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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I got permission to hunt a 250 acre piece of property last year. Talking with the owner who I am pretty good friends with about habitat and food plots he has given me the go ahead to start improving the property for managing and holding more deer. It is about 50/50 fields to woods (thick) with a larger field in the center and smaller fields scattered around with a powerline running the whole length of one side. There are 2 small ponds and a small creek running along the border. Being mostly a public land hunter the majority of my life I've never had the chance to actually work on a property. My question is where do I start? I have been researching a good bit and wondering if it's too late this year for soil samples/lime etc. all we have as of now is a 4 wheeler with a pull behind mower. New equipment is not in the budget this year but next year I will be looking for a smaller kubota 4x4 diesel tractor I think this will fit my needs well. I'm also assuming I will need a disc, plow, cultipacker, and an atv sprayer. What types of plots work well in southwest pa? Is there any books on this someone could recommend? What size plots and how many would work well on a property like this?
 

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Learn the property lines.
Might pay to visit the neighbors and introduce yourself.
Unless you need a tractor for other things, you can pay a neighboring farmer to use his equipment to plow, till and drill. Much cheaper than a 10K or up tractor.
If you buy a tractor, do you need a 4wd? Great prices can be had on older 50 to 60 HP 2wd tractors that can go almost everywhere with chains if necessary. They will out work a compact tractor nearly every time.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I have talked to the neighbors they allow me to trap/hunt only predators but only after deer season. I was just looking around craigslist to get an idea on tractors. There were a few older kubotas in the 3000$ range but I'll cross that bridge when the time comes
 

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zimmerstutzen said:
Learn the property lines.
Might pay to visit the neighbors and introduce yourself.
Unless you need a tractor for other things, you can pay a neighboring farmer to use his equipment to plow, till and drill..Great prices can be had on older 50 to 60 HP 2wd tractors that can go almost everywhere with chains if necessary. They will out work a compact tractor nearly every time.
You are very fortunate, congrats. 2nd vote for above recommendations. With your tractor purchse, consider an auger as one of your first implements for planting native trees/shrubs.

Next,

1. IDENTIFY YOUR NATIVE SPECIES worth keeping. It takes years for a native species to reach a point of maturity where it can outcompete invasives and provide for wildlife.
2. IDENTIFY INVASIVE SPECIES that need managed. By chainsaw, spray or removed by hand in some instances.
3. Consider a TSI or similar plan. Creating winter/year-round cover will hold more deer than plots in 95% of situations. It has been discussed over and over here.
4. Consider discing some strips in old fields or burn some places without valuable natives between late September-November to create some loose soil and watch what comes up the next year.
5. take your soil samples and prepare for your plots. I have been told food plots could occupy up to 5% of your property,...but others may know more in this area since I am not well trained here. I have less than 2 acres of 92 in plots. Remember that whitetail are primarily browsers.

I am old school,...so my $0.02 may be different from most.
 

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Sounds like a great property with lots of potential. Good for you!

NorthPotter gave you some great advice. My further rambling would be:

1) What is in those fields now/annually? Are they fallow, crop farmed (and if so, what crops?), hay? My best "plot" is 1.5 acres at the back of my 12 acres that a farmer cash rents from me. He plants beans every year (heavy clay, not great corn ground, but grows good beans year in and year out) in the whole 12 acres, but leaves 1.5 acres unharvested. The bean field is of course a great draw while they are green and growing, but those standing beans are a huge attraction in late fall and through the winter, for both deer and turkeys. All it costs me is a reduction in the land rent. My knee jerk reaction when I bought my property was "I'm gonna need a tractor!" After 4 years, I am glad I didn't. I maintain four small (1/4 acre each) clover plots with walk behind mowers, hand sprayer, and without tillage. My plots are far from home, so they are not clean monocultures of what I plant, but more and more I find that the deer use them heavily anyway, browsing the forbs (weeds, to us) right along with grazing the clover.

2) If you are trying to set up plots to archery hunt over/around, my best luck so far has been with long narrow plots (provided they get enough sun), located in areas that the deer are transitioning from bedding to the main food source (possibly that large central field, in your case?). Plots at random locations far back in the cover are great for deer usage, but usually very difficult to hunt effectively. I also like plots without hard edges; if the buffer between timber and the open plot is 15 yards of native stuff (whatever grows, mowed every few years to control woody growth), it seems I see all kinds of game utilizing it more comfortably during daylight than those with an abrupt change.

