I never completely put my bow down and take only my gun. I designate the properties I have to hunt into either rifle or bowhunting lands. I’ll pick up a rifle and go hunt larger properties where my likelihood of seeing a big deer is greatest at more than 30 yards. Some of the places I’ve named for bowhunting only are where I just enjoy hunting with my bow. Other areas the landowner may restrict as bowhunting only due to the smallness of the property. Or, if I’m hunting close to a subdivision, I’ll designate it as a bowhunting only.

On the larger lands I hunt, I’ll rifle hunt. My general rule for designating whether I’ll hunt with a bow or a rifle is the size of the property, and whether or not the county allows rifle hunting. However, I tend to prefer to hunt my bowhunting lands rather than my rifle lands. Another reason I set up these properties this way is because when I’m asking a landowner for permission to hunt, I’ve found getting permission to hunt somewhere is easier if you tell the landowner you’ll only bowhunt his land. With this approach, I can get numbers of small properties to hunt that other hunters won’t even think about hunting or never can get permission to hunt.

Remember that the mindsets of most deer hunters is that the larger piece of property they have to hunt, the greater their odds are for finding an older-age-class buck. But I’ve discovered that the smaller lands I hunt often produce the most big deer. Generally over the years, no one has hunted those small places, making them sanctuaries for older-age-class bucks. If someone has 5 acres, and you’re bowhunting, you even can hunt in someone’s back yard.

One of the biggest bucks I’ve ever taken was in a neighborhood. I had permission to hunt about 20 acres that backed up to a subdivision. This 5-1/2-year old buck was a 129-7/8 inch 8-pointer. When I’d previously driven home late in the afternoon after work, I’d see two big bucks crossing the road to feed on an apple tree in a lady’s front yard. Once a friend of mine bought that nearby property, he gave me permission to hunt those bucks on his land. Then I got a call two weeks before bow season arrived and was told the big buck (scored in the 160s Boone & Crockett) had been hit by a car and killed. The people who hit the buck, picked him up, put him in their trunk and took him home with them.

Land in suburban areas can be great places to hunt. It’s important to be mindful of those nearby.

Forty-one-year-old Alan Benton of McDonough, Georgia, is a 9-year veteran of the Mossy Oak ProStaff.  

“Mossy Oak is more than a camo pattern. Mossy Oak is a lifestyle with which I associate,” said Benton. “I like what Mossy Oak represents. Toxey Haas, the creator of Mossy Oak, and his family are hometown people. I like the conservation organizations that Mossy Oak is a part of and supports and the charitable contributions the company makes to help people and wildlife. I feel if I’m going to put my time, effort and money into hunting, I need to be wearing the best camouflage on the market, and I believe Mossy Oak is that camouflage.”


Each year as early summer rolls around, the thought of deer season preparation begins to lay heavy on a hunter’s mind. Hunters will begin hanging tree stands as well as placing a few ground blinds. The excitement level is already building, however, don’t let the excitement get the best of you just yet. There are a few things hunters need to take into consideration when placing ground blinds.


This is the main factor when placing ground blinds. Mossy Oak’s Cuz Strickland likes to find spots that connect popular food sources, such as soybeans, to bedding areas. This is especially true during early season when deer are the most patternable. This is mainly due to the breeding season, which has yet to cross the mind of bucks, as well as the weather still being warm.

Basically, deer feed through the night into the morning and once the temperature starts to rise, deer will go to bedding areas. Catching deer traveling from bed to food is a great way to score on a buck early.

Try to set blinds in areas that would best suit certain wind directions. For example, if hunting evenings, it is most likely that deer will go from bedding areas and head to the food source. If the wind direction is in the direction of the bedding area, do not hunt it. Try to keep the wind direction in the hunter’s face; this will eliminate deer smelling human scent when trying to sneak through.

Setting blinds up in the early summer is a great way to get ahead of the game. If you take the time to scout, set up blinds and even go as far as to brush them and spray the entire blind with a scent eliminating spray far ahead of season, you will reap with benefits as hunting season approaches. Doing your homework early will give deer time to adapt, allowing them to be on a natural movement when ready to hunt. Spraying a scent eliminator after assembling the blind will ensure that the blind will remain “invisible” due to the fact that a scent eliminator will hide human odors that may be contaminating the area.

Early season is a great time to hunt using ground blinds. However, once the rut progresses, hunters can adjust to deer movement. When bucks start scraping at the edge of fields or particular travel routes, one can move ground blinds into place to catch bucks checking on those scrapes as the rut continues. Another great time to use a ground blind is during late fall, when rut activity has ended and deer are back to a heavy feeding pattern to begin storing food for the winter. Having a ground blind at the edge of a food source allows the hunter to take advantage of this feeding pattern as well as to stay out of the cold elements and be able to play the waiting game as deer feed throughout the evening.

There are several ways that a ground blind can be effective. By scouting with game cameras, one can find what time the best deer movement occurs. This will help determine when the hunter needs to be in the blind.

Begin early, scout often and prepare to adjust with the deer throughout the season. The task of staying concealed, hunting no matter what the conditions, and being able to make a successful shot will be easier, allowing the hunter to be more successful.

By: Heath Wood

Courtesy of Mossy Oak

NC Land and Farms Hires New Brokers in The Lake Gaston Area

We have recently added two new members to our team of brokers and realtors at NC Land and Farms. Zach Antill joined our team in May. He was a former North Carolina Wildlife Officer for Halifax and Northampton Counties. He earned a degree in Outdoor Ministry from Montreat College. After working with our team for a few months, his wife Beth Antill decided to also join our team after she had earned her real estate license. Beth graduated from Radford University with a degree in Tourism and Special Events. She has since spent time working on Lake Gaston at a local youth camp and teaching high school Bible classes.

