Buying a property is a huge undertaking and can get quite frustrating. There are several questions to ask and research to be done before purchasing. The very first thing you must ask yourself is. What am I going to be using this land for and do I want to build on it. What type of land do I want to purchase? (wooded, marsh, hills). People purchase property for many reasons and hunt multiple game species. Being realistic from the beginning with your goals especially on small acreage will save on heartaches down the road. Once you've made those decisions you have a base to search for properties from. Again, Use the internet to aide you in your search. Next, you need to find a "good" hunting area. State DNR websites show dpsm (deer per square mile) by the county. You are looking for areas with no lower than 25 dpsm. Then start your search for purchasing in the counties you're attracted to. When you find a property you're interested in get a feel for the area. Use the internet and research the area. Use google earth and see what surrounds you. I wouldn't want property butting to a very well used public area, but agriculture would be a plus. See what the neighbors goals are during deer season. Are their goals the same as yours? Without being rude make your intentions clear as to how you will be hunting. See how they respond. Walk the land. Does it hold deer? Is there a browse line? Do they bed there? Can you put food plots, water holes or habitat improvements on it? Is the land in any type of program such as CRP or MFL. What are the restrictions because of these programs. Does It have any type of easement on it and what are the stipulations. Buying on a whim just to own land and rushing is a fatal error. This is a multi generation investment and should be enjoyed by all for many generations. Take your time before making a decision and feel confident about it. Rushing into it may leave regrets down the line.
WATERHOLES: Deer prefer a smaller muddy waterhole over a large clear watered pond. I typically make my holes about 6ft in diameter. Depending on depth of hole, make sure deer have easy access to water and not a straight drop off from the edge. If using a tub or swimming pool. Place a branch inside so the critters that fall in can get out and not contaminate the water. Place in shade if possible.
COMMUNICATION POST: Use a 8ft non treated cedar post. Place post in clover plot and face head so I points towards your stand. Set at distance you are comfortable shooting with. Minimum 20 yards from stand for bow hunting. You can use 1 inch Manila hemp rope or a grape vine. I like to use Red oak branches to give it the structure. Spray the floor in front of in a 2ft diameter circle with round up to kill all vegetation. When vegetation is dead work the soil with a hoe or rake so it looks like a scrape.
TRAIL CAMERAS: Mount cameras on post so you can properly place them. I use homemade camera mounts, using eyes bolts. The total cost for a t-post and camera mount is around $10. Keep cameras clean and check for ants. I use a 2mb card and it's held well over 2000 pictures. Check cameras just before a rain event as to help with your scent control. I wear rubber boots and surgical gloves to swap cards. I typically check ever 3 weeks during summer. During hunting season I pull cards after a sit in that area.
SCENT CONTROL: Never cross wind enter a stand with the wind blowing into the area you are hunting. If you sweated getting to your stand you better hope luck is on your side that day. I leave nothing from my stand touch the ground floor. Pulling ropes are cut so they hang 4ft from floor and are in the tree when hunting. I don't like any kind of facemask. They are a scent sponge from breathing into them. I personally shower before every hunt and keep my hunting clothes either separate or hung on a close line. The only time I wear my clothes is to hunt. I'm totally anal when it comes to scent control.
TREE STANDS: Must be sound proof!! If it can clink I duct tape and use 1 inch pipe insulation. 6ft is about $2. Cheap insurance. Instead of pins I bolt the ladders together on ladder stands. On tri-pods I stake each leg down with a 6ft t-post and tie wire them together. Keep the seats greased if they turn. Grease in June and they will be good to go. Loosen straps after hunting season so tree can grow and not lift stand and damage straps. I re-tighten first of August (45 days) and check all nuts and bolts. I use j-hooks zip tied to the shooting rail for my range finder, calls, etc. Having not to reach or move in the stand will lower the odds of a creaking stand and you getting busted.
