10 Ways to Create Better Bedding Cover for Deer

By author of Brow Tines and Backstrap

Are You Interested in Increasing Deer Populations Where You Hunt?


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1 | Hinge-Cutting

This is one of the most popular methods these days. It seems most land managers are utilizing it on some level or another. And it is effective. Properly cutting down a tree in a manner that leaves the trunk partially intact to the stump will keep it alive for a couple of years. This not only provides additional forest floor forage for deer but also provides bedding cover and opens up the canopy for new growth to flourish. Pictured here is the Quality Deer Management Association’s Lindsay Thomas conducting a little hinge cutting.

Photo credit: QDMA

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Building Deer Beds

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2 | Building Deer Beds

This is not as good of a method as the others on this list. In all honesty, it’s a Band-Aide for a much bigger problem. In most cases, creating deer beds is necessary when habitat is subpar or you don’t have the ability or permission to make big-scale changes.

If this sounds like the ticket for you, all you need is to haul a bunch of brush, downed trees, limbs, branches, etc. (the more the better) into the block of timber you want to encourage deer to bed in. It helps to choose a location deer already use or where there is already at least a little cover. Then, create small U-shapes (large enough for one or two deer to lay in by strategically piling brush. Think about which sides deer will want to remain open based on typical wind directions, direction of approach, direction of departure, etc. Make it so that deer will want to use it.

Creating as many of these as you can in a small area will lead more deer to bed there. The one thing to remember — create an escape. Leave a small hole in the bend of the bed so deer can run out the backside. They’ll be more apt to use it if they don’t feel trapped. But don’t make the hole too big or it won’t serve the purpose you need it to.

Bonus Read: 7 Ways to Kill Bigger Deer on Small Properties

Photo credit: Bruce MacQueen/Shutterstock

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Using Prescribed Fire

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3 | Using Prescribed Fire

This is one of the best options on this list. It provides both food and bedding cover. Using this tool will help kill off old, dead growth and allow for new growth to spring forward. Using prescribed fire can be done every year or on a three-year rotation. It all depends on what you want out of your burn. You can also use different intensities of fire. Slow, light burns will just remove what’s on the forest floor. Hot, heavy burns can also kill trees, too, if that’s your goal.

Always do your homework and become educated and certified before using this habitat-improvement tool. You don’t want any accidents and you definitely don’t want to do more harm than good. There’s a lot you should know (firebreaks, wind direction, etc.). From when to burn, to how to burn, to where to burn, the list goes on.

Bonus Read: 3 Ways to Hold More Deer on Your Land

Photo credit: D.G./Shutterstock

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Planting Native Grasses

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4 | Planting Native Grasses

This is probably my favorite and likely most difficult to achieve. There are government programs out there such as CRP and CREP that will pay you to do this. But even if you can’t get enrolled in a program, it’s worth it to do this at least on some level. Deer naturally gravitate to native grasslands. Deer love this prairie-style of habitat. Take it from someone who’s hunted hundreds of contiguous acres of CRP that was surrounded by quality timber. The deer chose the CRP most of the time.

Bonus Read: Why Native Plants Are Vital to Deer Hunting

Photo credit: Photographee/Shutterstock

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Selectively Cutting Timber

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5 | Selectively Cutting Timber

Get with a forestry biologist, technician or specialist and get his or her opinion on how you should approach this method. He or she will be able to come in and guide you on what trees to harvest and which ones to leave. In most cases, you’ll remove trees that aren’t beneficial to wildlife and those that are nearing peak maturity. Trees will die and rot once they get so old — managing your timber is just as important as managing wildlife.

Once the forester visits your property, he or she will help mark trees for removal. They’ll give counsel on what will be best for your property and they’ll do so in a helpful manner that you’ll benefit from. The best part about this is in most cases, if going through a government agency, there will be little to no cost when getting their advice.

Bonus Read: Declining Deer Numbers Lead to Public Land Hunting Reduction

Photo credit: Sparc/Shutterstock

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Providing Layers of Screening Cover Around the Perimeter 

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6 | Providing Layers of Screening Cover Around the Perimeter 

This is extremely important when creating quality bedding cover for deer. For one, deer are edge animals. They love areas where different types of habitat meet. Furthermore, the more layers of cover you have, the thicker and more concealing it’ll be. That’s why many people hinge cut the perimeter of bedding areas — it provides a visual barrier. Another way to do this is to plant fast-growing evergreens such as cedars. Furthermore, planting tall native grasses will also help provide that buffer that deer love. Also, doing these things around food plots and other food sources will help deer use those more during daylight.

Bonus Read: The Ultimate Deer Hunting Property

Photo credit: Sharon Day/Shutterstock

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Improving Entrances and Exits

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7 | Improving Entrances and Exits

It’s important to strategically place entrances into and exits out of bedding areas. You don’t want to go to all of this effort and not optimize it for hunting. Create corridors and openings where you want deer to travel. Placing these near food plots and other food sources will encourage deer to use such areas during daylight while you’re in the treestand. And remember, always keep the wind in mind when planning these things.

Photo credit: Steve Oehlenschlager/Shutterstock

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Positioning Bedding Areas Near Food and Water

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8 | Positioning Bedding Areas Near Food and Water

As I eluded to in the previous slide, it’s important to encourage deer to bed close to food and water. This isn’t always easy to do. But when you can make it happen, the hunting quality of that location skyrockets. Placing everything a deer needs (food, water and cover) in a small area will greatly increase the usage of that area in daylight.

Bonus Read: The 3 Basic Needs of Deer

Photo credit: Michael Tatman/Shutterstock

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Managing for Predators

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9 | Managing for Predators

This is another key factor. Managing for predators will significantly increase how comfortable deer are inhabiting a given area. I’ve seen the terrible effects of coyotes and other predators moving into a new location. It isn’t good. So anytime you can legally hunt or trap, do so. This will only help both the deer and deer hunting.

Bonus Read: How Coyotes Killed Deer Hunting

Photo credit: Bill Konway

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Establishing a Sanctuary

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10 | Establishing a Sanctuary

It isn’t just predators you have to watch out for. It’s hunters, too. Establishing a sanctuary (an area no human ever goes except for when shed hunting and post-season scouting) will increase the number of deer that inhabit a given property.

I don’t have large tracts of land that I frequently hunt. So I can’t leave 20 to 25 acres untouched. Luckily, you don’t need to in order to see the same effect. You can designate four or five acres as a sanctuary and get very similar results. This will help hold deer on a property and increase your odds of success throughout the season.

Photo credit: Michael Tatman/Shutterstock

Editor's Note: This was originally published on April 27, 2017.

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Deer populations rise and fall. That’s part of the natural cycle of life. But today, it seems we’re on the downtrend throughout much of the country. Is that a bad thing? Yes, and no. In some areas, populations have tanked. In others, they’re increasing. So specific situations will vary from location to location. But if you’re in an area where the whitetails need a little help, or you’re simply wanting to increase the quality of the ground you hunt, these 10 tips will help create more attractive bedding cover to the ground you hunt on.

It never hurts to implement a little quality deer management (QDM) on the ground you hunt, eh? The best part about this? You’re helping the deer herd and some of these options might even help make you a little cash. I consider that a win-win in my book. What about you?

On the Issue: 7 Ways to Practice Quality Deer Management | 8 Bedding Habits of Mature Deer