Wildlife refuge: Stay out

It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to manage a property for whitetails, turkeys or small game species; if you continually disturb and panic wildlife by intruding in their habitat, they will soon find refuge elsewhere. Instead, create a sanctuary on your property and make it off limits so wildlife has a safe place to always find shelter.

Experts often suggest you set aside 50 percent or more of a property into a sanctuary zone, but the makeup of your property and the region of the country where you live will dictate the size. Regardless, set aside as much acreage as possible without jeopardizing hunting success.  

As you review the layout of the land, look for a brushy or woodland section in the center of your property that can hide wildlife. You also need to feel comfortable never hunting it again. Your food plots should be set up on the edges of this refuge so wildlife can easily enter and exit the food source. Keeping the refuge centralized with nearby food also helps keep wildlife from straying out of your deeded borders.

Creating additional refuge for wildlife is relatively easy with a chainsaw and an ATV or tractor. By dropping dead timber and selected live trees and gathering downed trees, you can pile up the trunks and branches to make dense deadfall walls of cover. Plus, opening up the canopy allows more light to reach the ground, which stimulates growth for briars and new saplings that creates additional browse opportunities. Talk with a forester before undertaking intensive timber chores.

If you need even more refuge, you can plant habitat. Crops like sorghum double as cover and nutrition. Landscaping vegetation, such as varieties of reed grass, can add to refuge habitat and give wildlife a sense of security when brush or timber are scarce. Switchgrass is another alternative, particularly on grassland properties.

After you get your refuge in place and the no trespassing signs up, scout for ambush locations on all sides to take advantage of prevailing winds. When the target species of your choosing steps out, you’ll know your refuge is working.

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