The Midwest offers some of the best hunting action around and a few management tips can maximize those opportunities and create year-round habitat.
Tip 1: Think forestry first
Maximize wildlife value by managing hardwoods so canopies don’t become closed and shaded. Active timber thinning operations that retain the most prolific mast producing trees can benefit wildlife and economic value. Streamside Management Zones (SMZs) where hardwoods have been retained along waterways are also critical.
Tip 2: Manage for diversity
Try to have four to five age classes in relative abundance at any given time on your property because different aged timber stands provide all the habitat needs for many game and nongame species. It’s a long-term process of thinning, management and commercial removal, but it can provide a recipe for excellent hunting.
Tip 3: Foster fields and grassland
Midwestern grasslands are important for cover, food and brood rearing habitat. Planting, managing and maintaining quality fields and grasslands is the key to maximizing wildlife populations on your property. Prescribed burns and rotational disking are inexpensive and effective.
Tip 4: Year-round food plots
Multi-season, year-round food plots as part of a wildlife plan can provide excellent brood rearing habitat and hunting opportunities. Consider no-till drill forage oats and wheat in the fall for deer and Turkey gold Chufa and Roundup ready corn for turkeys. Or try the NWTF’s Triple Threat Clover mixed with chicory for tremendous forage all year.
Tip 5: Native warm season frasses = awesome cover
Native warm season grasses provide vital cover for wild turkey and quail and important fawning cover for white-tailed deer. Plant a mixture of two or three tall grasses with plenty of native forbs for even more excellent wildlife habitat and hunting.
Tip 6: Wetlands for water quality and wildlife
Sustainable forest and uplands management enhances water quality and quantity, just like shallow wetlands and ponds. These areas are a great place to hunt waterfowl and fish, as well as filter out contaminants and sediments that can harm streams and water quality. Create a shallow wetland or series of shallow ponds to improve water quality and availability.
Tip 7: Create a sanctuary
Mature bucks spend the majority of their time in safe sanctuaries. Create one and you’ll have deer on your property during hunting season. Eastern red cedars can provide excellent thermal cover and provide a great sanctuary encouraging the wall hanger to stick around.
Contact a professional forester well versed in wildlife management to help you with property planning. In many states, the NWTF’s biologists and foresters can help you at no cost.