QUESTION: I reside in the great state of New York and am hunting a 100-acre piece property, all wooded. We have no space to plant any kind of food plot without a great deal of land clearing. There is a great number of deer and some very good bucks, but it seems our property is just an area where the deer are passing through between their food source and their bedding area. They are not living on the property. The start of the season is always great, but once the rut comes around, the deer are scarce. Is there anything we can do to help the situation? — Allen W.
ANSWER: It’s tough to be too specific without much more information, but I’ll try to give you some general advice. Deer need food, water and cover. Where you find the greatest amount of those things in closest proximity, you find the most deer.
Let’s start with food. Your land is all wooded, but does it contain any mast-producing trees like oak, beech or hickory? If so, consider doing some timber stand improvement that favors mast producing trees. What about soft mast? If you have any apples, you could release them by removing nearby overstory or competing trees.
You say you can’t plant any kind of food plot without a great deal of land clearing, but that’s not always the case. If enough sunlight reaches the ground, you might consider what Dr. Grant Woods calls hidey-hole food plots, which you establish only a few weeks prior to hunting. Rake up the leaves and duff from a small patch of ground, say 100 square feet. Broadcast a few handfuls of lime and fertilizer, then spread a fast-growing cool-season annual like Imperial Whitetail No-Plow. Rake gently for improved seed-to-soil contact, pray for rain and your plot should be ready to hunt in a couple weeks.
If your ground lacks it, you can also create more cover to attract deer. Dense bedding cover will attract does, which attract bucks. A small clear-cut will produce a quick surge of new growth (food), followed by a dense thicket (cover). Also consider planting softwoods, particularly if your land is dominated by hardwoods. Dropping larger trees for firewood and leaving the tops can also create more cover, as will hinge cuts, where a living tree falls over on its side and grows upward from the horizontal trunk.