Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Change Is Blowing On The Wind

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The wind came in hard yesterday with the rain and warming temperatures. It was straight out of the west, bouncing across Lake Michigan in a beeline for northwest Michigan, and it came ashore and slammed into our woods.

My intention was to check out my 20 acres of hardwoods, look for deer tracks in the muddy snow, and start making plans for hunting sites for next fall. I know where deer bed in my area but it was not my intention to go through those spots today or to put up stands anywhere near them next year.

Any timber removal of changes the face of a wood-lot. The sole purpose of cutting some trees is to increase the amount of sunlight that hits the forest floor. The more sunlight, the greater the new growth that will spring up, including trees to be cut 20-30 years in the future. I liked at some aspen trees and lilac bushes, and the warm weather has them budding out already. The grouse will find good pickings if we get the snow promised for tonight and tomorrow.

New growth is what deer and grouse and wild turkeys thrive on. It increases the number of songbirds as well, and once my wooded trails have had all vegetation killed with one or more applications of RoundUp, the soil can be tested, limed and fertilizer put down. And then, when the conditions are right, they can be planted in May or early June.

By mid-July the clover is up and the other crops will have gained a toe-hold in the soil. It doesn’t take deer and ruffed grouse and wild turkeys long to find the new growth. It becomes just one more source of nourishing food.

But the question is just how much space will I have for a new food plot back in the woods? I need an area that receives several hours of sunlight daily, isn’t prone to washing out in a heavy heavy rain, and it must be near a bedding area. Two spots hold some promise, and I checked them out while slipping and sliding in the woods.

Some trimming here and there, and plenty of brush-piles from the fallen tree-tops may help funnel deer from the bedding to the feeding area. It’s my thought to stay away during most of the winter, and then look at it again after much of the snow has melted in another two months.

I want the soil to drain well but retain some moisture. The sun must get to the seeds and when the ground is warm enough, the fertilized seeds will do wjat they are supposed to do. I want well-rooted plants, and want this additional food source within 150 yards of the bedding area with some fairly thick cover for deer to move through to get to it. I don’t want an open spot that means deer won’t move until after dark.

I expect to build two or three elevated stands in key spots. The stands must offer plenty of room to turn around in, and offer 15-20-yard bow shots. I’m not looking for lots of deer, but it would be nice to have one really good buck show up every year. Let’s face it: Grand Traverse County isn’t noted for many deer and very few of any size. There are no doe permits for this area.

There have been no bucks for last year, and that was by design. It’s hot that I haven’t had some chances at small bucks, but I chose not to take a buck. I passed up 31 bucks (none in this area) in 2007 and didn’t shoot an arrow or bullet. We’ve traveled to a few other locations to hunt, and frankly, spending two hours each day driving to another spot has grown tiresome.

I love to hunt new locations, but my vision prevents me from driving home at night. I must depend on Kay for the driving, and once it turns cold, she rarely hunts. So ... the answer is to hunt even near home. This means choosing some new locations and placing stands in key spots where deer naturally travel.

We know we won’t see as many deer—bucks or does—here as in other spots but we will be able to slip away more often during the rut and hunt the mid-day hours. If the wind decides to switch we’ll be only five minutes from the house instead of an hour away. When the early snows fall, and the roads become treacherous, we’ll still be only a few minutes from the house. If I choose to hunt and Kay does not, she will know where I am and I’ll be able to hunt long each day because I’ll arrive on stand an hour or two earlier.

It’s doubtful if we’ll have another timber cutting for another 10 years. It will give us plenty of opportunity to work with what we have, build our coops according, hang ladder-stands where they should do the most good, and get to know our local deer population again.

It wasn’t much but that is what I did today. However, there will be a great deal of work to be done next spring and summer. In the long run, we think it will be worth the sweat equity put into it

Posted by Dave Richey on 01/29 at 06:02 PM
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