agriculture crops (corn, soybeans, alfalfa, wheat, etc.). These crops were most likely grown on relatively good soil and had been fertilized appropriately. They most likely contained a much higher and more digestible mineral content that native browse grown in primarily timbered areas. Such crops are almost always more digestible than native vegetation, except when the native vegetation is very young.
So, if I lived where production agriculture was the prevalent use of the land, I wouldn’t be as concerned about providing supplemental minerals on my land. However, just as there is no scientific documentation that supplemental minerals will increase the average antler size, there is certainly no evidence that they will harm the herd or decrease average antler size. Supplemental minerals are relatively inexpensive, so I always advise my clients to provide them where legal.
The next question is which minerals to provide. Where I live, and most of the properties where I work, have a good food plot program with the crops being limed and fertilized to promote maximum forage production. Given this, I’m not worried about deer ingesting enough calcium or phosphorous. I am concerned about the potential of some trace minerals not being available. Most fertilizer programs don’t address trace mineral needs.
This is one reason why I like to use Trophy Rock to as a mineral supplement. Trophy Rock has been analyzed and confirmed to contain 60+ trace minerals. You are correct that a small vitamin pill will provide 100% of most minerals adult humans need on a daily basis. In fact, the pills could be smaller. Much of the pills are filler so we can handle them without dropping them. Clearly, a deer licking a Trophy Rock a few times a day will most likely ingest all the quantity of the available trace minerals they need.
Most deer ingest a huge amount of water during the spring and summer simply from the plant material. Quality forage plants during this time contain as much as 70% water by weight. To rid their body of this excess ingested water, they must have salt for a critical process in the kidney (the details are too technical for this format). Deer clearly seek salt, either from sources supplied by humans or naturally occurring licks.
I believe that there’s more of a chance that salt is a limiting factor than deer will ingest excess salt. Clearly deer survive in areas where no supplemental salt is supplied. However, I doubt they express their full potential unless there is a readily available, naturally occurring source of salt.
In summary, I’d rather supply supplemental minerals than not. Deer herds without supplemental minerals have and will exist. I doubt these herds express their full potential. Unless it is known that an area is very low in a specific mineral (which does occur), I’d rather provide a supplemental mineral that includes a wide range of trace minerals which are much more likely to be missing from the available forage.
Growing Deer together,
Does Dr. Woods offer wildlife and deer management consulting services?
Keep up the great work on GrowingDeer.tv, I watch the video clips as soon as they hit my inbox!
Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.tv! My staff and I really enjoy developing site-specific wildlife and habitat management plans that meet the landowners’ objectives. These plans are based on our experiences with our clients land and here at The Proving Grounds. We have been providing wildlife and whitetail research and consulting for over twenty years to both private and corporate landowners. We know what works and what doesn’t and are happy to share that knowledge through GrowingDeer.tv and private consultations. Please call our office at 417-334-3441 to schedule a consultation.
Growing Deer together,
I am not familiar with the company or their product. I look forward to hearing from you if you do experiment with them. Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.tv!
Growing Deer together,
How Important are Deer Sanctuaries?
We have been managing our property of 200 acres for 11 years now. We purchased an old farm and turned it into a little white-tailed deer paradise. We also built our dream home on the land. We practice antler restrictions, food plots, timber stand/habitat improvement and an aggressive doe harvest program. We have an ideal layout on our land. We created a 50 acre sanctuary in the middle of the property which is surrounded by several food plots, hardwoods and thickets. We stand hunt only, and never hunt in the sanctuary. We like to put little hunting pressure on our deer. After reading through my deer logs, it seems now that 80% of deer movement revolves around this sanctuary. I was wondering if you have a sanctuary set up on your land, and if you do, what are some of the benefits you have seen?
I am a HUGE fan of your show Dr. Grant!!
Sounds like you have a very successful deer and habitat management program! Like you, I’ve created sanctuaries at The Proving Grounds and commonly design them on land we manage for clients. Deer readily adapt to using these areas, especially if there aren’t other sanctuaries within their home range. Sometimes it’s tough to convince hunters not to disturb a portion of their hunting turf. However, as you have experienced, not disturbing a portion of the land you have to hunt makes patterning deer on the remaining portion of the property much easier! Thanks for sharing your observations!!
Growing Deer together,
Minerals to Include for Whitetails
Each spring, I establish a mineral lick (for each 70 acres) with approximately 5# of dicalcium phosphate and 15-20# of NaCl. My understanding is that the deer are reluctant to eat the mineral without the salt as an attractant. This year, my local feed dealer changed from dicalcium phosphate to monocalcium phospate. Is this as good or should I endeavor to local dical? (I understand that phosphorous is essential for maximum uptake of calcium — which in turn is utilized for antler development in bucks and important for pregnant and lactating does).
The latest edition of “Deer and Deer Hunting” (Summer 2010, p. 11) states “Leaves and woody browse are especially high in protein. For example, hard maple browse contains about 7% crude protein and 10% crude fiber, which makes for great nutrition and a good source of roughage.” This is contrary to what I have thought for years. A 7% level of protein is, from my knowledge, a borderline unacceptable level for even body maintenance — much less to allow for a doe or buck to come even CLOSE to their potential. This would appear to be particularly true if the doe is in her last trimester of pregnancy (or lactating) or if the buck is developing antlers. Can you comment?
You are correct that both calcium and phosphorous are two of the minerals deer need in relatively large quantities to express their potential. Given this, I would prefer the blend that included dicalcium phosphate more than monocalcium phosphate. However, deer need to consume several different minerals in order to express their potential. That is why I use Trophy Rock as a mineral supplement. It includes 60+ trace minerals. These are mostly in small amounts. However, most high quality daily multivitamins are very small and provide more than enough mineral content for adult humans. Making sure mineral supplements are available throughout the year is a very good practice.
