Creating A Property Set Up
for Maximum Deer Control, Part II

What follows, comes from experience and boy, have I learned some things the hard way. There’s an old saying, ‘There is more than one way to skin a cat’. What is presented here and following articles on this subject is for you to digest and use, with as much duplication on your property as possible and yet, no two properties are alike, so, you may need to improvise in some areas and skin that cat your way..

The Start of Your Plan
It is advised that you have an aerial and topography map of your property. Study them carefully and locate potential low areas for future water sources. Check out the soil throughout your land and take soil tests of all future potential food plots. Let these soil tests influence your final food plot locations. You should have many small attractant type food plots scattered about and have one large final destination field.

Enclosed is an illustration showing a property of around 120 acres. In the upper left is a swamp shared with neighbors with an encircled W, which represents a water source. There are five other encircled W’s. One of the first areas in planning your sweet spot is to locate and define potential water sources, for deer do drink and are naturally drainage animals. Potential water sources could be a year round flowing creek, a spring, pot holes with cattails growing within, or a seasonally flooded area that with a little excavation could be a year round drinking source. These water sources need not be large, and with a little backhoe work you just created a permanent water hole. Tests may need to be made to see if the chosen spot will hold water even during a dry spill. Properties without drinking holes are at a distinct disadvantage when compared with land that has H2O.

Water Sources Within Sanctuaries
Note the location of the encircled W’s, they tend to be on the perimeter of the property. This is where you want them to be, for they are the beginning of a future sanctuary, which is best if located on or near the perimeter of your property. You may have to adjust and live with what you have, but try hard to get several potential water sources located on the outside edge of your property even if it takes serious excavation. Scatter these water sources about the perimeter. They do not have to be large, with the more water sources the better. They should be located where there is good cover present or the potential of growing dense cover. Don’t off hand dismiss an open area as a future sanctuary due to lack of cover present. Cover can be created around that water hole and in only a few years of creative thinking. After the cover has grown to the right height and with gained knowledge you can create some surefire deer bedding areas. Sanctuaries should consist of a minimum of 20% of your land area. We will discuss in detail natural and man made cover that can be used in your sanctuary in the next segment.

The shared swamp is obviously natural and could extend into the neighbors area for miles, not a bad thing for you. Deer do not bed down in water but will spend much time in the swamp naturally and especially when pressured. They seek hummocks, small raised humps of land to bed on, or the many small islands normally found in swamps for refuge.

In 1991 while searching for a bow shot doe in a 2 acre tag alder swamp, I stumbled upon something I had never seen before. Roots of several tag alder trees intertwined and created a flat raised surface about a foot above the soil. Hmmm, what’s that? Inspecting the sight I noticed that not only was the bath tub sized flat area covered with moss, grass grew on it and in the flattened grass was a lot of deer hair.

Deer Beds
We covered just a couple styles of natural deer beds that should be scattered throughout your many sanctuaries. You cannot have too many deer beds, which means that you will probably need to create them in addition to the natural beds. You need doe family beds along with individual buck beds and they are not the same. You can have beds in swamps, in recent clear cuts, in mature forests, tall grasses, cattails just about anywhere you want them to be, but they need to satisfy the whims of deer to be effective. Some of you I’m sure have studied used deer beds and made duplications of them with success. I’m not one of these and need help. I hire Tony Lapratt for this area when creating a property setup for maximum deer control. You can check him out at <>. Tony has an uncanny but natural ability to read deer sign, what it takes to have deer live on your land, especially during the hunting seasons and create an assortment of effective deer bedding areas. Deer have different personalities and for best results a variety of beds is necessary. This is a major part to have in place in order to control deer movement on your land.

Final Destination Field
In the center of the illustration is a large cleared area, which will be a future food plot called, ‘The final destination field’. Here, preferably near the center of the 120 acre property is soil that will grow a variety of forage, much of which is planted to carry the deer through the winter. In Northern states this is the critical season for deer survival. For more moderate environments it is still recommended to have this large field available and centrally located but with a different blend of forage than we will discuss. This field should be about ten acres in size for a 120 total acre piece of land. You should still have only one final destination field for a 500 acre property. The fewer the better, for it is this food plot deer are headed for as evening draws near, stay within or close by throughout the night and leave prior to daybreak for their safe bedding areas. The fewer final destination fields, the less competition within the property, the more you are controlling deer movement.

This plot is cleared of all trees and shrubs. It is wide open and even the area beyond the edge of the planted forage is cleared out to around 20 yards. Deer have a natural fear of open fields during daylight, while at night it is their preferred safe area. This may not be true in late summer when bucks are still in their bachelor groups and in velvet. Then they have little fear of open fields and appear about two hours before sunset. As the fall draws near and they shed their velvet they become quite scarce in open fields during daylight, even with soybeans being available. This natural behavior of deer will now be used in your favor. You will plant in the final destination field a variety of forage deer have difficulty resisting.
Note the upper section, where a perennial blend of legumes is planted. This field may be an acre in size. Just below is another food patch of deer preferred nut trees and fruit trees of a large variety and close to an acre in size. For efficiency plant the legume blend as above within the trees.

