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Is property management on smaller properties

Howboutthemdawgs

5 year old buck +
Fools gold? I get the thought process...more attractive your property is the better chance a deer will spend his time there. But is that reality? I’m talking properties under about 350 acres or so.

My scenario, 250 acres. Only I hunt it. I have worked a ton over the last 2 years this January to make it better. Summer and fall plots, expanded plots considerably from year one, tsi work in various areas, eradicating invasives, etc. Property is night and day difference from previous owner. Didn’t shoot a buck last year, didn’t have a shooter on camera so called it year 1 and planned on best days ahead.

Fast forward to this year, had 2 on camera this summer I considered shooters, 140-150” deer. Hung around till about September and early morning October. Both have disappeared. One just got killed on neighbors last week. So far my immediate neighbors have shot 2 160’s, a 150 and a 140. One tract is considerably bigger and one is smaller than mine. Their idea of habitat management is expanding. the corn pile the size of a kiddie pool to an Olympic sized pool. My property has more cover and food per acre than just about any around once the crops are harvest (only one grows crops, one runs cattle, one is just woods). Had one decent buck show up for a bit in mid October, now a regular with my smaller tract neighbor (we have a good relationship and share pics). I’m running 5 cameras and my biggest buck is a 110” 8 point!

So with all that said it seems like so far the habitat work has been a net negative on my hunting if you look at practically, hell I saw way more deer in general last year when the property was still very raw. I will keep doing the work cause I enjoy getting my hands dirty but it seems like if you are expecting big things the juice ain’t worth the squeeze on smaller properties.
 

Howboutthemdawgs

5 year old buck +
Competing with a corn pile is a waste of time
Literally the biggest omission with these habitat experts (woods, Harper, Strickland, etc). You can have the most perfect property from a textbook perspective but at the end of the day $100 in corn will achieve better results.
 

BenAllgood

5 year old buck +
Do you have a map of your property with your access to stand locations? I think the level of pressure is compounded exponentially the smaller the property gets.
 

trampledbyturtles

5 year old buck +
For me land management has been a huge net positive. Lack of quality cover is the major limiting factor in my region.

Started from bare dirt 30 plus years ago so obviously only had room to go up.

But the last 7 years when Ive really dove deep has shown marked improvement.

Right at 160A
Looking to purchase a sub 20 piece just for something else to tinker with.
 

yoderjac

5 year old buck +
We have a property just under 400 acres. There is some adjoining ground that is cooperating (some unwittingly) that gives us a total of about 800 acres we consider in our management plan. We are trying to do QDM and 800 acres is undersized for that. The game department biologist that oversees our property says he is beginning to see herd improvement in our data, but I'm not convinced it is statistically significant. We have been at it for over 10 years and have made huge strides in habitat.

Deer are significantly harder to hunt now and have become much more nocturnal. What is going on?

There is a conflict between QDM and hunting goals and you have to figure out what the right balance is for you. For us, there is a third goal, introducing new hunters to the sport. When we first started, we had a pine desert with an over population of deer. Food was the limiting factor. When I would mow a clover field, deer would come out and feed in one end while I was mowing on the other and I would approach they would retreat into the pines but by the time I was back at the other end, they were out again. Our deer now have an abundance of food, and more importantly, with clear-cuts and controlled burns, they have much more quality native foods in cover. Foods in cover make deer harder to hunt. They become much more sensitive to hunting pressure. What is good for the health of the herd can work against hunting. When we started they would travel from bedding to food. Now they have plenty to eat where they bed and come into the open after dark.

That is one aspect. Another is activity. If big bucks (older bucks) is your goal, the answer is not QDM, it is sanctuary. Habitat management requires intrusion which is the opposite of sanctuary. When there is pressure deer seek sanctuary. That is why a swamp is a great place for mature bucks. Very hard to hunt, but they live there and retreat there under pressure. Sanctuary can look quite different depending on the type of pressure. Pressure from hunters is different than pressure from dogs, coyotes, or wolves. For hunting pressure, an overgrown pasture on a farm that does not allow hunting can be great sanctuary. Not so much from dogs.

So, what is our hope? I think the hope is does. For does, raising fawns, food is a stronger driver year round than it is for a buck that favors safety. Does/fawns will take more risk than a mature buck because they must to achieve the balance. Our hope is the rut. If we can improve habitat and keep does and fawn on the property in good balance, during the rut, mature bucks will be there. They may be hard to hunt but they will be there.

IF our only goal was killing mature bucks, we would manage quite differently. Most of our property would be sanctuary with a small percentage food. Access would be restricted year round and habitat projects very limited. Sort of one and done. We would design a layout, go in large scale and implement, and then get the heck out and stay out. Roads and stands would be designed to allow proper access with wind direction and we would have much less hunting being done.

