Gatehouse Woods


Active Member
Last year I had the fortunate opportunity of buying my first track of land. I am located in Central New York and my property lies just south of Syracuse. The property is 50 acres, with a 3 acre field (originally) and the rest is mostly hardwoods, with some softwoods intermixed. The property is only a mile down the road from my house, and with a young family this really is the key to being able to enjoy it.

As of this point the property has undergone a fairly large transformation. In hopes of generating young forest in pockets some areas were cut heavier (through logging and myself), as I stated the property consists mostly of hardwoods and at the top of the list is hard maple, which is by far one of the most prevalent species in my neck of the woods. Of course we have many other species (beech, hophornbeam, basswood, ash, cherry, etc.).

The property includes new openings placed in the most logical (as I determined) which are likely to transform from a supplemental food source in the interim to an additional pocket of cover within 3-5 years (at least this is my plan today). The 3 openings are approximately .25 acres, 1.1 acres and .52 acres (at least how I measured them). These openings are all link to each other through a trail system. Most of the property is difficult to access without being overly intrusive, mostly due to topography, which provides me a basis to eliminate over 80% of the property for hunting, unless my data tells me I need to jump in a kill something deeper. Most would cringe at that thought, but I see it as a major advantage. My friends think I'm crazy but the property has about 6-7 high value sits throughout the season as it lays out currently, which is completely fine and each sit hopefully produces. As with properties in NY and the related pressure, any form of intrusion has the tendency to be negative (even if its intended to be positive :))

North of my land there are many areas of limited hunting, which should make an opportunity for some older deer. The deer ratios are out of balance through the 2-5 mile area around me, but funny enough in my little parcel I have quite the opposite, mostly because of the isolation. This past season I only hunted the property once and passed a nice buck and pushing around 2 does. It was a different experience seeing deer on my own land doing what they naturally want to do. I ran a bunch of cameras, and although they only give me a small snidbit of information, many different bucks revealed themselves, with very few doe. Regardless, that is soon to change with the advent of young forest, supplemental food and generally more cover. I will try and start to post pictures of the property, my equipment, family and this adventure that is my own. At some point, Id love to have a habitat day on my land, as I see some people around here are near CNY. Its nice to make relationship through these types of interest.

Sounds good. Looking forward to following your progress Jon. It might be good to keep an eye on the tree crowns surrounding the 1/4 acre and the 1/2 acre. What we have seen here is that sometimes the smaller openings don't let enough light in due to vigorous crown growth from surrounding trees. Its nothing that can't be adjusted as time goes by though and it may be best to start them out small anyhow.
Sounds good. Looking forward to following your progress Jon. It might be good to keep an eye on the tree crowns surrounding the 1/4 acre and the 1/2 acre. What we have seen here is that sometimes the smaller openings don't let enough light in due to vigorous crown growth from surrounding trees. Its nothing that can't be adjusted as time goes by though and it may be best to start them out small anyhow.
Great point to consider. The smaller plot certainly has that issue the others I’ve started to feather the edge some. The topography has helped a little with that issue, more to be considered as time goes on. Hopefully I can post my habitat plan for youall to see and maybe some of the bucks, a few good 2.5 from last year survived. Also they neighbors have killed a few deer, one 2 years ago scored just over 160 inches, I found this all out after I bought the land.
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It sounds like you may be in a great neighborhood with at least some neighbors maybe in line with the let them grow way of thinking. If so that puts you about twenty years ahead of where many of us in New York started.
Welcome to the forum and I'm very impressed with the way that you approach hunting this property. Your knowledge of how to hunt a property is lightyears ahead of most hunters. Using only 20% of your property for hunting will sound totally foreign to the average hunter, but to the majority of us on this forum it will seem perfectly normal. 7 good sits a year on 40 some acres sounds about right in the ballpark, although some with more acres will hunt stands even more sparingly. Wishing you well with your habitat improvements to this woods.
Always enjoy reading about property in different parts of the country, and we have some experts in the New York area. You seem to have a great handle on your property and I know it being within a mile is worth a mint.
thanks all, I will try and post my property plan for you all to take a look at, which give some texture and feel for what I have done so far. Then Ill go through my equipment situation, where I am at with things in the next month, and ultimately as things grow so will my reaction to the changes. I did have the fortunate opportunity to have QDMA staff stop out and take a look at this piece and give some recommendations, which is always helpful.