Zach and Beth met each other as kids at their local church in Lake Gaston, NC. After many fishing and hunting dates they decided to remain hunting and fishing buddies forever by getting married. In their free time they enjoy hunting, fishing, and boating on Lake Gaston, Roanoke Rapids Lake, and the Roanoke River. Their combined backgrounds bring a unique perspective on land, home, family, and the outdoors to the Mossy Oak Properties Team.

Zach works primarily in land sales and has an extensive knowledge in wildlife and timber, making him a great addition to our team for our buyers who are seeking hunting and recreational properties. Beth works primarily in residential and rural residential properties. From Lake front homes on Lake Gaston to homes on acreage in the surrounding counties.

Zach and Beth bring a unique dynamic not only to our team but also to their area of coverage. They’re honest, ethical, and knowledgeable of the real estate market in their area. We are excited for their futures at Mossy Oak Properties as well as the relationships they have built and will continue to build with our buyer and seller clients.

Zach Antill –  (252) 676-0888

Beth Antill –  (804) 720-1587


It’s now possible to plant trees with success any time of the year. Generally speaking, the traditional planting time for folks in the South is February through mid-March, and folks up North have to wait for the ground to thaw in the spring. These still remain safe and reliable tree planting times. However, with the advent of containerized, air-pruned seedlings, such as those from Nativ Nurseries, seedlings don’t have to be dormant to be planted.

Why is fall a better time to plant containerized seedlings?

1) Root Growth

Fall planting allows the seedling several more months of root growth before spring green-up and the summer swelter hits. More roots in the ground ensures higher survival and better first year growth.

2) Less Watering

Fall planting will save hours upon hours of dreaded watering the following summer. Once again, the tree will have all winter and spring to get used to its surroundings and put down roots. When the summer heat wave hits, a fall planted seedling can, in most climates, make it through the season without supplemental watering.

3) More Time In The Spring

Fall planting allows more time the following spring to handle other important tree projects such as fertilization and weed and insect control.

If you are serious about fast growth, lower maintenance, and early and abundant fruit/seed production, give fall tree planting a try. You’ll be glad you did!

For more GameKeeper tips, read “Fall Tree Fertilization.” Put your trees to bed for the winter with a full belly. Most folks fertilize their trees in the late winter and spring. That’s a great time to fertilize, because the plants are either about to grow or are making their big spring time flush of growth and need the extra energy.


Everyone likes to brag to their buddies about harvesting a nice buck or all the deer feeding in one of their food plots. Be careful who you boast in front of…  Word of a huge buck travels fast. For some reason, “antlers” can make normally principled people do stupid things. The enticement to harvest a big, mature whitetail buck can trigger certain people to break the law, so the less people who know, the better.

When you catch someone on your property during hunting season who isn’t supposed to be there, what do they always tell you? “I’m tracking a wounded deer.” They say this because in most states it is legal to follow a wounded animal across a property border to try and recover it. The problem is that habitual trespassers have learned this defense and use it for an excuse to go wherever they please. On the chance that they’re telling the truth the first step is to debunk the claim. But once they’re exposed what should you do? Besides releasing the hounds, land-mines, booby-traps or mortars (which I must admit, sound appealing at times) what can we do that won’t also land us in prison? Protect yourself from this and prevent trespassing from ever happening in the first place.

If I actually catch someone I’m usually so angry that the “intelligence center” in my brain just shuts off – I want to tell the trespassers what I think of their unethical actions and get them off the property as fast as possible!

This past fall my brother-in-law and I rounded the corner on the road to our property and saw “blaze-orange” people posted along part of our west border. We pulled up to the closest hunter and in a very happy, nonchalant voice I asked, “Whatcha doing’?” She answered in a neighborly voice, “We’re making a push.” “Really,” I said, trying to keep my composure, “are you having any luck?” “We shot at a small buck,” she said. Then I asked if she had permission to be there. She said “yes.” I couldn’t believe it! The little regulator in my brain that controls my demeanor “tripped the breaker” because I went off on this lady with a rant that that “word-smiths” Dennis Leary and Dennis Miller would be proud of. It lasted several minutes and will go down in property owner history. In a long comprehensive manner, I first told her she was a liar and then what I thought of unscrupulous types like her and her cronies and for her to get the “bleep” off of our property…NOW!

Then she changed her tune. When she heard it was “our land” she said, “But we’re tracking a wounded deer.” I replied, “If that’s true – OK, but for now you get your entire crew off of our property, pronto! We’ll go check the trail and come back to sort things out in a few minutes.” We opened our gate, cut their track in the fresh snow and tried to verify whether or not they were telling the truth. There wasn’t a speck, drop, fleck or microscopic particle of blood anywhere to be found. By the time we got back out to the road, they peeled-out around the corner retreating as fast as possible and we never saw them again.

I made several mistakes – I had a video camera in a case on the front seat of the vehicle within a few feet of me and my rage caused me not to reason clearly. I was more worried about verbally lambasting this crew than thinking ahead and what should have been done. I should have videotaped the entire confrontation. We should have also gone to their vehicle and taken down the license plate and description. Calling the DNR or police should have also been on our list, but the main thing was we should have never left the scene. Rather than thinking about evacuation, we should have been thinking about prosecution.

You need to prosecute every trespasser you encounter! Obviously, exceptions need to be taken for the occasional neighbor or two, but especially people like this who knew they were breaking the law need to be prosecuted every time you come in contact. Word travels fast and usually, it only takes once or twice before people learn to stay off your property.

