DIY Habitat Improvement: Building Your Own Deer Dreams
July 17, 2015
For most of us whitetail hunters it starts not as a firm plan, but as a flickering wish.
We love being in deer country, but periodically we find ourselves yearning for more control of it. The feeling grows from at least one bad experience, when a hunt on either public or someone else's private land goes wrong because of too many fellow hunters, too few deer . . . or both.
For whatever the reason(s), over time we find ourselves wishing more and more than we could call the shots.
Stack up enough such frustrating experiences and many hunters eventually decide to lease private land. They assemble a group of like-minded individuals into a hunting club, and they set about making things better. They do a bit of habitat improvement, as allowed by the landowner, and they enjoy having more control of their situation than they ever did as public hunters or invited guests.
Yes, they soon realize there's a lot of work to do, and it for sure costs more than the old way — but on a well-run club without a lot of member squabbles or turnover, that tradeoff is often plenty good enough. That's why thousands of whitetail addicts keep playing the leasing game right up to the end of their hunting careers.
But for some of us serious hunters, there's yet another level to reach. We can bypass all of the frustrations of public hunting and the restrictions and politics of leasing and jump right into the captain's chair. We can own the land ourselves, and so do with it as we please.
North American Whitetail photo editor Ron Sinfelt grew up in Virginia and now lives just outside Atlanta. He started out his deer career as a public land hunter, and he's enjoyed a lot of success operating that way in several states.
But over the years, he and his wife, Victoria, found themselves wishing for something more stable and controllable than either public land or a hunting club could provide them. They wanted to own some dirt of their own.
Interesting, Ron says the dream didn't begin as a plan to buy a farm. All the Sinfelt's were looking for was maybe five acres on which to camp and then walk onto adjacent public land for their actual hunting. But as they searched here and there for the right situation, they ended up stumbling into something more: 42 unimproved but surprisingly affordable acres bordering a vast national forest.
Like all potential land buyers, Ron and Victoria were uncertain of what to do. The tract would cost far more than they'd intended to spend. But then, it seemed a great deal in an area with a lot of potential. Should they buy it or keep looking?
Finally a decision was made: to buy the tract. The Sinfelt's closed on it in spring 2014 and immediately came face to face with what to do next.
There was so much facing them: property lines to post, roads to build, food plots to clear, you name it. But they jumped in without hesitation and began the never-ending process of turning a piece of raw land in Appalachia into something much more: a place where deer dreams could come true.
For more on developing an overall food plot strategy, check out this Dr. Deer video from NAW TV:
I've been impressed with the results the Sinfelts have achieved in little more than a year of owning the land. With that in mind, I asked Ron to assemble the following slideshow of some steps he and his wife have taken to convert raw woods into a well-managed piece of deer habitat. We hope you enjoy this look at the inner workings of a new piece of habitat, and we look forward to updating the image bank as the Sinfelts continue working to improve the land and hunting.
Once the contract for our property was signed and accepted, we couldn't wait to get out and explore. Luckily the person we were buying from allowed us to do just that. While this looks like a great food plot location, we chose to use it as a staging area since it was right by the road.
My buddy Joe Holcombe brought his skid-steer by to help put the finishing touches on our road.
We had a few days to thoroughly scout the area and were able to put up some make shift, homemade corn feeders, so we could begin our trail camera surveys.