This is the video transcript. To watch the video for this episode click here.
>>DANIEL: It’s sure been a busy summer. Grant and I have done a lot of traveling throughout the whitetails’ range assisting landowners with their habitat and hunting improvement projects.
>>DANIEL: We often talk about habitat improvement projects and the steps needed to release a property’s potential. But this week I wish to share how a well-designed habitat improvement project influences hunting opportunities.
>>DANIEL: Summer intern Kole Karcher and I recently drove about 30 miles southeast of The Proving Grounds and assisted a landowner with two properties. They had a 30-acre property and 120-acre property that they recently purchased. They wish to see more deer and harvest larger bucks.
>>DANIEL: We started touring on the 30-acre property which had a large pasture on the ridgetop.
>>DANIEL: This is, when you got deer eating this –
>>DANIEL: – you don’t have enough food.
>>DANIEL: In the past, we’ve shared that old pastures like this, if they’re not being used for cattle or other purposes, they’re fairly easy to convert into native grasses or turn ‘em into high-quality food plots.
>>DANIEL: A treatment of herbicide can be used to terminate species like fescue – have long been established and would compete with native grasses and forbs – or we can just terminate the weeds, and it’s ready to plant as a food plot.
>>DANIEL: Like I mentioned before, these areas are like a blank canvas. And before we start the masterpiece, well, we’re gonna take inventory of all the features in the area and try to find a way to take all those features, put them together in a well-designed habitat and hunting plan.
>>DANIEL: When touring the property, one of the first things I noticed was there was an old fence row running through the pasture. It’d grown up with some cedars and briars, and just on the north side of that was a small pond. The pond working with this fence created an incredible pinch point opportunity.
>>DANIEL: As the fence got closer to the pond, a couple of the wires were down, and I suspected there was a lot of deer movement traveling around that pond and through that fence gap.
>>DANIEL: Based on what I saw, it was a great opportunity to increase deer activity on that pinch point. I recommended that the landowner create a food plot on the south side of the fence and let the north side become a native grass and forb area.
>>DANIEL: On a west or northwest wind, a hunter could slip right down that fence row and slide up into a stand or a blind tucked right up next to that pond and catch deer traveling from the north going to that food source.
>>DANIEL: On a northeast or an east wind, well, that hunter could slide right in on the end of that fence gap and catch deer shooting through the gap with their wind blowing down the fence row.
>>DANIEL: Now, consider if we planted both the north side of the fence and the south side as a food plot, deer could hang up on the north end and never travel around that pond and through that fence gap during shooting light.
>>DANIEL: By making that a native grass or a cover area, now we have a reason for deer to be on their feet early traveling through that gap going to a destination food plot.
>>DANIEL: This is – this is perfect ‘cuz you can just slip right down the edge over here, come right down in here, slip up this tree, and even if they’re – you know, at the end there –
>>LANDOWNER: Yeah, you’re good.
>>DANIEL: – you can slip right in here.
>>DANIEL: Pinch points like these are a great way to tag venison.
>>DANIEL: Last fall team member Danny Naugle used almost this exact strategy to tag a big, ‘ole nanny doe.
>>DANIEL: Danny was setup in between a food source and a fence gap. Now, the food source just happened to be a white oak tree that was dropping acorns, but the strategy still applied.
>>DANIEL: Danny had set up a trail camera along a fence that had several wires down and found that deer were crossing right in that gap.
>>DANIEL: Deer could easily jump the fence, but they’re gonna take the path of least resistance. When there’s a few wires down on a fence, they find it, and they like to cross there.
>>DANIEL: Sure enough, Danny’s strategy worked perfectly, cutting that deer off heading to a food source.
>>DANIEL: Ponds are also great features to act as pinch points to direct the deer’s movement through the area. They’re often gonna go around one side or the other.
>>DANIEL: Now, a lot of hunters are thinking, “A pond, I’m gonna hunt that during drought conditions.” That can be very effective, but don’t overlook the pinch point possibilities as deer travel around a pond.
>>DANIEL: Last fall Rylan White showed us exactly how effective a pond can be to hunt a pinch point. He hunted on the edge of a pond, using the pond as a buffer, overlooking a clearing that deer would travel through as they worked around the pond, and, sure enough, at last light a good buck walked out.
>>RYLAN: Let’s go!
>>DANIEL: By identifying pinch points and then putting that together with an entire habitat improvement plan, well, that can make that hunting location even better and result in a lot of venison.
>>DANIEL: Another feature that I really like about this ridgetop food plot that we’re kind of laying out was that along the edge there were several very large white oaks.
>>DANIEL: These oaks – well, that side overhanging in the pasture is receiving more sunlight. It’s photosynthesizing more; it’s gonna be able to produce more and better-tasting acorns, and you can bet these trees are gonna be feed trees.
>>DANIEL: The years that these white oaks are producing and dropping acorns, this is gonna be a hot spot. Deer are gonna be underneath these trees, and we need to have a blind in this area.
>>DANIEL: Putting all this together, a combination of white oak acorns and a quality fall food plot, this is gonna be a great hunting location and it’s on top of a ridge. The wind is much more consistent on a ridge than on a slope or down in a valley.