Even if you live on-site unless you have a 120-foot tall fire ranger observation tower that’s staffed 24/7, you’re not going to catch everyone. So it’s important that you take measures to prevent trespassers from ever thinking about entering your turf.


There is absolutely no mistaking the fact that we DO NOT want people entering our propertybecause it is clearly legally posted. It is plainly posted with signs every 50 yards along our borders, which are also fenced. In fact,

I was so livid after this last encounter that I walked our boundary to bolster our markings even further and now it’s so obvious it’s almost silly. But make sure there is no excuse. These people walked directly by our signs. So every once in a while you’ll get obtuse offenders like these that are bold enough to violate your markers regardless, but that’s why it’s important to prosecute when you catch someone. There are some things to consider while posting signs to your property boundary. While we are all stewards who work toward a goal of bettering our property for wildlife, posting signs about those goals can be dangerous. Instead, taking them for what they truly mean, poachers may see them as a billboard saying, “Big bucks live here” and are even more tempted to trespass on your property.


Even if you’re not a resident where you either, own land, lease rights to hunt, or hunt with permission, nothing beats your presence on site. Your truck and signs of activity are all well noticed when hunting season rolls around. Whenever you’re not around however, the ultimate asset is a good relationship with your neighbors.

Before we purchased this property we went around and introduced ourselves to all of our neighbors. We told them what we wanted to do with the property, that we would be keeping a close eye on it, that we would respect the property boundaries and that we wanted them to do the same. After catching one young neighbor boy on camera while he was on an October grouse hunt two years ago, I believe they saw we were serious about watching over the piece and we haven’t had a problem until the group I told of above. Our neighbors know that we will ask before we enter their property and we expect them to do the same for us. We don’t believe the trespassers above were “locals,” their vehicle was not familiar to anyone in the area so we’re hoping it was an isolated incident and that they learned their lesson and will think twice about crossing our borders.

Your relationship with your neighbor is a give and take relationship; you may have to trade access through your property or allow them to cut hay on your ground, for example. Whatever their incentive is, it’s worth your time and efforts to maintain a good relationship for someone who can give you a heads-up when unfamiliar vehicles show up where they shouldn’t be and look after the place when you’re gone. While not all neighbors are ideal and some relationships can’t be maintained, it is worth it to do what you can.

Locals and friends who frequent the area and can prevent poachers from bothering your property are invaluable. While those whose job it is to protect our resources don’t often have the best reputation with some, it’s extremely helpful to know your local game warden. In all honesty, most problems with a state’s natural resources stem from much further up the ladder than your local C.O. (Conservation Officer). When you do encounter an issue and need their assistance, it’s much more likely you’ll receive a favorable response when you need that help. There aren’t nearly enough of these positions. With so much on their plates during the busy hunting season and typically one person per county (or fewer), it’s a great advantage to both of you for them to know your face and build that connection.


Plant borders so people cannot see into your property. This all depends upon your time horizon and budget, but I like to use a combination of trees, shrubs, and warm-season perennial grasses. It’s important to put some thought behind this because certain plants lose their foliage during various times of the year and as trees grow they may elevate tall enough so they are no longer a barrier after a few years. So make sure that you consider both seasonally and for the long term. Mossy Oak’s Nativ Nursery can be helpful in designing a visual screen to meet your needs.

I consulted on a property last year that had a problem with poaching along one of their borders. I asked how bad the problem was and they finally had caught one of the perpetrators who admitted killing 19 deer the prior year from the one small stretch they were concerned with! From what I was told this poacher was just one of many. So when you look at how many “shooter bucks” are available in your entire population, just one unethical person can have a huge impact on your hunting opportunities.

To take care of the problem quickly you can simply plant some annual grasses like corn, sorghum or millet, or ornamental grasses like pampas grass also grows fast and tall. Basically, you can have a visual screen in several months. However, these are “annuals” – good for one year only. So I would also make arrangements for a more permanent solution.

Native warm season grasses are one of my favorite answers. Different varieties like Big Bluestem, Little Bluestem and Indian grass can grow 6 to 10 feet tall. I like to plant these grasses in addition to various trees and bushes. Stimulating the native seed-bank by mowing, fire or turning the soil can also create a regenerating native barrier.

Trees are a must for permanent barriers. Conifers are my favorite for several reasons. Obviously, they are thick and green all of the time, hence the reason they are often referred to as “evergreens.” I also like them because only a few varieties are attractive to whitetails so if you choose the proper varieties they really don’t provide much for food value. The last thing that I want to do is plant a variety that is attractive to whitetail in my barrier on my property border. I want to keep them from being seen, not attract them to a spot perfect for people to view.

Plant a combination of evergreens and deciduous trees. Configure your barrier keeping in mind both, horizontal and vertical growth properties. Remember a few years from now your barrier may be ten feet above the ground and no longer serving as a visual screen. Stagger your plantings so people traveling along your border can’t see into your property from any angle. If you’ve been an FFW subscriber for a while you may refer back to the winter 2009 issue and an article by Kenny Thompson entitled Border Patrol for Wildlife. He suggests traveling your borders yourself with a friend and flagging the vulnerable areas. Where you have sharp hills make sure that you take into consideration where exactly people will be viewing from and where exactly they may be looking to. Where you have hills you may not need any ground cover at all, but instead fast-growing trees with thick tops.

The best species for border protection will vary from region to region. You want plants and trees that grow tall, some that grow to a medium height and some that grow short and bushy. I like a combination of warm season native grasses like big bluestem and Indian grass, short bushes like lilacs and elderberry, medium deciduous trees like highbush cranberry and wild plum, tall trees like hackberry and red oak and conifers like spruce and white pine. I understand that some of these varieties are of value to whitetail, but the characteristics they offer for barriers outweigh their minor attractive distinctiveness.

