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
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
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
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
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.
Photo credit: Sparc/Shutterstock
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
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
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
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
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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