Habitat Advancement in a 2022 Economy

SD51555

5 year old buck +
That cage thread was a really good idea. Why not expand the conversation to the whole mission? I got to wondering about how to keep moving the mission ahead as things get tight, and tight could mean either time, money, or ability. When times were good, I was still hard at work trying to reduce TMA (time/money/ability) while also increasing output. It wasn't that I wanted to do less, or spend less, I wanted to accomplish more and as fast as possible.

So, if anyone has just started adjusting their thinking this year, what have you done lately to change the way you do things?

I have some hard rules, and I break them periodically:

*I don't plant trees. If I do plant trees, I don't buy them, I relocate them from inside or near my property. If I do buy them, I dodge my brother until he forgets I owe him for the pines.
*It takes money to fertilize. It takes far less money to mineralize.
*I spend as little as possible on maintenance, and as much as possible on durable improvements. If something ends up being high maintenance, I get rid of it.
*The single most labor intensive activity I do each year is chainsaw work. I may put 6-10 hours into my food plot program each year (not counting new plot construction and startup activity). Trail maintenance might be second at 12 hours. I put 40-60 into my chainsaw work. Outside of the cost of the saw or chain sharpening, it just costs me some sweat and a gallon or two of saw fuel, and does the absolute most to improve things quickly and on a big scale.
 
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356

5 year old buck +
In my post yesterday I shared my EQIP reflections—it it nice to have cost-share if you live in areas that will quality for such programs. Only 9 of our 85 acres in are this program.

Here are the steps I am taking to cut costs and save time:
* Plant seedlings from the state nursery. Average cost, with shipping, is $0.50/tree or shrub. These are generally natives that grow well in our zone.
* Instead of a traditional food plot, I am trying an early succession plot. After clearing off trees and brush on this 2 acre plot, I deep tilled. What is growing looks like weeds to me, but to the deer it is native food and cover.
* Girdling, not chemically treating trees. The amount of browse in our woods is substantially higher, plus I have lots of wood "drying on the vine" you might say for firewood later. It is easier to cut and split trees that have stood for a year or two, IMO. As you noted, getting light to the ground is making the biggest difference on our property.

On the early success plot I plant to do a growing season 30 yard radius burn near a stand location for bow season, and begin a growing/dormant season burn rotation to keep the early succession native grasses and forbs.

Here is a picture from the edge of the 2 acre plot...great deer food, good cover, lots of light coming through the woods. I truly wish I had a "before" picture, as it was what one deer biologist called a "biological desert."

Cost: Labor
Chemicals: None
Seeds: None
Deer Activity: Tons!

Screen Shot 2022-07-17 at 5.56.55 AM.png
 

4wanderingeyes

5 year old buck +
As I get older, and now with living on my hunting property, I am changing things up a bit. I was focusing on increasing food plots, and planting more apple trees, but I have shifted to planting shrubs, and cedars for more long term plans. The shrubs will provide cover, and a long term food source, and the cedars will hopefully provide cover, and a sense of safety for them along an old driveway. I have also been planting clusters of cedars in my sanctuary.

One of my food plots I started planting apple trees in about 8 years ago, and with the plan to just plant perennial clover around the apple trees, for low maintenance plots.

In my plan of planting shrubs and cedars, I am in year one, of a 3 year plan.

I have also purchased and installed an outdoor wood boiler, with the wood boiler, I need firewood, so that means I will be opening the canopy, and cutting down poppler trees, and that will increase root suckering, and I have been cutting maples, for stump sprouts. Cutting down the lower value wood, I am also opening the canopy, and releasing oaks, that will produce more acorns.

I will probably always have some sort of food plots, but the plan is to make the food plots an option, rather then a need to atttract deer into my land. The plan is for deer to want to be on my land, even if my food plots fail, like last year.
 

sandbur

5 year old buck +
For those in wooded environments, a chainsaw can be your best friend. If you burn firewood, a scattering of firewood cuts is beneficial. I used to pick an area for firewood and cut everything but oaks in that area for firewood, as we did not have many oaks. I would leave some mature timber stand and then pick another pocket to harvest firewood.

