Shawn’s Place: Small Tract Mgmt March 29th, 2012

Since my February post a lot has transpired on my place. I now have a mgmt plan and some of the initial work has already begun thanks to our early spring. My previous post said I would talk a little more about the size of my deer and the genetic potential but I think I’ll save that for a later post so we can just focus on the management plan I have set (Although these are ever evolving).

The photo below is shaded in varying colors and labeled to identify each section that I will be discussing.



Let’s begin the breakdown…

A) The area colored in light green is my core 3-acre food. I chose this location for a few reasons: First it was the most isolated section I could plant away from my neighbors, the roads and my house for that matter. The 3-acre plot also sits on top of the ridge, above everything else for added isolation and security. Secondly, I have either enhanced existing beds or created new ones in all four directions from the plot so I expect this area to get utilized a lot due to its central location. Another important factor is that I’ll be able to have stand locations with a couple different exit routes so I can avoid crossing the main scent trails and being detected as I enter and exit my stands.

While I’d like to have some corn planted for the late season, I’m going to stick with a combination of crop beans, Antler King Red Zone (a mix forage beans, forage peas and buck wheat) and clover (labeled “D” on the image). By sticking with this mix, I’ll be adding a lot of nitrogen back into the soil to help out the corn I’ll be planting next year.

“F” and “G” will also have some clover so that will give me about 3.25 acres in food plots this year. 3.25 acres equates to 6% of my land being utilized for food plots which happens to be on the lower end of the recommended plot to acreage ratio (5-10%). My property also has a fair number of white oaks and around 30 apple trees so those will also supplement the food plots. As years progresses, I’ll closely monitor this situation to see if the forage supplied is in balance with my local herd. The deer per square mile is not overly dense in my area and with some agriculture nearby, I think I’ll be able to get by with the acreage I have designated. If not, I will have options to plant a larger area next year or make use of some sort of plot saver system.

B) The darker green areas that are in multiple locations on the image above represent where I am having white pines planted. I order 3200 3yr old white pines from the Wisconsin DNR nursery and will be having them planted in a couple of weeks. With a small property, my primary focus is to provide the deer with as much privacy as possible from cars passing by, barking dogs, horses and whatever else that might disturb them. Also, If someone passing by in a vehicle cannot see my deer, then the chances of one being poached goes way down. I’m also going to expand some of my existing pine stands to create a larger area of thermal cover for the deer that do decide to winter on my property.

C) “C” is next on the list but is not something that is going to happen instantly. This is going to be my switch grass field, probably 5 acres in all. To properly plant the variety I wish to use (cave-in the rock), I’m going to set this up for a fall planting. By doing this, I will leave the grasses will be there for the fawning season and it will give me time to clear some of the garbage the previous owner left to clean up. If my land budget runs out for the year, it won’t kill me to put this off one more year because I’ll still have the existing grasses which provide some good cover.

In my area White Pine seems to be the norm when people start talking about cover for deer. While White Pine has its purpose, it seems to serve does and immature bucks better. I’ve learned over the past few years that when given a chance, a mature buck will prefer to bed in a tall stand of grass rather than a stand of pines. Another advantage is time. While it may take my pines 6-7 years to become a good buffer, the switch grass and be 6ft tall or taller in a matter of a couple years and can last for 20 years under the right growing conditions. While switch grass is quite tall and appears to be really thick, it grows together so that it’s very maneuverable for the deer, they just plain love it!

D) This is where the main clover plot is going in the 3 acre field.

E) I initially did not plan to have a water hole at this location but after a couple scouting trips it seems like a no-brainer. There already were beds on the ridge hump below with a trail leading down from this spot along an old logging road right to the bedding area. On the high side of this spot is a trail that runs just inside the woodlot parallel to the field edge. This just seemed like the right spot to set up and catch an early season buck coming into a water source before hitting the food plot or during the seeking phase where they’ll be stopping to drink as they scent check the bedding areas I enhanced below.

Because of the location between the bedding and proximity to the food, I only expect to get two sits here before the rut kicks in because the exit route is marginal. Hopefully the neighbors will allow me to exit to the SW so I can avoid going anywhere close to my food plots when I leave in the evening.

F) This is my staging hole. This is where the bucks bedding in “J” & “L” will transition between those bedding area and the main bedding area to the East across the road in the swampy creek bottom. I scouted a couple buck beds as close as 60yds from this spot and it appears this is where they are staging up in the evening because I have close to 30 rubs within shooting distance of the stand.

