10 Ways to Improve Your Hunting Land in Southern Illinois
If you’re a hunter, few things are more important than having quality hunting land. Not only does it provide a place to hunt, but it’s also an investment that can pay dividends for years to come. Fortunately, there are several ways to improve your hunting land and make it more productive.
One of the most important things you can do is to control the deer population. This can be done through hunting, but it’s also essential to manage the habitat so that there is enough food and cover for the deer. It’s crucial to note that no single effort can create a considerable effect. The combination of all your labor and time will extensively improve the land to be a natural habitat not only for deers but for turkeys, waterfowl, and other wildlife.
Obtain a soil sample and send it out for analysis
Before making any attempts at improving your hunting land, it is essential to obtain a soil sample and send it out for analysis. This will give you important figures about the nutrients in the soil and how best to encourage plant growth.
A soil sample can provide data on fertility, pH, and organic matter levels. The test can also determine the land’s sulfur level, potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen content. This information can decide what steps you need to take next to improve the quality of the hunting land, such as planting more green or tilling the soil first.
Sending out a soil sample for analysis is easy and relatively inexpensive. Most extension offices, county offices, or local farm co-ops will have the necessary equipment to perform this function.
Spray an extra shot of fertilizer
Established wheat, rye, oat, and brassica plots will benefit from an extra shot of fertilizer during late summer or fall. This will help boost their production, protein content, and taste appeal. Fertilize these plots with pure nitrogen such as 46-0-0, or use a multipurpose 20-20-20 mix. Alfalfa and clover generally don’t need nitrogen as they can fix them, but they can also benefit from nitrogen fertilizer if you opt.
Create a staging or buffer area for the deer
Planting a row of shrubs is a great way to create a buffer between your food plot and the woods. This will provide deer with a comfortable area to transition into the open food plot. When selecting plants for this buffer, choose species recommended by your state forestry department or local NRCS. Some great options include Allegheny chinquapin, red osier dogwood, plum, crabapple, mulberry, strawberry bush, American beautyberry, and blackberry. By creating this buffer, you will not only make deer feel more comfortable entering your food plot, but you will also help to protect your plants from browse damage.
Plant food sources for the winter season
To maintain a high-producing hunting property, winter food plots are essential. In late winter, when much of the foliage has been removed from your property, you must ensure the animals have a food source. The food plots on the property can keep the deer from traveling to other properties and will ensure they stay healthy and well fed no matter what you enjoy doing on the property, whether it’s spotting and stalking, running dogs, or hunting game trails and movement areas. Food plots also help keep the deer population in check by providing a reliable source of nutrition that supports herd health and births of strong and healthy fawns come spring.
Create a browse for deers
One way to encourage deer to visit your property is to browse by cutting down low-value trees. This browse will provide food for deer as well as security cover. You can also hinge-cut small trees, so they fall and provide browse, but they continue to grow. These anchor points attract vine-growing foods like honeysuckle, grapes, and greenbrier. Placing these cuts along travel routes and in potential bedding and staging areas will give deer more reason to visit your property.
Clear an access trail to create a path
Deer are constantly moving in search of food, water, and mates. During the day, they lie in dense cover to rest and avoid predators. As a result, deer trails are often difficult to find and follow. However, clearing an access trail to food sources can make it easier for deer to find their way.
Creating an access trail for deer to reach food sources is a great way to encourage them to visit specific areas of your property. You increase their chances of using them by making it easy for them to reach these areas. And while you are clearing the trail, you can also take the opportunity to swing the route within shooting range of an excellent potential stand or ground blind location. This will allow you to get double the benefits from this project. Not only will you be able to attract deer to a specific area, but you will also be able to take advantage of a prime hunting spot.
Create water sources for wildlife
While a full-fledged pond may be a considerable undertaking, there are plenty of ways to create a small watering hole that will still benefit wildlife. One option is to dam up a stream that would otherwise dry. This can be done by piles of rocks or logs, providing a reliable water source for animals. Another option is to dig a hole into fitting a farm stock tank or kid’s pool. This may take a bit more effort but will create a larger body of water. Regardless of which method you choose, creating a water hole is a great way to help wildlife and keep them on your property.
Manage bucks to doe ratio
The ratio of bucks to does in a herd directly impacts the herd’s health and the success of hunting. Bucks will be more active during daylight hours in areas with abundant does, as they compete for mates. This results in more opportunities for hunters. Conversely, in areas with fewer does, bucks will be less active during daylight hours, making them more challenging to hunt. As such, hunters must know the local herd ratio when planning their hunts. Understanding the radio’s impact on animal behavior can increase their chances of success.
Place trail cameras
While many hunters only use their trail cameras during deer season, keeping them out all year can provide several benefits. For starters, trail cameras can act as a security system, deterring would-be trespassers from entering your property. Additionally, by leaving your cameras out all year, you can get a better sense of the deer population on your land and track the herd’s health over time. Of course, maintaining a trail camera requires some effort: batteries need to be changed regularly, and photos need to be downloaded and reviewed regularly. But for those willing to do extra work, year-round trail camera use can be a valuable tool.
Keep your land free from trespassers
Trespassing can damage crops, disturb wildlife, and pose a safety hazard, while poaching can deplete resources and lead to legal penalties. You can take steps to deter potential trespassers and poachers, including posting signs, maintaining cameras, and putting up gates. By taking these precautions, you can help protect your property and resources.
Whether you’re looking to improve the quality of your hunting land or want to get more out of it, these tips will help. If you need more help improving your hunting land or are looking for perfect hunting land in Southern Illinois, Midwest Farm and Land Co. can help. Contact us today for more information.