3) If you are looking at all at long term goals, I suggest emphasizing planting shrubs and trees that are beneficial to wildlife before focusing heavily on food plots. Mast and cover producing plants take time, and I would argue that, at least in ag country, they will produce much more noticeable results for you over the long haul.

4) Designate a sanctuary. My definition of a sanctuary is not some place you can NEVER go, but it does need to be an area with adequate cover, water, etc, where you and others do not venture during the hunting months, and a few months leading up to that time. Try to use boundaries that are "hard": an access road, fence, stream, woodline, etc. Doing this helps humans to know the limits, but I believe that the deer also quickly figure it out.

Finally, use the old adage of finding the "lowest hole in your habitat bucket", then work on mending that first. What is most lacking on this property from a deer's perspective? Cover (protection from cold, heat, predators, hunters)? Food (break it down to each season)? Standing water? Woody browse? Mast? Discreet means of access to hunting stands? Deer numbers/ratios (i.e., do does need protection to increase populations, are your goals for buck size maturity attainable, do does need heavy harvest to make the food that you already have "enough to go around" for the remaining deer).

Enough rambling for now. I really believe though that for most everyone, food plots are the first thing we think of as potential improvements when, in most places, we can get far more bang for our habitat buck by emphasizing the other stuff first.
 

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Excellent advice given thus far. Couple of things I will throw out there:

Don't rush into too much...learn some things about the property and the neighbors before bull rushing into too many projects.

I'm a bit of a tree/shrub fanatic....where sun allows, plant some good mast-bearing and browse species (we can get into that in further detail later, and I'm sure NP has some great ideas here). This is something you can dabble in right away...since the best time to plant trees was 10 years ago, and the next best time is now - ha. Plan to protect seedlings from critter damage (deer, rabbit, mice)...and at a cost that will likely be greater than the seedling itself.

Be sure you know the long-term plans of the landowner...you are looking to spend a fair chunk of change and sweat equity to improve his property, and you don't want to be left on the outside looking in a few years down the road.

Carefully consider access to stand sites and food plots...thinking about wind directions, sight lines, neighbors, etc.

As NP said, soil tests will help you spend time and money wisely, minimizing waste. Consider neighbor proximity to plots...and also risk for poaching at night.

I'm sure I will think of more, but these came to mind right away. Please post up some pics or maybe an aerial photo of the parcel. I love seeing pics!
 

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ng270 said:
.. I really believe though that for most everyone, food plots are the first thing we think of as potential improvements when, in most places, we can get far more bang for our habitat buck by emphasizing the other stuff first.
yepper!

And ALL of NG's previous info is excellent. All of OAWC's info is excellent.

It may or may not be what you wanted to hear. Consider their years of insight.

Going to add one more. If an edge of your place happens to border a public road with a field or similar, block the view from the road into your property by planting a thick border. Borders take time to become thick so IMO the sooner the better.

In the end, of course you will remember the success of shooting your big buck/turkeys/bears, however, IMO you will remember the journey to your success with much more clarity and satisfaction.
 

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All great info/suggestions
One thing I do not read about much and I do here is mowing trails(I use a quad and swisher rough cut mower)where possible I have a maze going thru my lil 36 acer property.
It helps for easy access to stands you can plant them with clover but even without that deer will browse along edges DEER LOVE EDGES in my opinion.
Like everything else think ahead it takes time ease into it.
 

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Lots of great advice above.

I agree with some of the other posters about Food Plots. They are kinda like a high maintenance woman. Yes they look beautiful, but boy they are expensive and consume alot of time. A chainsaw with a couple tanks of gas can do a ton of habitat work. It is kinda like the nice farm girl that lives next door. Most places need more cover and sanctuary more than they do food plots especially most places in 2A.

That being said I am in 2A and yes I have a couple food plots. LOL.

You also need careful inventory of what you have. Sometimes you really don't need to "improve" much of anything. Also since you don't own the property, I would be a little concerned about spending too much time improving it. Spending alot of money on trees for example and then by the time they get big enough to produce, the owner sells the place. Don't know your situation, but just something to consider.
 

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Yup...food plots are an addition to the hunting experience NOT MAGIC.

And every situation/property is different...
 
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