Even if you’re leasing a property to hunt, landowners will often allow you to put up a gate or some fencing if you’re willing to do the work and/or front the materials. A locked gate is a huge statement to those who might otherwise enter. Areas that have never had a gate on them now tell those who may once have visited that it is now definitely not the case.

Simple obstacles like “fallen” trees on rarely used access trails or even piles of dirt will deter the lazy poachers. Many of these types will not go to the effort if it requires getting out of the truck or off their ATV; it’s often too muchwork for them.


Everyone likes to brag to their buddies about harvesting a nice buck or all the deer feeding in one of their food plots. Be careful who you boast in front of.  Word of a huge buck travels fast. For some reason, “antlers” can make normally principled people do stupid things. The enticement to harvest a big, mature whitetail buck can trigger certain people to break the law, so the fewer people who know, the better.


My friend John Cooper, who was recently South Dakota’s Secretary of Game Fish & Parks, was a senior resident agent for much of the Upper-Midwest with the Law Enforcement Division of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for 22 years. He informed me long ago, to prosecute a trespasser all you need is a clear, identifiable photo of the trespasser in the act. The problem is coming up with an “identifiable” photo. Most trail cameras will take a clear photo during daylight hours if a person will stand still and pose for it. To take a clear photo of a person that means you need to mount the camera in a spot to see their face. That usually means if the camera can easily see them, they can clearly see the camera. Who wants to lose their $400 trail camera to a trespasser who just got their photo taken? Now because they got their photo taken they pilfer or vandalize your camera to destroy the evidence.

Here’s a tactic that I have had limited success with. I have several old cameras that haven’t worked for a while. I use these as a “decoy” and then set the true “trap” with another working camera trained on the decoy camera. I make sure the working camera is camouflaged very well. If they mess with your decoy camera you now have them for vandalism or theft which typically carries a much harsher penalty than trespassing. When they find your decoy camera it usually satisfies them and they think they’ve won this battle – on the contrary. The toughest job now is getting a positive ID on the person/people in the photos. If it’s not a local person it may be difficult to identify them.

For that reason, I have started using more cameras on the trails and access points. Concentrate on the obvious parking spots, creek crossings, pinch-points along trails or gates that people use with vehicles. A license plate is easy to see and trace as opposed to trying to make out a face in a blurry low-res photo. Make sure to set your camera on its highest resolution so when you zoom in on the license plate you can easily read the numbers.


Carry a disposable camera in your pack and always keep your mobile phone (with camera) on you. Your trail cameras are stationary monitors, but what happens when you run into someone in person? Walk straight up to them and say “hello” and snap their photo. Now you have proof! This and name or license plate is all you need to prosecute. If they won’t give up a name follow them to their vehicle to get the license plate. This is something I should have done in the encounter recollected at the beginning of this piece. My phone has a camera in it and I also carry a disposable camera in my pack. I guess the biggest detail is you need to remember to use it, something I blatantly failed at in the prior scenario. I had a video camera sitting right next to me in the truck and all I could think about is getting those unethical violators off the property as fast as possible. Find their vehicles and take photos of them also. Gather and document as much information as feasible. Then prosecute them!


Just like a good coach punishing the kid who is late to practice (I know about this), an example has to be made of anyone caught partaking in these illegal actions on your property. Word spreads quickly amongst the local community, especially those who work against everything we do as gamekeepers. Our goals are largely different and long-term compared to those who want a short-term thrill. In reality, this is nothing other than “theft” from hard-working individuals who do things the right way. If you let one trespasser off the hook, another might hear such and be willing to take advantage of your leniency the same way. On the other hand, oftentimes it only takes prosecuting one trespasser before the problem fixes itself.

There’s nothing more frustrating than hearing stories about somebody on or around your property while you were likely at work or busy elsewhere. Finding signs of their activity near your stands, carcasses with the heads cut off or a gut-pile will make you sick after the hours and sweat you’ve put into your preparation. Poachers are the lowest of the low; they’re resource thieves and greedy individuals. While all of our regulations may not make the most sense, they are in place to help us protect our wildlife populations and our futures as hunters.

It’s our duty as conservationists and hunters to raise and educate the next generation of gamekeepers. Ethical hunting and outdoor activities are as important as any experience in Mother Nature. If you know of someone who may be on the line of doing something unethical or committing acts of poaching, do your best to steer them in a better direction. If nothing else, there are several anonymous TIP (Turn in Poachers) hotlines in most states. There are even national hotlines such as Report a Poacher, which can be reached at 1-800-642-3800.

By: Bob Humphrey

This article is courtesy of the GameKeepers Farming for Wildlife publication, a quarterly wildlife and land management magazine produced by the Mossy Oak GameKeepers. For more information on subscribing or joining visit Mossy Oak GameKeepers Club.



As the Quality Deer Management philosophy becomes further anchored as the dominant mindset among whitetail hunters, achieving greater numbers of mature bucks is not the hurdle it once was. Instead, there’s another hindrance…killing them. Helping to clear that barrier is the “sanctuary,” a landscape feature that has recently become a familiar part of conversations about hunting tactics, property set-up, and small-acreage management.

There are two kinds of sanctuaries used by mature bucks. The most common is the kind hunters create unknowingly. They are the places we don’t like to go because they are inconvenient, difficult to get into, or because we perceive some other place – like a food plot or a tree stand where we had success in the past – is a better place to hunt. Bucks use these sanctuaries to avoid us, but because we don’t know they do, we can’t capitalize on them.

