Buck Habitat Management Plan

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blueKYstream
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Buck Habitat Management Plan

Postby blueKYstream » Tue Jan 23, 2018 3:46 pm

I need some help developing a plan. My dad has owned a 250 farm in hill country Kentucky that we've hunted for the last ~20 years. In the past 5 or 6 years, he acquired another adjacent property bringing the total to a bit under 500 acres. The two farms (shown below) appear similar but hunt very different. The west property has CRP grasses and a handful of food plots. The east property is a cattle farm with numerous fenced fields for rotating cattle. Each seems to me to have more than sufficient water ponds and streams. Each has thin strips of fields on the creek bottoms, wooded hills and fields up top. The west property seems to have much less habitual movement and unobtrusive observational scouting is not possible. The east property has it's challenges with rotating cattle and what that seems to do with bucks bedding.

One of the problems with these farms is that I don't think it holds much mature buck bedding, if any. I know there are good deer being shot in the area and have seen some nice bucks too over the years (though not much to get excited about the past couple years). I bought the Hill Country DVD prior to last year, and I have been searching for buck beds. However, I'm only finding doe beds and an immature buck bed here and there. I haven't even found many rubs. I had no mature bucks on camera during daylight this past year with 14 trail cameras that I leave out for a period of time. It seems we get some nice 2.5 or 3.5 year olds and then they vanish oftentimes. I saw 4 that age this year with good potential for next year...if they are around.

My thoughts were to develop a hinge cutting plan. Before doing so, I made an appointment with a state forester, and possibly a biologist if they can make it, in less than 2 weeks. I don't know if there's sufficient marketable timber or not and would hate to make a costly mistake. I have some ideas of what I would like to accomplish (buck bedding, edge feathering and travel corridors). However, I think it's going to be a tall task for me (I might have a slight bit of help, but the vast majority of the work would be me). Most of the timber is "middle-aged" with some areas being mature timber. There are 2 pockets of young timber on the west property that are a few acres each, one of which has held a good number of deer, but it's not typical buck bedding location. Depending on the plan, it might be a few days work or a few years to accomplish. I was hoping to get beast members' thoughts on developing a habitat plan.

The red line is the property boundary and the dotted line is access paths/roads
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Dan, if you read this, I'd be willing to pay you to review the maps (or other maps I can likely provide if needed). I remember listening to a podcast and/or reading that you don't want to analyze maps all the time, so it's understandable if you'd rather not.


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Re: Buck Habitat Management Plan

Postby Twenty Up » Tue Jan 23, 2018 4:50 pm

As far as habitat related knowledge goes, take a look at the habitat-talk forums as well. It's the Beast but for growing giant deer and there's extremely knowledgeable & friendly folks over there.

Those guys do not follow Dan's or the beasts idea of finding specific beds, they're more of the "if you build it they will come and I'll hunt this box stand" mentality. To each their own but if you combine the two styles respectively, you're gonna have a slice of Heaven in Kentucky.

Id utilize the resources you have and really listen to Dan & the foresters to come up with a killer setup.

Personally, I'd focus on food & bedding and go from there. "Best" food sources IMO are fruit trees with planted clover/brassicas for an early/late season combo. Bedding you can't beat evergreens & native grasses or miscanthus gigantus grass.

Hope this helps and good luck on your journey!
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blueKYstream
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Re: Buck Habitat Management Plan

Postby blueKYstream » Tue Jan 23, 2018 5:37 pm

Yeah, I've been reading through some habitat management material on the site for about a week or more and soaking it all in. I typically take way too long to gather the information before finally making a decision. I figured it was about time to just throw it out there. I have located quite a few doe beds, but nothing too exciting. There are no fruit trees that I'm aware of. We've grown a lot of stuff over the years, clover probably being the best. Brassicas haven't grown well at all the last 4-5 years we've tried. I rarely see mature bucks visit the plots. I wish I knew why.

