“How do I hold deer on my property?”
In theory, holding deer on your property is simple and really no different from what makes you or I fat and happy. Food, Water, and Cover right? I’m not denying this at all. It’s no surprise that these are the three main factors you consider when doing habitat improvements for whitetail. However, it’s the techniques within these options where we can make a difference. Also. I believe there is a fourth component that many overlook. Security. As we go through this keep in mind I’m talking about managing small parcels. I’m talking 10 acres and less. Some may call these micro parcels. But, it can really also apply to any size tract.
It’s the age old go-to for attracting whitetails. We all love to get dirty, plant our plots, and watch as they grow into the “Field of Dreams” . I’m guilty of this for sure! Recently I have been doing my research and found some interesting perspectives when it comes to food in general. Based on my observations over the past couple of years I have started to dive deeper into what deer need, and when. Just like humans, whitetails crave and desire what their body tells them they need. As the weather changes deer need different nutrition, in the case of a wounded animal their needs are different than a healthy animal.
As I started to think more about this I spoke with Jason Snavely of Droptine Seed Company and we went deep, real deep. (but, most of that we will uncover in a different story with Casey) I always fell into the same old trap of creating and gauging success of a plot by its looks, usually with only one source of food. I came to discover that this could be a reason why my deer left the One Acre year after year usually around the same time. It makes sense. I am not giving the herd all the options they crave and ultimately providing the right nutrition at the right time.
Takeaway. I am going to experiment with Droptine seed this year by using their spring and fall reload. These cocktail blends have a large variety of complimentary plant species mixed together to meet the needs of the herd in the proper times they crave it. So, if you want to avoid the neighbor shooting your target buck consider providing them with all the options they are most likely leaving your farm in search of. We will definitely be touching more on this later, or you can listen to this podcast
I feel like water is a vastly overlooked option throughout the whitetails range because it’s a relatively new subject. I talked about water earlier in my story and I’ll touch on it again. I prefer to create my own water sources using the Banks water system because I am able to help direct the flow or traffic of my herd with strategic placements of the tanks. I try to put a water source in every food plot that I create just to give the deer another reason to stick around and not have to search for the next natural transition after a meal.
The cover game can be played in many ways. First, TSI (Timber Stand Improvement) where you get your timber basically clear cut or select cut to give an opportunity for new plants and trees to fluris. Secondly you can hinge cut. This practice is popular all around the whitetails range, it’s where you cut trees about %75 through and lean them over to create more cover and food on the ground level where deer can get to them. Using the hinge cut method the trees stay alive and it really can create great habitat not only for deer but other animals as well. I wrote more on this technique here. Lastly, is another area of new discovery for me. Creating a mix of hinge cutting and full cut trees. As I mentioned before when you hinge cut, the tree stays alive and adapts to its new condition continuously providing life/nutrients to the entire tree. When talking to Jason recently I came to learn that a trees root system is just as large below ground as they are above ground. When cut all the way through, the tree reacts and ultimately pushes all its nutrients and remaining juice to the surface. This creates new growth that is packed with way more nutrients almost like a superfood. So, a combination of both to me is a no brainer, and another way to think outside the box.
Lastly, Security. Deer need to feel safe where they live and hang out all of the time. Quick example is here in Michigan where Humanimal HQ is located. There’s a very large corporation that basically owns the majority of our town. Within their campus there are little pockets of timber that hold large masses of deer. If you were to walk into these pockets you will see that the brows line is high and it’s less than ideal for deer to live with less than ideal food. Sure there’s oak trees all over and tons of browse opportunities, but in many cases I feel like deer will seek security over the best food for their diet. If you can make the deer feel safe and they’re not being hunted then you’re headed in the right direction.
If you can accomplish Food, Water, Cover, and Security on your property you have a very good chance of being the holding zone for the area. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box, and try new variations of the main habitat factors. At the end of the day, you observe, learn, and adapt the next year. That’s part of the fun isn’t it?