I absolutely love the white-tailed deer. In fact, my 365-day-a-year obsession over whitetails is almost haunting. I am so happy and grateful to be able to do what I love and to also share my knowledge and love of big whitetail bucks with my clients.
You may be wondering how YOU can grow bigger bucks on your property or leased land. So, let’s get started...
When I meet with clients at their hunting properties (whether owned or leased land), I focus on the three basic necessities of deer: food, water and cover.
These three important components are critical for whitetails (and any other animal that calls your property home) to be able to thrive. I also focus on attracting and holding those big trophy bucks on your hunting land as long as possible during daylight hours.
To properly address these three basic necessities, there some questions that must be answered about the deer habitat on your property. So, let’s now break down the five steps to improving your property or lease for bigger whitetails.
#1: How are you entering and exiting stand locations?
Access is the first thing I always want to address when taking on a new property. How are you accessing your property and stand locations? What are the prevailing wind directions? Although not always practical, access from the outside perimeter of the property is always best.
In a perfect world, every property should be set up with outside perimeter access. However, it’s understandable that there are situations where this may not be possible. For example, you might have a property where you have a cabin smack dab in the middle. Or, there may also be other natural barriers that prevent perimeter access. These are all part of the land access component that I address with clients.
Accessing From The Middle
Although accessing stand locations from the middle of the property is always risky business, sometimes you just don’t have a choice. You must then pay very close attention to wind direction, and how you can access and exit a stand location without bumping out deer.
Screening plays a very important role in accessing a hunting property. Screening can be achieved by planting vegetation, such as Egyptian Wheat, Sorghum, Sudan grass, or Miscanthus.
I do not recommend corn for screening. I don’t want deer feeding in a corn screen leading to a stand or blind locations. Hinge cutting trees and planting rows of pine, such as Norway spruce are other forms of screening.
Going forward, I will discuss the advantages and reasons for screening in future blogs.
#2: What Food Sources For Deer Can Be Found On Your Property?
Are you implementing food plots currently? What kind of natural browse can be found on the property? If in Ag country, what are in those farm fields?
It is essential that you try your very best to provide as much food as possible, with food plots and natural browse for total year-round food sources.
Try not to give deer any reason to leave your property so that you can increase the chances of finding those shed antlers in the spring from the bucks observed during the previous season.
You should also determine if food plots are already implemented on the property. What kinds of natural browse, hard mast and soft mast exist, if any. If your property is in farm country, determine what the farmers are planting, and the number of acres planted.
Will there be food plots from scratch? By that I mean, if food plots are going to be planted within the woods, will trees be cleared? If so, be sure to find the best tree in the area and develop the plot layout around it in association to access and exit strategy. The same applies for a ground blind setup.
By creating a plot from scratch, you can control how deer move through the plot.
Deer can be forced past a stand or ground blind by creating soft edges and pinch points that block a deer’s line of sight and peak curiosity, especially during the three phases of the rut.
Whitetail Food Plots Options
In my own experience, clover and alfalfa provide for the best year-round food source. But, I only recommend clovers and alfalfa being only 10-15% of the total amount of food available. Corn and soybeans are great sources during late season and are good winter-long foods.
Brassica, turnips, tillage (dicon) radishes, sunflowers and canola are a few other popular food sources for food plots. In large plots that exceed one acre or more, I like to design the plots to have a wide diversity of food sources for season long variety.
When you have one or two varieties of food in one plot and another variety of food in another plot 100 yards or more away, you inadvertently create stress on the resident deer. So the more variety and diverse a food plot, the better. Just because seed blends are sometimes packaged individually, it doesn’t mean they can’t be blended with others.
My favorite plot food is a mixture of Antler Kings Honey Hole, Slam Dunk and Lights Out seed blends. The forage oats in Lights Out provides for fast green up and early season food, while the brassica, turnips, radishes canola and buckwheat provide great mid and late season food.
When this mixture is seeded on the perimeter of a corn and or soybean field or plot, you’ve just created a smorgasbord for a slam dunk kill plot!
One of the key things to determine about your hunting land or lease is whether or not there is a water source. If so, what type? A deer’s water preference isn’t always what you might think.
Water is a very important element to any deer, and all wild life, that lives on your property. On our own “proving grounds,” water is the #1 limiting factor on our property, and the element we have 100% control over.
You can create very simple, and inexpensive, watering holes. Simply use a 50-gallon barrel cut in half and bury to the top edge of the half barrel. Be sure to keep them full of water, especially during periods of dry weather conditions. To do this, I recommend a minimum of 150 gallons per water tank.
Ideally, pond development is the best form of water you can incorporate if it doesn’t already exist. For more information on wildlife pond creation, I recommend Zach Haas of Wisconsin Lake and Pond Resources, LLC. His services include:
Consulting, planning and Design.
Permitting where applicable
Pond liner and fabric installation
Beneficial aquatic planting design and installation
What type of cover are the deer bedding in? Is there enough browse in that bedding area? Cover is very important when it comes to holding deer on your property. You want to determine where the deer are bedding, (or where you want them to bed), and in what type of cover they are bedding.