Have a timber harvest if it is economically feasible.

Always consider a barter with a trusted neighbor /friend. Maybe he has equipment to level or till a small area and could use some firewood in exchange.

Look carefully at what is really necessary in your area and for me, also see if you truly enjoy doing it. I have cut way back on foodplotting and equipment as I don’t think it is necessary at this point. I am skeptical of magic beans and there can be chances at good prices on some generic seeds through Sportsmans clubs or groups.


I have also learned to be skeptical of plantings used in other areas that are not similar to your area. Do less experimenting at extending the range of trees and shrubs. Don’t consider two or three crop foodplot plantings in northern areas as our growing season is too short. Look for the native seedlings like spruce to move to different areas.

As most know, I like apple tree plantings. I have cut way back do to my age and lack of room. For low maintenance and on my soils and environments, crab apples can produce fruit about every other year with very little work. They seldom need spray when used for deer food. I have also found that planting a hardy or native crab seed can result in some interesting and usable wildlife trees. You invest time instead of more money for immediate results. I just grow the seedlings in the corner of my garden and no longer worry about grow pots or other containers. I all ready have what I need to protect the seedlings. I see a cheap alternative being the planting of dolgo rootstock/ seedlings or red splendor seedlings. These might be available through you soils and water conservation district. They seem to know if those trees do fairly well in your area. These choices and my choices are AREA SPECIFIC. That is the key for foodplot/ tree shrub plantings at a reasonable price. Don’t try to plant things too far beyond the natural range.

It sounds like pear trees are preferred in other environs. Not here. They are not reliable producers with little care in my area.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

Tree Spud

5 year old buck +
Not much will really change for me. I can afford what I want to do but have always been frugal in what I do. My Dad instilled in me the "cheap" gene and I carry that with me today.

Rather than buying prepackaged BOB seed, that you are getting raped on, I mix my own seed blends. If things are tight, the best and most economical plot approach id...
- Red clover & WR in the fall. Med red clover is ~$3.25/lbs and WR is around $12-13/buschel. These will provide fall & spring food.
- In late spring or mid summer, you can mow the WR for OM and cover. You can then overseed with PTT or other brassicas in mid summer. The clover will scavenge nitrogen which will help support the
brassicas.
- You can do an acre with the above for about $20/acre. All can be obtained at your local feed mill.

I will continue to buy/plant trees specifically conifers. Buy fewer, larger transplants and protect them. Caging is so important as bucks can destroy them pretty quickly. One grove planting of 25 spruce can provide a lot of cover for deer, turkeys, and other animals. Look at you County for their tree sale programs. You can also contact your state nursery. Both these options will provide trees & shrubs for about 20-30% of what you will pay at the brand name nursery's.

Fruit trees are a great investment as they are a food source for the long term. Once again buy fewer larger stock and cage them. Talk to your neighbors especially farmers as they often have junk areas with old fencing. Look to your local counties Master garden club. I discovered our Master Gardner's club has an annual spring fruit tree sale. The stock was all 5/8" - 1/2" caliber and about $14/tree.

Spend more time learning to hunt vs. learning to be a farmer. Practice with your bow and rifle. Nothing worse than putting all that time in your habitat efforts to blow the shot (gun or bow) or setting up your stand wrong.

Spend less time on your property especially with the # and frequency of game cams and checking them. Less intrusion will encourage more deer to visit. Remember, in the fall, that is when the bucks start to move during looking for does. Whatever you have on your property will probably change. Checking your game cams every week will not make a big buck appear, you'll just leave more scent.

A stated above, don't get caught up with what the other guy is doing or obsess with all the YouTube/Social media experts are touting. Sometimes less is more.
 

