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

This last segment puts us in the home stretch and we are in the lead, lets finish first across that wire. We have emphasized the importance of having a plan, with you creating it whether you hire others to incorporate the plan or not. It is your land and you know it best. Nothing wrong having experts in land management for input and I encourage you do that but you should be the major source of input for your property set up for maximum deer control. It is wise to use aerial and topography maps in your planning

In past segments, we have covered in detail the value of having a final destination field, the value of sanctuaries, with deer beds and a water source within the sanctuary. We have covered in detail what constitutes attractant type food plots and the reason they are planted with special attention. We covered why these attractant food plots are small in size, why they are planted with a different forage type in each one and why we fertilize them just before the hunting seasons, plus what type and amount of fertilizer to use. Now let’s cover the rest of the plan.

Travel Lanes
Travel lanes are a key component of the set up. They along with the sanctuaries, final destination field and attractant food plots are human scent free. Travel lanes are the connecting elements that encourage deer to visit all of the above mentioned locations. If they are not human scent free, deer will not use them. Note, in the enclosed illustration, only twice did we cross a travel lane to access a blind. Also note in the illustration how the travel lanes wrap around a sanctuary or food plot, which adds to the security deer need to leave a sanctuary or enter vulnerable areas such as food plots during daylight We did not wrap a travel lane around the destination field exactly for that reason. We do not want the deer to feel secure when entering that field during daylight. Travel lanes need to be wide. I have found that 60 feet in width is sufficient. They need to be very thick in cover and if the lane is 60 feet wide and planted in a low growing forage it doesn’t work nearly as well. Thick cover within the travel lane is the key to deer using it. I recommend a planting of cool and warm season grass as the base and add to it if you want. If you plant only cool and warm season grasses then the same blend as was planted in sanctuary 6 is fine. There is an aggressive switch grass called Cave in Rock that fills in the lane quite well and combined with timothy, these lanes also serve the function of being fawning and bedding areas. Yes, deer will bed in a travel lane and within a few yards of an attractant food plot at times and why not? Wouldn’t you if you were a deer and knew that there was absolutely no human danger lurking about?

If you want to add a perennial forage of clovers, chicory alfalfa etc please do but with a small change in seed selection. Stay away from the more aggressive Cave in Rock switch grass and choose a less aggressive one or plant big and little bluestem, for Cave in Rock will out compete the perennial. Add timothy and it should work Timothy grows in bunches as does the bluestems and this allows the companion perennial to compete for a few years. If you include the Russian clover, Kura in the blend and get a successful catch you will have these plants in theory growing forever. With a perennial legume added to the blend you just may see something new. Find a deer bed in this lane and check it out. You will be able to determine which end of the bed the deer had his head located. As he is bedded down he will reach out as far as his neck will allow and chow down on the choice clovers. Sweet isn’t it? Perennials added to the grass seeding adds to the encouragement for deer to use these lanes. I personally prefer travel lanes be seeded with a perennial for deer do not eat switch grass and very little other grasses. It adds a lot to it. As shown in the illustration the travel lanes may be 1 1/2 mile long and at 60 feet wide this comes to around 11 acres, that’s a lot of extra forage for the deer. You are planting a combination seed blend so use about half of the recommend seed of all seeds planted to prevent undue competition. Maintenance of these lanes as well as sanctuary 6 is easy. Mow in late August every three years. I recommend fertilization at planting time for these plantings but no additional fertilization is needed if the planting is grasses only. If it is a combination lane with perennials, fertilize yearly in early August 200 lbs of 19-19-19 per acre. A blend of seeds called ‘Michigan’s Ultimate Blend’ consisting of 8 annuals and 8 perennials is available and recommended to be added to the grasses mentioned to create a combination seed blend lane. Detailed instructions are shown in our ‘Ultimate Deer Food Plots’ book.

Other options can be part of the plan. You should first establish the travel lanes with seeds mentioned. You can plant brush of many types and or conifers with spruce preferred. In time the thick brush and conifer creates a dandy travel lane to last many years into the future. Keep in mind these travel lanes may also be used as access paths for maintenance of other locations such as attractant food plots and the destination field, so, if planting options keep this in mind.

Note the many different arrangements of the travel lanes. Observe attractant food plot 7, AFP7. Two travel lanes emerge from sanctuary 4, Sanc.4, and end up perpendicular to AFP7 right alongside two well chosen bow blind trees, which were selected first prior to planning that food plot location. You have the choice of two blinds and of course which one is selected is based on wind direction. You are in the tree blind next to a wide travel lane that has super cover. The deer will move along this lane, stop a short distance from the food plot and look for some time into that food plot before they enter if they enter at all. There is little to no cover surrounding this attractant food plot on purpose. Most other attractant food plots will have plenty of cover surrounding them, AFP 7 is another approach. Deer are special animals and they are not all the same, some like cover so thick you wouldn’t think they could move in it, while others shy away from a thick growth of prickly ash. Same thing applies to food plot arrangements, variety is important. You want the deer to use those thick travel lanes as access to the food plot. You are positioned at their staging area, where they may stay till nightfall before entering the plot. You have been watching the deer from your perch with them not knowing a thing about you. You are using their survival instincts to your advantage. A version of this can be seen in other travel lanes as they wrap around the food plot or sanctuary and end abruptly where the sanctuary and food plot meet or continue on some distance along the plot before ending. Of course there is an appropriate tree there.