SNOW FENCING: A very fast and effective alternative until habitat improvements can replace it. Creating blockades, screens, and travel corridors. The grass will grow into these helping with fall movement in areas usually not associated with it. Creating structure and security. I place and spray a trail on the side that best benefits me for hunting no wider than 2 ft. Create a new travel pattern from cattails to woodlot or food source. Use it to help aide as a screen through open areas where you enter and exit. Block a current travel pattern in aiding with a new travel pattern.
RECORD KEEPING: Keeping daily records of weather conditions to use along with trail cam photo's is a necessity for the serious hunter. Knowing when to hunt a stand on the days that offer the best chance for success is key in keeping a stand fresh. I mark wind speed, direction and conditions: 13/nw/sunny. I use a paper calendar. Keep a map of the property and begin marking sightings of target bucks. See how they travel the property and at what times in what areas. Mark down their trails throughout the property. See the pattern of travel and look for ways to exploit it or alter it to your advantage.
Buying A Property:
By definition: "Land management is the process of managing the use and development of land resources in both urban and rural settings." Everyone who owns property is a land manager. To what extent is each individuals choice. As a land manager you have rights and responsibilities. You have the right to alter your land within local, state and federal regulations. You have the responsibility to educate yourself on said regulations, methods, materials and plan of action. You have the right to take in season game off your property. You have the responsibility to take the correct amount without hindering the species. Understanding how everything we do directly influences the life on our property is key. That doesn't mean you can never access your property except to hunt. Families want to enjoy all aspects of the land and should. But there do need to be guidelines. A land manager knows his best chance for results is to give the game and the hunter exactly what they both want. Creating a sustainable habitat that holds deer during daylight hours. Planting food plots for the correct time of year and the nutrition needed to help deer get through the winter. Scouting, Trail Cams, and Tree Stands are the easy part. Manipulating the land so it works for you and not against is the difficult, yet fun part. By taking your time and studying the land and how the deer and predators use it. You will begin to see a pattern of movement as to how they travel through or around your property. Look at ways to improve and change it through food plots, hinge cutting, blockades, screens and habitat planting. See the big picture. Why do and don't deer bed in this area? Where do deer go when they are not on your property and why? Use topographic maps to see what borders your property. Use it to find terrain changes, funnels, pinch points. Can you alter movement for your benefit or create a new bedding area? Create a plan and be realistic about goals. A 40 acre parcel done with you and a buddy could take as long as 2-3 years if there is a lot of habitat planting to be done. Patience and doing it correctly outweigh speed and sloppiness.
What Is Land Management:
There are many tools and resources available to a manager to help succeed in their goals. Use the internet and all it has to offer. Take pictures and notes. Snow fencing for blockades, communication post's in clover plots, man made water holes, hinge cutting for screens, beds, and travel corridors. Man made licking branches, herbicides for habitat. The list is endless. Use your imagination. Create trails for deer leading them to a destination. Hinge cutting a 16inch wide trail and then spraying the floor with round up will create a great trail in no time. Placing a fence through grassy areas to create a new travel pattern works wonders. Especially if you spray a trail with round up. Deer are lazy and prefer the easier route as long as they feel safe. Plant Conifers and Shrubs the deer prefer and protect them. If a deer eats it you have to protect it or you are wasting your time and money. I plant Spruce and Red Cedar for bedding as they are not a preferred browse. Shrubs on the other hand MUST be protected as well as fruit and nut trees. When creating and implementing a plan you need to realize that the entire focus of the property is to be the MOST attractive and beneficial to the deer from October-April during daylight hour's. Deer can bed and eat anywhere April through September. Your mission is to try and help give them what they need to get through fall, winter and early spring. Bucks are depleted from the rut and the doe's are pregnant. You want your food plots to be at their peak October-December. Not June and July. Food plot section goes into much more detail about what and when to plant. As well as the habitat section. When purchasing shrubs and trees I use red oak acorn as they drop later than white and hold their leaves. I use late dropping apples as well. Make sure to check hardiness codes for regions trees and shrubs will grow in. Create your property so its strength is fall and winter and the rest will fall into