The second kind of sanctuary is one we hunters actively designate. Bucks use these sanctuaries to avoid us, but because we know they do, we can capitalize. We can use designated sanctuaries to shelter immature bucks we don’t want to harvest but someone else might, to encourage these bucks to spend more time on our hunting land throughout their lives, to encourage mature bucks to use our land when regional hunting pressure intensifies, and to allow us to predict the movements of mature bucks so we can kill them.

Designing and using sanctuaries is a relatively new and evolving art in deer habitat management. Questions abound, and opinions vary. I recently spoke with several recognized experts in deer behavior and land management to nail down the best.


The concept of actively creating and managing sanctuaries has only recently emerged into the mainstream of hunting thought. Little, if any, scientific research has been aimed at the topic, but a few studies have indirectly provided answers to some of our questions. Among those are studies of adult bucks wearing GPS tracking collars at DuPont’s Chesapeake Farms research facility in Maryland. Data from GPS collars have allowed researchers to illuminate the home ranges of adult bucks – and the “core areas” within those home ranges – on a hunted property with mixed woodland and agriculture.

“We saw these core areas show up in places that we basically don’t hunt,” said Dr. Mark Conner. Mark described two sites in particular that served as the core areas for several bucks wearing collars. “One is a sanctuary because it is impenetrable to humans, very dense greenbriar and other thorny vegetation,” he said. “The only way you can get into it is to find a deer trail and get on your hands and knees and go in there.”

“The other area,” Mark said, “is a designated waterfowl sanctuary surrounding a pond. Human activity is restricted to avoid disturbing geese and ducks using the pond, and the restricted area – about 25 acres in size – includes woodlands, fields and pockets of native warm-season grasses. It’s almost the opposite of the other sanctuary.” Mark continued, “It’s very open, but like the other sanctuary, there is no human disturbance. These two areas were core areas for multiple bucks, and by our definition of core area, the bucks spent 50 percent of their time in those areas.” Given the differences in the two sites, Mark doesn’t believe habitat density defines a sanctuary. “It doesn’t have to be a place a hunter can’t go,” he said. “It just has to be a place a hunter doesn’t go. Human presence defines the sanctuary, not necessarily the cover type.”


All of the experts I spoke with agreed with Mark: absence of human activity defines a sanctuary, and mature bucks end up using those areas as a result. “Whether sanctuaries attract bucks to the area because it is more secure for them, or bucks that frequent those areas just get older because they aren’t hunted that hard, we aren’t sure,” said Dr. Karl Miller at the University of Georgia. “Either way, it doesn’t matter. We know mature bucks inhabit those areas.”

With this knowledge in hand, deer managers can begin to incorporate sanctuaries into their habitat and hunting layout. But the details can be difficult to disentangle. What size? How many? Where should they be located? Answering these questions in the appropriate order can be difficult, but it helps to first define the goal for sanctuaries. One of the main goals of Quality Deer Management is to protect yearling bucks. By assigning portions of your land as a refuge, the overall herd characteristics of age structure, density and even in some cases the buck-to-doe ratio can be positivity influenced, oftentimes significantly. It will also provide security for borderline bucks that need another year of maturing, but might make the cut on your neighbor’s property. Of course when dealing with neighbors it will be much easier to navigate this hindrance with the establishment of a cooperative. A well-designed sanctuary will also increase the amount of daylight movement on your property as a whole, increasing your chances for tagging the buck you’re after and truly seeing what undisturbed movement should be like. In the context of this article, our goal is to create hunting opportunities for mature bucks.


Let’s start by trying to set some guidelines for size. Coming up with the perfect minimum or maximum size for an effective sanctuary that works in every corner of the whitetail’s range is impractical, because habitat, landforms, and land use practices vary widely. However, “seclusion” can be measured no matter where you hunt.

“It’s not the size that’s as important as the amount of seclusion the sanctuary provides,” said Karl. “One acre by a road? You don’t have a sanctuary. As a minimum, 20 acres comes to mind, but then your presence on the border of the 20 acres is functionally making that a smaller sanctuary.”

Mark Conner also said that seclusion and density play into optimal size. “If you did get near a deer that was lying down in the sanctuary, and it could get up and be comfortable enough to lay down again within that same sanctuary, I think that’s a good thing,” he said. As an example, he cited the waterfowl sanctuary at Chesapeake Farms, which is about 25 acres in size. Because it is a relatively open patchwork of fields and woods, deer can be bumped completely out of the sanctuary by vehicles or hunters passing near. “But if you had 25 acres of impenetrable cover, I don’t think you could push them out,” he said. In other words, a small patch of dense cover may provide more effective sanctuary than a larger patch of more open cover.

As for hunting strategy – our ultimate goal – size is a critical variable. Joe Lacefield is a private lands wildlife biologist with the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources, and he regularly advises small-property managers to use sanctuaries to help attract and hold mature bucks. He believes that even half an acre can provide sanctuary from hunting pressure, and mature bucks will use that space, but effectively hunting around a sanctuary this small is difficult because hunters are more easily detected.

“But a sanctuary can be too large, too,” Joe said. “If you had a sanctuary that was so large it had all the components a deer needs, including food, it would be more difficult to harvest that animal. The idea is to hunt the travel patterns between the sanctuary and the other resources.”

Wildlife consultant Bryan Kinkel of Tennessee agrees with Joe. “Smaller sanctuaries are much easier to hunt, because they have fewer entrance and exit routes,” Bryan said. “You can predict the travel routes much easier. So there’s no such thing as “too big” for the deer, but a sanctuary can be too big for effective hunting. For hunting purposes, I think over 10 acres is getting too large.”


Some hunters wonder whether competition for limited sanctuary cover is a social issue for deer. If sanctuary cover is not abundant, will dominant bucks monopolize a good sanctuary and keep other bucks out? Could a group of does antagonize bucks in spring and summer, when antlers are growing, and run them out of quality cover?

