Habitat Consultant talks Access

Habitat Consultant talks Access

Steve Bartylla

2 hrs ·


Before I get into today’s overly long tip, I need to point out that what I’m going to describe is the ideal. This is not going to work for every property out there, as every property is different. That said, it will hopefully show what I strive for in access.

habitat consultant talks access
How a person accesses a property has a tremendous impact on their hunting. As mentioned in a previous TOD, I believe one of the biggest mistakes most hunters/managers make is hunting way too much of their ground. In far more cases than not, hunting success will go up, often very significantly, by hunting less ground.

Another absolutely crippling mistake is how many access their grounds.

Habitat Consultant talks Access

Look at the drawing below. It’s an 80 I plucked at random for the TOD and used as an illustration. If by some freak chance, the owner sees this, take the design with a grain of salt, as you’d want to adjust the openings’ specific location for how deer naturally travel the property AND how the neighbors hunt their grounds. You really don’t want to make their stands better. If anything, you want to make them worse. They have every right in the world to engage in any legal hunting they want on their side of the fence and deserve nothing but our sincere congrats when they legally take any legal deer they choose. However, we also have every right to do whatever legal act we see fit on our side, and our goal ISN’T to make their hunting easier and more effective….it’s to make ours as such. So, these things must be factored into improvements.

Habitat Consultant talks Access

That’s a long way of telling everyone, if you simply apply what I show in this drawing to your grounds, I can almost promise it won’t be as effective as it could be. Adjustments should be made for how deer utilize the ground, habitat features, neighboring hunters and so on. Cookie cutter approaches can help a lot of people a little, but almost never help any one of them close to as much as being flexible and adjusting for the variables.

That said, the premises can be adopted to fit most any properties. They just need to be adjusted.

With that in mind, the purpose of edge access is minimizing the disturbances on your ground, making the deer feel safe within it. With the way this property lays, one can hunt extremely low impact (for YOUR property), high odds stands, without ever having the wind blow your odors onto your ground.

At the same time, the combo of edge feathering (transparent green lines with the EF pin on them) and blockades (blue line w road closed pin) hide you from the deer inside your ground, while making you visible to the deer on the neighbors.

The combo is very powerful. The deer on you are nearly never seeing or smelling humans on your ground over season, while the neighbors are running all over their woods, as well as the deer on them seeing and smelling you. Where are the deer going to go when they feel pressured? Where they next to never sense danger…..YOUR ground.

To drive the point home, pretend there is an east/west access road running through the center of the property drawing. Every single time you hunt that property, some of the deer on that ground know you are there, as there is no such thing as a safe wind direction for access. With center access, even with reasonable hunting pressure, this property can never hunt well over the entire season. The first hunting day will be the best and it will go steadily downhill from there. With edge access, even with ridiculously high hunting pressure, this property can hunt great the entire season, so long as one religiously accesses and hunts with the wind blowing into the neighbors. That’s not only practical, it’s HIGHLY beneficial. In fact, using edge access exclusively and playing the wind religiously will almost guarantee that the deer numbers on this ground get higher with each passing hunting day, not lower….That is a tremendous advantage that rarely occurs naturally.

Next, look at where the openings in the blockades are. The only difference between edge feathering and blockades running through the woods is how hard you try to stop deer from crossing. The edge feathering serves as a visual screen (deer on you can’t see you and, every bit as important, fence sitting hunters can’t shoot into you anywhere near as well.), while the blockade serves as a screen and is hinge cut or piled up by big equipment in a way that makes it much, much harder for the deer to cross. So, they gravitate to the easy openings, which happened to be positioned on main deer trails.

Those openings also happen to be in locations that the neighbors have to go deep into their cover to take advantage of. Nope, you can’t stop them from hunting their side of the funnel you just created, but you sure can make it so they have to explode their grounds to get to it. You’d rather they didn’t hunt it, but make it so they are helping you by pressuring the deer on them if they do. Besides, you’re hunting those kill plots as much as you are hunting the funnels. They have just the funnel.

The question yesterday is if making a trail along your property line will inspire deer to travel it and indirectly help your fence sitting neighbors, that aren’t shy about shooting across your line. The answer is that it depends.

If the area is pain to get through thick, yes, deer are going to follow it. In those situations, you want a blockade, not edge feathering. Deer don’t want to walk along an uncrossable barrier, as it makes them feel trapped. So, be sure to use blockades in those areas, not just edge feathering. Will any deer still walk it? Sure, but using the blockade to stop them from shooting deeper into your ground is typically a steal of a trade for you, as the deer feeling trapped walking that access road will GREATLY minimize them doing so.

As I said, it’d be a mistake for any of you to try to mirror this approach exactly shown on the picture. Cookie cutter designs almost never are the best approach. Hopefully this does show the premise well enough that many of you can adopt and modify the approach to fit your ground. Just remember, edge access may be the best solution for most, but there are still a bunch of properties that it isn’t the best choice. Don’t get locked into any one approach.

As a side note, putting the food on the outside and bedding more to the center of this ground is a great approach (I didn’t fill in any internal improvements, as that’s not the point of this tip, but you’d want to slap in some hinge cut bedding areas, sidewalks and so on in the heart of the property). You AREN’T going to stop those deer from hitting the neighbors’ crop fields. Since they are going to certainly visit one or more of those fields more days than not, what we’d focus on is getting them to burn as much daylight on our ground as practically possible. What they do in the middle of the night is of no concern, so long as they are back hitting these staging/kill plots at first light. On other grounds, sucking them in deeper to feed is a better choice…As I said, cookie cutter approaches to this stuff leave a lot to be desired.