Below the orchard is a seven acre late fall and winter carryover field. Here, we concentrate on forage high in energy for winter survival. Most know that deer love corn and that corn is an excellent winter forage, so, we plant about three acres of RoundUp Ready corn for easy maintenance. Another preferred forage for deer during winter is forage rape. Rape can produce 5,000 lbs of highly nutritious forage per acre, so let’s plant an acre of this stuff. As the cold weather comes on, it neutralizes the bitter tasting alkaloid in the leaves and encourages the sugar content to increase, and with 85% digestibility and 30% or more protein content in the leaves, it is just what the doctor ordered.

Energy is primal for deer winter survival, yet we still need protein in the deer’s winter diet. The living microbes, (bacteria) in the stomachs of deer that digest the crude starches into useful energy need protein for their energy needs. So, let’s plant an acre of soybeans for the deer’s palate. They just love soybeans and the beans produced are 45% protein, plus they are high in oil, which can be used as is by squeezing for diesel engines. Now, how about that for both protein and energy?

Sugar Beets Cannot be Beat
We will now talk sugar beets and RoundUp Ready sugar beets. RoundUp Ready means that the beet seeds have been genetically altered to withstand the herbicide RoundUp and yet do its job on grasses and weeds. Expect RoundUp Ready Sugar beet seeds to be available for the 2008 planting season. The nutrient data on sugar beets is phenomenal. Even a little research will show that there is absolutely nothing out there that can compete with the winter carryover value of sugar beets. It can have a sugar content of 20% dry matter and a protein content of 13% when the leaves are included, which is an ideal percentage for the winter season. There is not another forage, summer or winter that has the balanced mineral content of sugar beets. Not only is sugar beets a complete winter forage for deer it is 95% + digestible and again, there is nothing else that is more digestible. So, if you do not plant sugar beets in the near future in your food plots you are missing an important piece of the forage puzzle. We have a chapter in our new book, ‘Ultimate Deer Food Plots’ that shows in detail all the tricks for easy growing fussy sugar beets including a proven method of hand broadcasting this light fluffy seed accurately. Sugar beets can produce a high tonnage of forage under the right conditions and correct seeding method. If you were a sugar beet farmer in the thumb area of Michigan you could expect 20 tons of sugar beets per acre. You will need to have some pretty good soil for top production, but you should expect at least two tons per acre in typical but corrected soil in hunting lands. Sugar beets are fussy and will not do well in light soil. Choose your lower elevations for best results and correct that soil first as shown in the book. Sugar beets will grow from California to Maine, just a different production rate. In California irrigated fields production has reached 75 tons of sugar beets bulk matter per acre.

Let’s see, if deer eat 6 lbs of forage per day and we have a 100 day winter season, we can carry 250 deer very well in any winter with a California acre of sugar beets.

We have been discussing the value of planting sugar beets as a winter carryover forage. Just about all of you know sugar beets as a fine deer bait source and it is. We will cover that and it gets downright exciting when we get into creating attractant type food plots in a future article.

In the lower area of the final destination field is planted a blend of winter wheat, oats and winter peas of about an acre in size. The above shown forage types are for you to contemplate as forage choices when you plan out your final destination field.

One final note, we mention several times in our book to fertilize your attractant type food plots with fertilizer high in nitrogen around mid to the end of September. You should see a significant use of these plots compared to unfertilized fields. It is recommended that the final destination field not be fertilized in September and exactly for that reason. You want deer to eagerly visit first your attractant type food plots prior to the final destination field. They will migrate to the final destination field and with good planning get there after sundown.

One more final note, it has been mentioned in the previous article and will be again in future ones, ’no hunting or visiting of any kind by humans a few weeks prior to or during the hunting seasons in the final destination field’.

Selecting Hunting Sites
Note the two bare X’s, located in the left and upper areas of the illustration, which will be future firearm sites. There are sixteen encircled X’s representing tree blinds, two of which will be future firearm sites, with the remainder being bow sites. This 120 acre parcel is set up for four hunters for either the bow or firearm seasons. These firearm and bow sites are not randomly chosen. They are selected in conjunction with future attractant type food plots. You have sorted out the many potential sites of attractant type food plots and have made final decisions in the locations best suited. There can be many small attractant food plots used exclusively for the firearm, (up to one acre in size) or bow seasons, (around 1/4 acre in size). Some plots can be shared for either the bow or firearm seasons and all this planning shows up in your aerial map. Speaking of aerial map it is advisable to search for large trees for potential blinds when selecting your attractant food plots that will be used for the bow seasons. Let the presence of ideal bow site tree blinds influence your final decision of attractant food plot locations. Having two ideal bow tree blinds per food plot, with the right tree used for different wind directions is something to ponder. In the next segment we will cover in more detail these attractant type food plots and various sanctuary set ups.

Keep the fun in hunting!
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Ed Spinazzola
Chairman of the Board, Mid Michigan Branch QDMA
Board of Directors, National QDMA

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