All of us at one point or another drool and dream of the opportunity to harvest or encounter trophy whitetails year after year. In order to attempt this, we must develop an action plan to carry out in an attempt to put all odds possible in our favor. Leasing hunting property can give you an advantage over hunting public ground. Especially when you take the time and effort to develop improvements or strategies on good leased hunting grounds to make it better.
Dining In or Out?
Let’s face it, if you don’t have food on your property, you can’t expect deer to call it home. Food is a necessity to drawing and holding deer, but you can’t just drop in a food plot in any location. You need to put some thought into it so you can maximize your odds and opportunities. There’s probably many questions and thoughts that come to mind when thinking about food plots. Things like: what am I going to plant? Where do I plant it? How much area do I plant?
Consider what your surrounding area has to offer. If there is an abundance of a certain food already established on neighboring properties, I would recommend planting something else rather than what everyone else is offering. Give them reason to choose YOUR plot! Whitetails are very selective feeders. Deer will often pass up abundant supplies of less palatable forage to feed on a tastier food source. Do a little research for your area and see what is missing from your local deer taste buds.
Placement of the food plots can be just as important. If possible, try to focus your efforts toward the center of your property. This can help in several ways, such as patterning/determining travel or deer movement on your property. It also helps keep the deer on your property for longer periods of time. For example, if a big buck just will not call your property his bed of choice but he’s frequenting your well placed delicious menu items, being in a centralized location, he has to move across your property for longer distances and time, which results in more opportunities.
Does size matter? YES, of course it does! For several reasons, you don’t want to cover hundreds of yards with a bow if you’re a bow hunter do you? Most of us aren’t archery contest winners so arching a pocket rocket 80 plus yards out from a tree stand isn’t something we can just pull out of the bag. Choose the size that matches your weapon of choice. While yes often we see on TV big food plots and a host capitalizing on a dandy long tine brute that they just reeled in 400 yards away across the beautiful green field, but let’s be serious. How many days have they spent on stand waiting for that opportunity? That’s what they do for a living, were most of us have to capitalize on the vacation days we put back waiting for deer season. Planting multiple smaller plots can help by bringing those big boys closer in range and can make that big buck feel more comfortable not being in as large of an open area, which can lead to early sightings and longer field visits.
Change your approach to hunting by reducing the hunting pressure on your property. Ever thought about limiting the number of hunters on your property during gun season? Or how about not hunting it at all during gun season and letting the local hunting pressure push them all onto your sanctuary? Or keeping it only stick and string? These are all ways to minimize pressure on your property. You can even limit the number of consecutive days hunting is allowed on the property and allow some time for the deer to rest with a short break.
Developing similar strategies during bow season to minimize pressure will help. Putting in action plans to only harvest bucks larger than the last one you took with whatever weapon your hunting with can do wonders. It allows for many younger good bucks to mature into greater bucks. It also challenges you to let the deer get closer so you can judge better, and a closer buck can result in better shot placement.
Pressure doesn’t only exist when you’re in stand, it’s also ground level. To and from stand locations, scouting, setting and checking trail cameras, any human presences is pressure. A lot of hunters have bumped and drove deer out checking scouting cameras never to see them in that area again, I have done this myself thinking I could slip in at risky times and try to pull/switch a SD card. Make sure to always wear rubber boots and spray down to try and prevent leaving behind scent. (Learn more about Scent Control for Hunting in Base Camp Leasing Blog Hunting Tips) Minimize the amount of times you check your cameras. Wait 2 to 4 weeks between checks and make sure to take plenty of replacement batteries and SD cards to make fast swap outs.
Create sanctuaries on your property and KEEP OUT of them year round, only going in them to track or recover an animal. Giving the deer a place they can retreat to on the property to feel safe can help keep them on your property. Try not to create unnecessary ATV trails on the property. Stand placement is critical as well. There is no sense in hanging a stand you can’t access without alerting every deer in the area. Try and develop routes to and from your stand(s) utilizing terrain features that can conceal your entrée/exit like: fence rows, drainages, waterways or even using farm equipment or old abandoned farm structures to hide behind. Don’t short cut your way in the field! A few extra steps can go a long way with concealment.
Rooms for Rent
If a buck feels safe on a property, he’s more likely to stay on that property and call it home. Bucks are looking for places that contain the right habitat in which the buck can be secluded and grow old. They look for cover that’s thick enough to bed in and feel protected, and be able to vanish like a ghost if they need to escape. These areas can vary from dense cedars, brushy briar patches or thick tall grasses. Encouraging areas like these can lure other bucks from neighboring land to take up residency.
Planting tall native grass species in a few areas can make for a great covered area. A deer can get lost in tall grasses just as fast as they can in a briar patch. It will also provide good sunning areas for deer to relax in on cool crisp days.
Briar patches are great for deer to utilize to bed in protective cover. Broadcasting fertilizer onto these patches will help encourage faster growth and healthier plants to form strong thick protection and will help with keeping good browse for the deer as well.
The next one with most leases may not be an option but if it is an option it can be a sure quick fire way to develop a bedroom. “The Hinge Cut” is when you topple a tree without completely cutting through its trunk, causing the tree to hinge over. Also by not completely cutting through the tree, the roots are still able to pass nutrients throughout the tree to continue growth which will be added cover. There are many articles on this technique as well as how-to videos, if you want to learn more about The Hinge Cut, I recommend checking them out via internet or good sources like Year-Round Trophy Whitetails by Joe Brooks.
Now You See Me, Now You Don’t
Whitetails have routes that they follow strictly, but they are subject to change with pressure, local harvesting and time of year. Scouting cameras are great tools for keeping eyes in the woods to help disclose when and where deer movement is.
Move cameras around in different areas to identify travel corridors from buck bedding areas to doe hangouts. Don’t limit yourself to just hanging a trail camera right on top of a bait pile. While you might get lots of pictures, does it fully tell you the entire story? Learning trails traveled and directions are key to increasing your chances in the woods after that mature trophy you are chasing. I have even hung cameras in areas where I thought there was little to no deer traffic, just to check my assumptions. This has gone either way for me, it has assured my assumptions but I have been proved wrong and it has revealed a hidden secret about deer I never knew existed in the area.
Keep notes in a notebook by recording your camera observations and compare it to what your sightings, tracks and/or other sign you are keeping a mental note on (recommend journaling this knowledge too) and you could be able to pattern that big buck you are after.
All these techniques are just a few ways to increase your odds this season. There is no guaranteed method but the more methods and tactics we implement the greater the opportunity. It all comes down to increase your odds as much as possible with key techniques and apply solid hunting skills. Assemble as many puzzle pieces as possible to reveal the big picture and you are on your way to having a better lease with a better season in store.