Good call on the cedars. Cedars have been great locations for buck bedding. I know of one or two off property that hold buck bedding. I found several recently. One bed was along a cedar fence row to the NE of the second 800' elevation marker on the western property. The bed was behind the cedar fenceline followed by thorns behind him and the bed was in a patch of grass overlooking a small ravine running downhill from his left to right. It was a nice spot for winter bedding, but the rub I saw was somewhat low on a pencil-thick sapling giving me the indication it was a younger buck. The property had a cedar-only harvest 10-15 years ago. Some cedars were harvested at that time, some were dropped for cover and some were left but the neighbors now have quite a bit more cedars. The CRP is cut in June for hay for cattle. It grows back quickly but there still are no deer bedded in the CRP regularly.
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Re: Buck Habitat Management Plan

Postby Zona1 » Wed Jan 24, 2018 3:09 am

My first impression is you have the food, doe and young buck bedding, but the mature bucks are bedding on neighboring properties the majority of the time. Maybe start with a walk around your boundaries and look for big buck sign entering your property and base your plan on how to get a mature bucks on your land in daylight.
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Re: Buck Habitat Management Plan

Postby blueKYstream » Wed Jan 24, 2018 4:44 am

Zona1 wrote:My first impression is you have the food, doe and young buck bedding, but the mature bucks are bedding on neighboring properties the majority of the time. Maybe start with a walk around your boundaries and look for big buck sign entering your property and base your plan on how to get a mature bucks on your land in daylight.


That is my impression as well. Don't get me wrong, some years I think there may be one or possibly two on the property. However, this past year I didn't so much as get a picture of a mature buck during the day after August. It was a "down year" so to speak, but the past two seasons have been that way for the most part. I scouted and was just not seeing much to get excited about. My thinking was that by creating the habitat those bucks prefer, I can then lure in the more dominant bucks to the area so I can up my odds by hunting their beds and staging areas. I'm not yet an accomplished Beast Hunter so maybe I'm making mistakes in where or when I hunt spots, which is part of the process. However, I want to feel like I'm hunting (beds) rather than sitting and waiting for a buck to wander by (which happens but not as often as we all would hope of course).
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Re: Buck Habitat Management Plan

Postby Zona1 » Wed Jan 24, 2018 5:36 am

My cams mirrored your results last year. A lot of good bucks up to August then nothing mature until late October. That tells me there simply wasn't any mature bucks on our property. In order to change this situation we started to provide the room a mature buck needs by reducing the doe population. Doe groups were using most of the available cover leaving very little undisturbed areas for mature bucks.
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Re: Buck Habitat Management Plan

Postby Twenty Up » Wed Jan 24, 2018 11:11 am

No mature bucks in my opinion means there's too much pressure with poor habitat. I could be wrong I've never been there, but you have the food. Seems once the foliage begins to drop and cover becomes more scarce the bucks are moving elsewhere..

Like I said, plant evergreens with native grasses. Have a forester do a clear cut or whatever he recommends and listen to what Dan tells you and wait.

As far as not being able to grow much... Have y'all done any soil tests, put down fert. Or lime? Sounds like poor soil could be attributed to why your plots never took off.

Or you have extremely high deer #'s with small food plots
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Re: Buck Habitat Management Plan

Postby blueKYstream » Wed Jan 24, 2018 3:13 pm

Most years we try to take does when possible, typically 6-10 a year. It wouldn't hurt to take a few more does. This past year, I was basically the only person hunting other than opening day of gun season. Any other year I'm typically the only bowhunter, but it's usually hunted by 4-6 people on weekends of gun season (3 weekends) and me during the week as well. Access to/from stands might be a contributor to the feeling of pressure though. Planting some evergreens is a good idea to discuss with the forester when I meet with him. Might even be a good idea to hide access points.

Soil tests have been done in the past, though not every year. The fields have been limed a couple years ago. Part of the problem with turnips has been getting them in late or not getting rains when needed. The other plantings like winter wheat, clover, sorghum have done well. Beans and peas are gone in no time. Fields aren't fertilized. I believe there are a high number of deer, but the question of overpopulation would be good question for the biologist.

The CRP on the west property has surprisingly little draw to the deer. I very rarely jump a deer from it or come across a bed. There's not much, if any, food in the CRP. The deer prefer to bed in the woods.