This should be another great spot for a water hole because it will give the bucks that do not wish to hit my hole on the west end a good water source. I’m also going to plant a small patch of clover around the water hole to make this spot that much more inviting for a buck to stop by before he heads out to a larger food source for the evening.

G) This spot helps set up “F” because it makes a nice secondary food source to the main plots I will have to the West. This should help keep the pressure off the main plots so they are not over browsed while keeping the East to West traffic that I want to take advantage of.

H) Once the pines below are tall enough to block everyone from the road from seeing in, this area may become a secondary switch grass field to add as another bedding location. If it appears that I have enough bedding areas for the deer on my property, I will keep this in the grasses that already exist.

I) In a few years the white pine buffer should shelter the deer from the neighbors and I’ve scatter planted 40 cedars to act as bedding cover. While I do not plan on this being a primary area for the deer to bed in, deer seem to like a nice high vantage point to chew their cud at night before going back to their primary bedding for the day so that is what I’m trying to provide them with this planting. Once the trees are large enough, this should provide some nice thermal cover on the West side of my property during the winter months as an added benefit.

Next year I’ll, plant another 40-50 cedars here to complete the fill in.

J) This is my native grass bedding area that is already well established. I had a few good beds scattered throughout from last season so all I did was enhance what was already there this winter by doing some hinge cuts in and around it. I also plan to transplant a few cedars on the east side as thermal cover. Sumac’s are filling in quite rapidly along the edge so next year I’ll mow the entire field to roll back the forest succession.

K) This area is pretty much going to be left alone for a number of years. I’ll probably mow this area down next year and add in some native plant and wildflowers where needed.

L) This area is my mature woods containing a mix of different species, much of it dominated by large maple trees. Here I hired an expert to do some TSI. Around the bedding areas trees were hinge cut or dropped for back cover. Where I did not want trees growing new shoots, they were chemically treated. Invasive species were also chemically treated so they do not take over where the forest was opened up. The trees that could not be dropped were girdled cut so the tree will die off at a later time and topple over. Since my woods is not overly big the key here was to not cut too much too soon. If you cut everything that you can right away, you’ll be limiting the amount of years you’ll be able to provide fresh browse and cover.

By doing the TSI, I was able to accomplish a few things:

•Better oaks. The oaks I have are primarily white oak with a mix of young to large parent trees. By opening the woods up around these trees, the young oaks will grow faster while increasing the mast production on my property. The deer will also have plenty of food close to the bedding locations so this will help keep them off my neighbors property.

•Improved bedding. While I have a good number of beds in this area, the bedding areas needed to be improved to hold more deer and longer. Have it thicker in here will allow me to slip into a couple of preferred stand locations without the deer being able to see, smell or hear me.

•0-3 ft growth. I wanted more new growth to come up in the 0-3ft range to provide additional forage so the local deer do not feel the need to overrun my food plots each day. Now there will be an ample supply of new buds, shoots and other low growth plants that the deer can forage on. I already have a nice stand of elderberry and back berries growing close by and this should only help them to expand around these areas.

I hope my plan has got the wheels turning in your head as to what you can do with your own property. In the coming sections, I’ll be talking about what I’ve done to accomplish my plan in greater detail including what I am using around my property, the costs associated with it and how effective my dollars have been around my property.

If you’ll excuse me…I hear some coyotes howling.

Working for the Nextbuk!


  1. Craig McKinney

    Thank you for the great series of articles that you are posting on this website. The articles are very informative and written in a concise and well thought out manner. You are providing a great service to the deer hunting community, at large. However, I am color blind and would really appreciate that when you identify a location on your topo maps, with a letter, that you provide a font color that contrasts more with the background color that you place it on. It would be easier to for me to follow your article. Other color blind people may or may not have the same issues that I’ve experienced. In your March 29th article, I can easily identify ACDGHK, but I can’t find BEFJKL. Thanks again for the great service that you are providing.

  2. Shawn

    Thanks Craig! I’ll get top work and post an image you can view later this week. -Shawn

  3. Pingback: Shawn’s Place: Small Tract Mgmt July 5th, 2012 | NextBuk Outdoors

  4. Robert Richer


    good article.

    just recently purchased land west of Madison, Vernon county. Reading your article is like doing homework, good information.

    Thanks for sharing.



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