>>DANIEL: I mentioned the wind because once we stepped in the timber, the terrain started sloping down into steep hollers. This terrain is very difficult to hunt. Thermals are gonna be rushing up and down; wind’s gonna swirl. It’s difficult to get in on this terrain and effectively hunt deer.
>>DANIEL: So, we’re going to call this a bedding area, improve the habitat there using TSI – timber standing improvement techniques – and then let the deer come up to the large food plot up on top of the ridge where we can effectively hunt.
>>DANIEL: Obviously, food is key to hunting this 30 acres. Now, we may be hunting that pinch point as deer are traveling to the food source or we may be hunting right over the food source, whether that’s acorns or fall forage.
>>DANIEL: Because of how this property lays and access, especially the terrain features, we really can’t swing around and cut deer off going from food to cover. That’s typically what you would hunt during the mornings. So, this property, it’s mostly gonna be hunted during the afternoon, catching deer going from that cover into food.
>>DANIEL: You can see from the HuntStand map, we’ve created multiple hunting locations for different winds, but it’s important that the hunter not alert deer when he’s climbing down out of the stand. So, it’s going to be best if someone can pick that hunter up with an ATV or a pickup truck after dark. That pickup or ATV will spook the deer and not alert them to a hunting location. This will allow the hunter to hunt this area throughout the season.
>>DANIEL: After touring the 30-acre property, we hopped in the truck, and we just went a few minutes away to the 120. Now, this property was a little different. There were no open areas that we could easily convert into a food plot or native grass area. In fact, it was a closed canopy forest, as was the neighborhood.
>>DANIEL: But as we started touring the property, I realized a large portion was eastern red cedars and native habitat was gonna be key to the hunting opportunities on this property.
>> ANNOUNCER: GrowingDeer is brought to you by Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s. Also by Reconyx, Green Cover Food Plots, Winchester, LaCrosse Footwear, Thlete Outdoor Apparel, Morrell Targets, RTP Outdoors, Fourth Arrow, HuntStand, Scorpion Venom Archery, Case IH Tractors, Burris Optics, G5 Broadheads, Prime Bows, and Redneck Hunting Blinds.
>>DANIEL: As we explored, I noticed several openings in between the cedars where sunlight was reaching the ground. And in these spots, there were some great native grasses and forbs growing. And that told me there was a great seed bank in the soil. It just needed to be released with a chainsaw and a match.
>>DANIEL: We’ve shared about similar projects in the past where there was a thick stand of eastern red cedars. We go in with a chainsaw, fell them, use prescribed fire to consume those cedars after drying for about two years or so, and then sunlight’s reaching the ground, and the response of the native grasses and forbs is incredible. This type of habitat is extremely productive for wildlife and presents great hunting opportunities.
>>DANIEL: When we started talking about the hunting strategies for this 120, I told the landowner there’s a lot of acorns in the area, not only on this property but on neighboring properties. During the early season, it’s going to be tough to pattern and even see deer in this location. His time hunting is gonna be much better spent on the 30 acres where there’s large white oaks dropping acorns and a high-quality food plot.
>>DANIEL: This 120 is gonna hunt much better during the rut. Once the cedars are cleared out and we’ve got high-quality native grasses and forbs, high-quality cover throughout much of this property, I got to tell you, it’s gonna be awesome! There’s no cover like it in the area.
>>DANIEL: And does that are avoiding pesky bucks or bucks looking for receptive does are gonna be traveling in and around this cover. You’re gonna be able to see a long ways and have some great hunts.
>>DANIEL: Strategically placing elevated blinds that are looking into cover or over cover is a great strategy. In fact, it’s one of our favorite strategies to use during the rut here at The Proving Grounds.
>>GRANT: Oh my!
>>DANIEL: We didn’t want to stop there. We want this property to reach its full potential as a hunting property. Native habitat – that’s a big step forward, but we also wanted to create a food source up on top of the ridge that we could effectively hunt.
>>DANIEL: Like I mentioned, probably not hunting this area during the early season. But on the years that there’s a low acorn production and acorns are consumed, we get past the rut – that late season if you will – we can capitalize on that great cover because on those cold days, deer are gonna be in that high-quality cover. They’re gonna want to come up and feed on that ridgetop food plot on the 120.
>>DANIEL: We’ve kind of got the same situation on the 30 acres.
>>DANIEL: When we look at the final plan of both these properties, it’s easy to see that increasing food and cover also increased our hunting opportunities. Now, we just need to hunt the resources that deer are using at different times of the year.
>>DANIEL: Well-designed habitat management plans will also include hunting strategies. When those two work together, you’ll not only see more and better critters, you’re gonna be enjoying some great-tasting venison.
>>DANIEL: Maybe you’re improving habitat this summer or you’re working on your fall hunting strategy.
>>DANIEL: Whatever you’re doing, I hope you slow down and enjoy Creation. But most importantly listen to what the Creator is saying to you and the purpose he has for your life.
>>DANIEL: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.