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Deer transition vs. deer vacating

ProcraftMike

A good 3 year old buck
You seem to have good summer cover, but there is something lacking that the deer just can't do without. I have a place way over to the east of you in Canada, and the deer all leave in the winter. Luckily a few hang around in fall, and there might be 3 or 4 deer on my 300 acres through November. I went up there once in the dead of winter, and the places that held deer were extremely tight cover in conifers. White cedar, juniper, pine, etc. made nearly impenetrable thermal cover that was completely sheltered from the wind, even when it came howling across the lake and through the open hardwoods.

Another spot deer bed in the fall was a couple acres of marshy area where they could lay in the sun. A friend hunting my property on the Ontario gun opener jumped a small buck in that marshy spot where the reeds/grasses were still standing and offering a bit of horizontal cover while allowing him to sun himself in the middle of the day. You might consider clearing out some of those humps in the swamp and planting dense conifers.

If I were you, I would take at least a couple days and scout/hunt the heck out of that 1000 acres of public land. You might find out where the deer are going and what they are attracted to. Fresh buck sign is relatively easy to spot, and will give you an idea of where bucks are hanging out and what kind of features they are relating to. Then in the future you can use that as a guide for what to add to your property. I would even think of that 1000 acres as part of my habitat plan. Get to know that property really well and use it in conjunction with your own property. Set some cameras up and learn all you can about the seasonal deer movements over the years. Certain patterns should emerge. This is definitely a long-term game. It has taken me about 5 years to get familiar with the public land that I hunt to the point where I am consistently taking deer.
I have planted conifers the last 10 years...to the tune of probably 12-15,000 of them. I have had limited success with them in my tags and willow. It is just too wet. I planted some diversity back, but it seems even too wet for black spruce to survive. Most of the success has been with the tamaracks that I planted, but that does nothing for thermal cover. Conifers have done well on some of the higher ground that I have, but it will be a few years yet before they are tall enough to have an effect. I also have some areas that I have mowed to remove the tags and willows, so it is just tall grasses, but that is in some of my wetter areas. I did it to try and provide some diversity amongst a large block of the same type of cover.

I do have a few .25 acre islands of mature trees in the tags. I did lose a lot of trees last year with the high winds. I have been thinking of going in there and planting a bunch of conifers on those island. I can't say I have seen a lot of bedding on the islands with the past cover.
 

Ben.MN/WI

5 year old buck +
I agree that your 28 acres of high ground can support deer when times are good, but they eat all the good stuff before hunting season starts and then they head somewhere else for better food. It sounds like deer cover is everywhere in your area, so you need to provide more food. If you planted 5 acres of soybeans and a couple acres of clover/rye/brassicas you would likely support the same number of summer deer, but slowly increase the deer numbers as the season goes on. Fruit trees could also be part of the long term plan, but the fastest way to dramatically improve your hunting likely involves a bulldozer that can carve out some large plots capable of producing thousands of pounds of forage.
 

ProcraftMike

A good 3 year old buck
I agree that your 28 acres of high ground can support deer when times are good, but they eat all the good stuff before hunting season starts and then they head somewhere else for better food. It sounds like deer cover is everywhere in your area, so you need to provide more food. If you planted 5 acres of soybeans and a couple acres of clover/rye/brassicas you would likely support the same number of summer deer, but slowly increase the deer numbers as the season goes on. Fruit trees could also be part of the long term plan, but the fastest way to dramatically improve your hunting likely involves a bulldozer that can carve out some large plots capable of producing thousands of pounds of forage.
I keep thinking it is food as well, but I am not totally convinced yet, as they often leave when there is still food in my plots. But, this year seemed to be different as well. I did not see the amount of pressure that I normally do in my plots. But, that might be a result of the additional browse that was created when a big windstorm tipped over a lot of my trees last year. A lot of those are still alive and the additional sunlight to the ground has resulted in a lot of new growth.

I would like to put in additional plots, but I would say 50% of the time, either my spring or fall plots get flooded out. I just don't have a lot of high ground to put plots on. The 28 acres of high ground runs from my ridge, which is about 100 yards into the property, back east to my easement road. I am trying to keep all of my plots and improvements close to the ridge and further west, due to the other area being to close to my easement road and field edge. I wish the ridge and high ground that I have was further into my property than it is.
 

Ben.MN/WI

5 year old buck +
26 acres of Native browse and 2 acres of food plots can support a deer or two for a full year, but I'm guessing the 5-10 deer on your place in the summer eat the good stuff and then head to the high woods a couple miles away.

If you added 5-7 acres of food plots I'd say there is a 99% chance that your hunting would improve regardless of where on your property that food was found - even if it was right by the road. From your current description it doesn't sound like your hunting could get too much worse, so you would only be out the few grand it would cost to carve out large plots, add fertilizer and lime.
 

rocksnstumps

5 year old buck +
U mention veggie farm close by. What lag time is there from when veggie harvest happens and deer evaporate? If only a week or two might help support food is hole in bucket theory.
 

ProcraftMike

A good 3 year old buck
26 acres of Native browse and 2 acres of food plots can support a deer or two for a full year, but I'm guessing the 5-10 deer on your place in the summer eat the good stuff and then head to the high woods a couple miles away.

If you added 5-7 acres of food plots I'd say there is a 99% chance that your hunting would improve regardless of where on your property that food was found - even if it was right by the road. From your current description it doesn't sound like your hunting could get too much worse, so you would only be out the few grand it would cost to carve out large plots, add fertilizer and lime.
Well, I do have an idea for some additional food. The DOT purchased 250 acres from the farmer and converted it back to wetlands. They have berms around it to keep the water in this area and not flooding mine or the neighboring property. There is a berm that runs next to my easement road. If the DOT doesn't care, I could easily put a food plot on top of this berm. That would be the easiest and cheapest way to see if it has any effect. I could make adjustments from there if I see positive results.
 

ProcraftMike

A good 3 year old buck
U mention veggie farm close by. What lag time is there from when veggie harvest happens and deer evaporate? If only a week or two might help support food is hole in bucket theory.
The farmer normally does not start harvesting until early to mid October. In most years, the deer are already leaving my property. Besides some of the carrots that are planted, I don't see the deer getting into much of the other vegetables (onions, potatoes).
 

Ben.MN/WI

5 year old buck +
I think you will need to add several acres of plots to make a big difference. A small 1/4 acre plot here or there may help, but it might only keep the deer there a week or two longer than they otherwise would be there.

I've never seen a 5 acre field of standing soybeans not get eaten by deer, so I'm confident if you plant enough food you can change their patterns.
 

ProcraftMike

A good 3 year old buck
I think you will need to add several acres of plots to make a big difference. A small 1/4 acre plot here or there may help, but it might only keep the deer there a week or two longer than they otherwise would be there.

I've never seen a 5 acre field of standing soybeans not get eaten by deer, so I'm confident if you plant enough food you can change their patterns.
I am going to give this a shot next year. We have a strip of land down the entire length of our easement road. I can plant that next year and see if it makes a difference. If it does, I can look at either making one of my existing plots larger, or adding a new plot on some of my higher ground.
 
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