It seems that game management can be divided into two categories: habitat management & population management. Habitat management describes the work we do to manage the environment in which the deer live while population management describes how we manage the deer themselves. Both of these management aspects are connected. We’ve looked a several concepts and practices that affect, enhance, or alter a deer’s habitat, but we haven’t really focused on the overall habitat from a broader perspective.
Several of the game management concepts we’ve examined in some way helps enrich a deer’s habitat. The underlying goal for managing the habitat is to create an environment that fosters successful growth and allows deer to easily thrive. A deer’s health usually linked to the condition of their habitat, so if monsters bucks are one’s desired goal, then a habitat that can support growth and development is essential.
A whitetail deer can adapt to virtually any habitat. Evidence of this is the simple fact that whitetail deer are present in nearly every region of North America. A whitetail deer’s habitat in South Carolina may be totally different from other states/regions and for that matter the habitat in South Carolina alone differs greatly just from the low-country, to the coastal areas, to the sandhills, to the piedmont, and to the upstate. If you’ve hunted around different parts of the state then you’ve seen the habitat differences around South Carolina.
A deer’s habitat generally consists of a variety of areas such as swamps, hardwoods, fields, and sometimes even urban areas. Ultimately deer need places for cover, feeding, bedding, locations with water sources, and locations of safety. When considering one’s hunting property a look from the perspective of habitat can prove beneficial.
Techniques for habitat management
The habitat management concepts we’ve mentioned previously in this blog series have been food plots, mineral sites, water sources, and supplemental feeds. All of those practices are mechanisms that add to a deer’s habitat to assist in providing deer with nutrients they need throughout the year. There are a few more things we can do to help manage our deer’s habitat.
Some game managers use controlled burning as a technique to increase forage quality and improving the habitat for wild game. I found a great article on deer habitat improvement through burning
. I wouldn’t naturally think of burning being associated with game management, but it can provide benefits for the habitat.
I’ve also heard experienced hunters who practice game management note that on their property there is always about 1/4th of their land that they never set foot on. The thought behind this practice is that deer need a portion of the land where they feel comfortable and secure. They need a safe-haven that is undisturbed. This tactic helps keep deer on one’s property and also gives them a feeling of security. By allowing them an area of complete safety a hunter increases chances that deer will hold near, if not on, his/her land.
Having an awareness of a deer’s current habitat along with the needs of the deer can pay dividends for hunters. Knowledge of the habitat can help with one’s hunting strategy along with helping a habitat manager figure out if enhancing the habitat makes sense.
In some areas I hunt there are large fields that farmers farm every year. From a habitat perspective it probably wouldn’t be the best move if I tried to plant a food plot near these fields. Maybe if I want the deer to simply stop to browse these areas, before heading to the other fields it would be a good idea, but from a nutrition standpoint it probably wouldn’t serve the deer best. In this instance maybe a mineral site would be a better fit as it would offer a more diverse range of nutritional items a deer may be seeking.
Wrapping it up
It’s been a long blog series and hopefully someone has benefitted from my investigation into game management this year during deer hunting season. If you've read all these entries then kudos to you for sticking it out with me! While I’ve only blogged about this during deer hunting season many facets of game management happen in the off-season. True game management is a year-long process that takes dedication and commitment, but that hard work is well worth it when years of game management produces the trophy buck of a lifetime!