SwampCat

5 year old buck +
I have owned my property for twenty years and lived on it for twelve years. Food plots are the center of my success. I plant about forty to fifty acres - including the dove and duck plots. Probably 35 acres consist of durana clover and wheat. Depending on the condition of the plots come early October planting time - I can do the actual planting in three days. Some plots might require bush hogging or spraying prior to planting. The deer management is pretty easy. Most of my soil is either highly calcareous - which favors very few trees - and bottomland - which may flood. I have one small orchard area with two producing apple trees and one pear. I have planted two dozen more trees - but they are still four or five years from producing. I am having to water them now. Daily 100 degree temps and no rain for over a month with none in the forecast. My meager planting of fruit trees is irrelevant for my wildlife - they are more for me.

I spend more time on my duck and dove plantings than I do my deer. Deer management in my area is pretty easy. Tirgger control and food are the two important concerns for deer. Duck and dove are a total different story. I have found no easy way for them.

I am also now converting one of my native five acre fields to a pollinator planting - in cooperation with our g&f. This is fairly labor intensive. I also just had a 36 acre hack n squirt last year.

If I was managing for deer only, it would be pretty simple - maybe an intensive week in the fall and maybe a few mowings or sprayings in the summer. I do have about seven miles of trail that have to be maintained
 

yoderjac

5 year old buck +
I've done nothing new this year with my approach. I was already on the path to lowering cost and workload long before the economy went south. With min-till/no-till I haven't used commercial fertilizer for over 5 years with no ill-effects. That was a big cost and labor reduction. We were already on a long-term timber management plan and will be staying on course.
 

SWIFFY

5 year old buck +
I live on my farm. I have a lot of good memories here. I get enough money from the CRP payment that it pays the taxes and then some. I figure if I use the "and then some" money for farm projects, whether it works out or not its all good. Im cheap and try to get by with used stuff and make things work. My dad raised me that way. But sometime theres a right way, and I learn the hard way... I guess thats called experience.

Trees are a big one. Im in a more open, prairie terrain. I enjoy planting trees but have sure learned that i cant be too cheap or dodge the important steps. Do it right or dont even waste your time and money. For ex: mats, mulch, and CAGES!

I love food plots and theyve gotten easier and easier for me over the years. I dont spend much. This year, however, has been a real kick to the groin... I've learned no matter how bad you want it, or what you spend, plants just dont grow without water. :(

At the end of the day, here were all are.... still doing it!
 

Triple C

5 year old buck +
No changes here. Spend a weekend planting plots late Sep or early Oct.

Just finished a clear cut on one section of property and thinning on another section. Gonna break out 1989 model A Bolt Medallion in .270 with a new Leupold 4x12 to hunt over clear cut.

Done planting trees. Down here, chive me native persimmon over every tree I’ve planted.
 

Native Hunter

5 year old buck +
My deer hunting is going so well I would be afraid to change anything. If it starts going south - then back to the drawing board......

The biggest success factors of all are the things I've planted that were not native. The concept of: "...If it ain't there already, it's probably not meant to be there..." - seems like nonsense, based on my experiences. Deer gravitate to places with good things they can't find anywhere else....
 

neonomad

5 year old buck +
Not much will really change for me. I can afford what I want to do but have always been frugal in what I do. My Dad instilled in me the "cheap" gene and I carry that with me today.

Rather than buying prepackaged BOB seed, that you are getting raped on, I mix my own seed blends. If things are tight, the best and most economical plot approach id...
- Red clover & WR in the fall. Med red clover is ~$3.25/lbs and WR is around $12-13/buschel. These will provide fall & spring food.
- In late spring or mid summer, you can mow the WR for OM and cover. You can then overseed with PTT or other brassicas in mid summer. The clover will scavenge nitrogen which will help support the
brassicas.
- You can do an acre with the above for about $20/acre. All can be obtained at your local feed mill.

I will continue to buy/plant trees specifically conifers. Buy fewer, larger transplants and protect them. Caging is so important as bucks can destroy them pretty quickly. One grove planting of 25 spruce can provide a lot of cover for deer, turkeys, and other animals. Look at you County for their tree sale programs. You can also contact your state nursery. Both these options will provide trees & shrubs for about 20-30% of what you will pay at the brand name nursery's.

