The Five Questions To Ask
Part I : Destination Food Source
It happens without fail…every month or so someone calls or emails me with the following question, “Just picked up a new property and have no idea how to tackle it, any thoughts?” The following questions I ask are the exact same ones I utilize on any property I tackle, and I always ask them the same:
Where is the nearest destination/primary food source?
Where is the nearest primary bedding area(s)?
Where are the supplemental food source locations?
Where is the nearest water source?
What access locations do we have to work with?
Those are the 5 questions I think one must answer before they even begin to tackle a property with habitat work or tactically hunting; the importance of these things being answered are even more pivotal on a small acre sized property (however applicable on any sized property!).
The first question is the one we will focus right now, where is the nearest destination/primary food source? Now this primary food source can come in many different forms, however 9 times out of 10 it is going to be the nearest large agricultural field for most of us…however in the situation where this does not exist your primary food sources are going to be what many of us consider secondary food sources like buds, acorns or even “weeds” like goldenrod or even bark off some trees. However, nothing is going to help you map out expected deer travels on a property than knowing where the destination food source are because these are more than likely where the deer are going to at night and returning from in the morning.
Take our Homestead property as an example of how these food sources can impact stand placement…I used to ignore everything going on really and just study the immediate woods surrounding the Homestead. However, it wasn’t until I expanded out one time on an aerial map while studying the property I began to realize why so many deer have traveled like they had over the years.
The (to the right) map just shows me connecting all the night time destination food source options with their “most likely routes”…notice anything? This little diagram would have been an incredible tool had I known what I do know when I started hunting, and it would have explained why the deer have done what they do so often.
The fact the deer could utilize any of the three food sources to the East at night explains why mornings see a tremendous amount of activity at our NE stand (1A) behind a neighbor’s barn…deer returning from any of those three food sources will walk by that stand if they utilize any of the bedding options listed as B, C D, E or F…only one bedding option listed on the map is not an option for the deer to bed in without me seeing it if they head W in the morning from the three destination food sources.
Had I understood this from the beginning of my hunting career I would have done everything I could to gain access to the tiny parcel (3 acres of woods) which that stand sits on from the very beginning…however it would take a few years of constantly see this unfold before me in stand location 1B before I started piecing it all together
So we have discussed a few examples of how answering the question where is the nearest primary/destination food source can assist in stand placement, now let us discuss how it impacts habitat improvement possibilities.
Obviously if deer ultimately are going to attempt to go towards and return from these primary food sources we want them to be “huntable” prior to and after that occurs right? In order to do this we must have something for them to browse on or visit between known/created bedding areas and primary food sources. On the homestead property this comes in the form of micro food plots and plenty of hinged trees providing ample browsing for deer prior heading to the primary food sources obviously off the property.
Many times small acre type properties have to rely on setting up these areas, sometimes used interchangeably with staging areas as deer utilize these until darkness covers them for safe travels out into large usually open primary food sources (soybeans, alfalfa, sugar beets or picked corn fields). It simply is impossible to provide deer with a large primary food source on a 5, 10 or even a 20 acre parcel at times, so we must position their location factoring in where the ultimate food sources are for the deer. After all, we are simply trying to enhance a deer’s desired movement whenever possible. So as you can see our Homestead property now sets up perfect for deer to utilize our micro food plots in that window of time prior to and just after visiting primary food sources under the cover of darkness.
As an example the map above shows the deer travel routes, favorite bedding areas and stands. The "D" bedding area is the largest one we control and is expanding further this year...however we have micro-steering food plots from it extending along that black dotted travel line all the way to the NE by our stand (red star). To top it off we also have some micro-steering plot salong our western edge as well leading NW from "D". Intensifying the deer's desire to move along those spots and ultimately making their movements predictable is why we put them where we did.
Turning these spots into locations deer feel safe will enhance and encourage deer to come use them earlier and stay in them longer…but that is to be discussed in the future. For now I will leave you thinking about the second question, Where is the nearest primary bedding areas?
Every property has the ability to yield successful hunting opportunities. The hunter has to understand this and realize not every property is the same, hence expectations and hunting styles change with every property!