I haven’t read the article you referenced. However, 7% is not considered a “high” level of crude protein for white-tailed deer. In fact, you are correct that it is not even considered a maintenance level by most deer biologists I know. Certainly, deer that were maintained on a diet of 7% crude protein would not express their full growth potential.
Growing Deer together,
Benefits of Timber Stand Improvement
Timber stand improvement (TSI) techniques can be a good wildlife management tool. The time until wildlife benefits from implementing a TSI project varies by the location and type of timber stand where the technique was used. For example, thinning pine stands in southern states and following up with a selective herbicide and prescribed fire application can result in a tremendous flush of forbs that provide quality cover and forage within a year or two. This can be maintained for years by occasionally using prescribed fire to maintain the successional stage of the forbs.
I’m not aware of any selective herbicide that yields the same results in hardwood stands. I’ve implemented TSI in several hundred acres of hardwoods at The Proving Grounds and have had some forbs recolonize the stands. However, the forb density is much lower than is usually produced in pine stands where typically more sunlight reaches the forest floor.
Hence, my mission is usually different when doing TSI in hardwoods. It is usually to encourage the remaining trees to produce more mast, not to provide quality vegetative food and cover. Managing for an increased yield of acorns requires that each tree left has room to expand its crown. When hardwoods are cut and the stumps are not treated with an herbicide most will resprout. These sprouts can provide cover for a few years before they shade out the understory and simply become a pole stand that provides very little cover and food to any form of wildlife. The nutritional quality of hardwood sprouts is minimal during most of the year. It can be survival food, but it won’t provide the same quality or quantity of food as most cultivated crops. I usually use fire and stump applied herbicide to discourage cut hardwoods from resprouting and forming a jungle that has limited wildlife value.
TSI can be used to greatly improve the huntability of a stand. By thinning a thick stand, the distance that deer can be observed can be increased significantly! In addition, by varying the density of the stand, etc., deer can be encouraged to feed, bed, etc., in specific areas.
TSI is a great tool. The specific design of the timber harvest should be designed based on the type of stand and the landowner’s objective.
Growing Deer together,
Switchgrass as Deer Cover
I’m a huge fan of establishing switchgrass to provide cover for wildlife! It provides great visual and thermal cover. Switchgrass is a very hearty species once established. However, it is not competitive when establishing. It is best to plant switchgrass in fields where a good seedbed has been prepared and there is no competing vegetation.
Be sure to consider the location of where to establish cover in relation to existing or planned travel corridors, food sources, and hunting locations. In addition, consider predominate wind direction and concealment of hunters approaching stand locations.
Growing Deer together,
Do Deer Consume Cannabis?
Cannabis in May? I’ve heard that cannabis is consumed by deer, especially when it is young. Hopefully, they consume it all and save our law enforcement friends some work!
Growing Deer together,
How to Deal with Buckthorn
Unfortunately, there are gads of plants that share the common name of Buckthorn. I think I know what you are talking about, but never wish to prescribe a control program without knowing for sure.
Check out the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website and determine if we are talking about the same species. If so, there is a thorough explanation of control techniques on that site. If we are describing the same species, early control is much easier and less expensive than waiting until it spreads.
Growing Deer together,
Predicting Acorn Yield
Is there a way to tell what the acorn mass will be this fall by looking at the trees in the spring? We haven’t had a bumper crop in 8 years. Two hundred and fifty miles west, on another farm, it seems to hit every 3 years. Can a frost or heavy rain, maybe even a strong wind, affect the acorns?
I look forward to seeing your new video each week.
I’m not aware of any reliable method during the spring to predict acorn production for the following fall. Oaks produce flowers, although their flowers aren’t showy like many plants. These flowers can be damaged by frost, heavy rain, hail, etc. Once the flowers are pollinated, another gad of events can prevent the young acorns from developing. This is why acorn production is so variable! In fact, in areas where acorns are the primary food source during the fall/winter, it’s best to keep the herd density at a low level so there is plenty of food during years of minimal acorn production. Years of good acorn yield should be considered a bonus food source because it is so unreliable. Otherwise there will be many years when the herd is malnourished.
Growing Deer together,
Nutritional Value of Acorns During Spring
My property is located in central Wisconsin. We receive approximately 1 – 2 feet of snow through a typical winter. The snow is typically covering the ground from December through March. Low temps fall below zero occasionally throughout a normal winter. What is the nutritional value of the acorns that I see on the ground in March/April compared to the same acorns that fell off of the oaks in August/September of the previous year? Does the snow and cold protect the nutritional value of the acorns or do the nutrients within the acorns deplete with time? Thanks in advance and keep up the great service that you are providing with GrowingDeer.tv. Craig
Thanks for the great website.
My property is located in central Wisconsin. We receive approximately 1 – 2 feet of snow through a typical winter. The snow is typically covering the ground from December through March. Low temps fall below zero occasionally throughout a normal winter. What is the nutritional value of the acorns that I see on the ground in March/April compared to the same acorns that fell off of the oaks in August/September of the previous year? Does the snow and cold protect the nutritional value of the acorns or do the nutrients within the acorns deplete with time?
Thanks in advance and keep up the great service that you are providing with GrowingDeer.tv.
I don’t know the answer to your question. I did a quick search and didn’t find any relevant information. White oak acorns often germinate during the fall, unless it gets cold very soon. If the acorns you found were cracked, etc., I doubt they have much nutritional value. Red Oak acorns usually remain whole much longer. It’s possible Red Oak acorns could maintain their nutritional value if they remain whole and dry. If they were positioned in water or the temperatures were warm enough that the moisture wasn’t frozen, it’s likely some mold or fungus would grow on them by spring.
