Sample Plan

Steve Bartylla

5 year old buck +
Not sure where to put this, but figured this was as good a place as any, as it includes many of the things LC has written about and it is more a specialty thread. John, feel free to move it, if you feel there is a more appropriate location.

Anyway, this is something I promised Art, in the thread that got lost in the transition to the new system. It shows what I mean by creating sections on a property to help segregate bucks, increasing the property's ability to hold more bucks and deer in general.

If anyone remembers that thread, you may recall that I wrote something to the extent that there are fuzzy boundaries, as opposed to hard ones, and that I do tie them together.

If I recall correctly, this property is 320 acres. On it, I have 5 sections I created, each containing a food plot, water hole, apple trees and bedding areas. Now, I know as well as anyone that most bucks will move between sections and that just because I create 5 doesn't mean I will hold 5 dominant bucks. Creating more sections merely helps hold more than creating less.

Also, since those bucks will move between sections, particularly during the rut, I'm going to try to encourage how they move and use it to my advantage. Still, as mentioned in the old thread, 1 mature buck can't be at more than one fruit tree planting, water hole or food plot at once. So, having more than one gives another mature buck that either doesn't want to fight or has been driven off a place they can go and call home, at least while more dominant bucks aren't there.

I'll spare you and myself the detailed write up I do with these plans (typically between 8-12 pages). Here's a quick rundown of what the colors represent.

Red dots = stand locations.
Black dots = “planted” scrape trees.
Blue dots = water holes.
Thick light yellowish green lines = hinge cutting for deer travel corridors (sidewalks) and browse production.
Larger green ovals = doe bedding and browse production.
Smaller green ovals = buck beds where bucks are likely already bedding (lowest priority of everything).
Thin green lines = blockade/screens running along field and four for funneling
Purple = brassicas, cereal rye, beans &/or winter pea rotation, top seeded with cereal rye and bin oats mix.
Blueish green rings = 10 yard wide swath of clover (and alfalfa, if soils allow)
Red bands = Apple tree plantings
Dark green lines through food plot and along field edge = Norway spruce plantings to serve as screens

I do have 2 stands inside of what I'd consider the sanctuary (both inside the woods on the point running to the south. I'd hope I never had to hunt them and wouldn't hunt both of them together more than 2 times a season, when everything was "perfect" and I just didn't believe I could get it done from anything outside the outer most "sidewalks." When I did hunt either of them, I'd go in predawn and hunt until I killed or after dark the coming evening. that said, between the strategic placement of the "sidewalks" and the "funnels" I made with blockades, you can see that I can essentially hunt deep woods like setups, while barely entering the woods.

I should also explain that the reason behind the spruce planting and screen/blockade along the top field is to allow hidden entry and exit.

Note that I did nothing along the southeast side or the bottom below it. Deer use it naturally as is. At the same time, it's flat out impossible to access that bottom without having the deer on the side hill watch you from their beds. So, I would not improve it more than creating sidewalks and try to draw them to be killed in the improved areas, instead.

Finally, if I was in a situation like Art or Stu, where I had pitifully few deer to hunt, I'd still make this plan before doing any improvements. I just wouldn't put in more than 2 of the food plot/fruit tree/water hole locations, max, until my populations started to rebound. As it did, I'd add more of them as the population needed. Doing all this under pitifully low deer numbers would make no sense and make hunting harder. However, planning for it up front would allow me to piece it together much more effectively than if I just planned for low deer numbers without knowing how I'd expand it as numbers grew.

I'll try to check this off and on to answer and ?s or explain the thought process I used. I'm sure not pretending this is the only way to skin a cat. It's just the way I personally felt was best.
Sample plan.jpg
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Looks interesting! What % of timber do you like as deer travel corridors (sidewalks).??
Haven't studied it long or let it sink in but I'm curious about access routes to some of the inner stand sites. I'll be the first to admit I'm a novice but the south stands in the timber are deeper than I'd go except for special times. On those special times, I'd be there!
Steve-Thanks you for joining the forum.

I can look at these plans for hours. What are the larger green areas-doe bedding pcokets?

How many fawn bearing does would you estimate are on this property?

