Wildlife Habitat Improvements for the Hunter
Habitat improvements help the local deer herd. Improving your hunting lands habitat will also help all of the wildlife that use it. A healthy habitat will bring in and hold all sorts of birds and animals. When hunters think of improving their hunting land they often think only of food plots. While food plots are nice, natural browse and security areas in most cases are going to be the most beneficial.
The first step in habitat improvement is deciding what you want your land to be used for, then set some goals. Be realistic when setting your goals. The potential for trophy deer will be affected by your neighbors and genetics. Quality hunting land will need to be managed differently then land ATV's use as a free for all. Larger tracts of land can have areas for both. The hunting area should have limited access.
Map out your hunting area. Mark all water sources, terrain features, fields and any mast and fruit trees. Use this map to make a habitat improvement plan. Layout the placement of hunting stands, bedding areas, feeding areas and sanctuaries on the map. This is a good time to bring in a biologist for suggestions. He can give you a detailed list of suggested habitat improvements that are tailored to your land.
Habitat improvement should include thinning overgrown trees. Strategically remove trees to allow sunlight to hit the ground. This will let the under story grow. This new growth will provide food for deer and other wildlife to eat. Use the tops of the trees that you cut down to make 4 to 6 foot tall brush piles. Ground birds and small animals will use these piles as nesting and security areas. Deer will also use them as fawning areas. Make several of the piles around your property. Any extra brush should be hauled to the sanctuary or be used to make deer hunting funnels. Over time briars and vines will grow in the brush piles.
Areas with large amounts of oaks and other mast trees make excellent deer hunting areas. Find a good tree for a deer stand then create shooting lanes in all directions. The hunting lanes should be 4-foot wide and as long as you feel comfortable shooting. The open ground in the shooting lanes makes a great place for food plots. Stack the brush at both ends of each shooting lane. Placing brush near the tree stand will act as a natural camouflage.
Habitat improvement includes building a deer sanctuary. This area should be off limits to all human traffic, including during the deer hunting season. This part of the habitat should have easy access to water and have a thick under story. Areas that have a large amount of briars, blackberries and such make excellent sanctuary areas.
A major part of a habitat improvement plan should include removing invasive plants. These non-native plants compete for soil nutrients. Controlled burns help habitat improvement. After they have been removed a controlled burn will help promote new growth and rejuvenate the soil. Before you do this contact the local fire department. They will help you get the proper permits and inform you of any rules that need to be followed. In some places it is illegal to start a controlled burn do to the high risk of wild fires.
When this habitat improvement is done not only deer but every type of wildlife and plant will benefit. It can take years to get everything just the way you want it. Do not get discouraged by slow progress. Come deer hunting season the results will be worth the wait.