5/31/17- Small Tracts, Big Benefits!
by Meaghan English, TrueSouth Properties Wildlife Specialist
The majority of hunters and landowners dream of owning acres and acres of valuable land teeming with wildlife and vegetation and want to acquire as much as they possibly can. Unfortunately, the bulk of us can only afford a few acres here and there. Landowners that own ~500 acres or less face very unique management issues including managing habitat and agreeing on management objectives with surrounding neighbors.
The downfall of owning or hunting a small tract of land is the intense habitat improvement that must take place. Anything less than about 500 acres is too small to keep wildlife like deer or turkey there full time. Deer and turkey have home ranges that are much larger than a couple hundred acres, especially during breeding season. Therefor it is pertinent to offer forage and vegetation that will lure wildlife in and keep them for a little while. Creating a food plot is one excellent way to draw deer onto your property. The more plots you can plant, the better. Add variation to your food plots when it comes to size and forage to increase attraction. More food plots not only increases your chances of drawing deer onto your tract, but it also increases the chances of them routinely visiting your tract or establishing your tract as a travel corridor. Unfortunately, turkeys are a bit more finicky than deer and are very sensitive to physical barriers that may separate them from your property. They are also very picky about the habitat they utilize, which also makes it very difficult to draw them to small tracts, but it is always worth a try. Year round planting is extremely critical for smaller tracts because it establishes consistency for surrounding wildlife and once again entices them to come onto your land.
Habitat improvement is not the only technique that will draw wildlife to your land. The most important aspect of owning a small tract of land is forming some sort of “neighbor agreement”. Because small tracts do not provide enough space for deer or turkey to carry out all life stages, you must be on the same page as surrounding landowners if you want to see deer or turkey at all. Large tracts have a huge influence on smaller tracts because of all the space and habitat variation (openness, water, cover) they offer. Furthermore, if you and your surrounding neighbors are on the same management page, everybody will benefit and the wildlife will utilize each tract in different ways. For example, it is very important to abide by the same harvest guidelines when it comes to deer season. If one landowner shoots only yearlings and the adjacent landowner has a “no yearling” rule, the management objectives clash and chances are nobody will see any deer and if they do, they won’t be quality deer. Abiding by the same management guidelines will enhance the chances of deer and turkey using on tract for bedding, another tract as a travel corridor, and so on and so forth. The possibilities are endless!
So don’t let a smaller tract deter you. Smaller tracts are actually a lot easier to keep up with from a grooming and forestry standpoint, but they are very labor intensive and require constant management. It just takes a little neighbor bonding and some habitat improvements to ensure you reap all the benefits of owning or hunting a smaller tract of land. QDMA provides excellent guidelines for owning and managing small tracts of land as well as initiating an agreement between surrounding landowners.