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

In the first segment, ‘Creating a property set up for maximum deer control’, we gave a preview of the big picture and in part two we started the plan in motion. You do need a plan. Without it, don’t be surprised to find continuous changes as you create your ultimate honey hole. We discussed in detail a large final destination field, where deer migrate to but later in the evening due to its open design. In this final destination field is planted a variety of delicious forage designed to please the palate of all deer. It is imperative that no human trespassing takes place in the final destination field a few weeks prior to or during the hunting seasons.

We also explained how important water sources are and that the water sources are an integral part of sanctuaries and that you cannot have too many of these sanctuaries and preferably located along the perimeter of your property. We further mentioned that deer beds should be created within these sanctuaries. It is imperative that no human trespassing takes place in sanctuaries a few weeks prior too or during the hunting seasons.

Creating Sanctuaries
Now let’s cover in detail various sanctuary set ups. In the illustration is shown 6 sanctuaries from natural swamps and lowland brush growth to a created combination cool and warm season grass sanctuary. Many sanctuaries such as swamps are natural as shown in the upper left area of the illustration. There are many types of natural swamps from the typical northern cedar, hemlock, tag alder, or cattail swamp. There are spruce bogs, where nothing else grows but spruce due to the soil type, there are grassy lowlands with woody brush that serve as a sanctuary and there are lowland fields of red osier or grey dogwood that make great sanctuaries along with excellent forage. Sanctuaries are not relegated to lowlands, uplands with a little creativity can be dynamite. As mentioned, it is in the sanctuaries where most of the bedding areas are located.

When you think of sanctuaries, think drainages for deer are drainage animals. Swamps not only serve well as sanctuaries they are ideal for winter thermal cover. Deer do not bed in water, but swamps have natural raised areas which can serve as deer bedding spots. Walk through your swamp and find a few of these natural bedding areas. I mentioned one I found in a tag alder swamp in the last segment. Study them and try to manually duplicate as close as you can, even if it means a shovel. Don’t be surprised to find a few of your creations used. If not successful and I have my share of failures, look up Tony La Pratt at <>. In northern woods where deer winter survival is not assured, annual winter carryover forage can be planted alongside these wintering swamps. This forage can go a long way toward deer survival, health and the key to it all, ‘Large fawn births and recruitment of these fawns to one year of age’. Half of these surviving fawns are male. Winter forage such as the brassica family, which includes forage rape, kale and turnips that stands tall and stays green under the snow all winter long can be a large part of the winterkill answer. Turnips have the same energy value as corn and corn alone can carry deer very well through any winter Mother Nature can throw at our wildlife. Turnips have other nutrient values which are greater than corn such as calcium, potassium and protein and are 85% digestible versus dead leaves, stems and buds, which can be less than 40% during winter. We moved off the subject of sanctuaries but deer management is a year round affair and maintaining their health just insures, ‘Better Deer and Better Deer Hunting’

Staying with drainages we can have a small river, year round flowing creek or a seasonal drainage that dries out in late summer, all of which fits into the picture. Out west one of the best places to ambush whitetail deer is along a drainage, for many times that’s the only location to find decent brush, trees or forage that whitetails prefer. "The denser the vegetation the more security for deer" and that rule never fails to improve your odds. So, let’s dense up the woods. There are times that river bottoms are nothing but a long park, with little incentive for deer to frequent the area. Nothing wrong with a park effect along a river for a picnic but we are talking deer hunting and some will need to make a decision, picnic basket or venison tenderloins. I knew you would choose the right thing so, let’s start chopping down some trees. There’s a centuries old practice called lobbing. Here we cut trees about half way and let them fall and hopefully they keep on growing. Cutting them down during the late winter or early spring with the sap freely flowing improves the chances of the trees surviving. Some tree types will have better survival rates. A call to the local forester can help. Not only will the felled trees thicken up the ground surface, the canopy is now open and that means sunlight, which will create new lush growth beyond believe. This new picture will encourage deer to travel and bed in the area.

