Attracting and keeping deer on your property comes down to a few main factors: water, food, cover and lack of intrusion. Every farm has its own DNA and how you achieve those things is different on each farm. Water is something that can be added to any farm by way of digging a pond, creating a guzzler or even hauling water. As it relates to food, Mark says your food plot strategy has a lot to do with determining what part of the hunting season you have the most success in. That success will have a lot to do with the lay of the land and how your farm is set up. For instance, on some farms the early season may be better for hunting because the property has more north slopes and deer are in there trying to cool down. On other farms, the late season may be much better because that particular farm may have more thermal cover and south facing slopes. You would plant different food plots on those two farms, Mark says, to maximize your success at different points throughout the season. However, if you want a food plot that will take you through a good majority of the fall and one that will be palatable all the way from the early season until the late season, then clover will get you through and give you the most bang for your buck. Clover has a lot of protein value when it greens up in the spring and deer love it. As a bonus for land managers, it doesn’t require that much maintenance, just mowing and spraying it once or twice throughout the year to keep the weeds and grass down. Aside from food, cover is a major factor in attracting and keeping deer on your property. Deer like to stay hidden and they need adequate cover to feel safe. Cover comes in a lot of different forms, one of which is warm season grass stands that are thick and tall. Prescribed burning in the spring helps improve and increase the cover, set back grass and other vegetation that you don’t want and enhance the growth of legumes, shoots and more that deer can eat. Finally, lack of intrusion is all up to the land owner/manager/hunter. If you frequently head into the heart of your hunting property to check cameras or hunt and you aren’t seeing very many deer, it’s very likely that you are the problem, Mark says. Instead of pushing deer around, use cellular cameras or distant visual scouting. Wind and scent are not only factors during the hunting season, but also the off-season as well. Before you head into the woods to check cameras or scout, it’s imperative to make sure the wind is in your favor to minimize the pressure you put on the deer.
Focusing specifically on improving cover, Mark says prescribed fire is a great tool for property owners to have in their management arsenal. Fires help burn off debris from the forest floor, infuse the soil with nutrients, kill unwanted saplings, stimulate or set back different grasses and much more. For land managers with burning know-how, small scale burns can be started and controlled by establishing lines, picking days with light wind, the right humidity conditions, etc. Mark says when it comes to burning off areas for a food plot or other small burns they do it themselves. However, large scale burns can be trickier and often require the help from professionals. On a recent episode of DODTV, Mark welcomed viewers to his farm in Iowa where he wanted to enhance the warm season grasses that he planted about 12 years ago by using fire. Warm season grasses get a lot of competition from cool season grasses every year and if there are 3 to 4 years between burns, cool season grasses can begin to take over. Prescribed burning at the right time in the late winter/early spring can help set back the brome and other cool season grasses and help the warm season varieties thrive. To execute this burn in particular, because of its size, Mark says he brought in a team of pros to help. Burning 600 acres of grass and an additional couple hundred acres of timber is an enormous area. Grass fires create their own wind, they have a mind of their own and you need to have someone with experience to make sure they know how to get out in front of those things, Mark says. It’s one thing to start a fire, but it’s another thing to control it and put it out. Mark talks about the benefits that the fire had on his property and also discusses the ideal time for land managers across the country to burn.
Finally, Drury Outdoors celebrated 30 years in the outdoor industry by giving away a farm to one lucky winner at the beginning of the year. More than 150,000 people entered to win an awesome 160-acre farm in Missouri that the Drury’s fixed up with food plots, treestands, gates, and more. It was an incredible giveaway and Mark talks about the experience. When they began 30 years ago, Mark says it was never their intention to grow the Drury brand to be the outdoor industry staple that it is today. Instead, Mark and Terry just wanted to buy a camera, kill turkeys, sell the videos and hopefully make enough money that they could hunt turkeys the following year. However, through meeting different people like Toxey Haas, Cuz Strickland, Will Primos and more, Mark says they were able to get invaluable advice that put them on the path to where they are today. Mark reflects on his fascination with turkey calling that began when he was a teenager which led him to travel and compete on the calling circuit. In an effort to improve his stage calling, he talks about renting turkey calling videos which ultimately inspired them to film themselves calling and killing turkeys. It all started with “King of the Spring” in 1989. Mark says they wanted to take what they were seeing in the woods and bring it to life, to tell better stories and to show 100% wild and fair chase hunting.
The Drury’s continue to produce great outdoor programming like their show “Winchester & Drury’s Natural Born”. “Man, that’s one of my favorites because it has all the turkey hunts in it,” Mark says. “I like to deer hunt, but I love to turkey hunt and we don’t share much turkey footage with the exception of that show.” Mark talks “Natural Born”, the title derived from the belief that hunting isn’t a sport, but rather an instinct. That’s why the show is called, “Natural Born”, Mark says, because it’s in you, it’s in all of us. “Natural Born” is all about that instinct. The show has turkey hunting, whitetail hunting, and other wild game like predators, moose, elk and bears. It’s that show that if you love hunting and the outdoors and you like a variety of species, there is something in “Natural Born” that you’re going to like.
Be sure to listen in as Mark Drury stops by The Revolution this week with spring habitat management tips. You can find all things Drury by going to DeerCast.com and using the DeerCast app. Check it out. Also, watch Mark Drury, co-host of “Winchester & Drury’s Natural Born”, Sundays at 10:30 p.m. ET on Sportsman Channel.