The tree located south of AFP3 is in the middle of a 120 feet wide, (40 yards) travel lane and is used as a bow site only. It is located about 20 yards away from AFP 3 and no deer can be shot at in that firearm food plot, with a bow or someone pays. You are positioned in the middle of a 40 yard wide lane having a 20 yard shot at deer on either side as they leave Sanc1, 2, 6 or attractant food plots AFP 1, 2 or 3. Big Max is finally in your travel lane and about to enter the final destination field 50 or more yards south of you. You may not of taken a shot but you sure found out what is happening in that area.

Stand Locations
Stand locations have been discussed some and need special attention. We are moving into luxury hunting and that sounds good but you may be paying a price for that. Luxury hunting consists of having miniature condos for firearm blinds and or Texas towers that can be seen miles away. If we can see them in the neighbors property, is it possible deer can see them also? Bow sites can be obvious if no precaution is made in being discreet. I ‘m one of these guys that have joined this armchair group and trying hard to get back on track. Hopefully it doesn’t take too many years. The two firearm blinds located in the north and west sides of this property are standard ground blinds that are no higher than needed to observe deer. Camouflage them if possible; locate the back end partly into a large tree, conifer works. There are two tree blinds used for the firearm season only and located in the south and east travel lanes that lead into the final destination field. You and or your club will determine the shooting rules, but I urge you to not shoot into the final destination field, ever. This set up will probably never be duplicated for every piece of land is different. This firearm blind in a tree located close to the destination field is surely tempting and it may be best to not have it available period. We show this to give you other methods for a set up. It is also here to show that you can use travel lanes to access several food plots in a firearm set up as illustrated in the eastern firearm tree blind. Note that some food plots are shared by both firearm and bow hunters and others are used exclusively for a single hunting season. You and your friends will decide the final set up.

Firearm shooting lanes can be simple, with no more than a fifteen wide lane leading to a food plot. This lane can be a food plot or not. Deer move about once they enter their forage area and a wide firearm shooting lane isn’t necessary. They will eventually come into view in that narrow lane. A narrow lane adds to the security of that food plot. I didn’t convince you; fine widen that thing to your hearts desire. Firearm shooting lanes can be an access path for equipment to maintain attractant food plots

Access paths are just that and allow you to enter blinds with wind direction influencing your decision. For bow hunters this is especially important with the close range they make their shots. Access paths are used for maintenance operations also, so they need to be wide enough for your equipment, where needed, (note, wider path in illustration). Note the layout of the access paths as they lead you to your destination, with as little disturbance to deer as possible.

Amount of land dedicated to food plots
This property of 120 acres may have a total of 16 acres of food plots or 13% of the total land area. As the total acreage increases in size the percentage of it in food plots can drop. Example, a 500 acre size property with 10% in food plots is more than adequate, while a 5,000 acre chunk of land can be managed very well at 3% being in food plots. A forty acre piece will work at 20%. It is best to have as few destination fields as possible to optimize the control of deer movement. Even at five hundred of acres of land one destination field can work, but be much larger in size. A destination field for this 500 piece could be around 25 acres in size as well as the total of the attractant plots for a grand total of 50 acres or 10% of 500. In good habitat a 500 chunk will accommodate 10 hunters maximum or preferably 6 hunters at a time.
In larger hunting clubs with members of different views this plan may be a hard sell. I recommend you start slow. Let’s say your club has 2,000 or more acres and a group of the membership wants to start something exciting. We will not succeed if a portion of the total property is set aside for demonstration with only a select few having access to the new set up. I suggest a 500 acre demonstration such as outlined here with a single destination field of 25 acres and 25 acres in many attractant type food plots. Design it to be used for about 10 hunters for the firearm season and 10 for the bow. Have a lottery for the lucky hunters and it won’t be long for a unanimous vote to go full bore.

The final destination field is the heart of the drawing power in your plan. The ten acre final destination field as shown in the illustration is around eight percent of the 120 acre property and this large percentage is critical in order to have deer visit this plot year round. In areas of winter migration it still needs to be large for you will find deer linger longer before migration, visit in winter during a warm spell and have something nutritious for them at spring break. Sending deer off to their winter yarding areas in great shape makes a big difference in their winter survival. Especially in northern areas, the key to a sustained deer hunting high success rate is a high winter survival of fawns. If the yearling fawns came out in fine shape you can be sure that the adult does will produce a large and healthy new fawn crop.

