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Small Tracts, Big Tracks

Growing and Holding Deer On Smaller Acreage

Ronnie “Cuz” Strickland

big buck

I had just put my mini camcorder down after filming a small buck in the BioLogic plot when I caught movement to my left. I saw antlers, big antlers, moving fast from north to south. I grabbed my bow and hooked the release in one movement. The buck was almost out of the plot when I got turned enough to take a shot. I had to stop the buck for a shot, so I did a very quiet bleat sound after I was at full draw and looking through the peep. He stopped with my 20-yard pin in a perfect spot, so I pulled the trigger. I heard the buck crash in the thick-planted pines.

I was certain it was a perfect shot but adrenalin now flowed through my veins like a busted pipe, my knees began to shake and maintaining clear thoughts was a struggle. I waited for a while, and then quietly climbed down and made the short walk back to my house and shared the news with my wife; the news being I just shot “the big buck.” We had several pictures of this buck in September coming to BioRocks and one lone trail cam photo in November, and he was simply called the Big Buck.
I waited until my son-in-law Richard Ellis got off work, so he could help me on the tracking and hopefully dragging job (his eyes and muscles are younger than mine). The blood trail was short and sure enough at the end laid the Big Buck. After a big high-five celebration, we loaded the buck onto an ATV and went to show him to a house full of family. It was the day before Christmas Eve and our house was full. After another celebration and a couple of photos, everyone walked back inside and I was left alone with the buck. The thought occurred to me that I had accomplished something I had set out to do 4 years earlier. Although I was sad the “big buck” was gone, I was elated I had pulled that off on a small piece of ground.
Four years earlier I had started work on my new property and my plan was simple - make it all it could be with the limited acreage and budget I had to work with. My first task was to generate cover that would be suitable for whitetails since the property was mostly open pasture.  I also wanted to leave small openings for bow hunting. Planting pines was the obvious choice for several reasons. First, the soil was good for pines. Second, they grow fast, and third, they were affordable. I had an idea of where I wanted the pines and just as important, where I didn’t. I did have some fencerows and with large oak trees and other large oaks scattered around, and I wanted to incorporate those into small food plots. The upside of starting from scratch is it’s kind of a blank canvas; you just have to “think forward” a little and imagine what things will look like in a few years.  

Planting pines around the larger trees that were left on the property turned out to be just what the doctor ordered. I was able to put cover for bedding and travel and have them close to trees that would drop acorns to add to the BioLogic buffet that would also be suitable for hanging stands.  For a couple of years after the planting, there was not a lot of activity. I had visions of giant trees in a few months and big buck rubs all around, but that’s not how it happens (at first). I had a biologist tell me that pine seedlings, after planting will creep, peak then leap and that is what happened. The first couple of years were slow, and then almost overnight it seemed I had head-high pines. Year three was good, deer were beginning to visit the BioLogic plots and deer sign began showing up. Year four was great and resulted in our first good mature buck being harvested on the farm. My son-in-law shot the big 8-point while I was on the road but had my wife and daughter and their 2-year-old son along for the recovery. I could not have been more fired up if I had been there. When your family takes the bait and becomes as much the GameKeepers as you are then you realize what is truly special about owning or controlling a piece of ground, no matter how small.
As stated earlier, I took my “big buck” the day before Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day my son-in-law snuck out while everyone was napping and took his best buck ever, a huge 9-pointer that was on the prowl in broad daylight. I heard the shot and was able, with my other son-in-law, to help him with that recovery. To say that Christmas was special would be an understatement.
That following summer when I put out several trail cameras around BioRocks, I realized that I had really accomplished something. Bucks and does alike were there and staying there. The combination of cover and food had done what I had hoped a few years before. The planted pines are my sanctuaries and are treated as such. We don’t go in there for any reason, and apparently the deer feel comfortable using them. The BioLogic plots for the most part are small but yield enough forage to make for some great spots to bow hunt. I have since expanded the food by planting corn and beans and must admit the planting and preparation are as much fun if not more than the hunting.

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