I was thinking the prime buck bedding cover might be a missing link, but maybe I'm wrong. The properties to the W/NW have thick cedar cover. The properties to the E and S have wooded ridgetops as opposed to my open field tops I have. I was thinking of providing cover through hinge cutting the following bedding areas and maybe feathering some fields.
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Outside of the rut, the bucks have most often seemed to be concentrated to the far west and on the eastern property to the S and SE where the beds (B) are marked. Ladder stands are blue circles but I often use my hang on.
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Re: Buck Habitat Management Plan

Postby Bird » Thu Jan 25, 2018 1:25 pm

One thing we have noticed is if you are planting turnips on turnips, or year after year, they need urea or a very high nitrogen fertilizer. Turnips use high amounts of nitrogen. We put 100 lbs of 46-0-0 or urea per acre when planting turnips year after year and we get great growth every year. Before we did this, our turnips and other brassicas were getting smaller and smaller every year. Another solution is roatation. Turnips one year, clover the next, same principle, except the clover will add the nitrogen you need and cut down on fertilizer use. I will post a couple pics tomorrow. Early season this year, I had 9 bucks in the plot I was hunting, only 3 mature (3.5 or older). We had a bumper acorn crop this year, and I think that is where our 2 target bucks were on Sept. 17.
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Re: Buck Habitat Management Plan

Postby blueKYstream » Thu Jan 25, 2018 4:53 pm

Bird wrote:One thing we have noticed is if you are planting turnips on turnips, or year after year, they need urea or a very high nitrogen fertilizer. Turnips use high amounts of nitrogen. We put 100 lbs of 46-0-0 or urea per acre when planting turnips year after year and we get great growth every year. Before we did this, our turnips and other brassicas were getting smaller and smaller every year. Another solution is roatation. Turnips one year, clover the next, same principle, except the clover will add the nitrogen you need and cut down on fertilizer use. I will post a couple pics tomorrow. Early season this year, I had 9 bucks in the plot I was hunting, only 3 mature (3.5 or older). We had a bumper acorn crop this year, and I think that is where our 2 target bucks were on Sept. 17.


I was never able to get them more than 2 inches wide and less than an inch tall I'd say. The turnips were a bit smaller than a golf ball in January when I pulled a few of them last year. None were eaten from what I saw. We've tried them in 4 different fields. I'm not sure they even broke seed this year. Fertilizer is probably needed...that and they were planted a tad late then didn't get rain for 3 weeks. I'm ready to move on from them to be quite honest. Do you need someone to watch your plot? :lol:
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Re: Buck Habitat Management Plan

Postby blueKYstream » Tue Jan 30, 2018 2:37 pm

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Re: Buck Habitat Management Plan

Postby blueKYstream » Tue Feb 06, 2018 2:23 pm

Well, I drafted a hinge cut plan. At this time, I think I'm going to focus on the eastern part of the west property to do most of the trails. I think this may take a year or three to complete. I'm not sure. If anyone has any thoughts, I'd love to hear them.

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On another note, I went rabbit hunting (really deer scouting because the rabbits were running right by me). I found several doe and buck beds and a couple rubs. This was the first horizontal rub I've seen (I pulled down a nearby vine before snapping a pic). Between all the action and the incoming rain, we only hunted/scouted the far SW corner.

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Found an OLD shed that the squirrels and mice got to. It was halfway buried.
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Re: Buck Habitat Management Plan

Postby lmurray1080 » Tue Feb 20, 2018 7:59 am

Although I've been a long time reader of the beast this is my first post so hopefully I don't break any rules! After all the great information I've gathered from this site I thought this may be an opportunity to provide some assistance. It seems as though our farms are similar although my farm is much smaller at 165 acres located in the hills of WV. When I purchased my farm it was a cattle farm as well and even though I tried to make a go of it myself I quickly realized I was way more into deer than cattle so they had to go.

