Combination Wildlife Cover and Forage fields---part IV

Staging areas

Staging areas are ideal ambush locations. We have all seen them in action.

Scene 1; we are parked alongside a large alfalfa field in mid August, which was mowed two weeks prior. A recent rain gives the new growth a dark green sheen. It is two hours before sunset and not a single deer venturing forth. Wait, is there something on the far edge of the field just into the woods? Binoculars quickly in hand we scan. Hmmnn, a bit brushy along side that edge, Yep, there is something there, but the head is down. Oh My, that’s a keeper! That guy did not move for at least 20 minutes and that was after several deer entered the alfalfa field. We know of deer as being edge animals, which is the transition zone from one type of habitat next to a different type and that is exactly where that brute was feeling secure.

Knowing what influences deer movement is key to correct habitat manipulation. If you want deer to move about your property during daylight you will need to give them a feeling of security from their bedding area, the trails they use to arrive at their chosen destiny and a staging area near their destiny where they can feel safe as they survey the landscape they intend to visit. That brushy edge above is the safe staging area that buck used to evaluate the picture in that open alfalfa field.

Creating your staging area

In the illustration we show two staging areas, both of which were seeded without any tillage, but different forms of no-till. We do recommend a single tillage pass about a week after the second spraying for more emergence insurance. No more tillage, with the third spraying being the last procedure prior to seeding. See our web site for more complete planting info. Staging Area 1 is within my firearm site layout. The ¼ acre staging area is in the background and is in a finger of land reaching into a tag alder area. A 15 feet wide narrow strip of the wild life blend on the left follows the swamp for about 1/8 mile, this is called edge. The ¼ acre kill plot is completely surrounded with another 15 feet wide strip of cover. The staging area has four deer travel lanes leading to it from Tony Lapratt’s created deer beds located from 30 to 100 yards away. The staging area worked too well. By the end of November the deer had trampled just about every last blade of switchgrass and we could see the soil for lack of forage.

Staging area 2 was created with hand held equipment as noted in the illustration. I have used hand held equipment for at least the last 100 years or so it seems. Yes, it was I who overseeded staging area 2. It is nice when one goofs and still succeeds. Not too bad for a three year old buck bedding area eh? Still, having long living forage within warm season grass staging, fawning, game bird nesting or deer bedding areas is a definite plus and highly recommended. It just adds to the attraction and nutrition needs of wildlife. Staging area 2 is located at our farm in Gladwin, Mi where the Mid Michigan Branch QDMA is holding A Wildlife Habitat Day on August 28th 2010. Tony Lapratt and his Associate Chris Pearson, besides Tony’s seminar, will be giving walking tours covering the above staging area 2 and the importance of a correctly created clear cut for maximum impact.

We just showed you how easy it can be to manipulate habitat with hand held equipment and get some great results. Staging area 2 is good stuff with minimum cost and effort. The maintenance is minimal to possibly none and with decent soil conditions it just may last for decades and that is a fact. Now, if you try this no-till hand created piece of magic make sure you do not overseed. It can be more than just a staging area. Start with a good seed blend of competitive warm season grasses, (primarily tall and stiff switch grass) and forage of exceptionally long life that is aggressive, palatable and highly digestible such as Kura clover, falcata alfalfa and birdsfoot trefoil. With patience and carefully following the guidelines, this staging area can become a very attractive forage stop for much wildlife. If anybody from Lansing is listening, this action will even work on the better public land soils. What say you Decision Makers, lets give our public land hunters a break and our wildlife some classy habitat?  

Bow site staging area strategy

The two staging areas in the Illustrations are used for firearm sites. Both would work fine if used for a bow site layout. Let’s use staging area 1 for a bow site and create some excitement. For right handed bow hunters they could use that first large tree on the left for their bow blind. Accessing that chosen bow tree in security is important. That 15 feet wide edge of seeded wildlife blend could be part of your access path. The tree blind ground area should be in tall dense cover and if it doesn’t exist you have options. Think of spraying and seeding a circular ring of the same Wildlife Cover and Forage Blend near the tree’s drip line. If there is decent soil and Mother Nature’s cooperation expect the Cave in Rock switch grass in the seed blend to reach a height of eight feet by the fourth year. A dap of fertilizer may encourage it to reach nine feet. This little feat will add much to the security when accessing a bow tree blind. For a bow site I would prefer the staging area being no more than 1/10 of an acre, (20 yards square) to allow for a decent shot if the deer entered from the far side. We should set up the travel lanes leading into the staging area different. Just to the left of the blind tree we could create a deer travel lane of 30 feet width, which leads from a bedding area and finally to the staging area. It would be cleared and seeded with the same Wildlife Cover and Forage Blend. If in a mature woods, we would need a width of 30 feet to insure that the wildlife vegetation receives adequate sunlight. The other three lanes would tie into this main 30 feet wide deer travel lane. We are encouraging deer to travel right past your tree blind on your left hand side. That 30 feet wide deer travel lane is now an extension of the staging area. Expect deer to be undisturbed and move slowly by, then hesitate right next to you as they survey the area ahead for danger as you survey them. They may linger for many minutes, with you learning about deer behavior. Don’t be surprised if they decide to turn around and head back. Money cannot buy these experiences.

See you at the farm in August and keep the fun in hunting!

Ed Spinazzola, Associate, Tony Lapratt’s Ultimate Land Management

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