I've got 20 acres in upstate ny, what would you suggest to improve it?

skmartin

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So we recently moved "out of town" to a place with 20 acres, surrounded on 3 sides by ag (corn and soybeans, depending on the year) in central NY (center of top photo) The house and barns are on the north side of the property near the road and take up about 3 acres. I've never had a place to hunt where I could change anything about the property, so I am new to thinking about this. I would greatly appreciate any thoughts/suggestions about what you all would recommend as far as habitat improvements to the property. It was used as pasture until about 7 years ago. The field nearest the house we have brush hogged once a year. There are numerous seeps and springs throughout. Loamy clay soil. I was thinking of letting the eastern side brush in for bedding area (it currently has a bunch of red osier dogwood around a seep), planting a food plot in the middle toward the south end, then planting white oaks along the western edge. All suggestions are appreciated!Screenshot_20240524-122403.pngScreenshot_20240524-122119.pngScreenshot_20240524-122403.png
 

Macintosh

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This is always fun.

Id look at creating year-round native cover that connects to as much of your neighbors year-round cover as possible. Otherwise it looks like it could be a bit of an island once the crops are down.

The corn and soybeans will be cut early in your season (not sure where in NY, at least around me they are cut in september mostly), so not much draw Id think. White oaks are limited to pretty early season too. But maybe you are far enough south that timing is really different than Im used to?? Maybe consider adding some red oaks that will be mostly late-season food and even some chestnuts that’ll produce sooner to the mix, maybe some exceptionally late-bearing crabapple varieties and a few cedars. That and encourage native forbs, and you could have something it looks like your neighbors dont.

Interested to hear what others say.
 
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I say grow as much high quality cover as possible. Make a sanctuary where a buck can feel safe. Don’t go in it or let your dog or anyone near it.

With the minimal amount of land you have I would not plant a food plot. Way better luck with a garden and some fruit trees. Maybe “spilling” some corn when you over feed the chickens…
 
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What is your predominant wind direction? That will determine where you can create bedding areas, and how to set the place up to hunt.
 

dtrkyman

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Burn instead of brush hog if possible. You have water and food so I would also focus on cover or anything that is lacking in the area!
 
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skmartin

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What is your predominant wind direction? That will determine where you can create bedding areas, and how to set the place up to hunt.
Winds are tricky on this site. Predominant winds are from the west/NW, but in the evening as air cools it settles downslope, which is east. Wind often switches 180 degrees as the sun goes down. Last season I set a stand at the southern tip, and got a buck as he was crossing, but I'm trying to figure out how to encourage them to hang out on the property more. Thanks for your input!
 
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skmartin

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This is always fun.

Id look at creating year-round native cover that connects to as much of your neighbors year-round cover as possible. Otherwise it looks like it could be a bit of an island once the crops are down.

The corn and soybeans will be cut early in your season (not sure where in NY, at least around me they are cut in september mostly), so not much draw Id think. White oaks are limited to pretty early season too. But maybe you are far enough south that timing is really different than Im used to?? Maybe consider adding some red oaks that will be mostly late-season food and even some chestnuts that’ll produce sooner to the mix, maybe some exceptionally late-bearing crabapple varieties and a few cedars. That and encourage native forbs, and you could have something it looks like your neighbors dont.

Interested to hear what others say.
Thanks for the detailed answer. The corn usually gets harvested in early October. I just got half a dozen chestnuts and was thinking of putting them next to the oaks on the Sw side. There are also about 30 little cedars that are getting established along the western border, though they are pretty slow growing. A guy at the bow range suggested putting in clover to give them an alternative to the corn and soy. Is that something you have experience with?
 
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skmartin

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You may want to consider additions from the NYSDEC seedling sale held every spring. Hard to beat the price. I have a similar size property and put in 25 copper chinkapin and 25 hazelnuts this year and they should be producing in a couple of years. You could quickly establish a bedding area with the quick growing spruce they have. Good luck.
That's an awesome resource, thanks! I'll have to put that on the calendar for next spring!
 
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skmartin

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I say grow as much high quality cover as possible. Make a sanctuary where a buck can feel safe. Don’t go in it or let your dog or anyone near it.

With the minimal amount of land you have I would not plant a food plot. Way better luck with a garden and some fruit trees. Maybe “spilling” some corn when you over feed the chickens…
When you say "high quality cover". Are there specific species that are good? Should I be planting, or just letting it fill in on its own? I have planted about 30 fruit trees around the house, and we have half a dozen mature pear and apple trees around the perimeter where the ditches cross the property SW to NE.
 
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I am not familiar with that area or the preferred bedding habitat there for particular vegetation. Might be worth a call to the local wildlife biologist.

I know in Kansas they like native tall grasses, plum thickets, “buck brush” clumps of switch grass etc. In Arkansas they love the small pine thickets- but they grow out of usefulness when too big.

Deer aren’t tall so brushy stuff right at their head height works. Old growth forest and clear under story is not good.


Look at your area on a satellite image about a 2-3 mile radius and try to identify thick uncleared cover. You want your property to have more and better cover.

The reason is that it is so much easier to kill a buck bedding on you. More chance of catching it in legal shooting light. And more opportunities in its core range
 

MRC

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I wood plant a row of Norway spruce along the East /northeast property line for privacy. You could plant some clumps of spruce in different areas in the middle of the property. 10 to 15 trees in to a clump. Don’t plant in rows. You might do one clump in a circle with an opening in the middle. Norway spruce grow fast and the deer don’t eat them. They grow better in the dryer spots. I’d let the rest grow up naturally. I would definitely put in a clover plot. Ladino white clover. I’ve had deer feeding in it in January with snow on the ground and 12 degrees out side. Less than a quarter acre will work. Probably south end. Small property so you have to have a path to the stand from either side of the property so you can walk in without spooking the deer which ever way the wind is blowing. Here’s a clover plot probably closer to 1/10 of an acre. Been going for over five years.IMG_0133.jpeg
 

Mojave

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I don't know how far north you are and what hardwoods you could get going.

Something that produces mast like acorns. A persimmon tree or other fruit that is desirable to deer.
 

Fogalo

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Wisconsin
Put most of it in thermal cover and a few food plots 2-3 acres 50 yards in from the edges. Position the food plots with hunting the wind in mind. Don’t ever go in the cover outside of shed season. Also fun to have a food plot where you can glass from the house
 
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skmartin

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I wood plant a row of Norway spruce along the East /northeast property line for privacy. You could plant some clumps of spruce in different areas in the middle of the property. 10 to 15 trees in to a clump. Don’t plant in rows. You might do one clump in a circle with an opening in the middle. Norway spruce grow fast and the deer don’t eat them. They grow better in the dryer spots. I’d let the rest grow up naturally. I would definitely put in a clover plot. Ladino white clover. I’ve had deer feeding in it in January with snow on the ground and 12 degrees out side. Less than a quarter acre will work. Probably south end. Small property so you have to have a path to the stand from either side of the property so you can walk in without spooking the deer which ever way the wind is blowing. Here’s a clover plot probably closer to 1/10 of an acre. Been going for over five years.View attachment 716262
Thanks for the info on the clover and clumping of spruce!
 
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