Are there any blueish green rings on this map?

Blueish green rings = 10 yard wide swath of clover (and alfalfa, if soils allow)

Are there any blueish green rings on this map?

Blueish green rings = 10 yard wide swath of clover (and alfalfa, if soils allow)

It looks like he has them around all the food plots

first I have to admit something that will make me look a little foolish. I meant to recreate the plan I did for a property about 12-15 years back, correcting some things I'd do differently today. This property is extremely similar. so much so that I was half way done with the mark ups before I realized it wasn't the property I meant to be doing...That one was another mile or so up the road. So, it turns out I've never stepped foot on this piece of ground. :oops: I was just too far into it/didn't have the time to scrap it and start over on the other one, and they are amazingly similar anyway.

You are correct. The large green pockets are doe bedding areas. I somehow missed putting them in on the legend. At the same time, they are often my go to technique, along with the sidewalks, for increasing woody browse. It's highly possible that I wouldn't get 3 family groups to bed on that longer ridge running to the south. Two would be just as likely. Still, having the extra "bedding area" would still help increase the browse production and further help hold chased does on the ridge by giving them another location to potentially lose their pursuit.

The number of does is going to depend in large part on how big the family groups are. More than building a property to hold X individual does, I look at it more as building it to hold Y family groups. Unlike many, I want a lot of family groups, so long as they aren't destroying the food/habitat. As a general rule of thumb, I want 10% of the better food sources to be available come spring, and that includes buds of preferred browse species. That really is what dictates my population goals. I believe the whole "doe factory driving bucks out" sounds cool, but is grossly exaggerated and offers way more of an upside than any possible downsides. After a year or two in, every property I manage holds more family groups than the neighbors...and way more bucks, as well.

On this property, I'm shooting for 10 family groups. I generally try to have 2 per food/water/fruit tree planting. I find that's a good balance of keeping social stress manageable and having enough does. In reality, in this area, I could hold 12 fine, as there were two that lived along the steep side hill and fed almost exclusively in the fields below (as I wrote earlier, the similarities between this property and the one I wanted are amazingly close).

Also, remember, this is in an area with a carrying capacity of over 100. So, on a 320 acre property, holding 50 is about where I want to be.

That two stands you mentioned are the two I put in the "sanctuary" and I'd go into each season hoping to never need to hunt them. If I did, between the 2 stands, I'd limit it to 2 sits, max, and only under the conditions you allude to. Both were setup for north winds, with the southern most stand blowing into nothing and the one further up the ridge blowing over the "sidewalk". That one, even at 20' up a tree, you'd be 25' or higher over that trail. On both (on the real farm), I came up the side of the ridge from directly below and would be in stand at least 30 mins before first light. Still high impact, but in such great spots it was worth it, IF hunted no more than 2 times cumulatively.

On top, their are only 3 other stands that are very high impact (and they were the ones that made me realize I had the wrong farm, as that food plot and tip of an erosion cut didn't exist there, nor did the island of trees, but I figured that just grew up, for some reason).

First, the top food plot stands would only be hunted in the afternoons. Morning hunts would be done on the pinch point crossing on the top east side and on bottom. I'd walk right through the middle of the field to access the top food plot stands, and walk out with the wind blowing into the woods, with the screening hiding me from most of the deer in the field.

Still, the center top food plot would be higher impact, and that's OK, in my book. What that means is the only time you hunt that one is when you are getting somewhat consistent daylight picks of a buck you want to hunt there AND you are hunting a front. Some years it wouldn't get hunted at all, as I want to kill out of the lower impact stands. Others, it'd only be a couple times. I don't hesitate to put in plots or stands that will be hunted 0-2 or 3 times, as it can be well worth it.

Tom answered your question. I often don't ring food plots with clover, but did on all of these because most so tucked into the woods. I love clover as a work horse and, in this case, it will do fine along the edges in these pockets, whereas the other plantings won't do that great along the edges. I used this technique here to both give me clover and minimize planting other seedings in low return locations. Killed 2 birds with 1 stone

Great ?, but there is no percent that I shoot for. I let the property tell me what to do. Having the travel corridors ringing the cover is the oldest and most often used trick in the book. I could rattle off three consultants that did it on every plan I've ever seen of theirs. However, I feel it is often overused in locations it doesn't naturally fit and sometimes even hurts. It just happened that this property was tailor made for it.