Addressing your question from another point of view, I very rarely notice acorns in the stomach content of deer harvested for research this time of year. It would seem deer are not readily consuming acorns during the early spring.
If you learn differently, please let me know.
Growing Deer together,
What to Plant in Fire Breaks?
Planting fire breaks/old roads is good management and can be used to create outstanding hunting locations! If your fire breaks are bordered by thinned pines, then almost any forage crop can be used. If the fire breaks are around hardwoods or closed canopy pines, then several clover varieties might be the best choice as they are relatively shade tolerant.
There are several brands of clover or clover mixes on the market. I’m sure many would work. However, I was impressed with the Durana Clover that was planted in the thinned rows of a pine stand that was shown on the April 5th episode of GrowingDeer.tv (GDTV 19).
Many of the forage brassicas also do well in areas that receive partial sunlight. The more sunlight that reaches the ground, the more options you have when planting forage crops.
Growing Deer together,
Cover for Whitetails on Small Acreage
Do you have any videos on building and enhancing a sanctuary on small acres? I just found your site and like what I see.
Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.tv! I explained the qualities of various types of cover (hardwood samplings, mature cedars, native grass, etc.) in the March 8th episode (GDTV 15). These descriptions included information on how these cover types were established and what I do to maintain them. The April 12th episode is about using fire to maintain cover by controlling the stage of succession (GDTV 20). In addition, cover has been discussed briefly in other episodes. I hope you find this information useful.
Growing Deer together,
Holding Antlers during Late Winter a Good Sign!
I was told that he didn’t cast his antlers because his system doesn’t have enough mineral content. Can this be true? I have never come across this before and I am a 63 year old avid hunter. Thank you for any information. Love your articles. Thomas
I was told that he didn’t cast his antlers because his system doesn’t have enough mineral content. Can this be true? I have never come across this before and I am a 63 year old avid hunter.
Thank you for any information. Love your articles.
In areas of good habitat, it’s common for healthy bucks to hold their antlers until late March. In fact, we had several trail camera images of bucks with antlers during late March at The Proving Grounds this year. I consider seeing bucks holding their antlers during late winter a sign of good habitat and the health of that buck. Thanks for the kind words!
Growing Deer together,
Source of Drip Torches
Mark here again. I watched your latest video about burning (GDTV 20). Where do you get those “flame throwers”…and are they filled with kerosene?
We purchase most of our fire equipment, including the drip torches from Cascade Fire Equipment. However, there are several sources.
We use 2/3’s diesel and 1/3 gas. Caution – NEVER use pure gas!!!! There are lots of good publications on the web about the proper use of drip torches. Be careful!
Growing Deer together,
How to Make Maps
I would like to know what program you used to make your maps that were shown in your March 29th video Food Plot Review (GDTV 18). I really liked the layout and the ability to label different areas of your map.
We used to use some very expensive software and GPS equipment to create custom maps. However, we now use Google Earth, PowerPoint, and other readily available programs to create maps.
Growing Deer together,
Touring The Proving Grounds
I was wondering if I could come learn about your food plots. I heard of your website from Bill on Midwest Whitetail.
Austin (Memphis, MO)
Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.tv! We do give tours of The Proving Grounds and provide counsel about food plots and other habitat management subjects. We charge $500 per day for a custom tour.
Growing Deer together,
Is my goal of growing and hunting a 200″ buck realistic for my property?
It sounds as if you have a great management program to meet your mission of producing mature bucks. To estimate the potential maximum BC score that can be expected from a property, I frequently attempt to find the score of the top ten bucks harvested in the neighborhood or similar habitat. I then consider the management potential of the property in question (amount of quality food, cover, and water), and the current practices on the neighboring properties. I also consider the size of the properties where the largest bucks in the neighborhood were harvested (why did those bucks survive to maturity?). It sounds as if you’ve completed a similar analysis.
Based on the information you have provided me, it seems realistic for a 200” class buck to be produced and harvested on/near your property. With that said, remember that producing and harvesting a free-ranging 200” class buck is a VERY rare event. If that is truly your goal, it is critical to make sure each deer has all the quality food, cover, and water they want. A good indicator that these conditions exist is if there is plenty of quality forage available during late summer and late winter. In addition, it’s best to pass all bucks until they are four years old or older so their antler growth potential can be estimated. Then, the best four year olds should be passed a few more years as many bucks don’t express their full antler growth potential until they are six years old or older. Yes, passing a 170” class buck is tough, but often necessary to produce 200” class bucks. Attempting to produce a 200” deer requires intense management and discipline. Each person must evaluate the costs and benefits, like we should in all activities in life.
Growing Deer together,
Just one question: Where can I get a detailed, colored, topo map like you have for my property?
My firm used to offer services to create such maps. Now, much of the same can be created by using Google Earth or other free/relatively inexpensive services. I really enjoyed being involved in custom mapping, but the cost was prohibitive once the on-line services became readily available and much improved. It’s true that one of the only constants is change.
Growing Deer together,
Project X Research Project
Hello there friend!
I was just curious if you were still involved in the management of the power company property in South Carolina. If you still are, are there any research papers one could find to peruse?
Hope this finds you well, and we really like the new format of http://www.GrowingDeer.tv!
That 11 year long research project ended a few years ago. It was a fabulous learning project!! We summarized the findings and published them in a few magazines, presented at some science meetings and public seminars, etc. In addition, I published portions of that 11 year research project in the book “Deer Management 101.” Some of the deer management concepts we tested, learned, and/or tweaked during that project are now the basis for many deer management programs.
