This is the video transcript. To watch the video for this episode click here.
GRANT: This week I wish to explain how I use a map for habitat and hunting opportunities on a specific property. Whether you hunt public or private land, understanding the habitat on a large scale and adjusting your hunting strategy accordingly can help you tag more critters.
GRANT: I also wish to share how a site-specific habitat and hunting improvement plan can really benefit an individual property.
GRANT: For this I’m going to use my friend Rick Perez’s property as an example.
GRANT: Rick owns about 300 acres three hours east of The Proving Grounds. It’s easy for all of us to get tunnel vision and only consider the habitat of the property where we hunt. But it’s really important to use a map, look at the surrounding properties and consider the resources on those properties that may impact how deer use the property where we’re hunting.
GRANT: This was important at Rick’s property and almost any property throughout the whitetails’ range. Unless the property is several, several thousand acres, most of the deer spend a portion of their time on neighboring properties. And the same is true for turkeys. And it’s important to understand what resources may attract or direct the travel of those critters.
GRANT: The home range size of most wildlife species is determined by the proximity of the resources they need. If it’s food/cover/water, food/cover/water in a small area, oftentimes home range sizes are much smaller.
GRANT: But if it’s a long ways between food, cover and water, those home ranges can get fairly large.
GRANT: The area where Rick’s property is located is primarily composed of open cattle pastures and high graded hardwoods. And in that type habitat, it’s not uncommon to have deer home ranges with the size of two miles or more.
GRANT: Let’s consider that the edge of a deer’s home range is right in the center of Rick’s property and it extends two miles. We’ll draw that circle and that’s a large area that deer could be using in that neighborhood.
GRANT: That’s why it’s so important when preparing a plan to improve the habitat or hunt a specific property, to zoom out and look at the habitat features for a couple of miles in each direction and then build the plan according to not only the resources on that property, but resources on the neighboring properties also.
GRANT: There’s a large contiguous block of timber to the east and as it tapers down going west, Rick’s property is in the middle.
GRANT: One of my first observations from this was Rick’s property is in the middle of a likely travel corridor.
GRANT: As a hunter, that’s great information. It’s likely that deer are traveling through Rick’s property, but not staying there or making it the center of their home range.
GRANT: By using the map, once I get an idea of how deer and turkey are likely using an area, it’s time to zoom in and focus on the specific property.
GRANT: When I evaluate a property at that level, I really hone in on food, cover, and water resources.
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GRANT: When I study Rick’s farm from this point of view, I don’t see a lot of food resources. Smaller food plots – and I’m certain that during the first of hunting season and they’ve just been planted, they’re up and lush, deer are probably feeding there.
GRANT: But they’re small enough that deer will probably over browse these plots fairly quickly and search the larger area trying to find food.
GRANT: The rest of Rick’s farm is a closed canopy hardwood forest. When there’s acorns, deer are moving through there, but there’s also acorns on neighboring farms. That’s not a destination food source.
GRANT: I’ve worked in that area before and I know that most hardwood stands have been high graded decades ago. The best trees were cut and the rest were allowed to grow and form a closed canopy forest. In fact, in those areas, most trees have multiple stems and that’s because they’re sprouts, now turned into trees, from a cut stump decades ago.
GRANT: A closed canopy forest, whether it’s high-quality timber or high graded timber, doesn’t provide much cover.
GRANT: There’s a large pond in the southern portion and numerous smaller water resources throughout the rest of his farm. The water resource is not an issue.
GRANT: Overall, I don’t see any features on this property that make it more attractive to deer than on the neighboring properties, which means deer are just passing through but not making it the core of their home range.
GRANT: Deer will likely travel, with some predictability, the narrow strips between the food plots and even around the larger pond.
GRANT: Unfortunately, these areas are concentrated around the edges of the property. The center of the property is primarily contiguous forest and it’s very difficult to pattern deer in that type of habitat.
GRANT: To improve his hunting opportunities, Rick needs to improve the habitat quality on his farm and make it more attractive than on the surrounding farms. Not only will this make deer spend more time on his property during daylight hours, but also allow them to express more of their genetic potential.