This large final destination field is in wide open territory with no fences. Do not plant tall grass separating individual food plots or surrounding the field. Do not plant anything that is dense around this field. Keep it wide open. There are no travel lanes coursing through, no roads of any kind, except for access paths for maintenance equipment. Most important there is not a speck of human scent in the air.

We show five sanctuaries located on the outside perimeter of the property, with an important water source in each. If you have a large central swamp that’s the way it is and we adjust. One large central sanctuary works but several perimeter ones work better. With some vegetation manipulation you can insure that deer bed where you want them to.

The following is not negotiable. You do want to know if deer are bedding and where you want them to bed. This is part of the plan of controlling deer movement. If you know where deer are bedding, (this certainly includes big bucks) you have the edge. Knowing where bucks of your discretion are bedding gives you the advantage of actually anticipating their arrival and from which direction. You can also get rather close to their bedding area if you use extra caution entering the area. You can build a buck bed within fifty yards of your firearm or bow site, enter your blind at least one hour before daylight on opening day, see him arriving from the destination field or attractant food plot around a half hour after daylight and bed down with no clue you are there. If you stay in your blind all day long and that is advisable, you may see him get up about a half hour before sunset, see him stretch and possibly walk under your elevated tree blind to the nearest attractant food plot. If this guy is the one, how good can it get?

Attractant food plots are the draw for deer at your hunting site. If we plan them right we can have deer visiting them all day long. Location is critical here. We will create them as close to heavy cover as possible. We can and should nestle them into sanctuaries, we can and should surround them with wide and thick travel lanes or other plantings such as a few rows of conifers that do not lose their needles, which means spruce. The message here is to create the greatest feeling of security we can give the deer. With no human entering them, except for maintenance, the deer will soon claim them as their own private secluded honey hole. We will locate most of them between sanctuaries and the final destination field to aid in the control of deer movement. We show 12 attractant food plots with a variety in their arrangement and a variety in the forage planted in each. This variety encourages deer to take a sample from each plot and thus induce deer movement. Deer, (mostly bucks) also need to know the story of the day, who is out there and why. They not only visit the food plots but also the various sanctuaries. Bucks tend to make scrapes at the major food sources. You can add to the lure of these food plots by making your own mock scrapes around the perimeter of these plots. In general firearm food plots can about 1 acre in size while bow site food plots need be no more than 1/4 acre in size.

Again, one major objective of this set up is to encourage the resident deer to stay on your land 24 hours a day or at least during daylight. It is not likely that mature bucks will stay put 24 hours on your land but you have a set up that gives them no reason to leave and this encourages them to hang around until sundown. In addition you have an open invitation for deer on adjoining properties to have a free lunch. For the evening hunt, having the destination field centrally located gives you the optimum advantage of seeing these deer as they slowly move toward their ultimate goal. Having perimeter sanctuaries and safe travel lanes encourages them to enter a few attractant food plots early. In early morning the picture is reversed and you have a good chance of seeing these guys as they sneak back to their beds, but take one last bite in your attractant food plot.

Also as the neighbors move about their property prior to opening day, repairing their blinds, and sometimes actually walking about on opening day, they are pushing deer into your sanctuaries. Do not push them back. Do not be surprised to double the deer population on your land, (however small) by Thanksgiving Day by playing it smart.

What we are trying to accomplish is to make that unkillable buck more vulnerable by using his natural instincts to your advantage. Bucks need security and the plan shows that you have very little opportunity to roam about on your land, at least approaching the fall hunting seasons. Most of it is off limits to you whiter it is a sanctuary, final destination field, attractant food plot or travel lane. You are also restricted to certain paths to minimize human scent all about as you access your blind. If deer do not smell you where they want to be, they will feel more secure and likely be there. Deer like to eat and the more digestible the forage the faster it goes through their system. This means they will eat more often on your more nutritious, palatable and digestible forage. Most natural fall forage falls into the 40-50 % digestibility group, while your corn, forage rape, sugar beets along with young soybeans and wheat reach beyond 85%, with kura clover at 83%.

Your choice of forage seed selection, plot preparation. fertilization and planting time is critical for your attractant plots to be prime for the opening days of deer season. This vital information is shown in detail in the ‘Ultimate Deer Food Plots’ book.

Having sanctuaries located on the perimeter, the final destination field centrally located, with many small luscious attractant food plots in between and secure travel lanes for deer to use as they move about doing what comes naturally turns the odds greatly in your favor.

Keep the fun in hunting!

To order the book "Ultimate Deer Food Plots ", click here.

Ed Spinazzola
Chairman of the Board, Mid Michigan Branch QDMA
Board of Directors, National QDMA

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