It was a typical early-November morning in the bow stand. The sun seemed to hesitate a few moments as it climbed and woke the earth, the last leaves rattled on their branches, and anticipation of the morning’s hunt filled my mind.
A buck responded to my brief blows on the grunt call and rattling sequence. I could hear his quick footsteps in the leaves before I had even finished the mock fight. He approached just 15 yards upwind of me and crossed into a wide shooting lane. Then he walked downwind, turned and gradually left the way he came. While I had ample opportunity, and he had respectable headgear, he was not the deer I was after. I estimated he was only 3 1/2 years old and knew he had potential to grow larger antlers. I just smiled and thought to myself, just try that next year!
I am lucky I can be so confident that a 3 1/2-year old buck will make it through rifle season and be around to be hunted next year. I am definitely blessed to be able to hunt the area I do, but it also takes work. We spend a lot of time on habitat work that plays an important role in keeping deer within the boundaries of the farm. It allows us to make a lot of the decisions about which deer are harvested. But managing the habitat is only part of the work we do for better deer hunting.
We understand that a 240-acre farm will not hold deer within its boundaries no matter how much habitat work we do. Deer are mobile animals, which makes it difficult for any one landowner to manage them. The home range of an adult doe can range from 400-600 acres, while an adult buck’s home range can easily exceed 640 acres, particularly during the rut. Unlike quail, which can be managed effectively with a 40-acre tract of land, deer walk across 40 acres like it’s your living room. Most landowners believe all they can do is make their little piece of heaven as attractive to deer as possible and hope they will spend enough time on their farm to influence which bucks are harvested and which ones are allowed to grow older. The larger the farm, the easier that task becomes, but even large tracts of land (more than 500 acres) are affected by what happens on neighboring