Improving Deer Habitat Without Food Plots
The best thing that ever happend to our property was a tornado in the 70s. Its just wet enough were alot of the blown down cedars cant be picked up by loggers or even us unless its a pretty dry year. Suprise suprise, the "ugliest" part of the property holds the most deer.
The spots that look like a park I dont even hunt.
The highest deer density I have ever seen was on a farm in Ashland county, near Mason & Sanborn. For those of you who don't know- that is generally very low deer density country. But this was a grain type farm and the farmer logged every winter. His woods was young everywhere on the farm, very thick. The deer tracks looked like a snowmobile trail leading from the thick woods to the harvested grain fields, but the trails were not open yet.
Logging is the best thing for deer. Why is it that the top year for deer kill in the northern forest of WI was 1943? Because there was a young forest and a mix of agriculture there back then. Now the forest is too mature, there is little active agriculture (and of course there are more predators). The same can happen in areas further south if you let the woods get too mature.
"Cut baby, cut"
We have good access to all parts of the property as there are good ATV trails everywhere that we keep clear. The steep terrain makes it tough to get into a stand that's on one of the ridges in the morning without getting busted. But waking up early and walking extra slow up hill has worked. I've hunted in hill country for the past 5 seasons and it took a while to get used to as I've hunted mostly croplands my entire life.
I have been planting foodplots for 7 years now. 4 of those where I actuallly know what I am doing and can pump about nice spot every year. Guess how many buck I have shot in those plots? Thats a big goosegg. Guess how many does I have shot in those plots. A whopping 1. We have decent cover and high pressure from alot of activity in the woods. The area where they bed has good cover but more importantly very little pressure. They have no reason to get up and come dance around by me in daylight when there is little chance of getting bothered where there at. I think they know when they hit our line that there is a chance someone might pop up out of nowhere.
They know its there and it might keep them in the area, or angle that way before dark once in awhile. They are not the magic formula and fix all for shooting deer.
The best improvements we made over that time for hunting was simply time in the stand and access. If you hunt a property long enough you will see repeated patterns. Honestly they dont even make sense but when year after year bucks show up around a certain date and do the same things you have to take note.
Access to stands was very important as well. Before we owned the land we would have a great stand or two but scare every deer bedded on the 40 away trying to get to those spots. Get a trail system going and keep it clean.
The neighboring property did log a hillside that abuts our property and a crop field which was soybeans last year (was just planted with corn for this year). We have a treestand on the property line where mature woods, crops and clearcut woods all intersect. This treestand was by far the best stand on the property last year so everything you guys are saying really makes sense.
Our plans for the woods was to "get firewood and do a little deer hunting". Completely backwords from my view but its a family plan.
Word for word our plan says that it was recommended or allowed to do some TSI with cutting of undesirable trees and creating of "wildlife openings" along with the addition of wood duck houses and plantings of young evergreens and soft mast trees.
Now I have had people tell me that I can cut any shooting lanes or trims branches or anything in this program. If I am cutting down a junkwood fir tree or a aspen/popple tree I certianly think that is undesirable trees and well plowing up and clearing a 1/4 acre clover plot is a wildlife opening to me for sure.
They have also not been back to our land since the plan was written but there is a mandatory select cut in 2018. I am hoping the 600 evergreens I planted this year are large enough to see and possibly drive around instead of over by then!
Some very good ideas on this thread so far. The best thing I read was that mature forest with no understory is not good for deer. If your woods looks like a park and there is nothing growing from the ground to 5 feet high, its time to mess it up. When we got the property the old owner asked if he could log it in the 6 months before we bought it. We said go ahead its still legally yours and we were good friends with the guy. My dad was just torn coming to see the mess that logging makes. I was thrilled. What once looked like a park was now a hairy tangled mess of tops and there was so much sunlight hitting the ground that the brush, weeds, whatever exploded from the ground in the next 2 years. Fast forward a few years and every top and 6 inch stick has been cut for firewood and we are looking at a park again....thus my addition of 1000 shrubs and trees this spring.
Cover is your friend, even more for me as we have large ag fields nearby. I sit between bedding and feeding. Neither of which are truly on my land. I love foodplotting but if you dozed my plots tomorrow it would hardly change my season. Its all about patterns for me.
I plant two patches per year along my corn or bean fields. Plant after the ag fields are sprayed with round up.
Purple top turnips are good late season draw too.