During an afternoon hunt this past fall in Western Virginia, I was thinking about my offseason plans for the 2011 season. Obviously, my mind sifted through the thoughts of food plotting, shed hunting, a little late season scouting and my favorite offseason activity, habitat management. This includes planting and maintaining fruit trees, transplanting juvenile cedar trees to areas of more sunlight, and my favorite: using a chainsaw to manipulate the habitat to increase the appeal of my hunting property to deer and better my hunting for this fall. This year, this meant creating a man made funnel to force deer by my stand before entering a food plot and adding some much needed bedding cover.
A chainsaw can be a bowhunter's best friend this time of year!
Last summer, I planted about an acre of Whitetail Institute’s Imperial Whitetail Clover and was excited to see how the deer would respond to it during the hunting season. While I wasn’t able to hunt the food plot or surrounding areas last year, my brother had several productive hunts sitting about 30 yards inside the timber off the food plot. Every afternoon he hunted that location, anywhere between 15 and 20 deer would make their way into the food plot to feed on the lush clover. There was only one problem; the deer were entering the food plot wherever they felt like. Since there were no natural funnels or pinch points surrounding the food plot, the deer weren’t forced to go anywhere. While my brother did see several deer, he never once had one in bow range, a very frustrating feeling.
A couple weeks ago I remedied this problem by taking my chainsaw and felling several undesirable trees. By piling them together in a strategic location I was able to make a funnel that will force deer by my stand before entering the food plot. This may sound like cheating and I have heard several hunters mention this technique in the same breath as baiting; however, there are still several factors that must come into play before I am even presented with a shot opportunity. First, I need a West or Northwest wind to prevent the deer from smelling me. Also, there is no guarantee the deer will even succumb to the barrier that is my funnel. What if they simply walk on the other side of my all my hard work and effort? Ah, such is deer hunting!
On this white pine, I simply delimbed the tree about 6 feet up to help create my funnel without cutting down the entire tree.
Since I had the chainsaw with me I decided to improve the bedding on my property as well. Again, by cutting trees that serve little benefit to wildlife, I was able to thicken up the understory and provide some great bedding cover; something my property really lacks. This also opened up the timber to allow for more sunlight to penetrate the canopy that will result in fresh undergrowth. This new growth provides a tender, nutritious food source that also creates added bedding cover as well.
Several benefits can be attained when using a chainsaw on your hunting property. For one, you can manipulate deer movement to better your chances of a shot. Secondly, you can fell undesireable trees and let them lay to increase bedding cover. Last but not least, carrying around a powerful chainsaw simply makes you look like a tough guy, wouldn't you agree?
Some knowledge of dendrology is helpful when cutting trees to better the habitat and hunting on your property. It’s critical to only fell trees that offer little benefit to wildlife. On my property, I cut yellow-poplars, black locusts, red maples, and Virginia pines. Removing these trees eliminates competition for sunlight and nutrients which allows for healthier and fuller crowns of white, red, and black oaks and other important mast bearing trees. Yellow-poplars and red maples are also prolific “stump-sprouters,” meaning that even when I cut the tree in late winter, several young saplings will sprout from the stump providing an attractive and nutritious spring food source.
A chainsaw can be a bowhunter’s best friend this time of year when it comes to preparing for another hunting season. Manipulating deer movement and increasing bedding area are just a couple ways one can better their hunting for an upcoming season. So, if you are worn out from shed hunting, but it’s still too cold to begin work on your food plots, then grab a chainsaw and better your chances of harvesting a mature buck this season today.