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Micro Parcels, Macro Results

September 6, 2013
By Travis Hunt - OVO Pro Staff , Ohio Valley Outdoors

The "American Dream" for many is home ownership and the "American Dream" for a hunter is often to own your own hunting land. However, in my discussions with hunters some mistakenly believe that any parcel of land other than a monstrous expanse of land is simply a waste of their time and money. Why is this?

A historic hunter myth is that one must control and manage that monstrous expanse of land, otherwise wildlife management will be futile. Therefore, the hunters choose not to invest in hunting land and concurrently not to pursue game on their own land. This line of thinking is unequivocally incorrect.

The purpose of this article is to provide a walk-thru evaluation of owning, managing and hunting a micro parcel of land based on my experience of owning, managing and hunting a micro parcel of land. My "American Dream" and as Thomas Jefferson penned "my pursuit of happiness" is on a 50 acre plot of land in Jefferson County Ohio.

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The author with a few tasty treats, sugar beets, that deer just love — and will keep coming back for. Deer are drawn to the protein and energy that sugar beets offer.

In the big picture, this is a micro parcel of land compared to some of the great expanse of land throughout the fruited plain. However, this is mine and I expect greatness from this little parcel.

Affordability

In April of 1803 the size of our fledgling country doubled via the Louisiana Purchase. The Louisiana Purchase cost the American taxpayer $11,250,000 and resulted in the acquisition of 828,000 square miles of land. This was a good deal in terms of the three cents per acre price tag. Fast forward two hundred and ten years and, once again, Americans can still discover good real estate deals. For example, raw acreage in Ohio is readily available, not for three cents an acre, but rather for about $3000 per acre. This is a good deal. The one variable in this formula is the ongoing oil and natural gas exploration in Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania which, in-turn, has been the catalyst in the expansion and valuation of the local real estate market. One would do well to remember the famous words of Mark Twain - "Buy land, they're not making any more of it."

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I am passionate about hunting and passionate about my land so I refuse to simply succumb to normality. Additionally, like most hunters, I have a limited number of days afield each year so I designed my ranch to attract and hold the blessing of Ohio deer and turkey.

Micro Parcel

Since I am a Texan, my parcel of land is dubbed a ranch. My ranch consists of about half pasture and half woods. With this said, after the initial purchase, any subsequent geoscaping, land transformation, or building additions are up to me. A new parcel of land is to a hunter as a blank canvas is to a painter. However, a hunter does not want to utilize the entire canvas as a painter would. Unlike a vast expanse of land, a micro-parcel owner wants to entice a deer to call that particular piece of land home. Therefore, if the deer is there for the majority of time, your opportunities to kill that deer are bolstered. If you choose not to provide incentives to stay. the deer won't and your land will simply become just another piece of land.

I am passionate about hunting and passionate about my land so I refuse to simply succumb to normality. Additionally, like most hunters, I have a limited number of days afield each year so I designed my ranch to attract and hold the blessing of Ohio deer and turkey. I refer to this as maximizing my efficiency. You can do this as well, and frankly you should, because it is not that difficult. I approach this with three steps: 1. Understand; 2. Feed; and 3. Isolate.

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The first task is to understand. This is the critical initial step. All land is not created equal. For example, a historic series of deer trails, a creek, and woods on three sides created a natural deer funnel on the Eastern border of my ranch. Needless to say, this funnel has become my hunting honey hole. However, depending on wind and other variables, it is necessary to discover other honey holes. In fact, one such is a mere 100 yards off my back deck. Though not directly visible, this small sanctuary is nestled adjacent to a logging road coming off of a hill and surrounded by thicket on all sides. The deer feel safe in here and I could not be happier. These are examples of understanding what your land offers and utilizing what God gave you. The latter steps, Feed and Isolate, are detailed below.

Micro Food Plot

This is the "Feed" step. For me and mine, land management is a year-round event that culminates during the Ohio whitetail rut. The outdoor adventures include tree planting, brush hogging, maintaining waterways, maintaining trails and, of course, preparing, planting and tending food plots. If you take nothing from this article, you must read and internalize that food plots keep deer on your land. If you do not grow it, they most likely will not come. Food plots can be naturally occurring or manmade. I choose to create my own food plots and, thus, customize the location, shape, and content.

Most first time food plotters initially gravitate to clover. Clover, regardless of the brand and where it is bought, is hands down the most readily available and popular food plot choice. Good reason, clover is retailed in many varieties ranging from the popular ladino to red, white, mammoth and so on. Additionally, clover is a perennial, meaning that it will return the next season or two and is high in protein. Clover is great, don't get me wrong, but after a few seasons of growing clover, I yearned for more excitement and, frankly, more deer attractant and carbohydrates for my hard earned dollar. Prior to the 2012-2013 Ohio deer hunting season, I planted a food plot consisting of a mix of clover, turnips, and chicory. I was particularly intrigued by the turnips. The turnips added a somewhat sweet aroma to the air and provided the deer with both leafy broad foliage and an edible red bulb. The one constraint surrounding turnips was that the bulb did not become desirable to the deer until the first freeze. Once the freeze occurred, the sugar from the leaves flooded into the bulb and the bulb became like hard deer candy. I recall sitting in the Shadow Hunter blind watching deer enter the food plot and relentlessly paw at the ground in an effort to excavate the turnip bulb. As the winter drug on, I would often find partially eaten turnip bulbs strewn about the food plot.

