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>>GRANT: I really enjoy assisting fellow landowners with habitat and hunting improvement plans. And we do that a lot. Matter of fact, we do it more than we can take time to share. I think this year we’re 40, 50 into it or something like that. But we had a really interesting project recently that I believe will be a great teaching tool for other landowners.

>>GRANT: We were working with a landowner in Northern Michigan that owned 40 acres. After Zach and I’s initial conversation, I had him email me the location of his property, including the boundaries, and knew I could use the tools within HuntStand to not only study the neighborhood but to develop a comprehensive habitat and hunting improvement plan.

>>GRANT: One of the first things I do when I’m asked about such a project is look at the property and also zoom out and look at the neighborhood. I want to see what resources might be available in the neighborhood and, even more importantly, which ones are not available. So, we know if we add them to the property where we’re working, that landowner has a really good chance of increasing the amount of deer and turkey they see.

>>GRANT: In this situation, I zoom out and I look around. I do that Rubik’s Cube thing we talk about a good bit. I see some patches of hardwoods. I see, you know, a little farmette, kind of that 40-acre type habitat and no high-quality food sources. And that tells me if we provide high-quality forage, especially during deer season, the landowner will have a greatly increased chance of seeing critters.

>>GRANT: Once I understand the neighborhood, I’m gonna zoom in and really focus my efforts on the property where we’re assisting the landowner. And part of that focus is really understanding the landowner’s goals and objectives.

>>GRANT: And to take that one step further, sometimes we need to visit with them about their objectives and make sure they’re realistic.

>>GRANT: You know if the person calls up and says, “Hey, Grant. Man, I want a Boone and Crockett behind every tree.” Well, we’re gonna have a good laugh and then we’re gonna start talking, and I may or may not assist that landowner because that’s not gonna happen. And I’d rather not assist someone than have a dissatisfied person out there that we tried to help.

>>GRANT: In this case, it was easy. The landowner had very realistic objectives. And one of his primary objectives was having a property where he and his children could hunt and have a good chance of seeing deer.

>>GRANT: Knowing that his objectives were realistic, I started diving in more. And I could tell that these trees were in rows. Now, trees are missing. But clearly, they’d been planted in rows north to south, and I come over here and even some of these scattered trees are north to south.

>>GRANT: That made me curious. So, I went back to like 1985, 1993. Man, between 1993 when this was all covered with these trees, in 1998 it was bare. This was a Christmas tree farm. And someone had harvested all these trees – maybe a big sale to a retailer or something. Got some volunteer trees that had come back in there.

>>GRANT: And you can tell that because these closer trees are a little narrower. These trees that have grown back have a wider, wolfier crown. They don’t have any competition when they were young.

>>GRANT: So, massive harvest and then some cover that ties into a little travel corridor across here, and that obviously became part of my plan – knowing I had a travel corridor of cover crossing the property.

>>GRANT: I got to looking also, and I saw some development up here, but a block of cover over here, and I knew deer would be coming in this way. Now, there’s a house here. So, either cutting right through here, around here. And I asked the landowner, and sure enough, he was seeing sign in those two areas.

>>GRANT: Right off the bat, I’d identified the main travel corridor and a couple coming in here and the same thing on the northeast corner. When I started zooming down, I saw this big hardwood block over here. It funnels down really narrow, probably dodges this house place, and comes in right here. And in fact, he had seen deer sign in that area. So, now I know I’ve got deer funneling into the property from at least three different areas.

>>GRANT: It was easy to spot the travel corridors based on the standing habitat types on the northern portion of the property. When I started looking at the south, well, it’s pretty homogeneous – pretty much uniform. In talking to the landowner, those were primarily maple trees about the same age stem to stern.

>>GRANT: And I asked him, “Boy, can you pattern deer? You see any deer?” And he said, “No. They’re kind of willy-nilly in there.” And I knew right off the bat I needed to modify the habitat in this area so it’d go from willy-nilly deer movement to something where he and his children could predictably see deer.

>>GRANT: Another factor that frequently influences where deer travel – certainly here at The Proving Grounds and other areas – are terrain features, but in this part of Michigan it’s airport runway flat. There’s no terrain features.

>>GRANT: So, it was up to me to design a plan – that we create those bottlenecks and travel corridors. And I knew looking at what I had to work with and on the neighboring properties, we could create a plan where Zach and his family would have some great hunts.

>>GRANT: I had some phone calls and emails with Zach. Then I took some time to put a plan together, arranged another time to visit with Zach, and explain the plan.

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>>GRANT: You look at this, it’s much different than kind of that blank canvas I started working with. And right off the bat, I want to share some stuff with you.

