Help me with a design


Active Member
We are developing 29 acres of farm field this fall and next spring, and would like some input on the design for maximizing what will hold the most deer. We have high deer numbers, but low mature buck numbers:)

We have a small 5-6 acre woodlot that we are hunt already, that has some tree lines that come off of it in a few directions that we hunt as well. For the most part, we hunt the tree lines and leave the woodlot alone. So it kind of acts like a hub for a section of the property with deer movement, but doesn't "hold" a lot of deer.

We are trying to use the design of the development to accentuate this woodlot. It has a lower area that butts up next to it (Lower, but not low), then slowly works up hill working away from it.
(hope to post pictures)

*We are allowed 7.5 acres of switch grass, 5.5 acres of spruce, and about 13 acres of WSG mixed with pollinators.(then 3 of plot)

1. Would you put the Spruce (5.5) as close to the woodlot even though it is slightly lower to add to those acres of "trees" ? Then behind it working away from the woods and up the slope to the top of the hill with Switch grass (7.5)?

2. Put switch grass (7.5) next to the woods at the base of the hill, then put the spruce working up the hill to the peak (5.5)

3. Use the 13 acres of WSG mixed with the pollinators in some combination as the bedding? I know at the bottom of the hill, they will get more nutrients, browsed more, and may attract deer very well, but may be slightly less desired for bedding ???

Right now we are leaning towards the Spruce and the Switch grass in areas to promote bedding, then the Forbs mix closer to the stands/plot area thinking it will get more use as a staging area/feeding and transitions areas working around/down those fencelines to destination feeding areas and other woodlots.

The bedding section will be used as a sanctuary. We won't every hunt it, or really go near it at all whichever design is used.

Any help would be appreciated.

(will try to post pictures)
Woodlot is straight left of the blue area and does not go south past the tree line edge. That is the neighbor's property line

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Pic is kinda hard to tell what's going on with "all" of it. But working with just that section around that chunk of woods. The remaining stuff that is not colored would be the WSG and pollinators.
Hopefully you can see the property line to the south. That's the boundary. Right now the neighbor is fantastic and is on a similar management strategy. The area that is the large switch block is the top of the hill. The spruce in the lower area. Not extreme by any means of the top or "bottom", but there is some elevation change there.
I would try to limit access to the north and south property lines. I would try to make the more elevated areas bedding areas. I would consider planting more in strips vs blocks. I think this will create more edge spread out the diversity and the deer and possibly allow you to hold more deer. Depending on how you like to hunt (over plots or between bedding and feeding) will drive how and where you put the plots. Just keep hunting in mind. How can I get in and out without alerting the deer (with sound, sight and smell)? I would look at planting switch around the plots and then in strips leading to the bedding areas to try to define a direction of travel as well. Use the spruce in strips for bedding areas or as travel lanes as well. I would also consider trying to move the plots to areas away from the bedding cover.....make those deer move for the food in the daylight....especially if you prefer to hunt between the bedding and feeding areas.

This is all just my 2 cents worth. These are simply things to consider. You know the property far better than and and what your deer do and how you prefer to hunt. Just don't design it first and THEN try to figure out how to hunt it.
Appreciate the feedback J Bird !

I agree about the strips and the edge. We are going to use the edges to direct traffic AT other stands outside of these areas that will be hunted more often. Hunting that little woods to the west of it will be our only stands associated with this area. We use those strictly as rut stands and most years are only hunted 2-3 times a year. The Spruce planting and the Switch grass will never have anyone near it during the season. More as a sanctuary.

I guess the big question I am looking for is to hold a more mature buck consistently with this design, would you put the switch grass closer to the woods, and the spruce on top of the hill further away?

Or the spruce close to the woods and the switch grass further away on top of the hill?

We get 5.5 acres of spruce, and 7.5 acres of Switchgrass.

.....And last question. Which type of bedding would deer prefer for bedding? Switch grass, or WSG mixed with broadleaf species? We are allowed 7.5 acres of switchgrass, but don't HAVE to do that much. We need about 2-2.5 acres of it for our access screens. So we will have 5.5 or so left to use IF we desire for bedding.

We are doing this for a CRP project, so our approval was based more on blocks of each habitat to account for acres and percentages. I think the establishment and maintenance would get tricky if we did lots of strips and pockets of each thing.
I am watching this thread Big Eight but I have no ideas on your design. Here switch grass gets less bedding use than plain old native goldenrod and Giganteus Miscanthus is a much better screen than the switch we planted and is actually a super screen. Spruce mixed with goldenrod would be a holding cover here. We have a twenty acre peninsula on our property where the deer cross it to get to a forty acre alfalfa field and it is just a natural spot to intercept deer movement that has seen more deer taken over the years than the remaining 595 acres combined.It wasn't designed and created;it simply held both cover and food( a couple hundred in the woods apple trees, jewel weed, two hemlock stands, some poplar stands, service berry trees, an oak tree-rare on this property, and some monster hickory trees and was by luck located between a large wooded property and a great alfalfa field which some years is planted in corn) so it is a perfect early afternoon staging area as well as an early thru late morning travel corridor. Deer bed in it some but the bedding aspect of it is minimal compared to the staging area aspect of it and the active but lazy, care free travel corridor activity it supports. I forgot, I did add a food plot complex in it which increases time spent there but may have made for too many deer moving in too many directions so it is not clear yet whether the food plot additions were a net plus or not.

So the net of this is post is unless your 29 acres fits a scenario such as described I simply do not have a clue on small woods design related to your plan that is based on actual experience to provide any good input. I'm hoping more people will chime in on this with some good ideas as Jbird alone (so far) has.
I have 5-6 acres of switch, I've added cedars and norways in there for bedding. This had a lot of smaller Ash in there so I hinged them and planted the norways in there to help protect them. Mine is mixed in the switch so I don't think this will go with your CRP. Also we have some bare spots in the switch that I've added some MG clusters to this spring try and create more bedding. I don't have any pics of the MG planted from this summer but I tried this on a screen a couple years ago and the MG seems to do ok.







Thank you for the replies. Mostly we are trying to create a sanctuary out of farm field within the specs of the allowed CRP requirements for acres of each planting.
I totally agree that variety is going to hold more deer. If I switch gears and do more of what J bird described and what I would like to do with trees amongst grasses (which is NOT within the specs) .
With the 5.5 acres I'm allowed to do with trees, would it hold the most deer and be the biggest sanctuary if I did 1 acre of trees, an acre of pollinator (golden rods/WSG/black eye Susan, etc.) Then another acre of spruce....repeat till I have my 5.5 acres of trees used up?? So I would alternate trees/pollinator for 11 acres working away from the current woodlot?
I can also plant Switch grass between alternating tree acres, OR a WSG mix, OR a straight switch grass and be within the guidelines of the project specs.
I would still have left over acres of grasses to work with, but this would exhaust my tree acres. For example do 11 acres of alternating acres with trees, and pollinators, then behind it I could do about 5 acres of straight WSG mix. For 16 acres of cover working away from that woods? ( I'll draw a map )

Sound like that would have a better chance at holding a mature buck or 2 ?