By John E. Phillip
USA -(AmmoLand.com)- Often we tend to overkill on our planting. My magic 60 acres had plenty of wild blackberries and some raspberries in 20-acre pasture.
When I mowed the pasture, I intentionally did not mow down the blackberries or the raspberries. Wild berries provide ideal cover and habitat for deer, and the leaves of the berry bushes are a reliable food source for them. By fertilizing blackberry and raspberry patches with commercially prepared fertilizer, you not only increase the amount of food the pasture will produce for the deer, but also the quality of the food improves.
Blackberry patches also provide thick-cover corridors the deer can use to move in and out of open fields. Bucks do not like to walk through cleared fields to feed but instead prefer to move through thick cover into a feeding site and have thick cover close by if they need to escape danger. You may plant commercially grown raspberries and blackberries to supplement the wild berries to insure the deer a continuous food source, even if the mast crop is poor. In the rest of the pasture, plant rye, winter wheat or clover. When you’re creating the best bow lease possible, remember if all the available food on this property is the highest quality food in that region, you can and will concentrate deer. Also fertilize the wild honeysuckle naturally occurring on your property and any of the forbs you find.
Too, you can fertilize the nut trees on your lease. Dig holes 3-feet apart and 3-feet deep, starting at the base of a nut tree and extending out to the outermost branches of the tree on all four sides of the nut tree. Fill the holes 2/3 of the way full with 13/13/13 fertilizer. Put the dirt back on top of the hole. When the rains come, that fertilizer will go down into the tree’s root system and not only help the tree produce more and bigger nuts but also sweeter- tasting nuts than any other trees in the area. By fertilizing, you also can improve the taste and the quality of bushes and shrubs as well as acorns on your bow lease. The deer tend to feed off the highest quality and best-tasting food they can locate.
Once you pinpoint the best 60 acres for bowhunting, catalog the deer’s food sources. Then increase that food source’s value to the deer by using commercially-prepared fertilizer. Look for briar patches, honeysuckle thickets, acorn trees, apple trees or any other type of naturally- occurring food deer historically have utilized. Use the money you have available to spend on the land first to fertilize these deer foods, because these areas and these types of food are what the deer have been feeding on before you’ve leased the property.
Next clear and plant your field, taking special care not to destroy the plants already providing food for deer. If you have the permission of the landowner to cut the trash trees (trees with no timber value) less than 6 inches in diameter in the mature hardwood stands and leave them where they fall, you can create ideal deer habitat and increase the browse on which the deer have to feed.
I go into the woods during mid-winter before the sap starts to come up and cut the tops out of the trash trees less than 6 inches in diameter, leaving about a 2-foot high stump. I’m really pruning the trash trees. I don’t cut any nut trees. I’m only cutting the trees with no timber value that normally don’t put produce food for deer. I also fertilize these pruned trees to encourage them to put on more leaves and branches than they may otherwise. During the spring when the sap comes up, that small tree will become a bush and put on leaves and branches about shoulder-high to a deer. These 2-foot high stumps will produce cover and food for the deer at a level where they can feed. Many times in large mature hardwood tracts, you’ll find very little cover and little food after the acorns are gone. But by using this system of pruning, you create more food and cover for the deer. If hunters manage their deer herds and improve the availability of food and cover on their 60-acre bow leases, they can increase the number of animals they have to hunt on that 60 acres.
If you want to learn more about hunting big bucks on small properties check out “How to Hunt and Take Big Buck Deer on Small Properties”, available in both eBook and print formats http://amzn.to/1DwjO0H.
About the Author:
For the past 40+ years, John E. Phillips of Vestavia, Alabama, has been a fulltime outdoor writer, traveling the world interviewing hunters, guides, outfitters and other outdoorsmen about how they hunt and fish. An award-winning author, John has been hunting and fishing since his kindergarten days.