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Limited deer even after habitat work

1801 Views 20 Replies 19 Participants Last post by  hesseu
I'm looking for some opinions on where to go with my property.

I bought 40 acres 4 years ago on the Platte County-Buchanan county line. It's a rural area on a dead end road. I've done some aggressive TSI/Selective cut work to 5-7 acre area of the farm over the last two years winters (Red circles). I've cut out the cedar groves and created some old field areas along a shelf that used to be a field 30-40 years ago (light blue). I've burned about 2 acres of cedar and timber. The farm has 6 acres of alfalfa (green area) that we planted to produce hay for my wife's horses and in hopes of it feeding deer as well. It gets cut 4-5 times per year so its always new growth. I've edge feathered around one of the alfalfa fields and put about an acre ring of native warm-season grass in late this spring (orange area). It has water from a creek that runs year-round (blue). My property ends on the south side near the row crop field which was tobacco for the last couple of years and sudangrass this summer. There are corn, beans, and clover on my near by properties and but very limited cover.

Despite all of that I still have very limited deer sightings the last three years. I pulled three cameras last weekend (two weeks of pics) and I literally had 10 deer pics. The cameras were over salt licks and near the TSI areas, and over the alfalfa. I feel like the thick security cover has responded tremendously. The TSI picture is from last summer and its even thicker this year. Rough dogwood stump sprouts, oak regen, and forbs everywhere. It is head high and super thick. I just don't see the deer using it. Heck I don't see deer period. If I take an infrequent side by side trip through the farm I have only bumped deer once in the last year. I've seen three deer in the alfalfa in the last three years. I have three neighbors around me and only one of them hunts and certainly not what I would consider heavy hunting pressure (opening gun season weekend only). I don't see tons of coyotes or predators on the cameras. I don't feel like I have a dog problem as mine stay near the house and the barn for the most part and I never see my dogs or stray dogs on the cameras. My kids don't go wandering through the woods much and I stay out of the TSI area completely except to pull cameras on the edge or to do more work in the late winter.

I priced a habitat/deer consultant but it was way out of a price range I could justify. I don't feel like my farm lacks much from a habitat standpoint but the deer have just not responded.
I'm open to any thoughts or suggestions. I know Platte and Buchanan counties are not great deer areas but I didn't think they were this bad.


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Those counties were hit hard with EHD a few years back and have also been hit since. Do the neighbors farther away hunt? Thats a fairly populated area so Id bet that you have more pressure than you think.
40 acres and even more can be so heavily influenced by actions on surrounding properties. If you have good security cover deer should utilize it . Keep the faith and trust they will respond to good cover eventually.
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I did a little calculating.
Buchanan County has 261,120 acres of land
Platte County has 268,800 acres of land
Combined for 529,920 acres.
Between both counties last year there were 1,604 deer taken just during archery season and the November portion of rifle season.
That's 1 deer taken for every 330 acres.
You have 40 acres.
As someone else stated, high EHD mortality recently and.... you are not in a high deer population part of the state
I have seen numbers in this area continue to drop as well since the 2012 outbreak, whereas the place I hunt has turned the corner. I don’t understand it either.
My place is small. Good cover is the key. My place is almost a jungle. Then, one or two small clover plots and sightings are very common.
I have seen numbers in this area continue to drop as well since the 2012 outbreak, whereas the place I hunt has turned the corner. I don't understand it either.
I think some areas suffer from a few hunters not laying off the doe until numbers recover.
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Hahahaha. :banging:
Are the salt licks new or have they been used for a year or two?
Do you see browse/beds/poop etc evident in the TSI-regrowth areas?
Do you run a camera over the alfalfa, are deer using it at night?
Have you ever tried baiting a camera with corn?
The EHD outbreaks were 5-6+ years ago, I'd think you'd have seen some numbers bounce back unless your neighbors hunt like the Amish.
40 acres won't ever hold a lot of deer and usually smallish places are hit miss for sightings on any given day, but they should be using it given the cover you've created and ag fields not far away.
I hunt Platte County west of the airport and deer numbers are not a problem in my area.
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First and foremost I want to congratulate you on the work and sweat equity you have put into your farm.. I can understand your frustration whereas your not "yet" experiencing the results that you had in mind when you initiated your habitat work. Keep in mind that all your actions and hard work toward improving your farm can take time. The somewhat immediate satisfaction that comes from transforming your farm through TSI, removal of cedars, establishing food plots an NWSG are all fairly visual and happens rather quickly. Deer density can be a double edged sword. It seems your particular area is still rebounding from EHD. It will take some time for the numbers to improve. Take solace in the fact that you took advantage of the present lull in deer population and invested the time and money in your farm creating habitat to support an inevitable upward trend in deer density. Per your post in regards to the neighboring properties food doesn't seem to be an issue but you may still be able to exploit it.