What is good for deer many not be good for hunting. What is good for hunting may not be the best for deer. It also depends on your location, the stress periods, the general hunting pressure in the area, and what else is available for deer.

No easy answers...

Thanks,

Jack
 

tynimiller

5 year old buck +
Man Jack hit a ton of truth smack dab on the head.

What each land owners goal is and desired style of hunting is the first step in deciding plan of attack for a property - and as Jack outlined, everything isn't usually possible.

That said I had to chuckle immensely when you label sub 350 acres as small. YIKES. In the county I grew up here in Indiana, there is only a handful of land owners that even own that much land...and the majority are sub 100. Most hunters I know consider blessed to own and operate 40 or so. I grew up hunting my parents 9 acres....now we knew we couldn't control all day movements of deer and by making our place better would attract bucks to neighbors as well...but I'll tell ya what we had the most attractive 9 acres of deer habitat (primarily cover) around and the amount of what we considered trophies taken by us there over the years IMO is impressive.

That said, all must be kept relative to your area as well...a pope and young buck here is a target...in Iowa or sections of Kansas or shoot even areas in Indiana they will get the pass over (shoot even we now pass them if 2.5 years old). So is it possible your expectations are too high, could be?

Is it also possible that you haven't focused enough on providing sanctuary cover for the deer to want to be on your place during daylight hours? Could be...

Some may scoff at the idea of such a small property and the amount of effort and energy I pour into it...but in 2016 purchased around 23 acres. Felt HUGE growing up on the 9 mentioned before. While I'm far from completing my cover objectives, it drives the majority of my decisions property wise...and typically when I get tempted to expand plots - I knock sense back into my head and realize proper cover will provide food as well - their diet is not majority plots no matter how hard we look at it (it isn't bait piles either).

That 23 acres in 2016 blessed me with a buck just shy of P&Y (I'd now pass him these days as I suspect stud 2.5), 2018 I shot a gross 175 inch buck off it and just this year a 144 1/8 gross off it. All bow harvests. My father in 2018, shot one of the biggest and nicest 2 year olds I've seen - he has a full green light and to be honest walking sideways that bucks 6x7 clean rack is one NOT many could pass on (P&Y buck).

No baiting, property has other hunters that sit less than 25 yards from my line.....when I bought it high trespassing issues (lessoning more and more)...but is NOT what many would think could be special.

I don't know what state you're in, but I'd argue you give me or many others (INCLUDING YOU) 350 acres in any state and 3-5 years time - there is no reason realistically mature bucks couldn't start being VERY POSSIBLE.

Not guaranteed though, because one cannot stress enough - improper hunting tactics and property interactions can override ANY habitat designs or plans. You can have the absolute best knock out sanctuaries and cover....but blow the property up with terrible property interactions.
 

Peplin Creek

5 year old buck +
No you can’t manage small properties to only hold certain bucks. They roam and their home ranges are bigger than what most people have access too. Manage it for better hunting... that’s doable. On any acreage period.

Honestly check out some whitetail habitat solutions videos on YouTube. Specifically ones related to doe factories. Bait piles are hard to compete with.... if they are legal, you should work it into your management of your property If not legal, call it in.

if you think the reason bucks are over there is because of corn piles, stop with the plots all together and focus on cover. Does will shift their bedding to be closer to the corn piles and thus forcing more mature deer off the neighbors property do to social pressure. The more available space created by the does leaving your property. Hopefully the bucks slide in.

that’s my suggestion given on what your saying... don’t compete with something your losing too. If they perceive food better on the neighbors... than it is... don’t compete, find another way.

also 5 cameras is not enough to get an accurate picture of what bucks are using your property regularly. You could set them up on scrapes and get some inventory. But I’d bet my house that bucks are slipping on and off your property without you knowing. I run 20ish cams on 80 arces. It’s excessive I know...I won’t disagree but i still have pictures of deer in the center of my property that are able to run the camera maze and make it off without getting another picture.

lastly, I’ll say this. I’d bet your probably doing a better job than you think you are doing and there are probably modifications you can do to help you even more, whether that’s access, planting different food for the stresses of fall and winter and forgoing summer food, trail cameras and their placement. making safe havens for deer and other various things.

Deer do not survive on corn alone. They need other browse in their diet. Find the entry points off your property to theirs and make your game plan from there. Keep your head up.
 

tynimiller

5 year old buck +
I forgot to add.....5 cameras on that much acreage is no where near a place to make definitive statements on buck activities. Now I run over twelve on my 23....granted very few get checked at all till post-season, but still.
 

Buckly

5 year old buck +
Literally the biggest omission with these habitat experts (woods, Harper, Strickland, etc). You can have the most perfect property from a textbook perspective but at the end of the day $100 in corn will achieve better results.

