QDM on Small Properties | Waste of Time or Vital to Success?
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All three buck seen in this article were brought down on small properties 70 acres or less. How did these hunters do it? It might have been pure rut luck, but one common denominator between these three bucks is cover! Coincidence? Absolutely not!
I am extremely lucky to have access to hunting land. You will never hear me complaining, but I do have my frustrations as a hunter and land manager trying to implement QDM on less than 70 acres. Who doesn’t? I have met plenty of people that think it can’t be done, or is a waste of time. They are wrong! Small property management is making the best of what you got. The trick is to be careful not to waste what precious money, time, and space you have on some pointless, unreachable management objective. Where do you start? First, you need to figure out what resources are lacking in the landscape. Identifying those resources allows you to pinpoint goals on the property, what limitations you have, and eventually how you are going to hold deer to your property!
Check out Indiana landscapes on google images. The first thing that you will notice is endless photos of corn fields.
Talk to any hunter in the top 2/3 of the state. Most will tell you they don’t see too many deer in there little parcel of woods. If they do, the deer are just traveling through.
In this landscape, identifying a key resource is easy. The deer here seek one thing above all else, that is cover! Cover is everything in my opinion. If all you have is a great 20–80 sanctuary, with quality bedding and browse with little hunting pressure, there is no reason your property can’t hold deer!
In reality most of us (college students, weekend warriors, and small landowners) have very little money for this task and hardly any access to equipment. We can however, summon some basic yard tools from someone’s garage from time to time. With these limitations you need to forget food plots…for now. You have got two tools that can knock out food and cover with one punch.
One of the most effective ways to increase cover on a small property is to use hinge-cutting, or just selective timber harvesting in general. Hinge-cutting and selective harvesting can be done easily with a chainsaw and can increase cover quickly on small parcels. Allowing sunlight to hit the floor allows a flush of new growth. This increases growth of that pant ripping briar brush which is great cover and food for any white-tail. The family farm I inherited the opportunity to hunt and manage on was a blessing. The old pastures and Ag fields had become thickets of sumac, red cedars, dogwoods,
and redbuds spaced with waste high grass and briars. I didn’t have to do much at first in terms of cover and food, but as time went on the cover and food grew higher with the trees. Hinge-cutting was the best option to keep the food and cover on the property. This 70 acre deer hotel was just what they needed in a row crop-dominated landscape. Both Hayden Harrington’s buck and my buck were killed on this property during the 2014 season.
Jarad Mcleland’s inheritance came with a little bit different scenario. Instead of already advancing vegetation, he was given a clean slate of recently row cropped fields. With 80% of the property in field and 20% in timber, Jarad was limited to using the other easy option for creating cover, Fire. Installing areas of native grasses, Jarad put his northern Indiana property back into its natural prairie state. By continually burning every other year and rotating areas of burn, Jarad was able to set back succession and constantly provide high value cover and forage for any deer in the area. The little timber he did have, was selectively harvested getting even more cover and browse on the property. This brute of a buck took refuge in the grasses, then moved into the thickets of the timber within range of Jarad’s stand.
All three of these bucks came off of less than 70 acre properties that were managed for cover. It’s tough on a small property, and can feel pointless sometimes, but it can be done effectively! By identifying a key resource lacking in the landscape, and committing the property to management for that resource, our efforts paid off huge this year! We might have our frustrations as hunters and mangers, but seeing success out of a correctly managed small property is all the more rewarding.
Originally published at www.buckadvisor.com on January 3, 2015.