Top 3 Water, Food, Cover
Is it possible to strategically add more water sources via a small pond or 2 to your farm? Ideally spaced and located near security cover or your destination food sources like your alfalfa field?

Fall Plots: I believe you may be able to take advantage of green to green transfer in this particular area due to the neighboring crops. It may be advantageous for you to concentrate your efforts toward multiple fall foodplots that are green, albeit your alfalfa field, Clover, brassicas, oats, winter wheat that is available once the neighboring bean fields start to yellow down and become less palatable. Late season is where you want to have a variety of food available. You want a readily source of food varieties that will sustain through the fall and into spring. When the neighboring crops are harvested you want to be the only grocery store in your immediate area to draw and possibly hold deer. I say "possibly" hold deer due to your amount of acreage. In your situation I would be concentrating on making my farm as deer friendly as possible by adding in features your neighbors aren't providing, larger areas of dense cover being the main one. Your goal, increase the time deer spend on your 40 acres to allow for Optimal Sightings/Hunting opportunities. How big is your alfalfa field? Is there enough security cover whereas deer are comfortable entering the field during daylight hours? Do you have any honeyhole/kill plots established whereas you can enter and exit during your hunts with the least amount of intrusion?

Shelter/Cover how large is the sanctuary on your property?

As to effectively hunting your 40 acres... this is the less is more approach is extremely important IMHO. I don't know how much time you have via your work schedule or other activities whereas you are able to hunt only select days. But... I would only hunt your 40 acres under the "utmost" ideal conditions all in an effort to keep human intrusion as low as possible.

Trail Cams .... how many cameras are you running on your farm? How reliable are your cameras? Are they possibly missing shots/pics of deer? How are you accessing your cams? Are they located in low impact areas I.E. along fields or areas where human activity is tolerated and your able to drive up to the cam to replace cards?
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Not sure you could have done much more than you already did.
. There are corn, beans, and clover on my near by properties and but very limited cover.
I think the lack of cover on surrounding farms is not helping your case on 40 acres.
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If you build it - they will come!

Patience grasshopper
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All of the work sounds great, I like the water suggestion but I think the most important part to this is the contact you have with the farm. Is it possible to place cams and leave them alone and not touch the farm more/less? I think in the space you have deer would use it as a sanctuary, but only if you stay out as much as possible.
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Has to be a lack of cover on other properties keeping the area from holding numerous deer.You do have some deer however so hopefully it allowed to the herd recovers.Maybe inquire about leasing some surround farms and doing what you can to improve habitat on them also and give it a few years.After 5 years of exploring more options and the deer numbers still haven’t increased I might would flip it and find another piece of ground.It’s fun managing property but most people don’t have 10 years of their life to waste trying to turn coal into a diamond.

Also you need 365 day a year food on your property if you don’t already have that.Good luck
Let's be realistic for a second. Let's try to understand what the average deer density is for your area. For instance, in Platte county, if a property has decent food, water, and cover it'll hold about 1 deer per 10 acres (all things considered). So if your 40 acres holds 1 or 2 doe family groups and maybe a buck, than you're doing good. A lot depends on what your neighbor's properties look like. Have realistic expectations, and understand what the deer density is for your area. And to state the obvious, for the deer population to grow, you shouldn't shoot any does for at least a couple years.
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