Steve Frye | Mossy Oak ProStaff
I believe that the real secret to having deer on your property during the fall and winter is to have a constant food source. My property adjoins a 250-acre hunting club, and on our part of the woodlot that borders this club we have a section of pines that’s about 250 yards long by 50 to 80 yards wide. The pines create a sanctuary for the deer. When the members of the hunting club start pressuring the deer on their land, those deer come right over the hill and head for our pines. Therefore our property becomes the sanctuary for the deer on that other 250 acres. We’ve planted chufa, several different types of Mossy Oak BioLogic seed and have begun planting some warm-season grass plots. We plant a little bit of just about every kind of wild game food we can plant, so that the deer not only have sanctuary but also food on our 17 acres.
On state game lands, my crew and I plant numbers of food plots and conduct quite a bit of prescribed burning. For the last several weeks, we’ve been working on 7,000 acres installing fire lines where we can create burns in about 75 to 250-acre blocks of land that we can burn at various times of the year.
At one point, the Pennsylvania Game Commission was big on planting honeysuckle for deer. The Commission would give out honeysuckle for people to plant on these public hunting areas. What happened was that these game lands became overrun with honeysuckle. Today, before we do a prescribed burn, I’ll go in and mow down the honeysuckle. But when that honeysuckle dries out, and we do a prescribed burn, the fire will get hot enough to burn off the plants we don’t want. Also, after the honeysuckle burns off, it will grow back and be at a level where the deer can feed on it for a much longer time than they can when it’s mature. We’ve also learned that by cutting the honeysuckle in the late spring after all the leaves and shoots are out and let the honeysuckle dry out, then when we burn it, we’ll have better success at getting rid of a lot of honeysuckle.
We’ve had huge success with using fire to improve our game lands. We have one game land just outside of Philipsburg that we started burning sections on that property about 3-4 years ago. This year, one of our local hunters took a buck off that land that’s main beams were 24 inches wide and was an absolute monster buck to come off of public lands. That game land consists of about 9,000 acres. We usually burn about 100-200 acre blocks at a time. Several of those blocks will be set up to burn every year. We scatter the burns, so we have good hunting lands with plenty of cover for the deer in-between the burns that will tremendously increase the amount of vegetation for the deer to eat.
Steve Frye of Warriors Mark, Pennsylvania, has been involved in the Mossy Oak GameKeepers program for two years and owns 17 acres. Frye hunts public lands and works for the Pennsylvania Game Commission where he’s implemented GameKeepers practices on public lands. Frye is part of the food and cover crew for Centre County, Pennsylvania.