This past year, my father and I started managing a new property in eastern Ohio. As I always do with a new piece of management ground, I went right to the topography maps and started studying the property to get an idea of where we could improve / create a better Deer Habitat. There are about 700 acres of hardwoods and open pasture ground. I stared at those maps for hours, maybe days, trying to come up with a solution to convert all my pasture acres into quality whitetail habitat. In total, approximately 350 of the 700 acres were in pasture. Effectively, the deer were only using about half of my property. After talking with my local forester and consulting some friends with similar problems, I came up with the perfect solution…Pines!
Pines are inexpensive, easy to plant and offer several benefits to the deer. More importantly, pines offer several benefits to the hunter. Once deciding to plant pines in our pastures, I needed to decide how much money I was willing to spend, how many pines I wanted and where I was going to plant the pines to gain the greatest benefits. This took me back to the maps. As I began thinking about where to plant, I started to realize all the possibilities these trees could offer. What if I could do more than provide thermal cover for the deer? What if I could use the pines to separate and isolate my food plots, provide entry and exit routes to my stands, make my property hunt larger and offer food that is cover all at the same time. The possibilities were endless!
I started scribbling all over my maps trying to determine how I could reap all of these benefits through a single planting, and expand the Deer Habitat on the property. This was not a quick process, and I found myself erasing more than I was drawing. After a few days of thinking about it, I knew where I was going to plant. I have two main winter food sources on my property; each exposed to open pasture on at least one side. I was going to plant a majority of the pines in the pasture right next to those food sources. I knew that the deer would frequent these food sources at the same time of the year that they would be held up in thermal cover. By planting here, I am giving the deer cover in direct proximity to food and boxing in my plots on all sides which makes them feel comfortable using it during daylight hours. With the deer held up in the pines, I will be able to slip in quietly on the downwind side of the pines and right into my tree or blind without being detected.
I needed 2000 trees to fill the area where I was going to plant. I calculated this number with spacing of 5×5 between trees. Deer love to eat pines, especially during the late winter months when other food sources have been depleted. White Pine is one species that particularly appeals to their picky pallets. Another species,Norway Spruce, is also attractive to deer during the late winter months and is more resistant to browsing than White Pine. Norway Spruce also grows just as fast. I decided to go with a ratio of three Norway Spruce to every White Pine to accommodate for the number of deer in my area. This deadly combination, when planted strategically, was going to fill in the gaps in areas my property was lacking.
While we don’t have the time or money to plant all of our pasture acres with pines, planting them strategically will turn a large percentage of areas not currently being used by deer into areas rich with habitat. Having since planted all of the pines decided upon, I am excited to see them grow and change the property for the better in the years to come. You can do this too! If you have wasted acres on your property and aren’t sure how to fill them with habitat, pines are a great option. They can greatly improve your property and hunting during the fall.