Thanks for the kind comments and enjoy Easter!
Growing Deer together,
Was good to see you, if only briefly, at the SEDSG conference. After seeing the website, we understand why you and Brad left early. This show must go on! CONGRATS!!
Simple softball question: In the video intro, where the buck walks up and poses with his leg up, what is the name of the tall brown grass in front of him? It is widespread in the Midwest, but I’m not sure what it is. Have a great year.
Great to see you again at the Southeast Deer Study Group conference! All the beans you see in the GrowingDeer.tv episodes, except some in the episode filmed in Illinois, are the Eagle Seed forage beans we discussed. I hope you will place a utilization cage on your plots this year so the growth of each forage type can be compared.
The lab I and several of my clients use is Waters Ag. I order the Basic Test 4, as I like to know the level of several trace minerals. I always tell the lab what crops I’m going to plant, and that I want a maximum yield so they can give me fertilizer recommendations to help me meet my site-specific mission.
The scientific name for the grass shown in front of that buck is Andropogon virginicus. It is also know by several common names such as: Broomgrass, Broomsage, Broomsedge bluestem, Broomstraw, Sage grass, and Yellow bluestem.
It is a native warm-season grass that is often confused with little bluestem. However, in the fall/winter Broomsedge is typically yellowish tan, while little bluestem has a bronzy color. Broomsedge rarely is more than 2 feet tall at maturity. Seeds are light and fluffy. It’s an indicator of poor land as dense stands are indicative of acid soils, phosphorus deficiency or overgrazing. That pretty much describes The Proving Grounds, except where I’ve used Antler Dirt to improve the soil.
I hope our paths cross before the next annual Southeast Deer Study Conference!
Growing Deer together,
Does Composted Chicken Litter Spread Disease?
I am curious about the Antler Dirt product that you use. I know it is made out of composted chicken litter but I have heard problems around here (south central Missouri) with the turkey population being affected by farmers using chicken litter on their fields. I don’t know if it’s a disease being spread from the chickens to the turkeys through the litter or if it’s just hearsay. I do have a few friends that did have large numbers of turkeys on their farms and after using chicken litter for several years have seen a huge decrease in the numbers. Any information you could share with me about this would be very helpful. I would like to try the Antler Dirt product, as I have very similar soils and topography compared to you. I just don’t want a negative effect on the turkeys. Thank you very much and I appreciate your Christian beliefs and sharing them on your show.
There is a decline in the turkey population in most of Missouri (https://huntfish.mdc.mo.gov/hunting-trapping/species/turkey/turkey-reports/spring-turkey-harvest-map). This is probably due in large part to the very cold and wet conditions that have occurred during the past two nesting seasons. I believe predators are also accounting for part of the decrease in the turkey population. I have trapped 200+ predators at The Proving Grounds during the past four years and my turkey population has increased significantly (at at time when it is declining in most of Missouri). I’ve also improved the habitat, so I can’t single out any one factor. However, it has been very cold and wet here also and the population at The Proving Grounds is the best its been since I’ve been here.
Disease being spread to wild turkeys by spreading poultry litter was more of a concern before most poultry farmers significantly improved their operations. There are literally millions of tons of litter spread annually now in many major turkey states with very, very few reported problems. However, that’s not to say there aren’t some poultry farmers out there that haven’t switched to the newer operating style.
Antler Dirt products have compost added to it and are put through a further heating process to kill any potentially dangerous bacteria. Simultaneously, good bacteria that builds soil is added. Antler Dirt is much different from raw litter. I’ve used Antler Dirt products exclusively at The Proving Grounds for five years and I’m very pleased with the results and my turkey population.
Growing Deer (and turkey) together,
Loquat Trees in Alabama
I am considering planting loquat trees on a deer hunting property in south Alabama along with a number of other hard and soft mast trees. I have searched for info on whitetail use of loquat trees or mast, but have found no such references. Do you know if whitetail deer and/or other game animals (turkey, squirrel, etc) will eat the loquat fruit?
I’ve never planted or managed loquat trees. I’ve read about loquat trees in south Alabama producing fruit, but most literature I’ve read state they rarely produce fruit north of Jacksonville, Florida. I do believe deer and other critters will consume the fruit. If you plant some, please let me know how they do!
Growing Deer together,
How to Plant Fruit Trees
Hello again Grant,
You for sure have the best how-to-videos I have seen yet!!
With seedling planting season just around the corner, or here for most people, do you plan on putting up a video to show people the correct way, time, weed control and places to plant wildlife friendly seedlings? Also, I notice on a lot of forums that people are planting more apple orchards and a how-to-video for them would be greatly appreciated by a lot of people. You could show them how to plant, cage, protect and care for them since they are a labor of love.
I prefer a fall planting (for my area) from nurseries that will ship to me in the fall, but the MDC nursery only ships in spring.
Thanks for the kind comments about GrowingDeer.tv! I literally film each week what I’m doing at the time. I don’t have a subject or production schedule. It’s simply what I’m working on at the time. With that said, I don’t plan to plant any trees for wildlife this spring.
The QDMA has published a few articles about establishing and maintaining fruit trees for wildlife. I found them very informative. I believe one of the articles was published last year.
Growing Deer together,
Cut Cedars for Cover?
Just found this site off of Midwest Whitetail. The first episode I watched was your segment over deer and land management. I have a question about GDTV 15. My timber is mainly made up of hardwoods and red cedar. My cedar thickets are just like the ones on the video. I’m using this part of my farm as a sanctuary, but I know it needs improvements. Do you think clearing some of the cedars to let more sun in will work better than hinge cutting areas?
Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.tv! Cutting and burning the cedar will usually let more sunlight reach the soil than hinge cutting, especially during the growing season. The bigger question is what will grow once the cedars are cut and burned.
I wait two years after cutting cedars to let the larger stems dry before burning to increase the amount consumed by fire. If the site was not historically tilled, there is probably a great variety of seed from native grasses and forbs that will germinate after the fire. However, if the cedars are growing where ag crops were produced, the resulting forage may or may not be desirable. If not, you’ll need to spray and replant to a desirable type of cover. Are there any desirable native forbs or grasses growing among the cedar currently? If so, removing the cedars and burning will most likely result in a great stand of native grasses and forbs. With a little scouting, you can probably determine what species will repopulate the area if the cedars are removed.
There was a GREAT response of desirable native vegetation that germinated at The Proving Grounds as the land was too steep and rocky to have been tilled historically.
Growing Deer together,
Size of The Proving Grounds
Out of curiosity, how many acres is The Proving Grounds?
Thanks for all the time and effort you put into this website. It’s very helpful.
Thanks for the kind words! The Proving Grounds is 1,576 acres. We own another 567 acres that is contiguous with our original purchase. We don’t manage the 567 acre tract. We purchased it literally to keep it from being developed. We plan to sell it sometime in the future. We’d rather have a good deer manager as a neighbor than 400 houses, dogs, etc.
Growing Deer together,
Road Maintenance in Hilly Topography
First off, great job on your site! This is very good stuff. Now onto the deer management side, I’ve got a 360 acre piece in western KY and it is HILLY. I’d love to see you do a piece on road construction to avoid erosion. Our initial dozer work was needed to get into the property, but in hindsight it would’ve been much better to hire “smart” dozer operators who understood road building. We’ve brought in many, many trucks of gravel on main segments, but nonetheless we’ve got lots of erosion and I’m headed out with a team of 15 guys in a few months to repair (and hopefully fix) the roads correctly for the long term. I’d love to see you do a piece on this.
Thanks for the kind words!! We just filmed a brief segment about road maintenance to be shown on the Pursuit Channel. I don’t know when that will air. I hope to do a more detailed segment on road construction and maintenance on GrowingDeer.tv. However, every episode of GrowingDeer.tv is literally what we are doing that week. It will be summer before we do any road maintenance at The Proving Grounds. In the meantime, I suggest you learn about broad-based dips. They are my favorite road maintenance tool in hilly topography! Ditches, and other common road maintenance designs, rarely work as planned unless maintenance is very frequent. This is because ditches become clogged with debris and force the water over the road, causing erosion. The best road maintenance plan is to limit the amount of water and the speed at which water passes over dirt/gravel roads. Water control is outstanding road maintenance.
Growing Deer (and managing properties) together,
Will Hogs Hurt a Deer Herd?
Over the last years hogs have moved in on us. Will this hurt our deer?
I enjoy hunting hogs like many other folks, as long as I have to travel a long, long, long way from my property to find them. Hogs are a challenging game species to hunt but are very detrimental to the goals of most deer management programs. They readily consume and destroy habitat and hard earned food plot acreage. They can also negatively impact turkey populations as they frequently destroy nests. They will certainly consume young fawns if they find them. If a hog stepped foot on The Proving Grounds and I knew about it, I’d be racing out the door to dispatch it. This is because once established, hogs are difficult, if not impossible, to completely eradicate. If hogs are already present I would work hard at removing them in any way possible. The most effective removal methods is trapping. I’m not aware of any instance where hogs have been eradicated by recreational hunting. To eradicate hogs requires a planned attack. No matter the methods chosen, hit them hard, fast, and early as they are quick to adapt and multiply rapidly.
Growing Deer together,
Differences between Managing in Missouri and Vermont for Winter Cover
Thanks so much for the videos! Each week I wait impatiently for them. The video on winter cover was very informative. However, it didn’t seem to be geared for northern managers. Our deer herd here in Vermont and other northern states head to conifer forests to “yard up” during periods of deep snow depths and severe low temps to conserve energy. Could you elaborate on the differences between a state like Missouri and Vermont regarding how they should be managed for winter cover?
George (Florence, Vermont)
You’re correct! Where the snow depths commonly get 2 feet or more deep, deer prefer dense stands of mature conifers. “Yarding” occurs in these areas where deep snows make foraging very difficult and deer find it more energy efficient to simply migrate to stands of dense conifers and survive off stored fat. This type of habitat prevents some of the snow from reaching the ground. Obviously, if the timber stand is dense enough to prevent snow from reaching the ground, very limited forage can grow under the canopy, so yarding areas provide almost no forage unless the conifers are white cedar (mature white cedar swamps are almost a thing of the past). Unfortunately, many of the traditional yarding areas have been converted to some other type of habitat in the northeast. For wind protection and allowing solar radiant heat during the day, native grass stands are better. For providing relief from deep snows, mature conifers are the preferred habitat type in the northeast and lake states.
Growing Deer together,
Do NWSG Stands Provide Sufficient Cover?
In GDTV 15 you show a lot of native warm season grass (NWSG) stands as good cover. Do you find this is the best cover during hunting season or do the deer stick more to the higher low vertical growth provided by the 6-8 year old sapling stand you showed or thicker stuff? It just seems that some NWSG stands are not as thick as a shrubby cover and don’t provide sufficient cover for deer to hide, especially during gun season.
