Would you like to increase the mature buck numbers on your small hunting parcel, during the hunting season? If so, some amazing opportunities await, when you learn to correctly apply a few habitat and hunting strategies that will actually make a difference. However, for the moment, there is one proven mature buck behavior that I have personally experienced, that you need to ignore:
That mature bucks have a home range of several square miles
-This is true in general, but when quality food and cover is shrinking at the same time hunting pressure is peaking, the daytime core range of an old recluse can be extremely small. Home ranges include nighttime movements as well, which can literally include thousands of acres for a mature buck.
The 365 Day Myth:
Hunters and game managers talk about the eutopia of managing whitetails for 365 days a year. Although that dream sounds good on paper, it is unrealistic, unless your land is large enough to encompass the deer herd you manage, for 365 days per year. Fawning cover, Summer food sources, Summer cover (for bucks and does), Fall food sources, Fall cover, Winter food sources and Winter cover, are often completely different from one another, and dictate completely different habitat management practices that need to be applied. However, when do you have the most influence on the deer herd in your neighborhood? During the hunting season. If lands are fragmented into the cover and habitat types needed to build the eutopia of a 365 day parcel, then so is the potential of that land, for building a quality deer herd.
What is the biggest risk for creating a 365 day management plan for a 500 acre parcel? By creating a such a diverse, multi-season habitat plan, that during the hunting season a 500 acre parcel turns into 100 acres or less, in the eyes of the local deer herd.
How To Increase Buck Numbers During the Season:
The easiest way to create a quality deer herd that includes more than it's fair share of mature bucks, is to make a 100 acre parcel appear like 500 acres, during the hunting season. During the hunting season is the #1 (by far) time you can improve sex ratios, improve buck age structure and manipulate herd numbers as needed, by attracting, holding, protecting and harvesting according to your goals, within a quality deer herd and hunting program. How do you make a 100 acre parcel appear to be 500 acres, during the hunting season? Not by fragmenting it to include quality multi-season habitat diversity, but instead by going "all-in", while creating a 100 acre parcel that is signficantly focused on Fall cover, and Fall food sources. Consider that every acre that you have that is specific for a season other than the Fall, is an acre that is ultimately robbing you from your ability to produce a quality herd.
Serious Side Effects: "On Paper", creating a 365 day management plan sounds a lot better than just merely creating a land to improve mature buck numbers, however, let the small parcel whitetail enthusiest beware: There are serious side effects when creating a Fall focused parcel! Quality Fall cover equals high stem count, in the form of hardwood regeneration, various grasses, weeds and shrubs. What is the basic of Summer fawning and small game cover habitats? High stem counts, for scent filtration and hiding habitat. What ingredient does Quality Winter cover require? High stem counts for woody browse and thermal properties. Also, quality Fall food equals Diversity, in particular when it comes to cool season greens. Where are high numbers of deer feeding during late February and early March? On sun-exposed fields of green, including leftover brassica, Winter rye and Wheat.
*How do you create a quality deer herd on your small parcel? By following the strategies in the article titled, "Buck Management for Small Parcels".
A home range of several square miles?
That is true, in particular, when you include travels during the day and night, Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. However, when you create a Fall-focused whitetail parcel, I have experienced on 100s of parcels, that you can significantly increase mature buck numbers, while maintaining the focus of those bucks, during the entire hunting season. Maximizing the potential of mature buck numbers reveal a great deal about the potential of your land:
1. You can't reach your potential with high antlerless numbers
2. Adequate Sex Ratios and Buck Age Structure
3. Quality fawning and small game escape cover
4. Adequate Winter Habitat
*You have created a Fall focused parcel that is designed to maximize the potential of your land to create a quality deer herd, so now what? Your hunting efforts have to match. For a snapshot of for not only attracting adequate mature buck numbers, but actually keeping them around, check out"8 Low Impact Mature Buck Hunting Tactics".
The reality of improving mature buck numbers:
With a Fall focused parcel, you will be well on your way to creating the ultimate, quality deer herd, which includes your parcel's highest potential of mature buck numbers. The significant positive side effects for fawns, Wintering deer and small game species is also undeniable. The absolute lowest hole in the bucket during the course of a 365 day habitat window, is during the entire Fall, which of course parallels the annual hunting season. Do you want to create the highest quality deer herd, which includes your parcel's potential of mature buck numbers? Then focus on the Fall for incredible results, while being vary wary of the real risk of fragmenting your parcel into multi-season focused sections, of acreage-robbing improvements. How do you create a parcel that is much larger than its number of acres dictate? By making your acres work together, during the hunting season, for the benifit of both your herd and hunting success.