Why You Should Improve Your Whitetail Habitat
June 24, 2014
Since beginning whitetail habitat improvement projects several years ago, many aspects of my life and hunting have changed. Without a doubt, I've seen more and bigger deer, and I've had better opportunities at mature bucks on the properties I've invested in.
But just as important, I've become more connected and in tune with the natural world around me. I've found that getting a green thumb and improving habitat has led to better deer, better hunting and a better me.
The benefits of whitetail habitat improvement are most often discussed in the context of how these projects improve conditions for deer. And for good reason. If you own property, or have access to property that you're allowed to work on, there are endless ways you can help the local whitetail residents.
Food plots, apple trees and other man-enhanced food sources help provide nutrition for whitetails, which help them survive tough winters, reach their full genetic potential, and grow bigger antlers and bodies.
On the other hand, projects to improve bedding areas can also make a tremendously positive difference. Hinge-cutting, timber stand improvement (TSI) or planting cedars can help deer feel more secure and safe, while also providing them a better chance of weathering tough conditions during the winter.
The options are endless, and you'll find troves of advice and instruction in other places. So if you enjoy and appreciate deer, and have the ability to help, why wouldn't you? On top of that, from a hunting perspective, there are also some nice perks to having bigger, healthier bucks as well.
Speaking of hunting, habitat improvement projects can also improve your odds of hunting success. As mentioned, habitat work can lead to bigger, healthier deer, which may improve your satisfaction when hunting. But if strategic about how you implement your improvements, you can also better determine how deer will use and travel your property — allowing you to better hunt them.
As renowned whitetail habitat consultant Jeff Sturgis puts it, "It's not about how much you can improve your parcel, but instead how those improvements can be defined and fit together."
Take the placement of food plots, for example. If planned correctly, you can use food plots to influence where deer spend their time at different points in the day. You can then use this knowledge to better plan stand locations for different times of the day or season, along with proper access routes to those stands.
By using techniques to purposefully improve bedding areas for does in certain locations, you can position yourself to have better stand sites during the rut.
Whatever your particular habitat project might be, if thought out properly, your investment can pay dividends not just in improved habitat for deer, but also in improved hunting for you.
Now, as impressive as all of these aforementioned benefits to conducting habitat improvements are, I'll forever have a green thumb for whitetails for another reason altogether.
For me, it's the intangibles. There's nothing quite like the grit of fresh dirt under my fingernails; the firm press of soil around a newly planted tree; or anxiously awaiting rain and watching fresh, new greens curiously sprout from the ground and slowly reach toward the sun. When I spy a doe and two fawns happily feeding in the lush carpet of clover I planted months earlier, the corners of my grin rise that much more.
Before beginning my own habitat projects, I never would have cared, noticed or experienced these small joys.
The less often discussed benefits of habitat work are what now seem to stick with me most. And despite the obvious benefits to my deer hunting experience that habitat improvements offer, it seems at times that the greatest improvement I find is within myself.
As a result of this work, I am more connected and appreciative of our natural earth and it's bounty. And, ultimately, I'm humbled by the opportunity to give back, even if it's only in some small way.
Get A Green Thumb
If you have the opportunity, get out this spring and try your hand at working the land. You'll help the deer, improve the odds of hunting success and maybe even get a better perspective about life.
About the Author
Mark Kenyon runs Wired To Hunt, one of the top deer hunting resources online, featuring daily deer hunting news, stories and strategies for the whitetail addict.