There are several species of NWSG. Little Blue Stem does provide low vertical growth while some of the varieties of switchgrass commonly grow to a height of more than 7 feet! I like a blend of low (0-2 feet), medium (2-4 feet) and high (4 or more feet) NWSG. Blends are easy to plant. However, I really prefer a patchwork of low, medium and high. I find that deer and other critters seem to prefer this type of cover compared to a homogeneous structure. In addition, I can find a very high vantage point and see down into this type of patchwork cover. This allows me to observe deer without being detected. Such stands are like a front row seat at the Super Bowl, except I like the entertainment a lot better!!
Based on my observations, sign, etc., deer prefer this type of cover (NWSG with varied height and density) more than any other type of cover. However, deer will use many forms of cover — whatever is best within their range.
Growing Deer together,
Will Hinge Cutting Create Bedding Areas and Increase Forage?
I’m interested in information about TSI. You may remember when you visited my property that aesthetics (from the “park effect” closed hardwood canopy) were important to me around the perimeter roads. There are several large interior blocks of mixed hardwoods (approx. 50 yrs old) that I intend to take a chainsaw to after we burn it in a week or two. My primary goal is to create bedding areas and secondary is increased forage. I’ll leave the best mast producing trees alone, but for the others, would you hinge cut or completely cut them down and leave them? If hinge cutting is done, would you cut them about shoulder height or down lower?
Hinge-cutting is a fine management tool. There are several websites with detailed instructions about how to do a hinge-cut. I’ll let you find those. In the mean time, I’m not sure it is the best management tool to meet your specific objectives. Hinge cutting places the tops of trees at ground level. This provides some cover and food. The food source will be low in digestibility and nutrition (hardwood twigs don’t normally compare favorable to fertilized forage crops).
I recall your management objectives included allowing the local herd to express a high percentage of their potential and create a habitat that allows you to pattern/predict locations of deer activity. Hinge cutting can create some good growing season cover, but is somewhat limited in producing winter cover. Once the leaves fall, only the stems are left to provide cover. As the stems continue to grow, the canopy (cover) will be above the 0-4 foot level where deer live within a few years. In addition, the canopy will shade out most vegetation growing at the 0-4′ level. Large blocks of hinge-cut cover are not much different from the sapling cover discussed in GDTV 15. These characteristics can be somewhat offset by doing additional hinge-cuts every few years, but this is costly and doesn’t allow deer to establish long-term patterns.
Hardwoods sprouts are usually very low quality forage for a white-tailed deer. Unquestionably, you can produce a higher quantity of quality food by establishing food plots with high quality forage crops. If you could sell the hardwoods for enough to establish the same amount of acreage in native warm season grasses and some quality food plots, I believe you’d like the results much more! Hinge cutting is a good low budget technique. However, it might not be the best technique to meet your habitat management objectives.
Growing Deer together,
What is the Real Benefit of Corn?
Last Saturday I heard you on the “Hunt Life” radio show. You commented that because of the weather a lot of corn in the Midwest has not been harvested yet, and as a result the local herds will be in excellent condition this spring. I’ve heard corn doesn’t have any real protein value for a deer. How is it going to help, other than another food source? Greg
Last Saturday I heard you on the “Hunt Life” radio show. You commented that because of the weather a lot of corn in the Midwest has not been harvested yet, and as a result the local herds will be in excellent condition this spring. I’ve heard corn doesn’t have any real protein value for a deer. How is it going to help, other than another food source?
Corn is low in protein (Iowa corn averaged less than 8% protein this year) compared to soybean forage or soybean grain. However, corn is very high in energy! Energy is very important during the winter when the deer herd is trying to stay warm. With extra energy coming in by way of corn consumption, the deer’s body is under less stress.
Both energy and protein are extremely important components of a deer’s diet which allows them to express their potential! Deer can survive on a diet high in energy and low in protein, or low energy and high in protein, but they won’t express their full potential unless they have ample supplies of both! I prefer ample quantities of both beans and corn — that’s why the Midwest ag belt produces the majority of deer that express a lot of their potential (record book deer)!
Growing Deer together,
Where do Bucks get Antler Genetics From?
Grant, Where do bucks get antler genetics from, mother or father? Thanks, Mitchell
Where do bucks get antler genetics from, mother or father?
Researchers are starting to understand more and more about heritable traits of whitetails. But the level of research or knowledge about heritability related to antler size and shape is still mostly unknown. It has been reported that approximately 70% of antler characteristics are passed from the doe. If this is correct, it would go a long ways toward explaining why the culling of bucks has shown only a marginal increase in average antler size of free-ranging bucks.
Growing Deer together,
Supplemental Deer Feeding in the Ozarks
Grant, I live in the Midwest down by Branson, Missouri. I am not a landowner so therefore I cannot put out a food plot. I hunt by permission only on several large hardwood acreages. I want to nurture some whitetail herds on a property that I hunt. Is there a trace mineral supplement for antler growth and herd health that I can buy for my herd? I passively feed corn in the off season but they compete with turkey and squirrels and other birds for the corn. What do you recommend? Or, is there a protein supplement you might recommend? Kurt (Missouri)
I live in the Midwest down by Branson, Missouri. I am not a landowner so therefore I cannot put out a food plot. I hunt by permission only on several large hardwood acreages. I want to nurture some whitetail herds on a property that I hunt. Is there a trace mineral supplement for antler growth and herd health that I can buy for my herd? I passively feed corn in the off season but they compete with turkey and squirrels and other birds for the corn. What do you recommend? Or, is there a protein supplement you might recommend?
I grew up in the area and hunted on land owned by others, so I relate to your situation. I currently live near Branson and know the low quality nutritional forage available on tracts that are primarily hardwood forest.