Cover varies dramatically in fall/winter bedding to summer bedding locations. During the mid-late fall and through winter, deer prefer thick stem count, yet low, open canopies to allow for maximum sunlight for thermal cover.
In the summer, deer prefer open, high canopy, maximum shade and air flow, especially bucks with velvety antlers. If in hill country, like here in West Central Wisconsin, north-facing, high-canopy benches are preferred. In the fall and winter the opposite is true.
Where applicable, hinge cutting to provide side cover and allowing sunlight to penetrate the canopy, is a great way to enhance that fall/winter thermal bedding cover.
Remember, deer prefer side cover over canopy, and the biggest misconception of hinge cutting is that deer want to lay in open exposure to sunlight, and not under a hinged tree. Actually, deer want side cover!
Hinge cutting can be used in a wide variety of applications. Look for future written blogs and video on my Facebook and YouTube pages.
#5: Can You Use Mineral Supplementation?
The first thing you need to know when it comes to mineral supplementation is whether or not it is legal to supplement in your particular area? You also need to know where your mineral stations are in accordance to food and water.
To me, the use of a deer-specific, high-quality, mineral supplementation strategy is widely overlooked by even top-industry deer nutrition experts. My background is dairy farming and livestock production. With any great nutrition program, mineral supplementation plays a key role in genetic maximization and forage utilization. I do not understand why some industry “experts” feel mineral supplementation isn’t necessary.
Even with top quality forage, that alone cannot provide adequate micro nutrients that deer need to maximize genetic potential. What holds true for maximum milk production in dairy cattle, is true when it comes to maximizing a deer’s genetic potential for antler development, fetal development, and milk production in does for fawn consumption and strong, healthy fawns. Mineral supplementation is critical to each.
Again, pay attention to state and local regulations when it comes to mineral supplementation.
These are the five areas I emphasize the most when I visit a client’s property. I also emphasize them on my own “proving grounds” in my home state of Wisconsin (the Coulee Region of West Central Wisconsin, to be exact).
As with any habitat plan or consultation I perform, I break things down into much further detail, and discuss other topics as well. I find these five points to be the most common topics when it comes to managing any ground for mature whitetails. Hopefully this information is helpful in your quest to manage and harvest bigger whitetails.
When it comes to any management plan, it doesn’t have to break the bank. And, we want to keep the plan implementation fun.
For more detailed information on the topics discussed in this blog, and other topics, find me on Facebook and YouTube at EpicWhitetailHabitat, LLC and on Instagram @EpicWhitetailHabitat, or contact me directly at:
Ryan Nordahl Epic whitetail Habitat LLC W11124 Neperud Rd Osseo, WI 54758 715-299-0134 Epicwhitetailhabitat@gmail.com
So, what does price say about quality when it comes to arrows? Is a household name brand better than a lesser known one? Does a higher price tag equate to better arrow flight and more successful archery hunts? For that matter, does the name brand matter in any outdoor activity?
Well, in an attempt to answer that question, I’ll use a few examples. First, I’ll start with fishing (yes, fishing… just wait for it.)
My Pops had an old sun-dried yellow, aluminum boat with a 25 hp Evinrude motor that we putted around in. We would spend a week up there, doing nothing but fishing and filling the stringer.
When I was 9 years old, a guy saw us back up our old Suburban and that ole yellow boat into the water. He yelled, “Damn, that is an expensive rig ya got there!” Of course, he was being extremely rude with his comment, laughing as he backed his expensive speed boat into the water.
My dad just said, “some people…”
We fished for about four hours or so that day and filled up the stringer with 22″ rainbows and life was good.
When we went back to load the boat, my dad yelled across the water to the guy with the expensive boat, “You catch any?”
The man answered, “No, the bite has been slow.” My father replied, “I hope that boat was worth it” and then pulled out our stringer. The look on that man’s face was priceless!
We laughed and went to camp and enjoyed the rest of the evening cooking up the fish we caught (in our “expensive rig”) on the camp fire.
Your Ford Could Be A Chevy
Perhaps you’ve seen the test drive commercials where a truck’s identity is kept secret from the driver. The test driver takes it for a spin and says “it has to be a Ford.” But, then to the driver’s surprise… it’s a Chevy!
It’s the same with many of the products in the outdoors industry. There are many awesome products out there. Some are affordable and some not so much. And, of course, the more expensive item is always better quality. Or is it?
Higher Price = Better Quality… Sometimes
Many believe that better quality and performance live where the higher price tag is. In the gun industry, this argument holds up to some degree. But, at the end of the day, all guns travel the same whether you buy a $250 12-gauge pump shotgun by Browning, or a $900 12 gauge shotgun from Winchester. Both have the same pump action, same gauge, and same function. Both will serve the same purpose of taking wild game.
One Saturday morning in November, I went out waterfowl hunting on a dyke beyond the city I lived in. When I got there, only one other guy had shown up. I thought to myself, “Hey, this may be a good morning!”
As soon as it was shooting light, a group of 20 guys (probably all from the same football team) showed up and parked right next to me. Most of the crew had 12 gauge semi-automatic Beretta shotguns and were ready to take some game. At the time, I had a model 1300 Winchester 12-gauge pump.
