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3/23/16 – “DHO” – Deer Hunter Only

by Meaghan English, TrueSouth Properties Wildlife Specialist

So you’re a DHO and chasing turkeys does not strike your fancy…that is great and all but you are not off the hook! There is plenty to be done for the deer in the spring time as well. Spring and summer is your chance to do some recon work on your property. The off-season allows landowners and hunters to get out (with snake boots on) and explore their property in many different ways. For example, the spring and summer months are a perfect time for setting up game cameras and getting a feel for your deer population. Yes, March and April may present problems because the bucks may still be antlerless, but you can conduct a count survey. How many deer inhabit your hunting land based on your cameras? How do their physical appearances look in relation to the nutrition available on your land? How many predators are you catching on camera? Cameras can provide valuable information to hunters and landowners that are wanting to practice quality deer management.

Count Surveys- Count surveys can be conducted with cameras or by simply walking your land. If you have a slight idea of the deer density on your property, you will be able to evaluate other things about your property. Maybe your food plots combined with the natural vegetation are not providing enough nutrition for the deer herd. Maybe the deer herd has surpassed the carrying capacity that your habitat can handle. Camera surveys can be a very useful tool for evaluating your deer management plant. If you conduct these surveys in late summer, count your bucks vs. your does. Are they numbers that please you? If not, you can begin to set harvest limits in place. Maybe you only see younger bucks and you want to protect them and let them grow. You can set strict harvest limits in the upcoming seasons to allow those young bucks to mature. Maybe you don’t have many does and you would like to see more. You can enforce management practices and only allow antlered deer to be taken. You have the power to manage your land; you just need to collect some data in order to manage it properly.
Predator elimination- Unfortunately, predators inhabit each and every tract of land. Every organism must eat to survive…it would be nice if some of them wouldn’t eat fawns though. Coyotes are notorious for preying on newly dropped fawns. It appears that coyotes aren’t going anywhere, so if you aren’t happy with the number that inhabits your land, take it into your own hands. If you’re not comfortable with trapping, there are many professional trappers out there that are well worth the money (but you should try yourself; it’s very rewarding). You can also invest in a squealing rabbit call and a moving decoy. The rabbits on a stick work well. All you need is a large open field and some good camouflage, and you’re set.

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Habitat enhancement- Perhaps you would like to enhance your nutritional supply for the deer. Perhaps the deer on your cameras looked a little weak. Spring and early summer are the prime time for food plot maintenance. It is a good time to pick out new spots and begin establishing food plots. Even if you only get the dirt turned, that is a step in the right direction. But, if you would like to provide supplemental nutrition during these months, of course plant your food plots (now) with protein rich forages. It is also a prime time to plant trees and shrubs. Paw Paws, crabapples, and countless other trees are dormant in spring and ready to be planted. Be sure to protect your seedlings from critters! Do some research and decide which trees will do best on your property. Based on the climate we live in, it would be best to plant trees that are native to the southeast and drought tolerant.
Spring isn’t just about the birds; it is also a time for deer hunters to get a jump on the upcoming season. If you have kept harvest records or jaw bones from the past season, this is a good time to get those jaw bones aged and analyze harvest records. This way you can determine how evenly aged your deer population is and what improvements need to be made from a hunter’s standpoint. Most importantly, get some cameras up and see what is on your land! Take the time to improve habitat if need be and do some predator sniping. The weather is finally nice, so take advantage; it will pay off this fall!

By: Red Clay

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