As others said are so right. Improving habitat and improving hunting are two different things. You need to work on improving hunting aspects if that’s your goal. increasing plots and getting rid of invasive s might not do anything for your hunting. Cover, cover and cover combined with deer travel manipulation is the ticket.
 

Howboutthemdawgs

5 year old buck +
So, good responses so far. I want to be clear I by no means am being negative or complaining, just offering an observation I find interesting...and maybe a little disheartening!

I guess the point that I’m making that I didn’t do a good job with is, yes I can and will continue to work my property but my neighbors aren’t lifting a finger and killing deer I would gladly shoot. So what I’m saying is what’s the point!! I mean besides the obvious pride but from a hunting standpoint I clearly don’t have the best hunting in the area but I’m busting my ass January-August. Once again, not sour about it just a little frustrated. I’m in a good area so that’s not the issue, not to sound arrogant, I know how to hunt, and maybe 2 years is not enough to get a fair assessment but, 2 years and no shooters seen from a stand and very little on camera is not comforting.
Also my cameras run 365, and I move them around. I would be super surprised if I wasn’t getting most deer that were using my place. Obviously the occasional one could slip by if he was just slipping through but for any deer that is spending any time I’m sure I would eventually see it.
 

tynimiller

5 year old buck +
Again, no one is saying you don't know how to hunt - so please don't take it as such. However, stop moving the cameras around so much. Every single trip we as hunters or land managers make onto our properties is leaving a story behind for the deer - interpretted for hours, days or weeks by them in a number of different ways. Many folks I've spoke to check their cameras too much, let alone add in trips to move them is merely compounding activity upon my property.

I have cameras out right now that I know may be borderline dead battery wise. However, their content is more assistance for next year than this one and me not disturbing their area is more important than finding out what is on camera or making sure that camera is running.

Also, many of us get into hunting habits which we don't even see or notice as issues. One of my blunders over the years was parking spot selection. Merely shifting this alone can make a massive difference to property disruption and the story of my presence told to the deer. Entrance/Exit route selections also can play a MASSIVE issue on a property and honestly is the NUMBER ONE issue I see on client properties.

One gentleman in HIGHLY pressured Michigan came to me with only about 10 acres, but it is a perfect funnel between roadway and swamp. EVERY single one of his stands but one were in a spot I'd NEVER try to get to save maybe one sit a year in prime seeking phase (and is an all day sit). He was asking deer to overlook his ground scent, even if it was after dark he was still asking them to ignore it or even sometimes cross it! BIG NO NO. This year he moved his stands, hunted less and harvested his biggest buck to date of his life and now is getting more daytime pictures on camera than ever before. Sometimes it isn't about whether we as a hunter or land manager are dumb, its just another set of eyes or ears see or hear something so obvious we just overlooked it out of habit or comfort.

Not saying this is happening but it could be a part of the pie to your success or failure.

Also I'd add just because a neighbor shoots a big buck doesn't mean your efforts are empty. Shoot I know for a fact if either of the neighbors get a big buck, that bucks' choice to be in the area to begin with is greatly impacted by my efforts - while it sucks and at times is a gut punch - their success is also an illustration of my success.
 

Peplin Creek

5 year old buck +
Again, no one is saying you don't know how to hunt - so please don't take it as such. However, stop moving the cameras around so much. Every single trip we as hunters or land managers make onto our properties is leaving a story behind for the deer - interpretted for hours, days or weeks by them in a number of different ways. Many folks I've spoke to check their cameras too much, let alone add in trips to move them is merely compounding activity upon my property.

I have cameras out right now that I know may be borderline dead battery wise. However, their content is more assistance for next year than this one and me not disturbing their area is more important than finding out what is on camera or making sure that camera is running.

Also, many of us get into hunting habits which we don't even see or notice as issues. One of my blunders over the years was parking spot selection. Merely shifting this alone can make a massive difference to property disruption and the story of my presence told to the deer. Entrance/Exit route selections also can play a MASSIVE issue on a property and honestly is the NUMBER ONE issue I see on client properties.

One gentleman in HIGHLY pressured Michigan came to me with only about 10 acres, but it is a perfect funnel between roadway and swamp. EVERY single one of his stands but one were in a spot I'd NEVER try to get to save maybe one sit a year in prime seeking phase (and is an all day sit). He was asking deer to overlook his ground scent, even if it was after dark he was still asking them to ignore it or even sometimes cross it! BIG NO NO. This year he moved his stands, hunted less and harvested his biggest buck to date of his life and now is getting more daytime pictures on camera than ever before. Sometimes it isn't about whether we as a hunter or land manager are dumb, its just another set of eyes or ears see or hear something so obvious we just overlooked it out of habit or comfort.

