Scott Davis | Mossy Oak ProStaff
Regardless of how much habitat you provide and food you plant to improve the wildlife on your property, without a reasonable set of rules around access to the land, management and harvesting, you won’t have the success you’ve hoped to get. All of us who hunt the land believe that what you put into the land is what you’ll get out of it.
There are two Mossy Oak ProStaffers who hunt with me the most, and we have set up rules for hunting that land. The person who puts in the most tractor time – plowing, planting and re-planting – cutting shooting lanes and building bedding habitat for the deer gets the first chance to take the most mature bucks on the property.
We try to maintain a 130-inch minimum rule for harvesting bucks. We also rely heavily on our trail-camera pictures to identify which bucks we’ll attempt to take each season and which bucks we don’t want to harvest during that year’s hunting season. Most of the mature bucks we’re harvesting on our lands are 4-1/2 years old. We’ve learned that once bucks are about 2-1/2 years old that we can note some characteristics for each buck for identification. Sometimes we lose bucks, or we may see them as a 2-1/2-year old and not spot them again until they’re 4-1/2 years old. Almost every year we identify bucks we’ve never seen throughout the year that may have come from a neighboring farm that are 4-1/2-year-old shooter bucks.
My dad first bought our 150-acre farm in 1996, and the other 150-acre farm we hunt we’ve been leasing for three years. Our trail-camera photos tend to indicate that our farm has pulled in a good number of older-age-class bucks, especially during the rut that we’ve never spotted before on our land. One of the farms next to ours tries to manage its deer the same way we’re managing ours. Although that neighboring farm doesn’t do as much habitat improvement as we do, the hunters there are very selective in the bucks they harvest. The other farms bordering us do no habitat manipulation or habitat plantings.
In the early part of the season, our two farms attract bucks due to the amount of food on them. But we only bowhunt these two farms. Some of those bucks may leave our lands and move onto neighboring properties. However, once rifle season arrives, the bucks in the area generally will return to our lands. We don’t put as much hunting pressure on the bucks during rifle season as our neighboring lands do.
Mossy Oak GameKeepers ProStaffer Scott Davis of Louisville, Kentucky, grew up hunting on his family’s farm. Davis shares that The GameKeepers program fits his family’s lifestyle, giving back to the land and to the animals and giving more than you take