GRANT: Clay and I recently toured Rick’s property and helped him develop a habitat and hunting improvement plan.
GRANT: As we toured his property, my observations from studying a map were confirmed.
GRANT: The timber stand had been high graded decades ago and wasn’t providing food or cover. I often refer to habitat like this as a biological desert.
GRANT: And what I mean by that term is deer making a living there can’t express their full antler or fawn production potential.
GRANT: There were many indicators but a really easy one was the height of a browse line on Japanese honeysuckle.
GRANT: And you can just step back and see the green up here and no green down here. These are all the honeysuckle vines and except for right here, they’ve stripped all the leaves off.
GRANT: Japanese honeysuckle is not a preferred browse and it’s not high-quality forage.
GRANT: Look over here. Holy mackerel. This is out in the open and a little easier to get to, but they’re browsing up in some cases – I don’t know – five feet tall again, something like that.
GRANT: Deer are very selective feeders. They eat the best and leave the rest. They can use their senses to tell which leaves are the most nutritious. So when they’re eating low-quality forage, that means high-quality forage isn’t available in their range.
GRANT: You probably understand this if you’ve ever watched a deer feed in a large soybean field.
GRANT: They take a bite, and move on, and take a bite. They don’t stand in one place and eat all the leaves off the top of an individual soybean plant.
GRANT: You’ve also probably noticed that in small food plots planted in quality forage, especially if you have a utilization cage in the plot, that the deer tend to remove the entire plot about an inch at a time. They don’t start on one end, wipe it out, and then move over, and move over while this side’s getting bigger and bigger. And that’s because they’re going over the whole plot removing the best leaves, the most nutritious leaves and leaving the rest.
GRANT: I saw this when I stepped into one of the plots at Rick’s property. It was browsed so low I had difficulty seeing the rows where the drill had planted the crop.
RICK: I went ahead and put fertilizer in, you know, with clover –
RICK: – in it here and drilled wheat over the top of it again.
RICK: As you can see, though, I don’t have any wheat.
GRANT: No. I think they’ve pretty much –
RICK: It’s pretty well browsed and it’s gone.
GRANT: – destroyed your wheat. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
GRANT: To put this in perspective, the day before, we took a picture of one of our food plots that had been planted with Eagle Seeds Fall Buffalo Blend. And for research purposes, we had put a wooden stake in that plot and marked it every foot so we could monitor the growth throughout the spring.
GRANT: The day before at our property, the forage was a foot tall. Rick’s property is three hours almost due east from The Proving Grounds. So there’s likely no difference in the weather, total rain, snow, anything like that.
GRANT: Clearly, at our property, deer have ample groceries and had ample groceries throughout the winter to express their full antler and fawn production potential.
GRANT: But at Rick’s property deer are eating what I call lip high. Their lips are on the ground trying to get the last bit of forage. They’re hungry and there’s no way they’re going to express their full potential.
GRANT: I knew that Rick could do several things to improve the hunting and habitat quality at his property.
GRANT: First, I recommended Rick use TSI, timber stand improvement, to improve the quality of the hardwood forest throughout his entire property.
GRANT: I would take that out, that out, that out, that out, that out and what I’m doing is favoring that one big tree up there –
GRANT: – or maybe that little cluster.
GRANT: Throughout most of Rick’s farm there wasn’t a lot of timber someone would pay to harvest. So I suggested he use the hack-and-squirt method to terminate trees, the lowest quality trees, and leave the best. I want him to remove enough trees that sunshine will reach the soil, allow forage and cover to grow. And by removing those trees, the better quality trees would have more sun and water and be able to express more of their potential and provide a saleable product for Rick in the future.
GRANT: By implementing this plan, the addition of quality cover and native forage would be much better habitat than what’s available on the neighboring properties and there’s no doubt deer and turkey would spend much more time on Rick’s property.
GRANT: I also recommended Rick increase the size and quality of his food plots. The addition of quality forage would be a huge attraction to deer and turkey in the neighborhood.
GRANT: The combination of quality cover and food would give deer a destination and a reason to be on Rick’s property more than neighboring properties, especially during daylight hours.