I use Trophy Rock to provide deer on my property trace minerals. This is an important part of my overall herd management plan. It’s important to state that a good mineral program by itself can’t compensate for a lack of quality forage. If this was the case, we could solve world hunger by providing vitamin/mineral tablets.
There are other steps you can take that, along with minerals, will help improve the herd quality where you hunt. Short of writing an entire management plan, the following are brief guidelines that should be considered…
First, work toward balancing the herd’s density with the habitat’s capacity to produce quality forage. The simplest method to achieve this is to reduce the herd’s density by harvesting does. Some hunters, especially in areas dominated by hardwoods, don’t like this method because the resulting deer herd density can be so low that they rarely observe deer. The quality/quantity trade-off is one to consider thoroughly before implementing. This trade-off is much easier in areas with grain production as the deer density can be much higher while still providing access to ample quality food.
Next, insure bucks are being allowed to reach maturity. Remember that age is strongly correlated to antler size. No matter how much quality food a yearly buck eats, he’s still a yearling buck. He may be a great yearling, but he won’t produce his best antlers until he’s much more mature. Passing young bucks or “trigger finger management” is critical to meeting your objective of hunting bucks with larger antlers.
Just beginning a supplemental feeding program will not compensate for too many deer (remember that each deer consumes a ton or more annually) or lack of buck age structure in the local herd. To produce and harvest mature bucks on a sustained basis requires ample quality forage available to bucks that reach a mature age. This can be accomplished anywhere, but it certainly requires more resources in some areas compared to others.
Growing Deer together,
How Many Acres do I Need to Have a Deer Management Program?
I definitely enjoy GrowingDeer.tv and have learned some interesting things from it. My question is pretty basic.
If a person is interested in acquiring land to develop a private managed area approximately how many acres should be looked for to make it worthwhile and to have a positive influence on the local herd?
Keep up the great work as many benefit from your efforts.
I don’t think there is a one size fits all answer to your question. I know of several examples where small tracts of land provide fabulous hunting/management opportunities because they adjoin properties with great characteristics. An example includes a buddy of mine that owns 140 acres in the middle of a 4,000 acre state park that doesn’t allow any buck hunting, conducts a highly controlled hunt to remove does, and there is production ag (soybeans and corn) in the neighborhood. So, his “neighbor” harvests a bunch of does, protects bucks, and the area is constantly patrolled by law enforcement officers — all for the price of only 140 acres. That 140 has produced multiple 180+ bucks. It is an extremely rare 140 acres. Before you ask, the last time I checked it wasn’t for sale…
The size of deer home ranges vary greatly based on the quality of habitat. Generally, deer living in good quality habitat have a smaller home range size than deer living in poor habitat. So, 1,000 acres in great habitat may allow a significant portion of bucks to reach maturity without being harvested by neighbors that don’t have the same deer management objectives. On the other hand, a tract of the same size in low quality habitat probably won’t yield the same return from your management efforts. When buying land, consider the neighborhood as carefully as the tract for sale.
Growing Deer together,
Is Feeding Corn Harmful to Deer in Winter?
Grant, I have recently read an article about how feeding deer corn in these late winter months is harmful to the deer. I’m guilty of feeding them behind my house here in the city. But with 20 inches of snow that has been on the ground going on three weeks, I didn’t think it would be too harmful to them. Why is feeding them corn so harmful? If there is an alternative feed what would it be? Thanks, Michael
I have recently read an article about how feeding deer corn in these late winter months is harmful to the deer. I’m guilty of feeding them behind my house here in the city. But with 20 inches of snow that has been on the ground going on three weeks, I didn’t think it would be too harmful to them. Why is feeding them corn so harmful? If there is an alternative feed what would it be?
This has been an ongoing debate for years. I think this debate, like most debates, is due to a lack of information. Deer eat literally millions of pounds of corn annually!! Deer in the corn belt eat corn before it is harvested and search the harvested fields day after day for spilled grain until it’s plowed under or spring green up occurs and alternate food sources become available. In some states where feeding/baiting is legal, deer consume tons and tons of corn and have for decades. Corn is a fine source of carbohydrates for deer (any many other critters)!
With that said, I think it’s best to explain why some folks rightfully say it might be harmful to feed deer corn in some circumstances. Deer ingest food items, but microorganisms in their gut actually breakdown the food items and/or convert it into forms that can be absorbed from the digestive tract into the body. There are many different species of these microorganisms in a deer’s gut. Some breakdown certain types of nutrients better than others. The microorganisms get their food from the ingested items they help deer process. So, if deer haven’t had much to eat (like can occur during late winter) the microorganisms haven’t had much to eat either. In fact, many of the microorganism populations can decrease significantly.
This is the source of the potential problem, adding corn or any type of food deer haven’t been consuming. The populations of microorganisms in the deer’s gut necessary for digesting any food item can be too low. So low that the ingested food can’t be digested and absorbed by the deer. When this occurs, the deer can die from starvation with a full stomach.
So, if you started with small amounts of corn and worked up, there would most likely be no problem. However, problems or death do occur when deer ingest a lot of a food item that they haven’t been consuming. The problems are usually magnified if the deer is under additional stress such as being malnourished, etc. Feeding programs can do more damage than good if sudden large changes are made to a deer’s diet.
Growing Deer together,
Why do Deer Eat Dead Leaves?
Grant: Thanks for your kinds words about our troops now serving on foreign soils (Grant’s February 8th, 2010 blog entry). I can’t tell you how much it means to me to be able to link onto your site and the QDMA. Along with church service, your site helps me keep my head on straight. Yes, I may not be in the states but once a deer geek always a deer geek! Here’s a question no biologist has ever fully answered for me. Why in the world do deer eat dead leaves? With no nutritional value can we assume it’s just something to fill the rumen? Love ya buddy, CJ Blessings from Afghanistan Gen 1:28
Thanks for your kinds words about our troops now serving on foreign soils (Grant’s February 8th, 2010 blog entry). I can’t tell you how much it means to me to be able to link onto your site and the QDMA. Along with church service, your site helps me keep my head on straight. Yes, I may not be in the states but once a deer geek always a deer geek!
