Photos by Honeycutt Creative
Know what to look for when searching for the best deer hunting land available to you
Colder days are here, and so is deer season. Some might already have their dream deer hunting land. Others might not. Regardless, all hunters should search for a great deer hunting tract, all the components that create one, and steps to take to find the perfect deer hunting property.
Know the Big Boxes to Check
Some aspects of finding the perfect tract of hunting land are important above all else. Even though it’s destined to be a recreational property, this is still an investment. That’s true if buying or leasing it. If buying, you need to get your money back. If leasing, you don’t want to waste your money or time, either.
The primary factors include bedding, food, and security. Deer require different types of bedding cover throughout the year. It’s best that the property offers all-season bedding. If not that, at least fall- and winter-based bedding, which lines up with the hunting season. Food sources are seasonal, too. And the latter is true for it as well.
Acreage is another factor. You don’t need a huge amount. But if isn’t a large number, it needs to be the right acreage. Deer have large home ranges, but their daytime lairs are rather small. So, if you don’t get a big chunk, it needs to be the right one.
Also, consider boundaries. It’s also good to know what happens beyond these, too. Neighboring practices and pressure can impact the quality of the deer and deer hunting in that area. Buck age structure, deer density, and other things are impacted by this. Securing a property next to no-hunting tracts is best. But if they do allow it, the neighboring hunters need to share similar goals and expectations as you for all parties to remain happy.
The right topography aids in hunting efforts, too. Oftentimes, deer spend the most time in season at the highest elevations that offer bedding cover, especially in late fall through winter. Reading the terrain helps determine whether deer are likely to spend much daylight time there, or not.
Ease of access, entry route options, and exit route opportunities, are all important elements, too. Being able to access a property from multiple directions isn’t always a must, but it certainly offers more options for clean, successful in-and-out hunts.
How the property lays out matters as well. The proximity of bedding areas, food sources, water sources, travel routes, stand locations, and access routes all need to be optimized for hunting efforts. This impacts daytime deer movement, access to hunting spots, wind direction compatibility, stand location quality, and more.
Know the Bonus Boxes to Check
Having access to good deer hunting properties requires the basic boxes. Finding a great hunting property means finding a property where monster bucks live. For example, securing a tract next to no-hunting lands typically boosts the local buck age structure, which spills over onto your tract. Examples include national parks, college campuses, wildlife preserves, and more. Others might be city lakes, city parks, state parks, timber companies, power companies, water companies, city-limit landowners, corporate properties, factory lands, golf courses, large cemeteries, rock quarries, and more.
Check for Key Topography Features
Some property elements are ideal for increased deer usage and hunting efficiency. Some of these boost the odds of deer bedding on the property. Others are ideal for stand locations to intercept daylight deer movement. For example, leeward ridges, ridge endings (points), and others, are ideal bedding areas and hunting spots. Similarly, hogbacks, pinch points, saddles, thermal hubs, etc., also make great intercept points.
Consider Food Plot Potential
The tract of land might not have established food plots. But that might be better. Oftentimes, these are placed in the wrong locations to maximize daylight usage and overall hunting effectiveness.
When studying a property, and considering its food plot potential, remember your goals for food plots and kill plots. Important considerations include knowing proximity of bedding areas; factoring in travel patterns to and from existing destination food sources; accounting for bed-to-feed lines of travel; considering entry routes that don’t spook game; remembering exit routes that do the same; syncing food plot attractiveness timelines with area destination food sources; leveraging water needs by implementing small water holes on the edges; shaping food plots to optimize shot opportunities (T, U, J, K, L, V, hourglass, and turkey food shapes); orienting plots for ideal wind directions; planting food plots screens for visual concealment and increased deer comfort; and more.
Don’t Overlook Small or Unobvious Properties
Some tracts of land might go overlooked by hunters. Oftentimes, these tracts don’t look great from an aerial view, or maybe even a quick in-person inspection. But if you know what to look for, it just might be a diamond in the rough. Generally, these tracts come at reduced rates, too.
Most land buyers (hunters included) bypass tracts that don’t check certain boxes. They want big ag, big timber, and the right ratio of each. Because of this, isolated pockets of early successional cover, quality edge habitat with plant species deer eat and bed in, dense coniferous bedding cover, and other thick areas, can be great buys. Additionally, properties that feature suburban pockets, timbered draws, low hubs and flats, ditches and drainages, marsh islands, swamp interiors, ridge points, leeward benches, CRP fields, clear-cuts, oxbows, and more, can be great, too.
Use a Trusted Agent – Leasing Hunting Property
Some can find their ideal deer hunting land without help. They might gain permission, find a lease, or purchase the right tract with little to no help. But most will need some assistance. For those, it’s important to use a trusted agent. This holds true for those leasing or buying. Fortunately, those leasing can go through reputable agencies, such as Base Camp Leasing or Hunting Lease Network. And there are no shortage of real estate agents. But it is important to find one that specializes in deer hunting land.
Sleuth on Some Apps
One of the best ways to find quality ground is to scout digitally. Most of that involves using hunting apps to find areas that look good from above. This can help eliminate poor options, and perhaps even find a great deer hunting property. Personally, I’m a HuntStand ambassador, but I used it long before working with the company. It really is a premier option for scouting existing and potential hunting lands.
Put Boots on the Ground
Once you find a property that seems promising on paper, it’s time to inspect it. To do that, you must put boots on the ground. Confirm your great expectations or learn otherwise. But you don’t know if you don’t go check it out. Walk the property. However, know that some properties that look great on paper look terrible in the field, and vice versa.
All things considered, it’s important to do all your homework. Finding the perfect deer hunting property isn’t easy. But it is possible. Work hard and bring it all together. Deer season depends on it.