In many areas of the country, deer populations are out of control. The deer come in at night and feed on flower beds and shrubbery that landowners have planted around their houses. The deer will destroy gardens and crops and often cause vehicle accidents, especially on affluent properties in suburbia.
If the landowner doesn’t hunt or chooses not to hunt, he has no way to control that deer herd. On many of the small properties I hunt that are from 6 acres to 400 acres, the landowner may want me to harvest every deer that I can off that property. However, when I explain I am willing to take the surplus deer off the property, but I want to leave some bucks, so I will have deer to hunt every year, the landowner usually agrees to let me hunt his property that way.
We all figure you can’t manage a deer herd with much success on properties as small as 6 acres. But as soon as I get permission to hunt, I put out trail cameras to inventory the herd that lives on or passes through that property. I try to learn the buck population and how many older-age-class bucks are using that land as a sanctuary.
I identify the landowners, who own property adjacent to the land I can hunt, and learn if the adjacent landowners allow any hunting. Then I develop a deer-management program. I’ll suggest to the property owners and hunters on adjacent properties to the land I hunt how to better manage their deer herds and also allow those deer to move into the older-age-classes for heavier body weights and larger antlers.
Three or four times per year I’ll have meetings with adjacent property owners and share my trail-camera pictures with them, and they’ll share their trail-camera pictures with me. By all of us studying all the pictures we can, we get a really-good idea of what our buck-to-doe ratios are on the lands. This information allows us to decide how-many does we need to harvest off our properties to maintain or reduce the size of the deer herd.
We determine which bucks will go on our hit list (those that can be taken), and which bucks we need to allow to survive to become older-age-class bucks. By all the property owners agreeing to the same management scheme, we are able to determine the number of does we want to harvest each year, and we all agree which individual bucks need to be on our hit list. With this type of management effort from the landowners, we may have 1,000 acres to 5,000 acres to manage under the same management program that produces more deer and bigger bucks for all the property owners.
So, don’t overlook those small places that most muzzleloader hunters believe are too small to hunt. They may become trophy-buck sanctuaries, where you may be able to take older-age-class bucks year after year.
By: Mike Monteleone of Westminister, Maryland, who has been hunting deer 34 years. He hunts small properties in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Delaware. He gets exclusive permission to be the only hunter who hunts these lands.