Here’s a question no biologist has ever fully answered for me. Why in the world do deer eat dead leaves? With no nutritional value can we assume it’s just something to fill the rumen?
Love ya buddy,
Blessings from Afghanistan
I remember a study on fallen leaves from wild grapes that showed they retained traces of certain minerals. Deer have the ability to identify food sources that have traces of vitamins and minerals that they need (I assume by smell). I suspect they consume various fallen leaves to obtain needed vitamins and minerals if they are not readily available from a better source. Remember — this is simply an assumption. In areas of poor habitat, fallen leaves may be one of the only food items. Be safe in Afghanistan! I’m sure the deer at home are glad you’re away!
Growing Deer together,
Limiting Factors and Learning Curves
Dr. Grant, Great information! I live in a very heavy agricultural area. Should I focus my farm habitat efforts on creating interior areas that are thick or should I focus on providing standing crops (corn & soybeans) on the interior of my property? Also, why does it seem that some deer have to develop a “taste” for foods like brassicas? Jason (Ohio)
I live in a very heavy agricultural area. Should I focus my farm habitat efforts on creating interior areas that are thick or should I focus on providing standing crops (corn & soybeans) on the interior of my property? Also, why does it seem that some deer have to develop a “taste” for foods like brassicas?
You’re on the right track! It’s a great technique to identify “the low hole in the bucket.” By that, I mean to identify if food, cover, or water are in limited supply in the area. In areas that are predominately agricultural, cover and food are usually in short supply during the winter as most crops are harvested. If you can’t dedicate some land for permanent cover, standing corn will work for cover during the late season. Standing soybeans are a great food source for deer during the late season. By providing the “limiting factor” you help the herd and create some outstanding hunting opportunities!
As for deer needing to develop a taste for brassicas, most deer don’t recognize plants they haven’t seen before as food. For example, there are no soybeans grown near my place. The first two years I grew soybeans I don’t think deer consumed a single leaf. About year three I started noticing some leaves missing. Now, deer readily consume soybean forage and pods at my place. The same learning curve applies to any new forage planted in an area. Now if I could just get my daughters to eat spinach!
Growing Deer together,
Do Raccoons Hurt Deer?
Grant, In this video (GDTV 10) are you saying raccoons are bad for deer? Mark
In this video (GDTV 10) are you saying raccoons are bad for deer?
Raccoons consume many of the same food items as deer such as persimmons, blackberries, corn, etc. They often attempt to consume them at the same time as deer. I’ve reviewed 100’s of trail camera images of raccoons at a food source challenging deer. This by itself isn’t a major problem, but when raccoon population densities get high, it’s a constant form of stress for deer. I like raccoons, but I like deer more, so I opt to favor deer and attempt to reduce raccoon populations.
I really like to turkey hunt, and many research projects have reported raccoons as being the most frequent predator of turkey nests. This alone is enough reason for me to trap raccoons and share their pelts with family and friends.
Growing Deer together,
Will Spikes Always be Inferior?
Grant, I see spikes in my hunting areas from time to time. These deer are at least one and a half years old. They may never be a dominant deer so should I take them out or see if potential comes with age? Waco
I see spikes in my hunting areas from time to time. These deer are at least one and a half years old. They may never be a dominant deer so should I take them out or see if potential comes with age?
It is very difficult to predict a buck’s future antler growth based on his first set of antlers! A buck’s first set of antlers is greatly influenced by several factors including: his birth date, condition of his mother while he was a fetus, the quality and quantity of food while he was growing his first set of antlers, etc. In addition, yearling bucks (1 and 1/2 years old) rarely express much of their total antler growth potential. One thing is for sure, dead deer don’t grow. If your goal is to hunt mature bucks, don’t harvest immature bucks.
Growing Deer together,
How to Improve Small Properties
I got your info from my friend, Glenn Chappelear. My wife & I run a Christian Retreat center just outside Bryson City, NC in the Great Smoky Mountains. Ten years ago we purchased what was left of an old cattle farm (38 acres). Our vision is to build a 100 bed lodge on the property to minister the love & grace of Jesus to others. About 20 acres is steep pasture land & the rest in woodland. There is a 39 acre woodland tract adjoining us that we are leasing. I have a shot with my trail camera with eight deer (does & yearlings) in it. This excites me because our county average is 0.12 deer per square mile (85% of our county is public land, either national forest or national park).
That’s the background, now my question: What can I do on a very limited budget, with very little equipment (I have a 350 dozer & a 230 2wd MF tractor), on steep ground, to increase the size & health of the heard in this area?
By the way, I loved the video of your daughters! I have three (ages four, six, and eight) that I am introducing to hunting. My sons (ages two years, and four months) have to wait a little.
Thank you for your time! Blessings!!!
Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.tv! Sounds like a great location to introduce your children to creation!! Most deer’s home range will extend beyond the boundaries of smaller tracts, so the goal is to keep them on your tract during daylight hours as much as possible. You can accomplish this by identifying which of a deer’s daily needs, food, cover, and water, is in limited supply in your neighborhood. For example, if you are surrounded by cover, provide a quality food source centrally located within your property. By identifying if food, water, or cover is in limited supply in your neighborhood and providing that resource, your tract will become the hub for deer whose home range includes your property.
Growing Deer together,