Optimizing Your Whitetail Habitat: Key Strategies for Planning and Design
Now that you've taken the time to identify your goals and assess the current state of the forest on your property (Building a Better Whitetail Habitat: The Importance of Inventorying Your Whitetail Property), it's time to move on to the planning stage.
Many of the mainstream forestry and wildlife approaches miss considering the land as a hunting system, not being concerned with the concepts and details we obsess over to optimize a property for whitetail hunting. While there are many considerations, here are a few to get you started.
Key Considerations for Planning Your Whitetail Habitat
Identify existing bedding areas first. If the cover is not overly mature and the deer are using it well, it isn’t necessary to reinvent it, just note it in your plan and make sure it fits in the system.
Locate areas that would make good bedding if the cover was improved. For example, deer prefer benches or breaks on a hillside; be careful to not design bedding on steep slopes (a common mistake).
Consider approach - hunting near bedding areas can be productive, but not too close, and be sure to have access to the stand from the opposite direction of the bedding.
Maintain open hardwoods at points of entry and exit from the timber (do not edge-feather). Also, consider how screening and topography can help your approach.
Browse and hard mast - There’s a lot of food in the timber (most of it, really), and knowing existing and proposed areas of food will help determine some hunting setups.
Travel - we promote hunting setups along frequent travel routes. Don’t isolate your improvements without thinking through how the deer will use them.
Cohesive plan - improvements need to relate. Disjointed improvements make for random travel and poor hunting.
These are just a few of the concepts and strategies that we use when planning and designing a property in a way that fits the land and the owner’s needs. Once your plan is in place, we can move on to implementation, which we'll be covering in our next article, Methods of Change.