Dr. John Rainey
A year or so ago I met a guy who was fishing at the property next door to a small area I own in Calhoun County. He was out of state and in my conversation with him the landlord he was renting was really taking advantage of him.
He said he took his two young daughters hunting but now that his trails were cut off, they saw no deer. I felt him, so I agreed to let him rent my land at half the acre price he was paying for the other lane. The only requirement is that he maintains the place and keeps an eye on my equipment and tools under my roof. I even let him use my tractor.
Fast forward a year and a half and I just went out to check out the place. Not only were there trees along the roads, but the plots of land grew with vines and chewing gum. The roads were thigh high in the grass. I called the guy to ask about the deal and he said he wasn’t around this year.
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I immediately returned his money and kicked him out of the place. Now I only have a month or two to get back in shape for the upcoming season.
My hunting friend Glenn offered to help and we braved the heat and mosquitoes to make the 55 acre space attractive to deer again. At first we cut roads and cut trees so our trucks could carry supplies. Next, we got rid of a few late-season weeds and separated the three little food pieces.
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We had to move some of the stands because things had grown up so much around them that it was easier to cut through new shooting paths. We started feeding corn right after turkey season just to let the deer know we haven’t forgotten about it. I have a clear 10-acre lot with enough cover of five-year-old tall-leaved pines that deer can sleep and move across comfortably now. So, he was heading to the dog food center to buy a new box holder for that area.
I know many of you are using the latest cellular cameras to monitor deer movement. This is a new project for me and although the cellular fee is about $100 per camera per year, it makes more sense to snooze on plots to swipe cards once a week especially since that would require a 30 minute drive both ways from my home or Glen.
A few chunks of salt near the watering hole you dug years ago, and now we feel like it’s time to step back and see what our efforts will produce. This area doesn’t have much farming but given the little time and lack of hunting pressure, we think the cute deer we saw a couple of years ago will come back again as the pressure builds around us. With swamp chestnuts and white oaks alongside the food we throw in, it must have been ripe for research by the time the dollars start chasing things down.
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I say it all to say this. It doesn’t take long for the place to become a mess and it’s hard for you to get back to some semblance of a preserved hunting parcel. If for some reason you hand your land to others to hunt, check it often and get a written contract that everyone understands and agrees to.
The best time to work on the track is right after the season ends. You can still tell by walking around where you saw the most deer and deer signs and the areas they used most heavily. It’s easier to cut through the new shooting paths without red bugs, mosquitoes and a hundred-degree steamy days. It also allows the wood to settle and the deer will get used to any changes you’ve made to their living rooms.
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It’s a lot easier to trim things off before the season starts and with less inconvenience than having to start over. Nor does it hurt to show a presence to those who are watching your path for whatever reason they may have.
I’ll tell you how to make it there this year. Good luck to all of you.
Dr. John Rainey has been writing his outdoor column for The Times and Democrat since 1984.