GRANT: I grabbed some blue flagging and started marking out the boundaries of new food plots at Rick’s place. It was awesome because Rick gave me permission to create the best plan possible for his property.
GRANT: Sometimes I tour properties and it’s obvious someone laid out food plots without concern for the hunt ability of the property. When I lay out food plots, I don’t lay ‘em out with just the destination of that forage being the only purpose of the plot. I also consider how food plots can be used to make pinch points or travel corridors.
GRANT: When I’m laying out food plots, I consider what’s next – what’s over 75 yards or 100 yards? Or how about those times when deer are not using food plots because there’s a huge acorn crop and deer are staying in the timber?
GRANT: I want to make sure those areas, next to the food plot, are just as hunt able as the food plot itself. I may wind around a large white oak that looks like it would be a great acorn producer or maybe a tree that’s a great stand location.
GRANT: Creating a plan means you’re impacting that property for decades to come and you need to consider all of these factors.
GRANT: So the blue is what we actually flagged.
GRANT: The more food you get, the better. I mean, incremental things really add up.
GRANT: So now deer are going to cross on this little flat right here or through here. Because look how much distance we’ve got. But I left this gap knowing deer are going to cut through there or go to the plot.
GRANT: And then – so you’ve got way more food; you’ve got bottleneck here, here and here. Great places to hang stands.
RICK: Hmm, hmm.
GRANT: Then you’ve got – this is a little bit of a valley through here, but they’re gonna come – probably not right in the valley, but on this flat right here; that’s why we’ve didn’t take it all the way. Or around here.
GRANT: They’re gonna obviously cross right here. You see, it gets wider here, wider there. This is going to be a tremendous stand site right here.
GRANT: And then we just – you know, we left enough flat here, that you can hang a stand back here and we put the – there’s a little hardwood finger right here that sticks out just a little bit – some pretty big mature trees.
RICK: Yes. I know where you’re talking about.
GRANT: Deer are going to come – there was a deer trail there already, actually.
RICK: Yeah. I was going to say –
GRANT: Come right up –
RICK: – I’ve seen deer there.
GRANT: – right there. So we left – there’s a big multi-forked tree that’s going to be a great treestand tree right there. And you can be able to stick out and see both sides of the food plot.
GRANT: I was gonna flag across and I got to looking and I said, “No, man. That would be awesome right there.”
GRANT: And then, of course, deer – again, we left it a little flat on this end because deer are gonna want to cut right there. And then, of course, this, which makes another bottleneck through here.
GRANT: That’s a lot of work we’ve laid out.
GRANT: The plan we designed for Rick created a great mosaic of food/cover/water, food/cover/water. And it not only will make Rick’s property much more hunt able but will be much more attractive for critters and allow them to express much more of their potential.
GRANT: Deer that have a home range that overlaps on Rick’s property and neighboring properties will certainly be spending most of their time on Rick’s property. He will be able to hunt with great predictability where deer are traveling between food and cover.
GRANT: Rick will have several stand and blind locations for any wind direction. It doesn’t matter what day he’s at the property, he’ll have a good location to go hunting.
GRANT: Whether you are designing a hunting strategy or looking to improve the habitat, a map is an extremely important tool. Being able to have the map right out in the field with you and maybe mark on it as you go makes that process even easier.
GRANT: If you would like to learn more about our hunting strategies and habitat improvement techniques, check out our playlist.
GRANT: For middle April, it’s doggone cold today here at The Proving Grounds. I had to get a coat out of my closet and find my ‘boggan hat. But even with that, it’s still good to get outside and enjoy Creation.
GRANT: But it’s more important to take time every day to be quiet and listen to what the Creator is saying to you.
GRANT: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.
RICK: Well, you guys did terrific.
RICK: I sincerely appreciate you marking everything. That’s great.
GRANT: I appreciate you having us over.
RICK: Hey, I wouldn’t have anybody else.
GRANT: Thank you, sir.
RICK: You’re welcome.
GRANT: I do appreciate your service.
RICK: Thank you.