In the grand scheme of things, bedding areas are small. You are usually working with one or two main locations and often no more than a handful of acres in size and sometimes as small as your living room. Therefore, it is important to maximize the overall use and effectiveness of these areas. The more diversity you can provide within them, the more attractive they will be. When strategizing to improve roosting areas, it’s about balancing the right cover and the right vegetation to support deer comfortably during the day.
Give careful thought to the location, regardless of the type of bedding area you want to enhance. Ideally, you’re working with or near an area where deer are already sleeping. But don’t be afraid to upgrade or even establish a new roost area that is more beneficial to the deer and your hunting strategy. Whatever techniques you’re employing, think about what the entire property offers. Look for things like south-facing slopes in wood where sunlight will keep deer warm in the winter months, gradually sloping ridges that drop to the bottom of streams that offer several wind advantages, or thick, isolated CRPs and fields. fallow from which the deer seem to appear. . These features have a natural drawing power to hold deer during the day.
Establishment of horizontal coverage
Deer love diversity and edge. The horizontal deck is a great way to achieve a thicker floor structure for more attractive bedding and a more predictable ride. Logging has quickly become one of the most popular habitat management practices in the last decade. It’s far from the end, but hinge cutting certainly has its place in improving bedding. When making cuts, the key is to leave enough meat and cambium layer for the tree to survive for several seasons and continue to produce foliage for cover and food. Dropping these trees and opening up the canopy allows more sunlight to reach the forest floor. This dramatically helps encourage the flourishing of younger vegetation, creating little hot spots of highly nutritious food within the bedding areas.
When managing any habitat for deer, it is important to remember that they live in the bottom five feet of the area. Tall trees and park-like settings are pleasing to the eye, but essentially useless habitat from a deer’s perspective. Bringing vegetation and structure to head level and within reach of deer can be the difference between roosting areas that are deer magnets or ghost towns.
Be strategic with the placement of the trees. Hanging trees in groups creates attractive and specific locations for beds within the bed area. Once you have established the desired locations and number of these groups, think about how deer are most likely to navigate to them in different wind directions. Deer like to take the path of least resistance. You can create steering paths that the deer will adapt to over time by joining other trees. You can also soften the edges along the bedding areas leading in and out in just the right places that help direct travel in places that work in your favor.
Coverage and food in one
Thick, nasty CRP and old, overgrown fields are some of my favorite bedding habitats to hunt in and around. They can also be some of the most attractive bedding areas for a lot of money. A common problem is that these overgrown areas are often underutilized and poorly managed. With the right approach, you can make these areas more attractive and beneficial from both a coverage and food perspective. The structure is usually not the problem. Deer can crouch and hide in almost any thick vegetation over four feet tall. The concern lies in the ground level with the forage.
Most grasses, especially cool-season grasses, are practically worthless to deer. Unfortunately, these invaders can take over these unmanaged areas. It is important to have these on a burn off schedule every few years. Small woody browse, seedlings, and native grasses are rich in nutrients and often make up the majority of a deer’s diet. The objective of these bedding areas is to strategically favor the growth and regeneration of this early succession with prescribed fire. The fire restores the seedbed and allows the regrowth of young plants rich in nutrients. It’s amazing how quickly it will grow back. Within months, the area often regrows thicker and healthier than before.
If the area is more than a few acres, consider burning it in stages. This strategy will attract deer to different sections at different times of the year without completely resetting the bedding area all at once. Deer may use certain parts of the plot while new post-burn growth establishes in others. You can also predict which sections of the bed area are likely to be the most attractive during hunting season after burning earlier in the year.