David says there was a time when a person leased ground based on what it currently had - if it had good deer and good hunting you were in good shape. If not, you were limited in your options to improve it. However, management has changed that narrative. Hunters that are looking to lease can now go into a piece of property that may not have great hunting to begin with, but through sound management they may be able to significantly improve the hunting. In that way, management really broadens a hunter’s options when it comes to selecting a lease. That is even true on small tracts of land, David says.
Food is a crucial part of attracting deer to your property, and food plot strategy varies greatly across the country. Wherever you are in the country, David says, there is a right food plot menu option for that area. A good food plot program at a fairly significant scale can draw deer from a surprising distance away. You may own 80 acres, for instance, but if you set the right table on those 80 acres you could quite possibly attract deer from up to 1000 acres away. It’s important to understand that your hunting success is not based on the deer on your acreage alone, but rather on that of the other deer you draw into your property from surrounding areas, too.
In order to set the table on your property effectively, you need to have sufficient acreage to feed the number of deer that you are going to be attracting. If there isn’t enough food, plots will be quickly mowed down and without some level of standing crop, your food plot will lose its attractiveness and draw. It’s a self regulating situation, David says. If the deer are eating it down to the ground and you can’t get established standing crops, then you don’t have enough acreage to support the number of deer using it. If you do have enough, you’ll be able to maintain some level of standing crop. The mistake people make, David says, is to plant a good size plot in relationship to their overall property and think that it will be enough to feed the deer on their property. The problem with that train of thought is that the food plot isn’t just feeding the deer within the property boundary confines, it may be attracting and feeding the deer on a substantial amount of surrounding acreage. A sound food plot strategy has to go beyond the overall property size and consider the impact that the food plot will have in bringing in other deer.
Finally, David shifts his attention to purchasing hunting property. Can you have a hunting property that serves dual purposes for both hunting and recreation? When most people buy a piece of property it represents a major investment for them and in order to justify the expense they want to use it regularly, David says. The only problem with that kind of usage on a property that you want to hunt is that activity creates a form of pressure. If you have excessive activity on a property it’s possible you might unintentionally reduce the availability of deer because activity keeps them pushed off. The amount of acreage you have can dictate the kind of impact pressure has. The smaller the tract of land and the more activity it has, the more likely it is that it will have a negative impact on the deer there, pushing them out. David says having a low pressure strategy, particularly during hunting season is key. One solution is to block off a certain time frame that you limit the activity, for instance, putting a hiatus on four-wheeling, shooting and other more intrusive activities from September to the end of your hunting season. David says he likes to have at least a month of relative quiet on a property before the start of a hunting season so the deer can establish regular routines that include that piece of property. The other solution is to have a piece of property that is big enough that it can be used for both hunting and recreation, where each has its own defined space. If activity can be limited to one part of the property and the other part is maintained with relative quiet and low pressure, then it’s possible to have a year-round multi use property, David says.