How To

Working with Landowners to Manage Deer on Small Acreages

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Mike Monteleone sums up why he is successful hunting small properties.

Mike Monteleone sums up why he is successful hunting small properties.

Author’s note: Mike Monteleone lives in Westminster, Maryland, and has worn Mossy Oak camo since 1988 and has hunted deer since he was 13 years old. He also is a member of PSE’s Pro Staff and has been shooting a PSE bow for five years. Today he shoots a PSE EVO Max, while primarily hunting in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.

One of the reasons I’ve been able to get permission to hunt on about 10 to 12 small acreages is I help the landowner reduce the number of deer on his property. Deer can cause thousands of dollars of crop damage. Because most of these small farms are in suburbia, the landowners don’t feel they can allow gun hunting, so using my PSE EVO Max solves this problem. In the summer of 2012, I got a call from a farmer who had received a crop damage permit to remove a large number of deer off his property. He asked me if I could come to his farm and help reduce the number of deer eating his crops. This property never had been hunted, and it bordered a major highway. The farmer had planted soybeans, and the deer were mowing them down. The deer only had one way to get into the field, and they had to leave the field by the same route.

The place I set up in was a pinch point about 40 yards wide. By putting my treestand in the middle of the pinch point, I had a 20-yard shot on either side. Not expecting to take many deer, I only carried three arrows on this hunt. I planned to hunt three hours before dark. I felt like if I took a deer every hour, I really would help this farmer out. But as the deer came through the wood lot, I quickly learned I had underestimated how badly this property was overpopulated with deer. Within one-and-a-half hours, I already had taken three does. I had to climb down the tree, recover my three arrows, clean the arrows up and put them in my quiver. I attached glow sticks to each one of the does, knowing I probably would have to find them in the dark. I always carry glow sticks with me in case this happens. I got back up in my treestand and arrowed three more does before dark. I went back to the landowner and told him about the number of deer I had taken. He was really excited. We loaded up the deer and took them to a deer processor to be delivered to food banks for the Hunters for the Hungry program.

For several years, I had permission to hunt a six-acre piece of property. I took two bucks that made the Pope & Young record book there, during three consecutive years. As I’ve said, actually all I need to hunt deer is a small piece of property to hunt where I can see 40 yards or less. If that 40-yard circle of land has a pinch point or a bottleneck, you’ll see more deer than if you have 100 or 200 acres, since all the deer on either side will pass within bow range of the pinch point at some time. And if no one else hunts that small pinch point, the woods on either side become sanctuaries where big bucks go to dodge hunting pressure. That’s exactly what happened with that magic six acres that produced six Pope & Young bucks in three years.

This property was a little community of 20 landowners, and one landowner granted permission for me to hunt his six-acre portion. I was the only hunter allowed to hunt in that community, so I was able to manage and manipulate the entire deer herd. I couldn’t plant BioLogic food plots, but I could use mineral supplements to improve the deer’s health. At that time, hunters could take six bucks per season in Maryland, including two bucks with a bow, two with a muzzleloader, and two with a modern rifle. Hunters also had to take a minimum of two does before they could take their second bucks. At that time, we could take an unlimited number of does from September 15 through January 31.

Managing deer herds on small acreages

If you know anything about deer management, you know you generally can’t manage a deer herd effectively on single properties from six acres to 400 acres. But when I get permission to hunt on a property, I start talking to the neighboring landowners. Over time, I often can put three to 10 adjacent properties together and agree on a management scheme that benefits everyone. For instance, right now I have four or five landowners and hunters who all have agreed to manage their properties in the same way. We all use trail cameras and share the pictures. Three or four times a year, we get together and have what I call a board meeting to determine the buck-to-doe ratio on the combined properties. Then we determine how many does to harvest from each property. Next, we look at the buck population of these combined lands to determine where the bucks live. Then, we all agree on a hit list for the upcoming year. Since we’ve started managing these different properties as one parcel of land, we’ve all been able to take bigger and more bucks and reduce the unantlered deer population. This system is working on five or six different properties I hunt. The hunters and landowners all see the benefits of combining small properties into one large piece of land under the same management program for the best results.

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Image courtesy John E Phillips

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