Hunting Property Management Plan Tips | Chris Rice
Hunting Property Management Plan Tip
By Chris Rice
Many landowners seek to improve their hunting property. Their immediate property may consist of a limited supply of open area or a limited number of whitetail deer who venture within it, so they seek to make certain changes to improve the hunting experience for themselves and others. But, what they will eventually discover is that there is not a one-size-fits-all way to bring their vision into reality. This bodes especially true when considering that each plot of land varies regarding wildlife density, habitat, size, structure, and resources. Taking into account the range of differences various plots of land can have, the best things landowners can do is develop a property management plan.
A property management plan will help them determine the best way to manage the herds and habitats on their property and use available resources to achieve specific goals. When creating a property management plan, landowners can choose to heed the advice of a wildlife consultant. But, before doing so, they can use the information below about what to consider when devising a property management plan; this information will help them understand what needs to be included in their plan and how it will help them improve their land.
To produce a high-quality management plan, landowners should then find and collect information about bettering the hunting land they’ve bought. This will help them gauge how much time and effort is required to revamp a particular area of land and how big or small their budget should be. It will also help them make the distinction between tasks they can undertake themselves and tasks they should hire a consultant or wildlife expert to complete. Moreover, conducting research will help landowners understand the strengths and limitations of their property’s location, size, and layout and the extent to which its features can be improved.
Taking inventory is a crucial step when creating a property management plan. This step helps landowners identify what is on their land and how much of it is there. They can tackle this step by using paper maps or mapping software; trail cameras may also prove useful. To start the process, landowners should divvy up their land into habitat-based units. They should then inspect the land area within each unit and note its composition, paying close attention to the dominant and invasive species of plants there.
Afterward, landowners should inspect surrounding areas of land using on-the-ground or aerial photography. Doing this will help them determine what, if anything, is lacking on their property. It will also help them identify a resource not found within the surrounding areas that they could use to lure deer. Finally, landowners should gain a better understanding of the deer residing in or near their land by identifying, to the best of their ability, the population’s age structure, fawn recruitment, sex-ratio, and density.
Use Reverse Planning
After taking inventory and determining what their land has, landowners should devise a plan to make improvements. To do this, they should partake in reverse planning. Reverse planning involves planning that begins with an end in mind. In this case, the end in mind is how the landowners want their property to look. Landowners can participate in reverse planning by pulling out a land map and adding the features they would like their land to have; examples of features they can add include sanctuaries, mast trees, food plots, and fallow fields. During the reverse planning stage, it is vital that landowners have a definite sense of what needs to be added to their land to create an optimal environment that outshines the surrounding areas. They also need to have a solid understanding of the amount of workforce and resources required to carry out specific tasks.
Oftentimes, landowners focus on adding food plots during the planning process. Though this can yield excellent results, it must be noted that food plots require cover since this induces a deer’s sense of security. Landowners can create a cover using timber management techniques. They can also hire a licensed forester who is familiar with wildlife and quality deer management. Additionally, they should assess the needs of hunters during the planning process; they can do this by taking into account wind direction, stand availability, and stand entry and exit placement.
Some landowners may find that the Quality Deer Management Association’s Deer Steward I and II courses help them cope with the planning process; these courses are designed to assist those who need to develop a property management plan. Other landowners find that hiring a consultant, one who can guide them during the planning and prevent them from making costly mistakes, works best for them. And others find that getting free property management advice from a biologist working within their state’s wildlife agency works very well for them.
After reverse planning, landowners should think carefully about the steps they need to take, within the coming 5 to 20 years, to achieve their goals. These steps could involve planting a specific amount of acres of openings, creating the cover for food plots, improving road access, or establishing a certain amount of firebreaks. Since there will likely be plenty of things landowners have to do to create their desired plot of land, it is best that they allocate one or two years to accomplish a specific goal. This will render the process of improving their land much less overwhelming. It will also give them the opportunity to carefully budget their resources so that they do not place an undue amount of financial burden upon themselves.
As landowners enact their property management plan, they should evaluate their progress on a regular basis. Doing so will help them determine how far along they are in their plan. It will also help them figure out whether they need to make any changes. Progress evaluations should be conducted annually since certain things can come up, like weather emergencies, equipment damage, and financial distress, that could impede a plan’s implementation. These evaluations will help landowners reconfigure their plans or redirect parts of it.