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Natural ways to draw in deer

It’s hunting season and everyone wants deer on their land. From baiting to food plots, people will do whatever they can to get a big buck. One of the best ways to entice deer to your hunting grounds is creating more habitat through forest management. Forest management is cost effective and doesn’t require constant maintenance every hunting season. To attract deer and keep them on your land year-round, you have to provide them with the five things deer want:

— Thermal cover: Conifer trees like cedar and white pine that provide refuge during the winter;

— Hard mast: High-protein, hard-seeded tree species such as oaks, hickories and beech;

— Soft mast: Berry-producing shrubs such as chokecherry, serviceberry and winterberry holly;

— Cover from predators: Having young forest that provides cover makes the deer feel safe so they will stay in the area;

— Viable trails: Trails on your land can help you predict the movement of deer from thermal cover to your mast areas and food plots.

Deer populations were at their peak 30 years ago due to prime forest conditions with plenty of undergrowth to sustain the herds. In recent years, that population has been slowly declining due to poor forest health and over-mature trees. If you go into most forests in the area, you can see that there are none, if any, trees growing past the snowline, showing that there isn’t enough understory vegetation to sustain the current population.

Planting and protecting trees, especially mast and thermal cover species, should be on every hunter’s mind after this deer season. Invasive plant species and forest grasses have out-competed native tree species in our forest floors and as our mature forests decline, we need to make some smart management decisions to make sure deer are taken care of.

The Dickinson and Menominee Conservation Districts have been working with Michigan State University Extension, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the U.P. Sportsman Alliance and other deer habitat organizations to help landowners get the best information on what they can do for their land to continue sustaining the local deer population.

For more information, contact the Dickinson Conservation District at 906-774-1550 or at DickinsonCD.org.

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