Another water based sanctuary is a pond and if that pond is located in the existing wooded area, all the better. However, that pond need not be in the woods. Wherever that dug out pond is located surround it with cover and right up to the waters edge. One of my backhoe dug out water holes has a gradual grade to make it easy for deer to access. The entrance to this easy grade starts at the edge of a food plot. The back end of course is a straight down cut but in a tag alder swamp. Yep, the deer enter that water hole from the dense and abrupt drop back end, with very few using the front gradual slope. I do find a few fawn tracks in the easy grade. Another water hole also has a gradual grade but is surrounded with brush and tall grass out to about 20 yards minimum from the waters edge. Here the picture is reversed with the gradual grade being the prime access. Whatever is the source of water from a large pond to a small backhoe creation surround it with the densest cover you can create and Make it reach out from the waters edge some safe distance. It is in this edge creation that you should make a few deer beds. If the pond is out in the open connect it with travel lanes of at least 60 feet wide to another sanctuary or food plot. These connecting travel lanes are as mentioned at least 60 feet wide for security and as dense as can be. They can be brush, trees, tall warm season grass or a combination of the above. We will discuss the value and options when making travel lanes in the next segment. Every part of this property set up is important for maximum effectiveness and by now the picture should be clearing up.

Let’s create a sanctuary that is out in the open. There is a natural wet spot that doesn’t dry up during summer. The wet spot is 60 yards from the woods and in an open area that was farmed years ago but now an old field with grass, with a few brush and trees. The new water hole which will be dug out can be a small pond or a large one.

Example, in 1996 We dug out a pond, which was once a small drainage to a width of 100 feet, 425 feet long and a depth of 15 feet. The diggings were piled up on each side and this made a fine raised area, ‘deer like to bed in raised areas’. We planted orchard grass, red clover and sweet clover in this raised area. It grew to a height of five feet and more, with deer bedding in it by the dozen. Since then We replanted this field into a legume and keep it mowed and moved the deer bedding area further out in another open but ideally hilly area. The pond is now a fishing hole for the grand kids. You can benefit from my experience and probably improve on it with a warm season grass planting around that water source.

Look at sanctuary 6, which is a large open field of cool season timothy grass and warm season switch grass and a dug out water source. This is primarily a bedding field and switch grass is hard to beat for bedding. I recommend planting Cave In Rock variety of switch grass. It is very aggressive and grows up to eight feet tall. Eventually it becomes dominant and again that is what you want. In this field one can expect to have does giving birth in late May to early June, with the cool season timothy being at the right height for security, while the switch grass is just starting to grow. The switch grass will be in great shape for deer use as a prime bedding area in the fall. Around the water hole a variety of brush and trees should be planted, for a change in the vegetation draws in deer and with the diggings used to raise the surrounding area it just adds to the lure. You should constantly refer to your Arial maps and outline the plan on it as it evolves.

There are many different environmental conditions out there and I doubt if we can cover them all. We covered a few different approaches when creating sanctuaries and hopefully you picked up enough data to be able to improvise a plan for your special and unique conditions. You may need to have some professional help and there are some qualified land management professionals out there. If you do get help, that doesn’t dismiss the fact that you must be the one to have a plan in place first and spent considerably time in forming it. Be open-minded and listen to the experts. Pay particular attention to the layout of your sanctuaries and the flow that is needed between sanctuaries, attractant food plots, the final destination field and the travel lanes that help create that flow. It is imperative that no human trespassing takes place in sanctuaries a few weeks prior to or during the hunting seasons.