While Mark Conner said he hasn’t studied this aspect in particular, he said there was substantial overlap in the core areas of individual bucks being tracked at Chesapeake Farms during hunting season. Referring specifically to the two sanctuaries on Chesapeake Farms, he said it was almost certain that bucks were using the same sanctuary at the same time.

As for competition from does, Karl Miller said, “We see some segregation of the sexes during the fawning period. The does generally, based on the research, take some of the better quality habitat for fawning. But I don’t think it’s a concern if bucks are being displaced during fawning season. And if the does are in there during the rut, that would be even more reason for the bucks to be there too.”

The advantage of multiple sanctuaries seems to be clearer when it comes to hunting strategy. For some hunters, property size is too small to allow for multiple sanctuaries, but in general, more is better. More sanctuaries allow a hunter to distribute hunting pressure more evenly across a property, and multiple set-ups will allow for hunting options no matter the wind direction.

“I personally prefer to see sanctuaries scattered across a property,” said Bryan Kinkel. “I prefer more, smaller sanctuaries than one big sanctuary.” With multiple safe zones you have a better possibility of encompassing different habitat types. For example, a ten acre thicket of early successional vegetation and a fifteen acre stand of pines can both be sanctuaries, but the habitat types are vastly different and serve different purposes. The only thing better than a productive sanctuary is two productive sanctuaries…or more! I have also noticed that most mature bucks are killed just outside these areas. The more sanctuaries you have, the more of these highly productive edges you have to hunt.

“Second, multiple sanctuaries allow deer to move across a property in a hopscotch pattern, jumping from sanctuary to sanctuary. This gives you more travel patterns, more gaps, more weak places in their movements, and that gives you more hunting opportunities.”

And, Bryan added, if social friction between mature bucks is a factor at all, multiple sanctuaries may allow more mature bucks to spend more time on the same property. As a reality check, remember that no matter the number or size of protected sanctuaries you offer, not every mature buck in the area will gravitate toward your property.

“Different bucks have different personalities,” said Karl Miller. “Some tend to be ‘home boys,’ and some tend to roam over wide areas. A sanctuary isn’t going to protect those bucks that roam a lot, particularly if they roam a lot during the daytime. However, bucks that have a smaller home range can spend a good portion of their time in these sanctuaries.”


While options may be limited on any given property depending on acreage and landscape features, there is general agreement that the first sanctuary you establish should be located toward the heart of the property. Subsequent additions should also be orbiting the center of the property and avoiding boundary lines. Many hunters allocate areas of their property to sanctuary that are unused. This is a decent starting point but not necessarily a cure-all. The reason for this is most hunters don’t trek to their “back 40” when hunting, and the areas they regularly hunt are easily accessible. It doesn’t take long for every animal nearby to realize this and become wary in areas where ATVs, trucks, and gunshots are frequent.

Don Higgins, a freelance writer and habitat consultant from Illinois and author of the book Hunting Trophy Whitetails in the Real World, believes the center of a property is the place to start. This helps pull deer farther into the property when the pressure is on, and there are other advantages.

“When the sanctuary is in the middle, you can hunt all sides of it,” Don said. “If it’s on or near a property boundary, you lose access to some of the hunting opportunities that are created, and you may give them to your neighbor. Also, a neighbor can ruin the sanctuary by hunting or walking by with the wrong wind and letting their scent blow in.”

The exception, as Joe Lacefield pointed out, is in neighborhoods with cooperative relationships or even a formal QDM Cooperatives established. “You and I can have a cooperative sanctuary,” Joe said. “We designate an area on a common boundary, and we both get a sanctuary to hunt. We’d have to be pretty good friends to pull that off, but it can be done.”

Beyond these considerations, sanctuaries should be placed in areas that make sense for existing features like food plots, roads and orchards. Predominant wind direction should also be considered to ensure logical stand sites. Placing sanctuaries near existing travel corridors will ensure use.

Bryan Kinkel also likes to place sanctuaries to take advantage of habitat features that encourage deer travel. “When habitat edges converge with a sanctuary, deer, especially bucks, will want to follow these edge lines,” he said. “Edges, ridges, any kind of terrain feature that concentrates deer movement will be used as an entrance or exit to the sanctuary.”

As a real-world example, Bryan described a pair of sanctuaries on opposite flanks of a long, narrow ridge. “The closest point where they almost touch is right in a saddle in that ridge,” he said. “The deer go between the two sanctuaries through the saddle. Multiple mature bucks have been shot in that saddle.”


Many land managers only enter their sanctuaries a couple of times a year, while others avoid them completely. This depends on the property, size of the sanctuary, landowner/hunter goals, time of year and many other details.

Personally, I venture into the sanctuary on my hunting ground twice a year. Once when searching for shed antlers and surveying the deer sign, and secondly, to enhance the habitat. As you can see, the trips I make are for the sole purpose of learning more about the wildlife usage and improving the habitat. In both cases, I am in and out as quickly as possible.

Practicing habitat management in a sanctuary is a tricky hurdle to clear. In my view, there is no need for a food plot, not even a small one. The establishment and maintenance of a plot causes too much disruption so I avoid them. This is where the enhancement of natural vegetation reigns supreme. In one afternoon you can take a chainsaw and conduct a few crop tree releases and hinge cuts to promote hard and soft mast production as well as secure bedding cover. Also, these techniques are more efficient if conducted during the late winter and spring. As a general consensus amongst most land managers, the spring is the ideal time to slip in and do as much work as quickly and safely as possible.

