Turning Farmland Into Hunting Land
Late last year we wrote a blog about a young man named Bill who had just purchased eight acres in Indiana. He worked with Dan Bates, our West Central Indiana land specialist, who worked tirelessly to help Bill realize his dream property. While eight acres may not sound like a lot, it’s a great start for a young man. Bill did kill a nice buck off the property last season, but he’s not planning on settling with just that success.
Bill realizes the potential of acquiring and turning farmland into hunting land. When you already have hardwoods, all you need is a food plot or two to attract and hold deer. It’s a long-term investment that like Bill, many realize is well worth the time and effort.
Assess the Property
Assess the lay of the land to determine the best areas in which to focus your efforts. While you want to keep this mostly DIY, this is a good stage to hire a biologist or a company such as Whitetail Habitat Solutions to get you started. They’ll be able to help you determine the best areas to plant food plots and fruit-bearing trees that deer love. After that, you can set out on your own with the assistance of a professional to complete the project.
Create a Clearing for a Food Plot
Twenty acres of woods means a lot of trees. And while your property may be in an area with a heavy concentration of deer, this doesn’t mean they necessarily live within its boundaries. Sure, they may pass through, but what’s there to hold them? Deer need cover, food and water, the basic elements of survival, in order to settle.
Start in the center of the property. If it’s covered in mature trees that you don’t want to cut, then start slowly walking in a circle, getting wider as you go. Once you find that perfect spot, you’ll know it. This area is going to be mostly devoid of large trees that cast a shadow over the potential food plot. It’s already going to be somewhat of a clearing that only needs a little care. If there are a few trees large enough to create a canopy, sacrifice them. Save the wood for a campfire the following fall.
Instead of letting trees lie, recycle the wood for fall and winter time fires.
Clean up the understory with a weedeater and a chainsaw. For even a 20-acre parcel, a half-acre food plot is plenty. Instead of dragging trees, trimmed vegetation and excess brush into the woods to slowly decompose, pile them in the center of the field and burn them. First, this will keep excess brush from blocking a deer’s path to your field. Second, as you may know, fire is good for the grass. What you decide to plant is up to you based on the season.
Looking back at your notes from the “professional,” decide what type(s) of trees you’d like to plant and where. If you’re fortunate enough to own land in a fertile area, you won’t need more than a planting bar, a spade-shaped piece of iron used to plant saplings, and fertilizer spikes. Seek out well-drained areas that get plenty of sunlight. If you don’t want to wait several years for fruit-bearing trees to begin producing, plant yearlings that already have a root system capable of quickly establishing itself.
Once the food plots and trees are planted, determine where you want to hunt. Hanging treestands so early is not a necessity, but if you plan on placing a shooting house on the food plot, the sooner the better. Deer will take a little while to grow accustomed to an intrusive structure. After a few weeks they’ll forget about it and come deer season, you’ll have a comfortable place to hunt.
What’s your ultimate goal for the property? If it’s something you plan to keep for a long time, might as well consider raising some kind of structure with a bed inside that keeps out the wind, rain and cold. Especially if you live far away. Or if you live nearby, raising a pole barn will allow you to keep equipment out of the elements. In warmer temperatures, it will also provide a place to put a sleeping bag or cot.
We can help you find your first or next piece of hunting land. Our agents and our website provide tips on what to look for and how to go about acquiring a property within your price range. As we always say, the one thing about land is that they’re not making any more of it, so don’t wait too long to buy.