Just a list of some low hanging fruit that I just worked on this past week- lining my field (staggered and considering topography) with Norway spruce, intermixed is some bush honeysuckle, a few autumn olive (that are existing), I did remove some multiflora rose and some buckthorn on the edge, I know some will disagree but Honeysuckle and AO provided structure for nesting birds so some remained for that purpose. Generally my objective is that field views do not extend more than 40 yards, interior wood plots may be less depending on the ground, this traditionally has worked well. Shapes and sizes will vary, and I think some of us get hung up on that, interior soft edges with willows and NSWG will be a plan for next year. Also, there are lot better varieties than streamco willows that I hear so much about... Ill explain more on that at a later date. So far I have begun to grade my newly created plots (interior) and should get my soil samples back this Friday. All supplemental food sources will be planted with a oats, pea buckwheat combo, which may sound odd for some but for my situation should be suitable based on the available sunlight and overall goals. The plan is to roll those plots just prior to maturity, the oats and peas will be planted 5-10 days before the buckwheat (buckwheat should go in around 1 June). The buckwheat will be rolled around the end of august (a lot depends on conditions and maturity) and I will broadcast a light amount of cereal grain rye and red and white clover. The focus is increase OG and establishing root structure to eliminate some of the hard plan (which will be more of a focus the following fall as it look toward the deep rooted plants and assessing the general condition of the soil), then I will get back to my own version of the LC mix everyone seems to love, as that rotation does really hit a lot of notes for me. That's all I have for now.
here is a the layout of the property, of course you cant tell a ton without the topography, but as it lays flat in this image you can see the volume of bedding the 3 interior supplemental food sources and a larger food source. Because of my limited access from the south and southeast you can see that I've left the south east corner off 238 without any additional improvements. That said, I am debating running sap lines at varying heights to promote a quasi fence scenario in that area. The area near 238 has not been logged as of yet, so that's a great debate that I am having with myself as there are approximately 45 saw trees ready for harvest based on my standards, those trees would be mostly maple with some basswood intermixed, hence the sap consideration. Total acreage here is 50 as I stated in my prior post. Ill post a topography map as well when I get a chance, I normally overlay these with topography but I had to do a quick update on the map and frankly the topography lines are not resolute enough to provide a real understanding of the knobs and slopes.
Jon, Your plan is very interesting and obviously well thought out. The bedding areas and the number of them is especially interesting. Could you share with us your thinking in their location and topography and what sets them apart from other areas not set up as bedding? And do you have them set up with does in these and bucks in those type of detail and if so what is different about the two? I like your low impact access to what presumably are your early season stand locations and presume the higher impact stand locations are super hot spots for those once a year can't miss big buck days; is that correct?
Generally, if I am drawing a plan for myself or someone else I would try my best to discriminate, but in reality I do not have the presumption that there is a preference for a cut out of doe vs young buck bedding. However, mature bucks is another story and the focus for those spots is different for focused bedding. Generally I am not a big fan of hinging cutting to create these t-pees or doghouse designs. I create coves, these have the tendency to provide the best of both worlds IMO. Those coves exists in ways were you can literally dig out bunkers and create a backstop then work with the forest or add in bushy, conifer or hardwood , heck use willows and interlace them to create a fence which adds a backstop atmosphere. Also something I disagree to some respect is people cutting out 2-3 ft logs as a backstop for deer, these take up to much space in these cove areas and don't present/firm horizontal structures, Also open zones like a family room with "couch" and areas to feed and stretch are important, intermixing food really is key IMO....OK I'm rambling.... bottom line big bucks like isolation, they demand isolation.... in the summer this area was a hotspot for big buck action because of its isolation, I have completely disrupted that with this plan (at least I think that will be the case). The relation of food and intermixed cover is likely a breeding ground for doe families. They are certainly not unwanted in my area, its just a change and will reduce the volume of isolation and depth around the property. One thing I have on my side is cool air cover for summer, the hemlocks provide a host of benefits based on their thickness (lets hope that stays this way!!!). Pockets exists in the central and west ridge areas for small separated beds remove from the general deer population.. that's exactly what I want because during the summer and just prior to hard horn, big bucks will dig into these areas and hopefully generate a preference, and will revisit if left undisturbed.

