This is a great topic that I think has a pretty easy answer for you as a land owner or even as a hunter looking for a doe or buck bedding areas on public land.
1. Deer beds are deer beds. To say that you can build a type of buck bed in a doe bed area and get a mature buck to bed there is false in my opinion and experience. The reason? These two “types” of deer bed in totally different areas, but within the same bedding concept. Same beds, different locations outside of tending periods and even then I’ve witnessed mature bucks doing what appears to be “herding” a doe back into his very own bedding area. This has been more in the 4 and 5-year-old bucks that I’ve shot in their bedding areas, with a doe that was obviously not a resident in his bedding area.
2. Define the food source and you define where the deer bed. On your own parcel, this is very easy to do. Strong, consistent food sources with adjacent adequate bedding will attract doe family groups. Offer lots of high-quality horizontal cover in these areas and you can attract lots of doe family groups. Also in my experience, if you separate these areas, you can even attract more deer. For example, I’d rather have multiple 1-2 acre areas connected with a defined travel corridor which you can hunt over without spooking the doe family groups on the inside.
3. You define doe bedding areas by offering a very high stem count, pockets, canopy, exterior screening and of course, it depends on the type of habitat. Place these areas next to good, consistent (from late summer through December at a minimum) unclaimed food sources and does will take them over. You really don’t need a lot of acreages to hold a lot of deer.
4. It is critical to design your parcel to offer very definitive bedding areas for doe family groups. Separate these areas, offer travel in between, relate them to food sources and natural or created travel corridors and it becomes an easy and very predictable pattern.
5. Define the food and doe family group bedding first, and then you can create room for mature bucks. Locate the single and smaller clusters of beds within the interior of your parcel, well away from the doe family areas and guess where the mature bucks bed, regardless of the type of bed. All the dots have to be connected and your parcel design has to “flow”, meaning every improved component should relate to each other. For example, a long rectangular food source pointed towards your neighbor’s property is a very bad thing. However, rotate that plot to run parallel to your border, connect the ends to travel corridors or bedding areas to strengthen the line and your parcel is starting to “flow”.
I’m visiting a parcel in Pennsylvania next month that has had some great bedding areas professionally constructed. Twice. However, the parcel does not flow. If you hunt near one bedding area, your scent could blow into another. To hunt in another area of a poorly designed land parcel you have to cross deer movement and place that movement downwind of you to get to a stand. My job is to put the pieces together so the landowner can actually hunt the parcel while at the same time not letting his scent, sound or sight enter the interior of his parcel.
A bedding area is not properly constructed without effective and defined exterior screening. Conifer, native grasses, switchgrass, timber cuttings, burns, change in topography, Egyptian wheat are all screening tools should be used to define and start your bedding area. Here are the priorities for a 5 acre woods, surrounded by agricultural land half a mile in every direction in which you want to construct a bedding hotspot:
1. Screen the outside first! Building beds within are often the first step, however, the area is not a bedding area until it protected from the outside. Otherwise, you can’t get within a quarter mile of the woods without driving deer out of the section. In fact, that’s how I used to drive deer out of a 5-acre woodlot to hunters waiting in a depression on the back side of the section. If I had to walk a quarter mile before I got a call on the radio the deer were through the section.
2. Create layers of screening. Short term materials include Egyptian wheat, hinging large timber and burn construction. Use mid-term materials such as quick growing pines and switch-grass. Spruce is good for long-term fixes.
3. In hardwood forests, cut the canopy down first, outside of saving a few dominant mast producers.
4. Bridge or cut subordinate trees to tops, forks, trunks, etc. to create horizontal bridging material while opening pockets and trails within the large tops and debris to define a bedding system.
5. Tie and hinge smaller trees or saplings over small mounds, benches, ridges, etc. to canopy bedding locations while clearing those areas by removing debris and leveling.
6. Offer a conifer component to diversify and extend the seasonal use of defined bedding locations.
7. Offer tunneled exterior deer trails the extend away from the interior core area to a stand or blind location and back to the core area.
Just defining the exterior alone will set up that 5-acre woodlot as a bedding area. In fact, you can’t define a bedding area without having adequate man-made or natural screening.