Creating Attractant Type Food Plots
Looking at the illustration you will find 12 different attractant type food plots. You chose those locations due to the better soil types as suggested by the soil tests and the location of ideal trees used for elevated blinds for the bow season in addition to two tree blinds used for the firearm seasons. You kept in mind the location of chosen perimeter based sanctuaries. You kept in mind the final destination field and its location. Mostly, you kept in mind the movement of deer that you are trying to control, which in part means locating those attractant food plots between sanctuaries and the final destination field.
In the illustration, let’s look at attractant food plots AFP1, 2 and 3. They are used only for the firearm season and each adjoins sanctuaries. The lone X in the upper area is your firearm site. These plots can be as large as one acre and each one is planted with different forage. Since these are firearm sites the forage should be cool season hardy types. Let’s plant RoundUp ready sugar beets in AFP1, a blend of forage rape and turnips in AFP2, with winter wheat, oats and winter peas in AFP3. The different varieties of forage encourages deer to visit each plot. Nearby AFP’s should also have a different forage. So, let’s plant AFP4 with a special blend, of several clovers. In AFP12 we plant a pure grazing type alfalfa plot that every one knows deer love. In AFP11 we plant a pure blend of forage chicory. We planted six plots with different forage, not a bad start having a six course meal. It is a fact, deer do love alfalfa.

Make sure you choose a grazing variety of alfalfa not a farm type such as vernal used to make hay. Same goes for clover, stay away from green manure varieties such as mammoth red clover. There is nothing wrong with these when young but have little nutritional value, deer palatability or digestibility during the firearm seasons. Maintenance of these attractant food plots is critical to be at its peak in nutrition value, palatability and digestibility and just in time for the firearm seasons. Forage high in digestibility means that it passes through the digestive system quickly, which means deer eat more often, something like us eating Chinese food. Deer eating more often is to our advantage. The story of selecting the most deer pleasing forage for attractant type food plots is told in our book, ‘Ultimate Deer Food Plots’. It is highly recommended to broadcast fertilizer high in nitrogen such as urea at the rate of 100 lbs per acre from mid to late September on all attractant type food plots. Yes, broadcast this type of fertilizer even in the legumes. This story is also told in our book. We are going against the advice of forage experts to never fertilize a legume with nitrogen, (legumes create their own nitrogen with its unique root nodules) especially that late in the season, yet you just may see something happen that is very interesting. We are planting a large variety of attractant type food plots, using the best seed types available, and maintaining them to achieve the greatest return in our hunting experience, not growing hay efficiently for cattle. Speaking of planting best seeds available, that applies especially to attractant type food plots. Let’s get the odds in your favor.

Let’s look at food plot AFP7 used for the bow season only. Here we can plant something deer have a well known taste for, let’s try RoundUp soybeans but planted in mid July to be in prime shape for deer. We will not get any mature beans but that isn’t our goal. We want that soy plant to be growing lush, delicious, and nutritious leaves. Around 3-4 weeks after planting the soys we spray with RoundUp, broadcast fertilizer, forage rape and winter wheat. The soybean plants hopefully are still there come opening day of the bow season. If not you still have the wheat and forage rape there and for the rest of the bow season. In another bow site, AFP10 we plant around the first of August a blend that works such as Tecomate’s Lab Lab Plus. Here the large variety of Lab Lab, peas etc draws in the deer early and even with a frost the peas are still there. Note, we are planting the annuals later in the season. Soybeans in mid to late July, forage rape in early August and grains such as oats, wheat, rye and winter peas in late August to early September to be just right for you and the deer. Yes, fertilize these plots also with 100 lbs of nitrogen fertilizer, (urea) in Mid to late September.

It may be difficult to plant every attractant type food plot with different forage and that’s fine. On the opposite side of AFP1, 2 and 3 such as AFP6, 8 and 9, repeat the same forage planting.

In AFP5 we have a natural wet area, (shallow pot hole) that stays too wet to plant until late summer. Here we need to improvise and create what we call a swamp plot. There is absolutely no tillage involved and possibly no power equipment, you can create a plot of magic by hand. Wait till the water is gone and you can walk on the spongy surface. Wait also for weeds to grow to a height of 3-4 inches. Hand spray with RoundUp, then hand broadcast fertilizer, forage rape and winter wheat the same day. You are done and you just created the sweetest attractant food plot this side of heaven in the time it takes to read this article. This story with details is also in the, ‘Ultimate Deer Food Plots’ book. It is imperative that no human trespassing takes place in attractant type food plots a few weeks prior to or during the hunting seasons.

In the next and last segment of creating a property set up for maximum deer control we will cover travel lanes, access paths and a comprehensive summary of what we have covered.

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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