In preparation for the 2013-2014 Ohio deer season, I desired to establish a single food plot that would attract, hold, and nourish my herd in the spring and summer and have the staying power to deliver crucial carbohydrates well into the looming Ohio winter. I began to research options and I ultimately began exchanging email with Mr. Ron Groskoph, Sales Manager for BuckLunch located in Sheridan, Wyoming (www.bucklunch.com ). BuckLunch specializes in the sale of sugar beet seeds. Sugar beets appear to be quite the leap from clover. I would contend that this choice is not a leap but rather the next logical progression in the bolstering of your food plot. Mr. Groskoph explained to me that sugar beets "are a great addition to a food plot strategy." He told me that the deer love to eat both the foliage and the roots and the nutrition is excellent. The sugar beet tops contain about 52% digestible matter and 13% crude protein. The sugar beet root consists of 18% carbohydrates and 4.4% is fiber. This results in deer being drawn to the protein and energy that sugar beets offer. Being a scientist, I understand and, even more, appreciate a plant that attracts, draws, and holds my deer in May and enables my deer to thrive after the ground freezes in December.

Within a few days, I had a 10-pound bucket of treated BuckLunch sugar beet seeds on my door step. These would serve my one-acre food plot well. Now the rest was up to me. I applied herbicide once, waited a week, and then applied a second application. Then 10 days later, the John Deer dressed with a green rototiller turned last year's food plot into a loamy bed awaiting the mingling of new seeds. I broadcast spread the bulky pink seeds; however, not wanting to rely on one seed to feed the masses, I top dressed my sugar beet seeds with a combination of ladino and red top clover. After all the seeds were on the ground a few minutes of harrowing assured adequate seed to soil contact.

Sugar beets, unlike turnips, are a tasty deer treat in both the growing months and the frozen months because the sugar remains in the bulb throughout the life of the plant. The bottom line is this means once the deer find the sugar beets, if all goes as planned, they will choose this forage over others.

Groskoph reiterated to me that sugar beets require copious amounts of water to germinate and grow. This was not an understatement. At one point, a few weeks after planting, the Ohio spring was hot and the rain was not present and, in turn, the sugar beets did not look like they would survive. My spirit was dejected; however later in the spring the sky opened up for two days in a row and off they went. Over the next six weeks, the BuckLunch grew and then grew more. No, they did not resemble Jack's bean stalk, but they were quite delightful to watch grow. I remember anxiously pulling two or three up by the broad leaves and smiling every time the hidden sugar beet was revealed. I knew then that this will definitely yield macro results in the fall. However, the work was not over yet and my John Deere was glad to assist the effort with a July brush-hogging to keep the weeds from impacting the food plot.

Macro Results

So what do I mean by macro results? Macro is an interesting word in that it sounds like it should mean "small" but it actually means "big." Though my food plots are micro in size, the results they yield are macro in stature. In reality, the food plot buffets I provide, be them my historic clover mixture or my new sugar beet mixture, are truly appreciated. Combined with supplemental corn feeding, the deer are fed and therefore they come. True or false: With all variable equal providing boundless amounts of food to the deer should mean a plentiful season and ample deer sighting? The answer is false. Yes, false because feeding is not enough and we as simple humans cannot control all variables at all times. With this in mind, the other variables that I attempt to manage are location of food plots, pressure applied by hunting and respecting the sanctuary. The management of these variables has historically yielded macro results.

I have already discussed food plot placement, selection, and maintenance. This leaves the "isolate step" or the minimization of hunting pressure and respecting the sanctuary step. The latter is the concept of realizing that you have a bedroom so do your deer. You don't want an uninvited stranger in your bedroom and neither do the deer. The deer may react more than you would and simply leave the bedroom and not come back for a long time. This translates into the understanding that even though you own or control your micro parcel, you do not want to spend too much time in their bedroom. I am sorry, but you must resist the urge to get off of your tree stand and begin to explore. Exploring is not a good option whereas spot and stalk hunting is. During the peak of the hunting season, I routinely hunt or travel through less than 50% of my property. The remainder I respect as the deer sanctuary. My thought is if the deer are not in their bedroom how can they go to the kitchen? I provide the bedroom, the kitchen, and the groceries for the kitchen. I just don't go in the bedroom.

Hunting pressure comes in many forms. The most common form is simply positioning yourself on the edge of a food plot and waiting. In addition to noise and movement, you are also depositing scent. I overcome this variable via hunting from an elevated blind. In Texas, we climb into shooting towers and overlook senderos (the Spanish word for path). Once in Ohio, I continued the tradition by erecting shooting towers. Today, we call these by names such as Shadow Hunter or Redneck or RealBark. Regardless of what you call them, they all mean the same thing.. a warm and dry place to hunt while looking down on your prey.

So why use a hunting tower? Here is my reasoning: when I was a young man, I acted as a young man and would sit in zero degree global warming, bow in hand, up a tree and smile the entire time. Now that I am a bit more seasoned, I still smile, but I find myself often smiling from the warmth and comfort of a shooting tower. My shooting tower of choice is a Shadow Hunter blind. In addition to being toasty, dry, and safe a shooting tower offers the next generation a spacious and quiet environment from which to learn new skills and foster memories that last a lifetime.

I realize that most of my fellow hunters are not land barons. On the other hand, most of us will have an opportunity to own, lease, or have access to a micro parcel of land. I also realize that like you, I have a limited few precious days in the woods each year. Therefore, I determined early on, that it was incumbent on me to develop and manage my micro parcel to efficiently attract, hold, and harvest the four legged protein machines. I have successfully deployed the above strategies. To me and mine, hunting has developed into a lifestyle. We till, we plant, we build, we hang, we mow and eventually we harvest.

Greetings from the woods of Ohio. More specifically, greetings from my micro parcel of land in the woods of Ohio. If you happen to drive by in early November and hear a shout, don't be alarmed. That shout is a shout of thanksgiving as I walk up on the majestic four-legged, big antlered, macro result, that gracefully found a final resting place one the edge of my food plot.

 
 

 

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