Prioritizing management of resource concerns


Active Member
This thread stems from a post in the food plot section and is to open a discussion on how we approach managing our properties based on resource concerns. Have you prioritized them? If so, in what order and what steps have been taken toward short and long term goals?

I do not own the property where I hunt but have a lot of input and a significantly vested interest in the place. From a herd perspective when I started hunting there 4 seasons ago, the most obvious issues were lack of any mature bucks and too many doe or herd balance issues. Second was a serious lack of good cover and third was lack of quality food virtually year round. The second year we expanded food plot acreage with a plan for spring and fall plantings. We also started thinking out and building a plan to improve other areas that were coming into focus such addressing the really sad quality of soil we have to work with.

Last year we did a selective TSI cut to help with the cover and natural food issues. We cut in 5 areas and did 10-12 acre areas that were focused on topography, access and orientation sticking to north and east facing slopes. We have three more areas to work on with that. We also started a chicken litter application program last year doing 2 tons per acre on all of the plots. Round 2 is in the next couple of weeks. We changed our spring plantings to a heavy base of milletts and sorghum sudan to gain a heavy carbon contribution as we try to improve soil quality. Changed planting technique and parked the disc and tiller and now do a spray, drill and mow. We are in a hold and evaluate period on setting harvest goals as we feel good about where we have gotten the herd balance. Cam surveys are looking like a close to 1:2 buck/doe ratio and we are seeing good numbers of bucks across age classes.

We have done some burning but need to do more and we continue to plant mast trees such as Apple, crabs, pears and will have a few of Wayne's chestnuts go in the ground this fall.

What are your issues and how have you approached addressing them?
My 40 acres was sold off an originally 300 or so acre farm. All of the woodlots were irresponsibly clearcut with zero seed trees left for regen. Maples and black gums out competed everything else and quickly shaded the understory. There are thousands of acres of corn and bean fields in and around the surrounding areas. Lack of cover jumped out early on and I've been working on TSI with a combination of hinge cutting, edge feathering openings and releasing as many apple, oaks & cherries as I can. I've also added a soft mast orchard in a secluded rear field with apples, pears & plums. A chestnut grove was also planted adjacent to the orchard.

My property is fairly flat with an elevation change of less than 18 feet across the whole farm. I have no terrain funnels, only natural corners & edge. I really need to incorporated some blocking with trees or fencing to try to steer the deer into more predictable patterns. Steve Bartylla's new book has some interesting ideas on blockades.

There was no late season food beyond the natural browse once the ag fields were harvested. I've added about 2+ acres of fall food plots the last few years.

I'm improving access by setting up dedicated stand access trails down wind and away from areas where the deer frequent. I've planted more screening than I've ever done this year also. It's a work in progress.

I have no ponds or streams on my property but there is usually a few standing puddles around all year. I'd like to install a few strategically located water holes by sinking some stock tanks for more predictable water sources.

I'm finishing up year 3 of ownership and I am pretty pleased with the progress. Of course there is still a lot to be done but with my available time and hobby budget, I can't complain.
I want to direct anyone to my property tour "J-birds place" to see what I have done.

I struggled early on with too much information poor information coming from the hunting industry. Plots where all the rage and it was essentially a "plant it and they will come" message being spread. Not only is that not true, but in my case it was WAY NOT TRUE.

Only once I truly identified my habitat limiting factor....and addressed it, did I see any real impact. In my case that is cover. As such I have spent far more time focusing on expanding cover and improving the cover I have. Food is still important.....but if I don't have deer because I don't have cover.....having the best plots in the world doesn't do me any good! You also have to realize that there is only so much you can influence within reason.

Expanding cover - I implemented some CRP practices to convert some tillable farm ground to more wildlife friendly habitat and didn't have to give up the $ in the process. Then improved that CRP with some NWSG plantings.

Improving cover - Timber harvest....2 in fact and TSI work. I love a good chainsaw now. In the early years I was very fearful of cutting trees. I failed to see that not all trees are created equal and just because you have trees doesn't mean you have habitat. I took the plunge and had my first timber harvest and my initial reaction.....I was nearly physically sick! However I quickly got over it the next spring as all the additional sunlight caused an explosion in the understory. I looked forward to my second cutting and look forward to the next as well.....even through it won't be for a while now.

As with all habitat guys - my financial budget is a limitation as well. I try to understand what my "normal" costs are for my plots and chemicals and the like......and then I try to get 1 decent project done a year. That may be a hing cutting of an area, transplanting some trees, erecting a shooting house or the like. As much as I want it all done right now.....I just can't support I have to pace myself. It's a journey, and not a least for me.