One weekend investment can pay big hunting dividends for years to come
It’s an exciting time of year for hunters. Most hunters begin thinking about getting their food plots ready to plant for the fall, finding new tree stand locations, and scouting for signs of that monster buck.
Food plots seem to be the main focus of hunting land management because they attract deer during the fall and winter months when natural green browse is less prevalent. Plus, food plots give most hunters a convenient place to hunt in the comfort of a shooting house.
However, the overall habitat of your hunting land is important to consider. One of the easiest ways to improve this is to consider the use of brush cutting. Brush cutting, when done with careful planning, can improve your overall hunting experience—not only for deer hunters but for turkey and small game hunters as well.
Think about how many places you would hunt if you had easy access to those places. Creating paths for game trails, openings around productive mast trees, roadside openings and new food plot “honey holes” can add to your hunting success.
With the lack of control burning in a lot of our hunting land leases, brush cutting is the only alternative you may have to improve your hunting land.
Patrick Willis of Willis Hauling runs a skid-steer track loader with a six-foot brush cutter head that is incredibly efficient. This machine can cut more brush in one minute than I can cut by hand in an hour. It reaches up to 17 feet high to trim limbs and let sunlight in or take the tallest brush down to mulch.
It’s also adequate to take down most non-valuable trees. These are trees that usually rob nutrients from your mast-bearing or market trees. Removing these trees from your land will not only improve your game habitat but also help the marketable trees such as pine to flourish, making the landowner happy. If you lease land, always get permission from the landowner before you begin a brush-cutting program.
“Hiring a professional service with the right equipment for the job is crucial to the success of a brush-cutting plan for your land.”
The tracks on this machine allow it to maneuver in the tightest areas between trees and to operate in steep, rough terrain and boggy areas. With many years of experience, Willis is an expert operator and takes great pride in his work.
Hiring a professional service with the right equipment for the job is crucial to the success of a brush-cutting plan for your land. Not only does Willis cut brush but can also root-rake newly established food plots, making these areas ready to plant with your traditional tractor and disk harrow. Root raking is done by using a claw-like attachment on the machine that goes up to 16 inches into the ground, moves forward and removes roots and stumps that would interfere with the cultivation of your plot.
Making “wildlife openings” simply means creating a place where the sunlight can filter through to the ground. It produces an area where natural grasses and vegetation will flourish.
Professional wildlife managers stress the importance of creating these areas for all types of birds and animals. You can create them anywhere on your land where valuable trees are sparse.
You don’t want to cut the landowners marketable trees, so choose areas where the brush or weeds have prevented these trees from growing properly. The shape of the opening doesn’t matter as much as the overall size. Create as much of an opening as you can without damaging the trees.
Finding a great white oak or other acorn-bearing tree in the middle of a thicket is a great opportunity to create openings. If you remove the brush around a tree, it will provide a clean place for deer to feed on the acorns. It will also improve the health of the tree itself, which will then produce even more acorns in the coming years. These become great bow-hunting areas.
New Food Plots
Have you ever found an area on your land and wished you had a food plot there? With proper planning and equipment, any area can be transformed into a productive food plot as long as the soil is conducive to growing vegetation.
The easiest way to determine this is to look at the grasses and weeds growing there now. If they are tall and healthy-looking, then you have good soil. Check the soil and make sure it’s not full of large rocks before you invest the time to clear it for a food plot. By moving the area a few dozen yards away, you may find a better spot to cultivate and grow your crops.
Consider making your new food plots long and narrow. Animals like quick escape routes. Deer will use this type of plot more than a large round plot. Keep in mind how your tractor can maneuver the plot once it’s established. Ideally, you want the plot shaped so you can pass through with a tractor and disk, turn around easily and pass back through without a lot of backing up.
A brush-cutting machine will also make a nice road wide enough to get a tractor in and out of the plot from the nearest road.
Trails and Roads
Brush-cutting machines are great for making paths for deer, walking trails, roads for ATVs, tractors or even vehicles. By cutting the brush down to six to 12 inches tall, you can then maintain those trails with a small cutter on the back of your tractor or ATV.
“If you cut walking trails in a few different directions from your food plots, deer will use these trails to travel to and from the food source.”
If you cut walking trails in a few different directions from your food plots, deer will use these trails to travel to and from the food source. Cutting trails for your tree stand locations also makes for a much quieter approach to and from your stand.
Cutting walking trails across thick bottoms has improved my maneuverability while turkey hunting, too. I can now quickly and quietly move toward a gobbling turkey without wading through or crawling through (in some cases) a thick brushy hillside or bottom.
Before you hire a brush-cutting service like Willis Hauling, make a plan that includes everything you want to accomplish. Then map out each job in the area where each job will occur. You don’t want to have the machine going back and forth across your property and lose valuable time from one spot to another. The idea is to plan each job from one end of your property to the other, in an orderly way.
Leave some time for “extras.” Using this machine, you’ll find places to improve while he’s in the area. Recently, while Willis was brush-cutting a trail for me, we found a large white oak tree that I never knew was there. I decided to have him remove the brush around the tree, thus creating a new honey hole for future hunts. A brush-cutting weekend will reveal a lot of places like that to you.
Important Contact Information:
Willis Hauling – Patrick Willis 251-423-4001