Increase the Value of Raw Hunting Land: Learn From Dan Perez’s Story
You know those shows on TV where some dude buys a run-down house for $50K, adds some hardwood floors, granite countertops and a fresh coat of paint and sells it six months later for $110K? That probably can’t be done with hunting land – at least not in that timeframe. But adding improvements to raw land, establishing a healthy deer herd and making it a great hunting farm WILL increase the value of a farm. And today, it has never been easier.
When Whitetail Properties CEO and land specialist, Dan Perez, purchased his first farm – 110 acres he calls “Big Buck Acres” – he knew it was an opportunity to put his knowledge of land and whitetail deer to good use.
“I’ve always loved chasing deer, and up to that point in my life, I hunted whitetail on public ground, I hunted them on land that I leased and I hunted them with outfitters,” said Perez. “While all these methods provided some memorable adventures, I came to realize you can’t grow and hold what you can’t control. What’s really cool is that piece of ground I purchased to hunt deer has turned out to be one of the best financial investments I’ve ever made.”
Location, Location, Location
Big Buck Acres went up in value after Perez purchased it because he turned the property into a producer of trophy whitetails. It’s unheard of in most of the country for three bucks to come off a small farm each year that exceed 4-, 5- or 6-years old, but that’s BBA’s track record. If you are looking for a piece of land to grow the largest deer that the area is capable of yielding, it has to be in a good region and neighborhood.
“When I’m considering a farm, that farm has to be in a good hunting area. That’s a gimme and goes without saying,” said Perez. “But that farm does not have to be a great hunting farm. If it’s in a good area and is a marginal farm, I can make it a great farm. I know how to do that through food and improving the habitat.”
Once you find the region you’re after, you need to zero in on the neighborhood. This is key. Look for big blocks of land surrounding the property where people are working together on QDM. Deer travel, and even if you have the best food plots and bedding areas on your property, you are going to struggle if your neighbors don’t understand the importance of a balanced buck age structure. Tap into a network of quality deer managers, though and you will reap the benefits of a QDM co-op.
Improving the Habitat
When Perez purchased the first chunk of Big Buck Acres, there was only one 30-acre field planted in bromegrass. Perez could have replanted the entire field in corn or soybeans. That’s often a landowner’s first reaction (put as much food on it as possible) when they have a piece of tillable land, but Perez decided to study the lay of the land and how deer were using it before planting anything.
“There’s no way around this step,” said Perez. “Deer movement will tell you what you need to know to be effective.”
By observing deer behavior from the stand, trail cameras and journaling it all, Perez confirmed that the deer were already crossing the field to get to neighboring agricultural fields after dark. He needed to funnel their path and give them a reason to stop in the field and feed early before going to the larger fields. The answer was pretty simple: A 3-acre food plot in the middle of the field.
Perez didn’t provide the deer with a large, destination food source that would’ve been harder to hunt and less likely to offer shot opportunities during shooting hours. He let the area’s surrounding farms meet that need while he focused on a well-designed kill plot in secure cover.
These days, the internet serves up a wealth of information on food plots and companies, like Whitetail Institute, walk you through the process. Offering deer a consistent food source has never been easier. When looking at a piece of raw land that you want to turn into a trophy buck paradise, don’t agonize if it doesn’t have established food plots. With the right mix of tillable land and timber, you can groom the land to hold and grow big bucks with food and sanctuaries.
With food marked off his checklist, Perez turned his attention to cover.
Deer sanctuaries mean a lot of things to different landowners. To Perez, it means a place where a deer will never hear, smell or see him unless he needs to enter the area to recover a deer.
“On my property, I do not cut wood, run my 4-wheelers, shoot a gun, setup a 3D target range, hike or bike or do any of those things,” said Perez. “I don’t mushroom hunt and I don’t shed hunt. It takes a lot of discipline, but I use my land to grow big bucks and we do it. The only thing that makes success possible is to have a sanctuary that really means sanctuary.”
Perez dedicated a block of timber to use as a sanctuary. Through selective cutting of trees to rid the canopy prohibiting new growth and hinge cutting, Perez gave the bucks a home they could feel safe in during the day. After he did the habitat work, he stayed out of the area.
Perez’s work to improve the farm, strategically using the lay of the land to his advantage and constantly think of ways he can make it better, is why Big Buck Acres would probably be worth much more than Perez paid for it. But the return on investment is just gravy on the mashed potatoes for him. Perez loves hunting and growing big, mature and healthy bucks. It just so happens, those trail camera photos of big ol’ bucks and the mounts on the wall are attractive to buyers if Perez ever decides to sell.
What Land Buyers can Learn From Perez’s Story
If you are looking to buy your first piece of hunting land, have the desire to turn it into a consistent producer of better-than-average bucks and willing to put in the sweat equity it takes to improve the land, we can help.
Our land specialists are not just real estate agents. They know deer, they know habitat and they can counsel you on what pieces of raw, ungroomed land can become a whitetail paradise.
Years down the road, after it’s a proven farm, the value will increase. You may decide to sell it to a buyer looking for a turn-key hunting farm and start over on another piece of hunting property with the profit you made. Or, you may enjoy it yourself for years and pass it on to your family. Either way, there’s something about taking a piece of land and managing it to grow the finest bucks the region is capable of growing. The sense of accomplishment, joy and intimate relationship with the land may be the real return on investment.