Deer Management Basics

DeerIt is estimated that on average a whitetail deer’s home range is roughly a square mile, or 640 acres. Of course that doesn’t mean that you need 640 acres to harvest a mature buck, or any whitetail for matter. Most hunters don’t have access to parcels of land that large and this is why many hunters tend to join hunting clubs. Nothing against hunting clubs, they can be great if properly operated, but there is nothing like hunting your own land or land that you have exclusive rights to.

A deer’s home range is an area where a deer spends the majority of their time that provides access to enough natural resources for them to thrive. Their core are, estimated on average to be roughly 150 acres, is a small fragment of the home range where the deer will spend roughly half of their time. So this begs the age old question, how do you consistently harvest deer, especially bucks, on ‘smaller’ pieces of properties? It all starts with management. If a deer is provided with everything they need their home ranges may shrink in size. This is obviously in the hunter’s favor. By managing predator populations, such as trapping and hunting coyotes, we can ensure that more fawns survive the spring and summer. Providing cover by planting CRP or hinge cutting trees will assistance your efforts in providing deer a secure place to reside. Hinge cutting is a practice that is conducted with chainsaws and consists of cutting half way or three quarters the way through the tree trunk, about 2-4 feet from the ground. The felled tree will lie on the forest floor continuously producing forage. This provides a dense understory and the forage is easily browsed upon. Another aspect that is commonly overlooked is creating a sanctuary. By leaving a portion of land unmolested you are providing security that the neighbors may not, once again tipping the odds in your favor. Many times hinge cut bedding areas are coupled with sanctuaries. Food is another big component and while food plots are all the rage, but don’t forget about natural forage. Providing deer with natural forage like acorns along with soft mast such as persimmons and apples are huge in the early fall.

The goal is to hold deer year around on your land and all of the aforementioned topics are great places to start. Depending on your property size you may have to decide which is best for your property. You may choose to provide food if the surrounding habitat is poor or of mediocre quality. On the other hand if there are a high density of hunters nearby you may experience more success by creating an unpressured environment where deer know they will be safe, relatively. This is where paying attention to not only what your neighbors are doing but also focusing on what you can to tweak your property to give you an edge. The key to seeing more deer and having greater success this fall is managing the habitat on your property, regardless of acreage. Now is the time to start planning out your habitat management plans in order to hopefully have your best season yet. Never stop improving your property!

By Andrew Walters