The interior sidewalks are all in locations that deer would naturally travel anyway (up and down points and along cuts). I'm just using them to both increase browse and further encourage their use, though there will still be plenty trails that aren't sidewalks.

I should mention 1 other thing. The buck beds would be my very last priority. They really aren't needed, as I can almost guarantee, never having stepped foot on this property, that bucks are already bedding within a few yards of those "buck beds." In fact, the "beds" I'd make would be adjusted to be made right where I found the existing beds. It'd merely sweeten the pot a little, if that makes sense.
How wide are the travel corridors? Do you basically cut or hinge cut all trees in the width of the corridor? Do you then cut a single deer trail through it or several? Can it be too thick?
Thanks for pointing it our to me. My color identification is a little lacking. Shouldn't have watched the pretty colors from the welder when I was a kid:)

In the center there is a field, is it planted in Ag crops each year? Would you use NWSG in an area like this and if so how would you expect the deer to utilize it?

I have 40 acres of NWSG the deer like to utilize for bedding but I don't see allot of daylight activity and when I do its typically between the narrow Gaps between cover or cover and food. I have planted wind breaks in my NWSG but the evergreens and fruit trees are not large enough yet to provide cover but once they are larger I am hoping for more movement in my NWSG.

Once you have an initial plan implemented how long before you re-evaluate it and adjust depending on how the deer are using what you have developed?
James, I was counting on questions like these to fill in the info missing by not including a write up on the drawing...Thanks.

Those "sidewalks" are most often created by a combo of hinging all the trees safe to hinge, cutting those that tend to snap and girdling those that the chainsaw operator isn't comfortable with.

One should never fight tree lean on bigger trees when hinging, ever. So, I allow all leaners to drop in any direction they want, and can cut them out of the "sidewalk," if they happen to fall across it. Otherwise, what I'm trying to do is get them to drop perpendicular to the 28ish inch sidewalk that will be created in the center of this cut. I'll hinge the trees about waist level, simply because that's comfortable for me. Unlike when creating blockades or bedding areas, height doesn't matter when hinging trees for sidewalks. The only consideration is that doing it too high will keep more of the shoots from being browse, and I want the browse, but not enough to kill my back by cutting the all at knee height.

The width is part art and part science. 1st, if the area is already nasty thick, I won't hinge anything and simply create that 28" wide trail through it (cutting and spraying RoundUp to make it as easy walking as a sidewalk). Most areas are too mature and I'll need to cut/hinge to let in enough sunlight to promote enough regrowth for the "sidewalks" to be heavily used. The more mature the trees and closed the canopy, the wider this swath of cut trees must be to get the desired effect. Based on the maturity and canopy, the width ranges from 20' to 20 yards, with the trail running down the center. Most often, because most habitats have differing pockets tree maturities/densities, the width on a property fluctuates.

When it comes to creating doe bedding areas, height matters.

In this case, I'm cutting about at chest level. I'm also trying to lay the trees over each other to create a false ceiling. That's not always possible and isn't an issue when it can't occur, as cutting higher still allows the deer to walk easily underneath. The size of these varies, but I typically make them from 1/3rd to 1 acre in size, tending towards the larger when increasing browse and/or cover is more important.

As a side note, I've been seeing images lately of hinge cut areas where it looks like they were cut no more than a few inches off the ground. I assume that's to promote more the shoots being accessible for longer or it just may be because the manager was new to hinge cutting? Except when creating blockades, where I alternate cutting low to high, simply to make it harder for deer to get through, I think cutting a bunch really low is a mistake. The deer won't want to move in that stuff, as it will be a huge pain for them. Most time, the extra browse just becomes a waste.

On the attached image of a doe bedding area I created this past winter, it appears I cut higher than I did. There's a rise on the other side of the trees I'm walking under.

Willy, no worries. If I'd known you'd be reviewing this, I'd have picked different colors.


I like planting native grasses and spruce. I think they're both great tools. However, I think one has to really think about were to put them.