place. Create your property to look bigger than it seems. Instead of just planting straight row after row of trees or having an open woods. Consider your property an old country town. You want to have multiple houses on it. You need a grocery store and watering hole lol. You also want the houses safe in the town so they are occupied. EXAMPLE: Take a 40 acre parcel. Now cut it into 4, 10 acre sections. Each section is a town block. Each block has a neighborhood (sanctuary) and a 1 acre food plot, clover plot and water source. You create sidewalks (travel corridors) through the blocks for town travel. You build homes that they feel safe in (deer beds). You offer different restaurants (food plots). And a couple bars (watering holes). You police the town for predators and keep the town safe. By doing this you keep the deer occupied and content on your property. They may go out and party after dark. But you know they will be home by morning. If you create the illusion of safety for the deer and give them multiple areas and options to live in. And set it so the wind works to your favor. They will stay and you will have the potential for multiple stand sets in each block. Long food plots with more than 1 food source in it leading to another destination on your property. Planting fruit and nut trees along side offering another food source. Food plots that are a big blob with no destination and a dead end, leave the deer to decide where to go next. The same goes for habitat improvement. The last thing you want is for the deer to have to decide weather to turn left and stay or walk forward and leave onto the neighbors property.
The fun part, in the stand. All deer use the wind, preferably a crosswind. They have trails for different wind directions. Knowing your typical wind directions is critical. My typical winds are NW and SE. I don't hunt warm days for deer. So I don't typically worry about my southern winds. My property is set for West to Northeast. I have evening and morning stands. I have early season and rut stands. I have buck stands. I have doe stands. The trick is not to let the deer know they are being hunted. Carefully placed stand's with easy access to and from without being detected. You hunt weather patterns. If its been in the 60's for a week and suddenly there's a chance for frost I'm in the stand. Early season (sept-mid oct) I hunt perimeter of food plots and old doe's. The fawns will be fine they are old enough to make it on their own by now. On days the weather pattern shifts deer are on there feet. I'm perimeter hunting bucks to and from feeding and bedding area's. Deer are very pattern-able early season. I don't want to go deep into cover until pre-rut when I know bucks are on their feet and moving. I prefer to do herd management and take out the old doe's right away. Typically I never hunt the same stand more than 2 sits. Scent protection, thermals, wind direction and a deer's nose all equal disaster if not properly addressed in all aspects of "in the stand." If you want to kill mature animals you have to pass on the small and be properly set up and hunt only on the best days for it. Sitting in the same stand day after day just ruins any future prospects. Again.. You need to be invisible. The deer cannot know they are being hunted. If an old doe blows at you. Your season in that stand is done for quite awhile. And when they do come back. They will be looking for you in that stand. Bucks are very pattern-able until they start the pre-rut. Even then you can semi-pattern their movements while searching for does. Bucks are heads down and looking. They want to search as much as fast as possible. Most times they travel perpendicular to the doe trails when in a specific doe bedding area. Destination routes and travel corridors remain basically the same. And then again how many times have you seen a buck cruising an open field lol. You find a travel corridor between doe bedding areas leading to a food source or other bedding areas. You look for or create a pinch point in that corridor and set up on it. Hunt it when the conditions are right. I keep a trail cam near my stands. When I leave I pull cards. This constantly keeps you updated on herd inventory, deer presence in the area, and the monitoring of the rut. No point in hunting a stand with no deer action or only after hunting hours. Creating a property, even 40 acres. The key is to make it bigger than it seems offering multiple areas with multiple stand sets. This way if the deer aren't cooperating you can hunt another area and not burn the stand out. I don't hunt out of stands less than 16ft. I prefer 20ft. I sound proof that stand by any means necessary. I set the stand so everything is within a short reach. I always wear rubber boots and live and breath scent protection. I'm not a fan of decoy's or scents. Introducing a foreign object or scent into a setting where the deer already are seems pointless and risky to me. Taking the time to set a decoy or leave a scent trail means longer time on the ground in your hunting area. Where you could disperse your own scent in the process. Do your homework scouting and have faith in your plan and work. Use the data from the trail cameras and the notes you kept on weather patterns. There's no point to hunt a stand with the wrong weather pattern.
