The Big 3 in Land Management for Deer

If the amount of deer sighting’s and harvests on your hunting property have progressively slowed over the years or dropped considerably in a short period of time, chances are your property is in need of a serious management evaluation. It is one thing to see a few deer now and again but when your hunting grounds turn from party town to ghost town seemingly overnight, then its time to take a closer look.

Whitetails are creatures of habit and once their nutritional and security needs cannot be met on a daily basis, they will aggressively seek out new areas that will support these important needs. This could be as simple as relocating to your neighbor’s property or doing a complete pullout and setting up base camp perhaps miles away. Sure, they may mingle through from time to time but your property will not be used as the nucleus it may have once been. The majority of their movements will be focused near their “new” nucleus…. and you want to do everything you can to get them back!

Understand that the needs of the whitetail are just as important as our needs as humans and there is a strong correlation between the two. In this piece I am going to list and describe the top three land management practices that will bring deer back to your property-not just for a visit, but for good. Re-establish the nucleus and the deer will find it. I help build these programs for landowners throughout the northern tier of the US with huge success and although time consuming, you will see results the very first year of the changes.

Timber Harvest:
The three major objectives in a timber harvest are to create bedding cover, security/screening cover, and to promote massive natural browse. The best candidate is a tract of woods that has not seen a cut in 25 years or more. Not every tract of timber is a candidate for generating income for the landowner and logger. But all are candidates for creating better habitat for deer. Make no mistake about it; having cash return on the timber is nice. But in some instances the “cash return” may come in the form of better habitat and more deer utilizing the property!

Have you ever trimmed shooting lanes near your deer stand and had deer come and start eating the trimmings that fell to the ground? These were out of normal reach for deer and now that you have put them to their level, they will actively eat the tips. The desirable portion is the newest growth the tree produced (browse). Similarly, the felled treetops will provide tons of browse no matter what time of the year the timbering occurs. And, the new tops lying on the ground will offer excellent bedding cover and structure for deer. I work with one particular logger in my area that is a serious deer hunter. He KNOWS how to create logging roads and how to move treetops strategically to help build bedding areas. Make sure you talk with your logger and see how these objectives can be worked out as the logging operation unfolds.

Taking out the mature, valuable timber on your farm, will free-up competition for growth and transfer the maximum growth to future valued trees. More sunlight will now hit the forest floor during the growing season which will spark new life to seedlings below the ground that are desperate for their chance to grow. These new seedlings provide browse and cover for deer along with a new and healthier habitat for other critters as well. Each year afterwards will get better and better. Certainly, generating money from a timber harvest is nice.

Logging your property is perhaps the best long-term benefit in your Management Program and will provide results immediately. Within three years of the harvest your woods will begin to develop into a giant whitetail magnet that any passing through deer cannot and will not resist. Contacting several reputable loggers in your area will get you on the path to freeing up the potential growth in your woods and providing years of quality habitat for all wildlife, not just deer.

Warm Season Grasses:
We all know that the Midwest continues to produce some of the most incredible deer hunting in the country, but why? The Midwest has endless CRP warm season grass programs that provide some of the finest habitat for wildlife in general, but none more advantageous than to the whitetail. These programs have provided outstanding habitat in which deer thrive upon and the numbers and quality of deer speak for themselves. CRP programs have swept the region and if you know anyone that joined the bandwagon 10 years ago, you well know the benefits it has provided for them and how attractive it is for deer.

Planting warm season grasses will create the cover, bedding and fawn birthing habitat that a whitetail needs. Even if your property missed out on the government programs, you can still create your own warm season program at a relatively inexpensive level. When pregnant does search for a place to give birth, their first and foremost choice is overgrown pastures or areas where grasses and brush disguise their silhouettes. Many farmers harvesting wheat, rye or barley can attest to the many close calls and fatal incidents that occur with newborn fawns while combining these fields. These types of agricultural fields provide the necessary cover a doe needs to give birth but they are harvested well before the birthing cycle of does has expired. However, warm season grasses will serve a much better purpose and they have no seasonal expiration date or timeline. You can check with your local county Extension Office to find out what government programs are available in your area and if your property qualifies for such programs. A county agent will be able to point you in the right direction.

Food Plots:
Food Plots are a hot trend across the country and if you are serious about attracting more deer to your property, they can be instrumental in helping achieve that goal. And, if you are serious about managing your deer herd for better age structure, food plots can help achieve that goal as well. When you partner food plots with a sound management program, you can have an effective strategy that will provide some incredible rewards. However, even the best combined food plot & management program can go up in smoke if an overall hunting strategy is not implemented as well. So keep in mind that no matter how nice your plots looks, tastes and no matter how stringent your management program is, none of this will pay out in the end if the hunting strategy and/or hunting pressure you apply is not done strategically. So be smart and think logically when pulling all three of these components together.

Management Plan-Food Plots-Overall Strategy. When it comes to selecting food plots, there are a host of things you can plant and quite honestly it can become extremely confusing. Especially for those of you that are just getting into planting your own food plots. This topic by itself could be an entire series of articles, literally. So I am going to refer you to our main web address at There you will find a host of ideas for planting in your region. Or you can contact us directly at and someone can assist you in selecting a product for planting.

There are many ways to improve the habitat on your property and I have outlined the top three that are considered the gateway. Understand that although these land management efforts can greatly enhance the habitat for your deer, all wildlife on the property will benefit as well. Any of the three mentioned practices will immediately increase deer activity on your property by themselves. But when you combine all at the same time, your property has just begun a new venture in both sustaining and maintaining the type of atmosphere needed to ensure healthier and more stable lifestyle for your deer herd. Whitetails are unique creatures and although their habitat is shrinking at an alarming rate (primarily due to development), we as land managers have the ability to boost their habitat to a higher degree than ever before and give something back from what we have taken from for many years. There are a host of management options available but none are foremost important than the three outlined here today. A wealth of information on these topics can be found at

Posted by Mali Vujanic 

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