It didn’t help matters that none of them would get in the reeds to hide (and it didn’t matter cause there was so many of them!)
For example, some bow hunters are willing to spend $185 for a set of six arrows, when there are arrows on the market for only $55 for a set of six. And, if compared to each other, just like in that Ford and Chevy test, you might not even be able to tell the difference.
Some bow hunters won’t shoot past 70 yards while practicing, while some ethical hunters will shoot further, just in case that dream buck walks out and you may not have another chance of getting any closer.
There’s nothing like the adrenaline rush of being in close to a deer or other wild game and releasing an arrow that finds its mark. But, what if you’ve never felt that rush? What should you know to begin the quest of being a successful bow hunter? In this article we will do our best to get you started in the right direction. Let’s just call this N1 Outdoors’ Bow Hunting For Beginners 101.
So, What Brings You To Bow Hunting?
Maybe you’ve always hunted with a rifle or other firearm. Maybe you’ve mastered gun hunting and simply want to try your hand at a new challenge. Or, maybe you’re totally new to any type of hunting and just want to learn what this bow hunting thing is all about.
Whatever your situation or age, we think you’ll find that bow hunting is not only fun (you’ll want to say “Bowhunt Oh Yeah!”), but helps teach patience, discipline, attention to detail and focus. And, there is certainly a special sense of accomplishment knowing you have been able to take an animal at close range and provide meat for your family and friends.
If you haven’t taken your state’s hunter safety course, be sure to sign up and do that the first chance you get. This will help you learn safe hunting practices whether you are hunting with a bow or a gun. You will also learn the hunting laws and regulations of your state as well as learn how to identify game.
It’s possible that if you’re interested in learning to bow hunt, that you’ve already been watching videos or TV programs about bow hunting. But, if not, there is certainly no shortage of videos about bow hunting tips. And, while videos are great visuals to learn from, don’t discount the wealth of knowledge you can glean from bow hunting blogs and articles.
Your local bow shop is a great resource for anyone wanting to begin their bow hunting journey. You don’t have to look long on social media to know that there are more than a few companies pushing their archery equipment and supplies. Of course, they all look good and sometimes it’s difficult to know what exactly you need.
As a bow hunting beginner, you may be overwhelmed with the choices of bow hunting equipment that is currently on the market. Your local bow shop can help you find your way through the sea of bow hunting advertisements to equipment that’s right for you. For example, what is your draw length? What should the poundage be on your bow? And, of course, there are so many choices when it comes to broadheads, arrows, arrow rests, sights, releases, bow strings, fletches and targets. And, of course, these things can be affected by what species of game you will be pursuing.
The bottom line is that your local bow shop should provide you with a wealth of information when it comes to figuring out your equipment needs. And, of course, it’s always great to support local business, right?
Inspect Your Archery Equipment
Once you have decided on and purchased your bow hunting equipment and supplies, it’s time to do some target practice! But, before you sling an arrow, you need to inspect your equipment. Be sure you don’t have any cracks in your bow limbs, fraying of your bow string, or nicks or cuts in you bow cams . Also, be sure you have waxed your bow string recently.
You may have a local range or archery shop to shoot at, but you may also choose to buy your own target for practice at home.
If you choose to shoot at home, always be sure you set up your target in a safe location where there is no chance of an arrow shooting toward any individual. This includes never shooting towards houses, streets, sidewalks or any other location where people may be standing or passing by.
It’s also a good idea to place a backstop of some kind behind your target. This will help to block an errant arrows that miss the target. Be sure your backstop is much larger than your target.
Practice, Practice and Practice!
Once you have set up a safe target location and inspected your equipment, you are ready to begin practicing! Be sure you don’t nock an arrow until you’re ready to shoot. When you nock your arrow, be sure to point it toward the ground while nocking.
In short, never point the arrow at anything you are not prepared to draw on and shoot. Also, if possible try to be shooting toward your target at a downward angle.
Once you have gotten familiar with the operation of your new bow hunting equipment by shooting at a target, you can start to prepare for various bow hunting scenarios.
While shooting at a stationary target is certainly something to master, deer and other game animals don’t always still and broadside, allowing you to take a perfect shot. So, you should practice shooting your bow from various positions, including inclines, declines and sitting positions.
You should also practice shooting in a way that mirrors the various angles that your game may be standing. For example, a shot on an animal that is quartering away from you will require you to shoot further back, so that the arrow passes through the vitals, so that you can take an ethical shot that results in as clean a kill as possible.
Don’t Forget Your Hunting License
You may already be a hunter that is learning to bow hunt. But, if this will be your first hunting trip, be sure before you get your hunting license before your first trip.
You can contact your state’s Department of Natural Resources to purchase a license. Some local outdoors shops also sell hunting and fishing licenses. You can also go online to purchase a license for the state you live in.
Time To Hunt
As you get ready to take your new bow hunting skills to the field or the woods, continue learning as much as you can from experienced bow hunters. Be teachable. Your learning curve will be much less steep if you listen well and put into practice what you’ve learned.
Just as when you practiced target shooting, check your bow hunting equipment thoroughly, including your broadheads, before taking into the field.