In this property's case, if I'd planted either on the top, it ruins my access (also, on the real property I setup, I was already pushing it hard by taking as much crop ground as I did and had a hard sell with the owner to get that much). As it's laid out, I would access the top food plots from the NE corner. That's why I didn't put a food plot in the upside down V just on the NE side of the pinch/brush line on the top. With the rest of the top planted in cover, how could I access the food plots without blowing up deer?

Now, where I would strongly consider planting spruce or native grasses would to the NE and NW of the northern most food plot on the bottom. By doing that, the deer using it would/should funnel into that food plot, while still offering safe access and departure from the west of that plot.

One could also plant that strip of field in the SW corner, Starting just far enough below the food plot to still allow access to the plot.

I always try to keep access and departure in mind when doing this stuff. Planting that entire top in deer cover would no doubt increase the holding power of the property, but how do you hunt it effectively? If I can't figure out a way to do both, I don't do it.

P.S. I've noticed more than once that WSNG plantings can make deer feel very secure. So much so that they tend not to leave until after dark. Other locations, they move freely in and out all day.

To help stack the odds, I tend to place food as close to these plantings as I can, while still being able to hunt them. I've found that helps catch those bucks in that last 5-10 mins of daylight.

Another thing I often do is mow narrow trails through them, leading them to where I want them to go. Now, they don't follow them as much as the "sidewalks" through woods, but enough to help make them worth while...Hope that helps your specific situation.
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how did you come up with the 28"?
Wide enough for me to get my fat butt through to maintain, and for the biggest buck to not get his rack hung up, but narrow enough to make it seem more natural.

Truth be told, I stole the width from Barry Wensel, many, many, many years ago. He explained it as you want to make it wide enough for bucks to travel easily, but no wider, as they start to appear unnatural the wider they get. It made sense to me so I ran with it.

As a side note, I use the "does it make sense" test to determine the validity of most every new things I hear, read, see.Jjust because it passes that test doesn't make it true, but I can't think of a single thing that fails that test that I believe is true. Mother Nature doesn't allow deer to consistently do anything that doesn't make sense. Sure, there are the rare exceptions, but survival of her species depends on their actions generally making some sense.
Likely the last note for the day. I should be able to check in again tomorrow.

I reevaluate plans constantly. Each time I'm on a property, I'm reevaluating what I've done, how I should have changed it and what I could/should add. It occupies probably 80% of the time I'm sitting in a tree stand on a managed property.

Still, I've learned to stop jumping for every new, shinny object that I see. I tend strongly towards not doing anything to add or alter a plan for 1 year. After season, I take all these mental notes and actually incorporate the changes I select from reevaluation into the plan. Often, what at first appears to be a good idea changes with deer usage, and what didn't seem to work also changes for the better. Waiting 1 year helps make sure my alterations are the right move.

That said, one area that can take time are the "sidewalks." Depending on a host of factors (tree species, soil types, droughts, hinge cut survival rates and more), I've found "sidewalk" usage to take varying lengths of time to produce results. Some of them are much like using WSNGs or evergreens for screens, in that they take time to get to where they produce results.

So, to answer your ?, I reevaluate constantly, but tend strongly to only commit to any changes once a year, right after season. most often, they're relatively minor tweaks, but those "tweaks" can make a big difference. Every now and then, despite investing more time than most would realize into making sure I hit a homer with the first plan, I find I made a bigger blunder and do a pretty significant redo. Thankfully, they're pretty rare.
Do you do anything to enhance these side walks such as planting conifers along side of it. I am making a corridor between a food plot and bedding area...I am worried there are too many downed trees for the deer to use it...could there be more than one trail through it and should there be"escape" routes so the deer don't feel trapped?
I am just starting to make these "sidewalks" between some bedding and food areas. Kind of hard to picture it all when you start out, especially when I figure it will add up to about 2 miles. LOL. I'm using my ingenuity to the max to make this easier than it looks. If you drop most of the trees perpendicular to the trail on each side the deer will want to walk down the middle. There shouldn't be any trapped issues this way because they can just exit sideways easily, with the trees being perpendicular.