Shawn’s Place: Small Tract Mgmt January 28th, 2014

Once again it’s time to review the past year at my place and look ahead as to what the future holds.

Having had my place for three hunting seasons and two full years has allowed me to observe what works, what hasn’t and what should be done. When I purchased my place I was hoping it would quickly turn into a small slice of whitetail heaven. In some respect it already has. However, having been through consecutive droughts, a hard winter, a wet spring and what appears to be another hard winter plus having an overharvest of does in the area has been a real kick in the pants to where I really want it to be.

So what did I learn so far? Before I get into that, let me give a little background history. The first thing I did was consult with a land specialist and we thought I should start by placing a central kill plot on the property (Between #1 and #2 in Land Image) to keep as many deer as possible on what little land I have (56 acres). Two years ago the plot was just over two acres and this past year it was shrunk to roughly 1.25 acres. While I had bedding close by, the deer still treated it like a destination plot and even though it was only hunted a couple times the bucks still would not come out until dark on all but a couple days. At worst, I thought the resident does would show up during daylight hours and during the rut I would catch bucks scent checking the back side of the plot looking for does or outright following them into the plot. Unfortunately this only held true for two whole days in 2012. It could have been much better than what it was with the deer population and age class in 2012 being “ok”. There would be 4-7 bucks hitting my food plot routinely per night from mid-October all the way through the rut. 2013 saw more deer activity during the day but it was 90% immature bucks. What was around for older class bucks were nocturnal visitors for the most part.

Not all was lost because one goal was for my daughter to see and kill a deer with minimal disturbance. She took her first deer in 2012 and this last season she harvested her first antlered buck, it was a very proud moment for me! Both deer were taken right on the hidden food plot. I also harvested my first buck from the farm, a 3.5 year old 8pt buck (pictured below) during the 2012 gun season in the hinge-cut bedding area.

The surrounding area is made up of parcels less than 200 acres, mostly owned by folks who do not have a true QDM mindset. A lot of hunters here will let a small yearling go, some two year olds but never a three year old. Working with what I have the current standard is that any 3.5 year old 8pt is fair game but if he has 9pts or better he will get a free pass until the following year. My kids however if given the opportunity can take a younger deer the first two times because I want to keep it as fun for them as possible while the property improves what it has the potential to hold.
As a side note to all of this, this year my young English setter kept getting away from his leash to run all over the place once or twice a week (not by me) and I’m sure this did not help one but with the daytime movement.

The lesson learned from all of this is a) that the deer here are not like the urban cousins and will not tolerate as much disturbance from me outside of m yard as I had thought b) due to the limited amount of undisturbed cover in my block, the deer need more security cover created c) when things do not work out perfectly, reset your goals and find a way to enjoy what you have as I did with my daughter’s hunt d) some properties will take more time to get “right” e) if you own a dog that likes to run, get an invisible fence right away.
The plan…

My step going forward is to create a few micro plots of less than an 1/8th of an acre and move the main destination plot away from any stands. This will increase the bedding cover, allow the deer to feed in separate plots and give me more options to hunt has the deer work to or from the main plot. Below I’ll talk about each number point as it relates to the land image below. I also placed an image from the North that shows a little how the topography lays out.

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My property looking South.
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1) This is where the old main plot was and is now going to be spring planted in beans and replaced later with a fall crop. This plot will be reduced to 10yds by 20yds in size.
2) This is where I had clover in the large existing plot. I will now reduce it in size to be 10x15yds and will keep it in clover.
3) This is a new plot that may not come until additional cover is added. This will be spring planted in beans and later with a fall crop
4) Existing water hole in a cut in the ridge. There is one trail here going from the plot to the water to bedding area #8
5) Existing water hold with small 5x5yd clover plot. It’s where all the traffic going East or South East pass by.
6) Currently, some of this was planted in sunflowers. This plot will be the main destination plot that will have beans, apples and other fall crops planted.
7) North West hinge-cut bedding area (on the ridge top)
8) North Central hinge-cut bedding area (on a ridge point)
9) Existing clover field and apple trees. Future second destination plot, full potential will be realized once the pines planted grow up
10) Green dots are future Norway spruce plantings. I will begin planting this spring and will fill in over the next few year. Some white pines were planted on the East end in 2012.
11) Warm season grass mix that will go right up and around plot #1 and #2

*The red dots scattered are all apple trees on my property. I also plant to plant some Dunstan Chestnuts around plot #6

*The area to the South of my home is for my hobby farm crops. When not planted in garlic or sunflowers the idle fields will be clover.

Promise for this coming year.
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I’m looking forward to the work that lies ahead and what we’ll be talking about this progresses! Feel free to leave any comments, complaints or praises in the forum and please share what you have going on in your woods. Every place has something we can learn from.

Enjoy the pursuit!

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