>>GRANT: Of course, the green is food plots. We mentioned earlier that there was no sign of high-quality forage. And this is primarily a maple forest, not an oak or an acorn producing forest surrounding Zach’s property, so I knew food would be great attraction, especially during the hunting season.

>>GRANT: Zach’s property is 40 acres. So, if I put a couple half-acre food plots out there, they would attract deer for a few days and then the deer would be back to a willy-nilly pattern. So, I took this site over here with some timber to have a screen around it and created a very large destination or feeding food plot.

>>GRANT: You may recall there was some travel corridors coming in this side, and the cool thing is they’re coming in from the west and northwest; and that’s the predominant wind direction. Especially think about this on the colder days when you really want to be out there hunting, you rarely have a south wind with a cold front; it’s a west or northwest wind. Those great days to hunt, I want to put the food here so Zach can come in the driveway, ease right in here, and not alert deer that are coming into this feeding area.

>>GRANT: Even on 40 acres, I want to have bedding areas on site, especially when I look at all the open timber around there. Bedding area was another limiting factor, especially in the cold season or the hunting season.

>>GRANT: Deer may bed out here in these open maples during the summer, but they want something to block the wind during those cold days of the hunting season, especially the late hunting season.

>>GRANT: And I wanted to put my bedding areas up here by the road, so they serve multiple purposes. These pines were really open, and people driving by could see in. But by designing a thick cover up here, it limits the visibility from people on the road to see into Zach’s property.

>>GRANT: I want to utilize as many acres as I can, so I also put a couple bedding areas in here, again, knowing that no matter what the wind direction is, Zach and his family can barely park on their property and come around this little travel area they’re creating around their whole border. No matter what the wind direction is, they can get in there without alerting deer.

>>GRANT: I recently shared my concerns about declining turkey populations pretty much throughout their range and some of the reasons that are causing that. And one of those reasons was smaller cover areas – what I call predator-food plots. Well, you may look here and say, “Goodness, Grant, aren’t you creating what you just told us not to do?” But in this case, I’ve got this land out here that is growing up in grass and forbs. It’s not as intense of a deer cover area as this but it’s gonna be great nesting and brooding habitat.

>>GRANT: So, don’t focus just on this designed to be super thick and taller for winter deer cover there. Focus on this whole area, and you can see there’s plenty of turkey nesting and brooding habitat on this property.

>>GRANT: Zach’s father likes to go there and take the grandkids hunting also, so I needed multiple stand locations. And you can tell where we designed a bunch of stands and pinch points and bottlenecks all through here. So, with different wind directions – for example, this long plot – we have one here for certain wind directions; one here for a north wind coming in – we can be within range of those travel corridors – and another one way down here. If deer start feeding mid-field, we can swing around and come into it without alerting deer.

>>GRANT: You may wonder why I left so much space between some of these, but I wanted to make natural bottlenecks or travel corridors. There are times when deer are going to a food plot and times when they’re going around them.

>>GRANT: And those spaces in between the food plots are great stand locations for bow hunting, crossbow hunting, or anyone that might need a closer range opportunity.

>>GRANT: If you go back and look at the map before I put these improvements on there, there was no definition of pattern. So, it’s a very huntable property now, providing forage during the hunting season, bedding year around, but for sure during the hunting season, and just as importantly as those features, the property’s now very huntable. We can predict with some accuracy where deer are likely to be all throughout the deer season.

>>GRANT: To maintain that quality of habitat throughout the property as some of these pines increase in size, especially in the thicker area, I’ve advised to fell some of those pine trees to allow more sun to reach the soil and keep those native grasses and forbs growing.

>>GRANT: And even though it’s not a common practice in Michigan, I’ve encouraged Zach to employ prescribed fire in some of these areas.

>>GRANT: Now, given the food plots and the road and everything we have going on, this is very safe to burn. You can burn small units – two or three acres. A couple guys can do it easily. I’ve advised Zach to study up on prescribed fire, take a little course – most state agencies offer a course – but don’t neglect using that very important habitat management tool.

>>GRANT: I believe you’d agree this is a very complete plan for 40 acres. We’re addressing food; we’re addressing cover, and there are plenty of ponds in the area. There was really no advantage to going through the expense of adding a pond, and I can’t wait to hear updates from Zach and his family and how they’re enjoying the property.

>>GRANT: Creating plans or actually doing the field work on a property is a great way to enjoy Creation. But more importantly, I hope we all take time every day to be quiet and seek the Creator’s will for our life.

>>GRANT: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.