Improving Habitat - Looking For Counsel
Habitat Improvement
Messages posted to thread:
MilkweedManiac 22-Nov-18
MilkweedManiac 22-Nov-18
Habitat for Wildlife 22-Nov-18
Franzen 22-Nov-18
APauls 22-Nov-18
Charlie Rehor 22-Nov-18
t-roy 22-Nov-18
Orlando 22-Nov-18
MilkweedManiac 23-Nov-18


MilkweedManiac's MOBILE embedded Photo

Greetings to all!

My wife and I just purchased an 80 acre parcel with farmhouse last spring. This is our dream come true as my parents live next door and we have great relations with our other neighbors.

I will attach 2 pictures, one of just the 80, and another with the remaining 200 that I have permission to hunt, but not do habitat improvements to. Please note, 10 acres of our parcel is taken up by water (two lakes with dam in between). These are pretty and fun to fish, but make hunting access very difficult and block deer movement a bit.

The yellow highlighted fields from the southern attached farm always get 3-4 acres of corn/beans a piece, rotated every year. The maroon field to the east is just Ag land (15 acres)and gets picked in late October/early November each year.

The Good

Big, mature deer visit this place often as a hub that gets them to other properties in order to check bedding. There is a good mix of field/woods for the deer to use, and some terrain elevations provide a good zone for cruising.

The Bad

The two fields marked CRP (GREEN) are currently just filled with ragweed and a little blue stem/prairie grass mixed in. I will be required to resow something in each field next year, more than likely.

Because the grasses aren't that tall (4 ft. and very sparse), deer can see you coming from a mile away once you get West of the big lake. Three days ago, my wife and I literally spooked two deer bedded in the CRP from 300 yards away in an electric go cart.

So this place holds some deer, but they are very hard to get to. They enjoy bedding here because they can watch everything coming towards them from all sides. I can use my neighbors north, south, and west to access the property, but again, this entire area is more traditional farmland which has zero screening.

I need to make the open areas smaller, while also making them feel secure.

I would like to begin habitat improvement on the 80 with the goal of holding more deer through border screening, food plots, fruit trees, shrubs, thick and nasty cover, and anything else that folks here might see as important.

Would you all have any advice to offer?


MilkweedManiac's MOBILE embedded Photo

Here is a zoomed in picture of the 80 so you can see topo marks. The top left field is about 2.5 acres. It's really low elevation, moderately wet, and is completely wasted at the moment. It has cover, but no food, so deer will not do much more than travel through occasionally, but after hunting it a few times we've noticed they usually just run north of it to avoid completely.

I would like to compartmentalize it and really make it "small" where it's open.

I'm not sure what the CRP folks will let me plant, but I'm hoping to do more than just complete chunks of wide open grass bedding. I'd like to do some clover, chicory, forbes of some kind.


Congrats and best wishes!


I would think your setup would be pretty ideal honestly. If you want as many deer living on you as possible, add thick cover and generally stay out of it. If it were me, and again for mainly deer hunting, I would consider taking your southern crp out of program and letting it grow up thick, or that bottom leading out into Beech Cr. bottom. Maybe add little areas of food near the cover to entice transition & daytime feeding. It looks like the deer will always be fed with the agriculture in Beech Cr. bottom and I presume from mast and browse along the timber.

It looks like the area near the lakes is manicured... that would be the spot to add your fruit trees, etc., imo. The deer may not travel too much through that swamp, but I bet they'll bed there, and especially if you get'em a dry spot or two to lay on. In regards to the crp, first you will have to determine what program it is actually in. That will determine what you can interseed it with. In my experience, USDA/FSA has tightened up their grip on crp establishment and management requirements. I wanted to mix some taller grasses for cover into my CP-42 Pollinator that we sowed this year on my dad's place, and they would not allow it. However, each state is a little different, but I would assume Indiana is similar to Illinois. Just know that right now there isn't much of a program, and new enrollment will be minimal for the time being.

I am envious. Enjoy every minute!

By: APauls

That place looks awesome! Congratulations! Just remember, if a place already holds deer, and has big deer, that means they like it! Being that this is the situation I would be very careful to make any radical changes. They already like it. Most likely the reasons that make it hard to hunt are the reasons the big deer like it. If you remove those, you may be removing the reason big deer want to be there. It sounds like a great piece, and I might be more inclined to find a different way to access the spots you want to access. It might mean a lot more travel or walking and/or clearing some trails. Of course I don't know the area half as good as you do, but most people are generally trying to improve habitat to where it holds deer and mature deer. Sounds like you're already there.

Nothing makes me happier than finding a spot that has big deer and is hard to hunt. This usually means it will remain that way. Find a way to hunt it.


Good for you! Enjoy always.

By: t-roy

First of all, congratulations on your property! Few things are more enjoyable to me than working on/trying to improve my property for wildlife and hunting.

I’m a bit confused as to exactly where your property lines are? Can you post a pic that just shows your boundaries? Several things you can use for screening. Egyptian wheat, Sudan grasses, and hopefully, a more permanent screening solution, Miscanthus Gigantus. I planted some of the Miscanthus this spring, so the jury is still out on it, but it looks promising so far. It takes approximately 3 years to really shine, it is supposed to stand up to snowloads much better than other options. Standing corn can also be used for a screen.


It appears I lacked the cover you have. I bought ground that held a few deer as long as not pressured but left as soon as pressured. I went to the center of the property and did some hinge cutting where I wanted them to bed. NRCS paid for the trees and I the labor to put in a shelter belt of cedars, peking cotoneaster, and American plum. This gave me a screen from the road and in a couple more years will let me walk in completely undetected. FSA paid to put in a riparian buffer of oak trees, NWSG, American Plum and fragrant sumac. Not sure if these will work in your locale. But it may be worthwhile checking in with FSA and NRCS. They should also have a biologist and forester available to help make a plan. I have planted over 3000 trees/shrubs and am putting in an order for some more cedars to add around the bedding areas. My experience is that time goes by quicker than you think and I wish I had planted more. Good Luck.


MilkweedManiac's MOBILE embedded Photo

Thank you all very much for the encouragement and suggestions. I am attaching a picture that is JUST our property now to clear any confusion. I included the surrounding properties earlier to give a bigger picture, but the improvement will only be on the 80. Also, everything to the West of me is CRP grass fields. They are bush hogged every other year or so to keep the trees down. But there is no food that way. So deer come a long way from the West to check out this property, but there is no reason for them to bed here because I currently have no food, nor do the neighbors around me (to the west).

I definitely want to focus on screening this spring. The Thuja Green Giants look like they grow fast and are fairly inexpensive. I liked the look of the Leyland Cypress, but I am in Zone 5b (close to Zone 6), and do not want to risk planting 100 trees and losing them in a couple years to a hard freeze. The ultimate goal is to create thick cover inside the tall borders and include hybrid oaks, blackberry briars, etc. for them to munch on during the day before they travel to destination AG (located South and East).

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