This map is not detailed enough to show what actually is happening on the ground but it gives some framework for my plan. The stand situation is one that I typically pick out 2-4 trees in a designated stand site area, I mark them and I do hang and hunts. My philosophy is I want the deer to be unsuspecting when I jump into anything beyond the box blinds. I will admit, with the advent of cell cameras I cheat a little and my days of what I call "freestyle" hunting are about over as my time is so limited, so this plan (and some others) are completely about optimization, creating flow and trying to stage scenarios were defined movement as it relates to food is paramount. Bottom line this property is really setup for late season hunting as it lays out. That's not to say I cant go in early or middle, but my suspicion is late would be very predictable as the spots setup
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these areas highlighted tend to be the most likely spots for mature bucks to exists as I see it, I didn't provide the outline of the land but my property encompasses most of the map. I believe preferences for wind based bedding dominates this landscape. But again, these are all assumptions and based on tracking I did right after the season, and generally how I look at land and deer preferences. When it all comes down to it once I have more data I can adjust... but I needed to start somewhere.
If I have some time this wknd Ill take pictures of natural coves or scenarios were bedding occurs on a knob where appropriate cover exists. A lot of its already natural, so I might need to clean it up and then just copy and paste these scenarios throughout the property replicating what already exists with some manipulation. Not much I can do with topography with the equipment I have. But a hard rake and shovel have a tendency to generate some of these cove like areas (assuming I'm creating a mini-bunker), and I don't always have to mess with the ground to create a cove. In another post I think I spoke about buckthorn and vine intermixing, that really becomes a great scenario generating the appropriate back cover. AO or BH can do the same thing. I lack thermal cover on the ridges and I don't have the time or money to spend on more trees this year, but in the NE that is critical to establishing bedding that can be utilized all year.
I didn't know what buckthorn and bush honeysuckle was 10 years ago, I wish I had. I don't know about AO but I have bittersweet. It is all evil crap and needs to be killed by any means nessary. I have a small piece of land, and when blackberry bushes ruled I had deer around all the time. Because I ignored or didn't realize the invasive species I had it is now a wasteland. Now with a hatchet and gly I'm taking it back, but what a job.
I didn't know what buckthorn and bush honeysuckle was 10 years ago, I wish I had. I don't know about AO but I have bittersweet. It is all evil crap and needs to be killed by any means nessary. I have a small piece of land, and when blackberry bushes ruled I had deer around all the time. Because I ignored or didn't realize the invasive species I had it is now a wasteland. Now with a hatchet and gly I'm taking it back, but what a job.

I don’t disagree there are negatives and it creates deserts for animals for which it was first thought to benefit. I think there is still a fine line for utilizing what is not native for something that provides some form of cover or structure for nesting. The acreage behind my house is flush with bush honeysuckle, I went in and cut out areas killed them with gly and now those areas dominate as deer bedding. The untouched pockets with the invasive provide some structure as it relates to exterior cover, deadzones and assembling a defined trail system to and from these bedding areas. That said I get how quickly it can generate and it would be nice to have native shrubbery instead. It’s just a reality that some invasive species are present and not eradicating everything is ok as there are some benefits if they are controlled. That said, it’s difficult to control invasive as they are present all around us spreading seed. It’s the reality of the forest landscapes we are a part of nowadays. But again I understand your point and agree that invasive create issues but no forest environment will be perfect. It’s all a work in progress for me.
received my soil tests back from the lab. pretty amazing considered I have taken soil samples in other areas, including the big farm I hunt and my property behind my house, which are all within a few miles. Traditionally PH is around 5.3-5.8 in these other areas, OG low,low potassium, soil makeup of course varies and that's a big consideration.

To my surprise these areas that were once woods (excluding the east plot) have really good soil (at least on paper)... the dirt looks good, I have been in a race against with the rains here and still haven't had anything planted. My property is the end of a glacial till as a result its palmyra soil, fine loamy (sand like) with gravel mixed in... but I have to believe their is limestone deposits that are providing PH levels. Needless to say I'm happy with the results.


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Here are a couple images of 2 plots that are in the interior of my wood lots. These were once completely woods, approximately 3 months ago. The one plot you can see a stump remains. I planned on using this stump to connect a post then a licking branch... although my son built a little city out of scrap wood on top of it for insects, so it might just remain that way, I believe he calls it his insect city ;)

I'm sure some parts of the country are dying for rain. We certainly are not in Central New York and I had to plant this one moring at 4 am when we had a dry spell for a day or so after we got back from vacation. By the way this plot is a oat/pea combo. It will be rolled at the end of august into a rye, radish and clover plot. My two other plots (one is being worked now) is just a dirt track (essentially its fallow that needs to be limed and worked) and buckwheat.. the buckwheat is meant to compliment my beehives. .
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