Habitat Enhancement Create Deer-Friendly Refuge, Terrain

By: Gail Veley
Originally appeared in the Winter 2019-2022 Issue of the Upper Midwest Cervid Newsletter
Sponsored by: IDEFA

Increasing the number of free-range deer, wild turkey and other types of wildlife on your property may be as simple as rearranging the layout of your land. While this may be a popular subject to talk about, few private landowners have the time, equipment or expertise to make it happen. Hiring a land management company for this task can be one of the most lucrative and smartest investments you will ever make.

“Natural habitat in America is decreasing all the time and is happening all over the place," said Derek Borkholder, manager for a habitat enhancement and land management company in Bremen, Indiana. “If you enhance your own property you won’t have to worry about what is going on around you. From a resale perspective, people are always willing to pay more for an enhanced property that attracts wildlife, should you ever decide to sell."

Well-equipped land management companies can cover all aspects of habitat enhancement from eliminating less productive trees and vegetation and replacing them with perhaps younger, more desirable trees, vegetation, and tall grasses. Taking into account the lay of your land and the direction of the wind, land management companies specialize in physically accessing your property, while addressing your goals for attracting wildlife. Aerial view drawings are typically created along with recommendations for making your property align with these goals. A “vision” for your property begins to take shape.

Some recommendations include building hunting stands and planting food plots near the edge of your land, while creating a sanctuary in the middle of your property for wildlife such as deer to bed down, feel safe and hide at night. “When that deer gets up to go eat, it'll head right toward the food plot," Borkholder said. “If it ever gets spooked and runs off, it'll just go deeper into your property."

Deer populations may increase by 10 or 20 times on your property with the right habitat enhancement. As part of the enhancement, older trees are harvested to make way for young ones. Additional attractants such as man-made ponds, acorn trees, evergreens, white pines and spruce may be added to increase the likelihood that your property will thrive with native wildlife and provide them with a much-needed refuge. While land enhancement projects might produce highly desired short-term results, it can take up to two years to see the full fruition of these efforts.

Land management companies can provide additional services as well, such as regular year-round mowing, hunting blind installation, and camera installation on trees or posts to catch and monitor wildlife activity. However actively managing a property ceases from October through December during the hunting season, and usually starts up once again in the beginning of the year.

Land enhancement projects can range in size from a 20-acre parcel of land all the way up to 250 acres or even larger. Customers of land enhancement projects are generally very happy with the end results. “The feedback has been very positive," said Leon Miller, owner of the same land management company managed by Borkholder. “There is a science behind it. You need the right ideas and approach, so you make the very most of what you have."