Despite the fact I am a “game camera junkie,” I never place a camera in a sanctuary. It will only lead to more trips back to swap out memory cards, creating more disturbances and an excess of residual scent. This is the only time I recommend not using a trail camera. The other reason I avoid game cameras in these areas is because I have found they are not necessary. The goal of a sanctuary is to ease the hunting pressure and promote the usage of daylight activity on your property. If a sanctuary is properly executed, you won’t need to penetrate its boundary to learn what is on your property. Operate your trail cameras like you normally would and thoroughly cover your property, but avoid the sanctuaries.

It doesn’t matter what you do to your property, you will not reap the rewards of your hard work if the wildlife is pressured enough to modify their movements or even temporarily move off your property onto areas with fewer disturbances. A sanctuary is essentially the icing on the cake when it comes to the hard work of dealing with habitat and wildlife management. This is the perfect time of year to take note of the wildlife on your property and what can be done in the next few months to improve your hunting grounds. If you have a sanctuary already established, try modifying it and see how it works out. If you don’t have a sanctuary, take a thorough look at your property and begin the process of establishing one. You will be glad you did!


Of course, sanctuaries don’t always have to be created. Existing natural sanctuaries should figure into your strategy. “The farm I hunt has a natural sanctuary that is a steep river bluff,” said Joe Lacefield . “There’s roughly 20 acres that no one goes in. By hunting just off that bluff and rattling, I’ve taken some pretty nice deer in multiple years. But it seems they really only go to that sanctuary area after there’s been quite a bit of pressure, after Kentucky’s youth and muzzleloader seasons when scouting for gun season has started.


Any deer hunter can benefit from creating sanctuaries, and managers of small properties have the greatest need to incorporate low-pressure areas into their plan. Most deer hunters create sanctuaries already, they just don’t know it. A diligent effort to identify existing areas with light or no hunting pressure may reveal abundant sanctuaries. If not, they are easily created, and the guidelines presented here, combined with on-the-ground details where you hunt, will help determine the number, size, location and distribution that work for you. Efforts to improve, protect, and take advantage of these sanctuaries may rapidly increase your odds of seeing and harvesting mature bucks that use the land you hunt.

For more on growing big bucks and having opportunities for harvesting them, check out Ways to Provide Sanctuary for Big Bucks.

By Lindsey Thomas Jr. and Andrew Walters 

Originally published in GameKeepers: Farming for Wildlife Magazine

Doves and Dogs

When September arrives, so does hunting season. Many of us begin each season with a dove shoot on a warm September afternoon, this is always a fun time filled with comradely and fellowship. We see old friends and make new ones. Dove shoots can be some of the most fun hunts you’ll have all season whether you kill a limit or not. When we pick up that shotgun and go back out into the field each September, we know that Fall is a little bit closer and we are back where we belong.

As we go back out into the field, many of us bring along our favorite, four-legged friend. This is a great warm up for bird dogs as they can begin the year with some new marks and scenarios to hunt in. But as fun as this is, it comes with a great amount of responsibility. Many of us are blessed with dogs that have tremendous drive and will stop at nothing to retrieve a downed bird over and over again. So when you’re out in the field with your dog this month, be sure to keep the following things in mind.

  • Perform a pre-hunt and post-hunt physical. Dogs will often have to find a bird in areas that are still thick and grown up where they are more prone to scratches and debris. Areas of focus should be eye lids, ears, paws, and any exposed skin.
  • Bring water for the dog while you are in the field…water in the truck five hundred yards away won’t keep your working dog hydrated
  • Try to find a some nearby shade for your dog to work from
  • And have fun! It’s the first time they’ve been retrieving downed birds in months, so don’t worry if a few cobwebs need to be knocked off.

One last trick I’ll share with you is one I learned from a retired police officer. Keep some rubbing alcohol in your truck. If your dog overheats, you can apply rubbing alcohol to the dog’s exposed skin around their hind legs. The rubbing alcohol will evaporate, pulling heat away from the dog. Hopefully dogs won’t be overheating, but I’d rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it!

Best of luck to everyone this September!


                                                                                 Worth Osgood

Dedicated Office Member Receives Promotion

Land and Farm Realty, Inc. has recently promoted Angela Day to Office Manager. Angela (Angie) has been with the Mossy Oak Properties Land and Farm Realty Team for two years as an Administrative Assistant. She will have the primary responsibility for managing all of the office management functions, web listings, weekly property updates and agent support.

Angie moved to the Outer Banks from Alexandria Virginia with her three sons (John, Chris, & Tyler) and husband Dennis Day who is the Assistant Manager at Lowes. In addition to working, she enjoys traveling to see her boys play baseball and football! John is a Junior at NC Wesleyan College, Chris is a Sophomore on the NC Wesleyan baseball team and Tyler is a Sophomore at Manteo High School.

“Angie is a team player and has shown she can balance the incredible work load of supporting all of our 30+ agents in the field, all while managing to keep our customers happy and informed! We are so fortunate to have her as an employee and are excited to promote her to office manager,” said Billy McOwen, President of the Land and Farm Realty, Inc who manages several real estate offices in North Carolina, Virginia and South Carolina.

For more information on Mossy Oak Properties NC Land and Farms please call (844-480-5263) or email William “Billy” McOwen @ .   Their corporate office is located at 711 North Hwy 64/264, Manteo, NC 27954

Mossy Oak Properties was launched in 2003 to assist landowners, sportsmen, and investors in their pursuit of the perfect piece of rural property. The Mossy Oak Properties network has grown to over 95 offices in 28 states throughout the country, and currently boasts an inventory of over 3300 listings totaling in excess of $2.25 Billion. Selected as a national “Best Brokerages” by The Land Report, our network also had thirty-five groups named as Best Brokerage award recipients. For more information, call 1-866-667-2289 or go online and visit

Dedicated Office Member Receives Promotion

Land and Farm Realty, Inc. has recently promoted Michelle Meredith to the position of Controller. Michelle has been with the Mossy Oak Properties Land and Farms Realty Team for three years and began as Bookkeeper with the company in 2015. In addition to her promotion, we also are announcing that Michelle has been named as Secretary/Treasurer to our Board of Directors. She will have the primary responsibility for managing all financials, budgets and accounting for all of our franchise operations and the four holding companies that make up the framework of our network.