There have been some other great recommendations above and I completely agree with the post about cedars and warm season grasses for additional cover as it appears cover could potentially be a limiting factor come fall. Hinge cutting is great as well as completely cutting down some species of trees to create what are called mineral stump sprouts which are nutritionally high. More on that topic can be learned by visiting this link - https://extension.msstate.edu/deer-univ ... -nutrition

Growing up hunting only public ground I have learned managing not only my farm but now a wildlife biologist friend and I manage 8 farms totaling about 5000 acres has been an eye opening experience. Needless to say hunting a well managed farm is a totally different ballgame. It seems you are on the right track of trying to identify the most limiting factor of food, cover and water. A comprehensive plan consists of laying out everything before you start after identifying limiting factor/factors. Take everything into consideration - Access, stand locations, what bedding areas you plan to enhance, if you are going to provide year round nutrition/minerals or just try to attract during hunting season, length of movement, sanctuary areas, predator control near fawning season and how far you want to take creating funnels using hinge cuts/fencing. The possibilities are endless and only your moral compass, equipment access and financial means will dictate how far you want to take it. My partner and I's style is sort of a medley of various accomplished land managers and biologists. I would recommend looking into the following individuals or groups for ideas. Jeff Sturgis(Property layout, access trails, length of movement, creating funnels, mock scrapes for deer inventory), The Management Advantage(Trapping, food plots), North Country Whitetails(food plot shape design for bow vs gun Hunting, planting with the compass, sanctuary ideas), Growing Deer TV(year round nutrition and mineral advice, trapping) and MSU Deer Lab/University(latest scientific data on deer studies, best overall harvest plan for managing whitetails).

I'm not sure what your surrounding area looks like if it is predominately Ag country, mature timber, cattle ground etc... All of those things can play a major role in food strategy and when you wan to attract or hold deer. We typically recommend a year round food plot strategy as to never clear the table and force deer to leave your property creating quadrants of year round nutrition to support different doe family groups and in turn forcing buck movement to check on each doe family group during the rut. Our favorite things to plant are Soybeans, Clover, Corn, Wheat, Oats and Turnips.We typically like to plant soybeans and corn in the spring, clover in the fall as to not deal with as many weeds, everything else will be planted in late summer (60 days before first frost) in our areas where browse pressure is the greatest in our soybean fields as it limits the nitrogen fertilizer you have to apply. With that combination it provides year round nutrition and more importantly it provides deer nutrition in the leanest times for native vegetation like late summer and winter. You will need to rotate crops and remember soybeans and clover fix nitrogen into the soil and the others are heavy nitrogen users. We have had the most issues with planting turnips on the same plot more than 2 years in a row as they are prone to pest issues as well as nitrogen depletion as another person mentioned.

Layout - it has been our experience that we typically see does bedding as close as possible to the current food source as long as they are not pressured with the bucks bedding further back from the food source keeping does and fawns between them and the food source. All of the hill country DVD topics Dan covers are spot on with what we have seen on our managed properties. We try to design access first and then locate either small food plots to set up in closer to bedding areas for hunting sits or larger destination plots for gathering deer in evenings and through the night. We recommend to our clients they never hunt destination plots as we want deer to feel safe and spend as much time as possible feeding on the highest nutrition they can. On some of our smaller farms or areas that receive a lot of traffic we use Egyptian wheat to create a buffer around the outer edge. We try to design a hub of activity near our small food plots closer to bedding areas featuring a watering hole, mock scrape, minerals and designed travel corridors using hinge cuts and sometimes fencing.

I can talk for days on any of these topics and sometimes feel bipolar as I bounce between a public land hunter and someone who hunts on managed properties, loving both of the challenges and strategies equally. When I bought my farm 6 years ago it took 3 years before I even hunted bucks as typical of WV I had only 6 yearling bucks using my farm and they were heavily pressured. The buck to doe ratio was out of whack but I guess that's what you get when you can kill 3 bucks on a base license in WV. By year 4 I was really starting to see a significant difference in the amount of rubs, scrapes and mature buck sign and that is when I harvested the first buck off the farm. I can say that every year it has gotten better with higher deer and buck numbers which requires significant doe harvest every year especially when the migration happens from surrounding farms coming to my food sources. Everything boils down to pressure, trigger finger management, time and protein! Let me know if you have any specific questions you think I could shed some light on. I'm always trying to learn and I'm thankful for the beast community.
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Re: Buck Habitat Management Plan

Postby Octang » Tue Feb 20, 2018 3:46 pm

lmurray1080 wrote:Although I've been a long time reader of the beast this is my first post so hopefully I don't break any rules!


Welcome to the Beast my friend. I always appreciate a new member coming here with humility, particularly when he clearly has some knowledge around his belt. We are all students here. Share what you know, learn what you don't.

I enjoyed your write up.

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