Choosing a Good Hunting Property

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What Makes a Good Deer Hunting Property?

While looking at properties in OH recently for some investor clients, I was trying to concentrate on the oil and gas potential of the land. But, being a hunting land manager at heart, I couldn’t help thinking about the hunting potential of the properties and how I was going to set them up for hunting once I leased them from my investors, if they were willing.

I looked at some tracts that were not something I would want to hunt on and some that were great for hunting. I thought it would be useful for land shoppers to hear about what I look for in a good deer hunting property.

I think the most important characteristic of a hunting land is whether it is a place where deer can find solitude, shelter – a place to hide out and bed down during the day. One piece I looked at had steep ground near the road frontage with mixed oak forest. Climbing up to the top, I found an old pasture of about 50 acres that had grown over in thornapple brush and honeysuckle. Looking at the aerial photograph, there were some agriculture fields to the northeast and oak forest on all the other sides. I could set this land up for hunting by creating some small food plots on the transition between the oak slopes and the bedding area in the thick brush. Some strategically placed stand locations and brush mowing some senderos for rifle season would be sweet. Dear would bed in the brush and begin feeding for the evening in the isolated food plots, then head into the ag fields for night time foraging. The bedding area was away from the roads so it could be approached by hunters without them being detected.

Another important aspect about this property was that it was difficult to access by uninvited hunters. Any roadways could be cut off with a gate.

Cultivated land doesn’t have to be on the property you are buying, as long as there are grain fields nearby. Tillable land is expensive and is not used much by deer during daylight hours when you are hunting. I would rather have some small plot locations with thick cover where deer want to be.

I always look for potential. I can take any property and turn it into a deer magnet given the right soils, terrain and existing plant growth. Things like buffer zones to roads and neighbors, good interior food plot locations, thickets, mast producing timber stands and the ability to exclude poachers are all important factors. Rocky, dry areas with poor soil and poor timber do not turn me on much.

I have a customer who purchased an apple farm that has old farm fields out of sight of the public road, mature timber and thicker timber up high on the ridge (ridge and valley province of Pennsylvania). Deer are not bedding on the property, but I can fix that with some careful chainsaw work. We will convert the old fields and less stony areas into food plots and the old farm fields next to the public road will be planted in tall grass and corn to keep poachers frustrated.

I also looked at some land in Ohio that had small farm fields next to the public road and steep ground with bad timber on it. This land is hard to work with. If you plant forage in the exposed fields next to the road, every red-neck in the area will know you have some nice bucks you have invested a few years in producing by passing up young bucks and they won’t be around when you get there to hunt.

When I look at a tract for hunting property, I look around and if it has isolation, cover, shelter, food for deer and turkeys and potential to improve bedding and feeding habitat in that order, it’s a buy. Being in the wet gas area of Ohio is even better.

About the Author:

Wildlife habitat manager and consulting forester from Central PA. Studied environmental Agriculture specializing in wildlife management and Forestry. B.S. Agriculture, Masters degree in Forestry. 30 years experience in land investment, forestry and wildlife habitat improvement. Currently working as a Farm Bill Forester for Pheasants Forever on Game Commission and Golden Winged Warbler Initiative.