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Manage Bedding Areas and Buck-to-Doe Ratio for Better Hunting

Pat Reeve | Mossy Oak ProStaff

whitetail does

Besides food, water and sanctuary, I provide bedding cover for the deer living on my property on south-facing ridges. We have cold weather all but about three months out of the year in Minnesota. The deer here need sunny weather, although the temperatures may be cold, for them to stay warm. We hinge-cut non-valuable trees on our 500 acres we own to help create thick bedding cover on those south-facing slopes. 

Thick undergrowth also grows where we hinge-cut the trees to enable the deer to hide and feel secure in their bedding places. Too, we plant cedar trees. I think one of the reasons that Iowa is one of the nation’s leading big buck producers is because the state homes numbers of cedar trees that the deer can use for shelter and bedding areas – especially in cold weather. Iowa also has an abundance of tall grass where the deer can hide. So, we provide our bedding areas in Minnesota to deer on south-facing slopes and give them the kind of cover and shelter they need to survive our hard winters. Nicole and I are trying to create the type of food, habitat, water, sanctuary and cover that make our 500 acres a mecca for deer.  

I run trail cameras to have a running inventory of the number of deer on my 500 acres. I know I have about seven shooter bucks on my land that all will be bigger next year. I’m tagged out here in Minnesota, but Nicole is still hunting. She’ll probably take one of those seven bucks this season. However, we’ll still have six, very nice bucks to hunt next year. 

A question I’m often asked is what we do about the rut. People tell me, “If you grow those big bucks on your 500 acres, and the rut kicks in, won’t some of those mature bucks leave your property and move to other lands?” The answer is, “Yes, they will.” 

We may lose one or two or our big bucks every season. However, to keep a large number of these bucks from migrating off our land during the rut, we make sure our land holds plenty of does. Once again, the abundance of food, water, shelter and sanctuary we provide for our bucks are the same things does are searching for, which means we can hold a good number of nice bucks and does on our property. We do harvest does as their numbers build up. I try to keep five does for every one buck – 5:1 doe/buck ratio – on our 500 acres. The counterbalance to losing one or two bucks we’ve raised on our land to other places is that the hunting pressure around us during the rut is actually moving more mature bucks onto our property than we’ve had before the rut started. 

My 12-year-old daughter Isabel took one of those what I call drifter bucks that drift onto our property during the rut. This 4-1/2-year-old buck scored in the 150s Boone & Crockett and wasn’t a buck we’d ever seen on our land previously. The only people who hunt our property are Nicole, myself and our friends. I have a young man who cuts my grass at our home who doesn’t come from a hunting family. I let him take a 9-pointer – his first buck - on our land. Where we live, if you have 500 acres that you can manipulate the habitat on and provide food, water, bedding cover, sanctuary and a good number of does, we’ve proven you can harvest three to four mature bucks off that property per season, every season.

Pat Reeve and his wife Nicole are the hosts of “Driven” TV. This year is their 11th season to host the show. This season, Pat has hunted in Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois and Canada’s Northwest Territories and Saskatchewan.

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