Not saying this is happening but it could be a part of the pie to your success or failure.

Also I'd add just because a neighbor shoots a big buck doesn't mean your efforts are empty. Shoot I know for a fact if either of the neighbors get a big buck, that bucks' choice to be in the area to begin with is greatly impacted by my efforts - while it sucks and at times is a gut punch - their success is also an illustration of my success.
Great examples of what some of us were trying say. Never stop learning and always ask yourself ..what am I doing today that affects my hunting later. Invest in more cams and let them soak. Eventually patterns jump out. 2 years is also not enough time to learn a property. I’m on year 12 on my 80 acres and I still learn something every season as it pertains to deer movement. Probably learn the most on blood trails. Why go here, why bed there. Always ask why.
 

SD51555

5 year old buck +
The best way to have trophy bucks on your property is to buy a piece of property that has trophy bucks. Anything less than that requires fence, and fence is a wealthy man's game. To try to do it without fence would require cash that would make the fence man look like a pauper.
 

tynimiller

5 year old buck +
The best way to have trophy bucks on your property is to buy a piece of property that has trophy bucks. Anything less than that requires fence, and fence is a wealthy man's game. To try to do it without fence would require cash that would make the fence man look like a pauper.

Sorry, and no offense, but this has been proven wrong by countless owners, land managers in nearly every continental US state that exists time and time again.
 

SwampCat

5 year old buck +
Grow as much year round food as you can to make the does at home and attract as many bucks as you can. Then out bait thy neighbor and kill them early in season - preferably first week or two of bow season before the bucks split up. Then fish rest of season with freezers full of deer meat.
 

SD51555

5 year old buck +
Sorry, and no offense, but this has been proven wrong by countless owners, land managers in nearly every continental US state that exists time and time again.
None taken. I just don't think it a wise expenditure to go for trophy bucks without using fence. Even if you have it, or can attain it, one wrong new neighbor and your life's work is out the door.

Many parts of this country guys will spend upwards of $8,000+/acre on huge tracts in prime spots to try to grow trophy bucks. In reality, they could have just bought a 40 or 80 acre chunk for $1,000/ac and spent another $1,000/ac to fence it. Then you can place (insert most coveted deer state) anywhere you want and save yourself a half million and maybe retire ten years sooner so you can use it before your knees, hips, shoulders and eyes all go.

That's just my take on it. I don't have a lot of $$, so I gotta think these things through.
 

tynimiller

5 year old buck +
None taken. I just don't think it a wise expenditure to go for trophy bucks without using fence. Even if you have it, or can attain it, one wrong new neighbor and your life's work is out the door.

Many parts of this country guys will spend upwards of $8,000+/acre on huge tracts in prime spots to try to grow trophy bucks. In reality, they could have just bought a 40 or 80 acre chunk for $1,000/ac and spent another $1,000/ac to fence it. Then you can place (insert most coveted deer state) anywhere you want and save yourself a half million and maybe retire ten years sooner so you can use it before your knees, hips, shoulders and eyes all go.

That's just my take on it. I don't have a lot of $$, so I gotta think these things through.

Penned deer are in no way shape or form something most habitat managers and hunters have even the slightlest bit of attraction for. I'd take a 70 inch public land buck or private for that matter over a 300 inch 40 acre fenced deer. Not even same universe IMO.
 

Howboutthemdawgs

5 year old buck +
Penned deer are in no way shape or form something most habitat managers and hunters have even the slightlest bit of attraction for. I'd take a 70 inch public land buck or private for that matter over a 300 inch 40 acre fenced deer. Not even same universe IMO.
I think what he is saying is a little bit tongue-in-cheek, at least I hope, but yeah I will hunt the rest of my life on my place and not shoot a deer before I shoot one inside of a fence. I don’t care if it was 50 acres or 10,000 acres. It’s not my definition of fair chase. Same reason I don’t hunt over bait. Heaven forbid it doesn’t come easy.
 

SD51555

5 year old buck +
Penned deer are in no way shape or form something most habitat managers and hunters have even the slightlest bit of attraction for. I'd take a 70 inch public land buck or private for that matter over a 300 inch 40 acre fenced deer. Not even same universe IMO.
I could see that being the case. I'm not a feeder or pile guy either. Be aware though, not all fenced properties are about feeders, killing, and big bucks. The guys that have their own private place (not for profit) will tell you it's more about keeping things out, like illegal baiters, trespassers, neighbor's dogs, wolves, government, and the always reliable "I gotta shoot it, cause if I don't my neighbor will" guys.

I don't have a fenced property, but I will say this. If I had the money and time to manage it, it'd already be done. You can make them as wild or as tuna can as you want.
 
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