Here it is, the last week of May and fawns should have dropped or if not, should be shortly. I spent a day last weekend at the property to mow the food plots. If you go outside right now, there are farmers raking hay they mowed within the last 24 hours. In West Central Indiana, the weather has been awesome for cutting and baling hay. The point I'm making is that farmers always target the three warm season national holidays to cut hay....Memorial Day, July 4th, and Labor Day. I target mowing at least a week earlier, and make my last cut in mid August to allow as much growth as possible going into the fall and winter.
As a result, I mowed the plots last week. The East Plots are in excellent shape with the clover and alfalfa at an 18" height. The browse pressure on these plots was greater than I ever remember in clover. As illustrated in the photos and the video, you can see clear sign where the deer are feeding. The tonnage these plots are providing is extensive for the small amount of tillage this involves, and I have yet to even fertilize this year due to a hectic schedule. One failure was not placing an utilization cage prior to the green-up. I would have loved to document the amount of growth within the cage compared to the height outside. I have rectified this going forward and now have a cage in place.
The Main Plots are somewhat of a disappointment. I frost seeded clover and chickory in the south section, which appears to be an epic failure. The North section has some growth, but far less than the East Plots. Hopefully by mowing, we release the seed that was frost seeded in March. If not, we will consider turning and replanting the south section. With what.....I have yet to decide. Either way, I will plant something that will provide both fall and winter forage.
One significant sign of deer activity in the East Plots I should have documented with photos and/or video was the presence of deer beds in the tall clover and alfalfa. There were deer beds everywhere indicating that the deer bed down while others are feeding. Some of these could even be fawn beds. Given I have not changed out camera cards the last three weeks, I have yet to get any fawns on video. Hopefully we have a good group this year and the extensive habitat work / hinge cutting will yield the cover they need for protection against the predators.
I have also included in the video and photos a status update on our Dunstan Chestnut Trees. All five planted have taken root and grown leaves. I can even see vertical growth within the tubes. I can't wait to see what these do as they become mature. This is just another diverse food source that will hold deer on the property.
Stay tuned this summer. I have a busy schedule and will do my best to continue updates on the blog as we prepare for the upcoming hunting season this fall.
Now is a great time to look for buck beds on your property. Whitetails are actively shedding hair and this is a clear indicator of bedding locations. The leaves are not fully developed on the trees and the ground doesn't have a lot of green growth yet making navigating the woods easier. In addition, sighting beds from further distances is easier.
This past weekend, Luke and I took some brush out to the property. While there, he wanted to do a little mushroom hunting. Conditions were extremely dry and we didn't find any at all. We were basically three days early, given the text photos and emails received from others I know. As normal, they shared photos, but not mushrooms. However, I have been finding mushroom hunting more and more difficult each year. Not because they have been scarce, but because I have a hard time not focusing on deer sign at all times when in the woods.
The other day was no different. Deer sign was everywhere and I stumbled upon one of the largest natural buck beds I have yet to find on the property. The photos below illustrate the buck bed, which has most of the characteristics typically found. The bed was on somewhat flat ground, had two entry / exit points, good screening cover or canopy overhead. In addition the bed is located right next to two main trails that are heavily traveled.
What was completely out of character for the bed found was the location in conjunction with the topography. This bed wasn't located atop a point or on the military crest of a point. It was just the opposite, being located at the base of a point. This obviously has peaked my interest as to why the buck chose this particular spot. Although there are exits and means of escape in just about every direction, it would be possible to approach this buck from the SE along the ridge. However, this buck must consider this area secure, otherwise it would not look as worn and used as depicted in the photos.
The size of the bed indicates to me that this is a large buck, most likely older than 2 years old. Normally the beds I have found are not as wide from side to side. In addition, I found the depth of this bed from front to back to be abnormally large. The leaves were smashed down significantly and there was extensive deer hair all around that had obviously been shed by the buck. Furthermore, the buck had droppings in two spots along the east edge of the bed. It appears that he was dropping before entering or upon exiting the bed. The old saying of "don't crap in your own nest" was being practiced by this buck.
So, what do I do with this information? Well, I've considered placing a camera over the bed, somewhat at a distance to prevent spooking the buck. Hopefully this will help me understand this buck better and give me the information needed going into the fall season. I am also hoping this is a resident buck that will be in this bed year around.
It also has occurred to me that some of the beds I have personally made may not be large enough to accommodate a larger buck. As a result, my next steps are to build an addition onto the existing buck beds. They must need a king size instead of a queen size bed. If the bucks on my property like beds like the one in the pictures below, then I need to provide what they prefer. I will try to post additional photos of the bed improvements made in the near future.
The deer sign continues to pile up on the property making me even more confident that the work we are doing is paying off. The next seven months should prove to be extremely interesting as we track the herd's progress and hopefully another buck harvest.
Andy Hayes is a devoted husband and father of 4 kids living in West Central Indiana. Outside of his family, his passion is hunting whitetails. He does not claim to be a professional hunter, but simply wants to share what he learns during his quest to improve whitetail habitat and hunt mature bucks.