Fruit trees are a great investment as they are a food source for the long term. Once again buy fewer larger stock and cage them. Talk to your neighbors especially farmers as they often have junk areas with old fencing. Look to your local counties Master garden club. I discovered our Master Gardner's club has an annual spring fruit tree sale. The stock was all 5/8" - 1/2" caliber and about $14/tree.

Spend more time learning to hunt vs. learning to be a farmer. Practice with your bow and rifle. Nothing worse than putting all that time in your habitat efforts to blow the shot (gun or bow) or setting up your stand wrong.

Spend less time on your property especially with the # and frequency of game cams and checking them. Less intrusion will encourage more deer to visit. Remember, in the fall, that is when the bucks start to move during looking for does. Whatever you have on your property will probably change. Checking your game cams every week will not make a big buck appear, you'll just leave more scent.

A stated above, don't get caught up with what the other guy is doing or obsess with all the YouTube/Social media experts are touting. Sometimes less is more.
Curious do you spray before the mid summer planting? In an attempt to avoid Gly I currently have buckwheat growing in what was last years rye Etc fall plots. I’d love to skip the buckwheat step but if I mow the rye and annual clover before it matures to seed, I think a spray for whatever’s taking over by late July would be required… and if I don’t mow it until late July / early August wonder if I’d be seeding more rye and clover from last fall’s plot, than any other seed I’m broadcasting.
 

SD51555

5 year old buck +
I trimmed my annual spend for earth moving machines this year. I had planned about $2600 to do some cleanup, building, and fixing around the property. Knocking that down to about $1,000 and pushing the rest to next season. Needed to find a way to paper over the flail mower debacle, and I'm not gonna make it on potatoes and venison.
 

Tree Spud

5 year old buck +
Curious do you spray before the mid summer planting? In an attempt to avoid Gly I currently have buckwheat growing in what was last years rye Etc fall plots. I’d love to skip the buckwheat step but if I mow the rye and annual clover before it matures to seed, I think a spray for whatever’s taking over by late July would be required… and if I don’t mow it until late July / early August wonder if I’d be seeding more rye and clover from last fall’s plot, than any other seed I’m broadcasting.

I used to. The last 4-5 years I let the winter rye & clover mature into late May. I then mow to terminate. Then I plant soy beans. This is the first year I have not sprayed mid season and yesterday I mowed the field again.

I set the brush mower at its highest level. The soy beans were 10" high so i was able to mow over them and cut the remaining WR and weeds that had emerged. I am experimenting this year to see if I can develop cover crop to suppress the weeds.

1658142763108.jpeg
 

BenAllgood

5 year old buck +
I'm not doing my plots this year. But, that's just because I picked up 6.5 acres on my west side that I had a farmer put into corn this year with a wheat cover crop following. Before, that piece was just hay ground. The rest of my hay ground is in it's second year of a pollinator EQIP program. This gives me more time for my edge feathering and bedding pockets. Every acre of my ground besides the 6.5 acre new section is enrolled into an EQIP program. My fields are pollinator plantings, and my woods just got approved for a forest stand improvement.
 

PatinPA

5 year old buck +
I'm going full throw and mow this year. Not spraying the plots at all unless something happens. If they're weedy then they're weedy. I'm saving my leftover gly for the mile a minute battle I'm currently in. Trying to scorch the earth where it's popping up, which seems to be everywhere.
 

Wind Gypsy

5 year old buck +
As far as things that can help financially - MN DNR is cost sharing on a number of my projects. Covering $1440 for heavy buckthorn removal on less than 5 acres of my home lot. On my 40 they are sharing $ for tree purchase, planting, caging, mulching, and a separate cost sharing for buckthorn removal there as well. I don’t remember what all they will cost share on but any invasive control work, tree planting, erosion control, etc it’s worth seeing if they’ll throw some $ your way.
 
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