What should we do to improve the habitat at our property near Bristol, Vermont?

By Grant Woods,

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← Grant's AnswersHabitat Management
Hey Grant, I’m 15 years old and from Bristol, VT. Me and my dad have 4 food plots with our biggest being about 3 acres. We own 164 acres, some of which is corn field that is farmed by the local farmer. Anyways, we see quite a few deer during bow season, however once rifle season hits we can hardly get our eyes on a doe. We have stand locations that have led us to believe the deer are bedding off of our land, and not making it to our plots during the daylight hours. This is fine I guess as there is nothing wrong with hunting a transition zone, although I still feel they should be on our plots in day light, believe me when I tell you, they are beautiful. We have a 3 acre plot with soybeans and corn, another 1-2 acre plot with radish, chicory, rape, and barassica as well as another small 1/4 acre plot with the same mixture. we also have a 1/2 acre alfalfa plot and a few small clover plots. However, we are looking to create some habitat and wondering what what a controlled burn may do for us? we have 3 nice ridges on our property as well as one creek bottom. However, these ridges are made up of mostly hardwood, which i’ve gathered is not ideal for deer bedding? So i guess my question is A) what steps do you think we should take to improve our deer habitat? B)How should we do so? (via planting trees, controlled burns, etc.) we are not afraid to spend the money. Thanks, Lucas and Dave


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.

Enjoy creation,


November 17, 2015