So you are the proud new owner of a piece of property. Now what? The first time you step on a property is the last time it will be as it used to. Different owners, plans, habits and schedules. The way in which you incorporate your leisure activities to correspond with your hunting will greatly affect the area and the hunting. EXAMPLE: If you are looking to ride atv's. Creating and riding through the middle of the property will greatly affect the presence of deer and other game. Riding the border of your property will not have as great of effect. And eliminating riding a month before your opener will help increase your odd's. First you must get to know the land and see how it reacts to your presence. With todays technologies you would be amazed at how easy it is to map a property with a phone and the correct apps. Set trail cams immediately. You don't need fancy expensive equipment for this. I run Moultrie A5's. $55 a piece. They give date, time of day and moon phase. Place cameras in areas of travel. To and from feeding and bedding. Use a calendar to keep a log of each day's weather. (sunny,65, nw). I mark this each day and compare to trail cam pics to begin patterning deer movement and weather patterns. After scouting (take notes and pictures) and cams are set go enjoy the land. Get to know the land. Do I have predator problems (trespassers, wolves, coyote, bear, dogs). Keep records of observations about the land. (Why don't the deer use this area). Remember a deer only cares about cover up to about 5ft. A woods full of very tall trees and a see through forest floor is useless for wildlife and deer habitat. When you find where the deer "are" and their movement patterns you then begin to start a plan. What areas do I need to improve or alter, stand locations, food plots, water holes. MUST know your typical northern and southern wind directions. Everything you do is based off of wind direction. Use it to your advantage when setting stands and planting food plots. The two should work together as a unit along with entrance and exit trails. Lay out your habitat planting the same way. Remember if you cant get to your stand without getting busted. What good is it? Make food plots lead to destinations. The worst thing you can do is make a food plot dead end on yours and a neighbor's lot line. Go SLOW!!! There's no rush to do it properly. I would never start major land improvements the first year. You cant uncut a tree. Create a map. I use google earth. Save your land to your computer and start drawing on it. See how the land flows and how to use that to your advantage. Have a plan finished on paper before executing it. Think like a deer not a human. Deer want 3 things: Food, Safety and Shelter. Your property is their house. They know every inch just like you know very inch of yours. They need to feel safe during daylight hours. If your property cant give them that then they will go elsewhere. If you only get pictures of deer late at night odds are they don't live there. Remember a deer's home range at night is a square mile or better. The later the pics the farther away they live from you typically. Creating a habitat that gives them shelter and browse for afternoon snacks is key. Dedicating areas aka Sanctuaries for deer is a must in my book. Leaving areas and not entering unless to retrieve game or wnter scouting is a must to successfully hold mature deer at the proper time of the year. Hunting season!! Keeping your doe limits under control and harvesting does 3 1/2 years and up. Old doe's rule the roost. They will kick out area bucks in competition for bedding and feeding areas. Everyone's goals are different. Some prefer a nice group of deer and don't care about buck size. Others want that "Bullwinkle" and to accomplish that you have to keep the does in check, pass on small bucks and you must provide security. You must continually ask yourself. How is what I am doing going to affect the deer and how can I use it to my advantage. You must also ask. Why does or doesn't that buck live there. Get down to their sightline and see what they see. Are there predators or neighbors influencing deer movement and location? Enjoy the property the first year and observe and take notes. Start making rough drafts but be flexible and willing to alter it over and over until its right lol. Once you have a plan you're confident in take your time and enjoy executing it. Create a plan that connects your property together as a unit, leading deer around and through it. Don't create opportunities where the deer must decide to turn and stay or continue forward and leave your property. There is nothing better than watching your property transform throughout the years and achieving your goals.