Michelle is married to Reed Meredith and has two daughters Madison and Willa. She loves her family, horse riding and the outdoors. Her daughters are active in dance at Island Dance and also love animals.

“Michelle has been a key part of our success, she manages over 300 transactions a year, all of the billing and invoicing for a multi-state real estate management company and the financials for three real estate firms”. “Michelle has worked very hard and is well deserving to have a seat on our Board of Directors, we were thrilled to promote her to this important position.” said Billy McOwen, President of Land and Farm Realty, Inc.

For more information on Mossy Oak Properties NC Land and Farms please call (844-480-5263) or email William “Billy” McOwen @ .   Their corporate office is located at 711 North Hwy 64/264, Manteo, NC 27954

Mossy Oak Properties was launched in 2003 to assist landowners, sportsmen, and investors in their pursuit of the perfect piece of rural property. The Mossy Oak Properties network has grown to over 95 offices in 28 states throughout the country, and currently boasts an inventory of over 3300 listings totaling in excess of $2.25 Billion. Selected as a national “Best Brokerages” by The Land Report, our network also had thirty-five groups named as Best Brokerage award recipients. For more information, call 1-866-667-2289 or go online and visit


This one looks like a pretty big bear, right? Hold on. Look at those ears. This is probably only a two year old bear (Image courtesy of Zach Heaton).

There’s a magical time at the end of the day, the final moments of daylight. The sun is already below the trees and the light fades so fast you can almost see the change happening. The wind, which has been slowly abating suddenly dies. The woods become eerily still, so still you could hear a pine needle drop. That makes it all the more incredible when a hulking black form materializes out of the dense underbrush in total silence.

It is Muckwah, the black bear. Your heart races and your body shakes as adrenaline courses through your veins. You fight to regain composure, fearful the bear will hear your pounding heart or heavy breathing and your chance will be gone. You must wait until he looks away to raise your weapon. He looks massive. But is he? Suddenly doubt creeps in. Your guide instructed you to be patient, to size up the bear before committing to a shot. But in the excitement, you’ve forgotten all he told you, and now doubt turns to panic.

Ask any experienced hunter and they’ll tell you that black bears are among the most difficult big game animals to field judge. Part of that is because they’re far less common than deer, so hunters just don’t get much experience seeing them. And part is just the nature of the beast. Any large, black carnivorous animal will look big, especially if you don’t have something for scale nearby.

Fortunately, there are some fairly reliable tips for field judging bears. They involve both physical and behavioral characteristics, and the latter applies to both the bear and you.

Be patient. 

I put this first for a reason, as it should always be foremost in your mind. Don’t rush. The first bear you see coming to your bait site will look huge. But often several different bears will visit the same bait station and the progression typically goes from smaller to larger. Take the time to look over a few bears and compare. Also give them time to settle in and wait for an ideal shot.

Judging size is challenging but determining sex is even more daunting, and you want to be real careful about shooting sows. Shooting a sow with cubs is bad form, and in some places, it’s illegal. Often, but not always, the cubs will come to a bait site first. But you don’t want to make a mistake. So be patient.

Set up a scale. 

Black bears look deceptively large, even to experienced hunters. Place something at the bait you can use for scale. It could be a marked stake, or merely a bait barrel, as long as you know the dimensions. A bear standing next to a 55 gallon drum that’s lying on its side might look huge, but remember, that drum only stands about 22 inches high. You’re looking for a bear whose shoulder height matches that of an upright barrel, about 33 inches.

Look for the following characteristics:

Head – A bear’s ears stop growing after the first year but their head continues to grow. A young bear’s head will appear more streamlined and pointed. Ears to nose form a skinny triangle and the ears look larger and closer together. Think Mickey Mouse ears. A bigger, older bear’s head will be large and rounded (like a basketball). The ears look smaller in comparison and will be out to the sides more. Ears to nose form an equilateral triangle and there is often a groove down the middle of the forehead.

A boar’s nose is more rectangular with a square, blocky tip. Also note the ears splayed out to the sides.

Body – Young bears generally look lanky because their legs are long for their body size. However, a young spring bear may look larger because of its dense fur, so be careful. And don’t forget about the ears. Older bears have thick, stocky legs that may appear short for their large body. Also, their belly hangs closer to ground. They may also appear slightly bow-legged when approaching head on.

Behavior – Young bears tend to be either reckless or nervous around a bait site, pausing often to look, listen and smell. Older bears tend to be more confident and deliberate in their movements. You can’t appreciate a bear’s ability to approach a bait silently until you witness it. Often, the only time you actually hear a bear approaching is if it’s a sow with cubs, or a dominant boar warning other bears of his approach.

Sex – Telling a bear’s sex is daunting but not impossible. Females and males share many of the same differences as young and old bears. Females tend to be smaller in general with larger hind quarters and smaller shoulders. They generally appear “shorter” from head to toe and their nose shows a slight taper from base to tip. Males will have larger shoulders and slightly smaller hind quarters. They may appear taller and/or longer in the body and their snout is more rectangular and blocky at the tip.

By Bob Humphrey

Note: Bob Humphrey has hunted bears from Maine to Alaska and guided bear hunts as a registered Maine guide.