While at the Minnesota Deer Classic, I learned some unusual tips I hadn’t heard before.
The Minnesota Deer Classic event drew quite a crowd, all eager to learn more about deer hunting, wildlife and land management, or even watch the shed dog competition.
At the seminars, I learned several unusual or secret tips from the experts. The top 11 secrets from the show are listed below.
1. Rule of Thirds
Manage your property in thirds for the best habitat. For example, if you only have agriculture or timber, you’re likely too far skewed to one side for optimum deer habitat. Since the deer is a creature of the edge, consider dividing your property into thirds (one third food plots/agriculture, one third woody cover/timber, one third native warm season grasses). To further enhance your property, make sure you divide these thirds up into smaller blocks mixed throughout, which will ultimately hold more doe groups.
2. Instant Pond
If deer have food, water, and cover all within easy reach on your property, they have no reason to really leave. If your couch had unlimited snacks and beverages, would you ever get up? So if water is lacking on your property, consider this hack: Place a square of four logs, railroad ties, etc. and lay a tarp over it. Weigh down the edges with rocks or even staple it to the logs. Rainwater will collect, creating a shallow and temporary pond. If the pool grows algae, that’s actually a bonus! The seminar presenter has witnessed deer preferentially drinking algae water from these pools over natural water sources. Maybe it serves as a type of natural “protein water” for the deer!
3. Shed Dog Training
The Minnesota Deer Classic also included a shed dog competition, and the presenter had some great tips. When first training your new shed dog puppy, try using an antler silhouette to deeply engrain the antler profile in their memory. Simply cut out a one foot long antler shape from a piece of plywood and attach it to a stand. Then continue with your shed dog training.
4. Shed Dog Treats
Don’t use treats as a reward for a retrieve during shed dog training, as they will come to expect it in the field. Instead, rely on verbal praise and affection.
5. No Chew Toys
Don’t let your shed dogs chew antlers as a chew toy, even as a puppy. You may find that one day your dog will find an antler in the woods, only to sit down and happily gnaw instead of retrieve it.
6. Trail Camera Baseline
A trail camera survey on your property is critical for effectively managing your deer herd. Did you know that a camera survey run for only 10-14 days will capture up to 80% of the resident population? If you do a camera survey each year, you can track how buck age changes, buck to doe ratios, or fawn recruitment changes as a result of your management work. If you’re investing money and sweat equity into food plots and habitat work, wouldn’t you want to know if it’s working?
7. Small is Fine
You don’t need a large property to manage deer habitat to “hunt bigger” than it is. Simply get out in the woods and plant conifers or use TSI techniques to thicken the cover habitat. If you create dense conifer hedgerows and thick re-growth areas, you can sneak through your property much easier than if it were all open maple forest. Thus, you’ll have more spots that would work well for hunting stands.
8. Bear Bait Choice
Though it is called the Minnesota Deer Classic, there were also seminars about other types of hunting, including for black bears. When setting up a bear bait station, don’t use foods that are ridiculously sweet (the presenter, Bernie Barringer, used chocolate-covered cherries as an example). Barringer thought they would be a dynamite choice. But it turns out bears are like humans – they can get sick to their stomach from too much sugar, which will cause the bear to stay away from your station. Additionally, don’t use chocolate in your baits, as it may even kill cubs.
9. Throw in the Towel
The presenter noticed over his many years of bear hunting that once wolves or a sow and cubs find your bait station, you might as well give it up. It’s fairly unlikely a bruin will come to that station once it’s been claimed. They tend to avoid competition with other predators, like wolves, and a sow with cubs will just continue to eat all of your bait without presenting a bear you could shoot.
10. Turn in Poachers
For Minnesota hunters, the Turn in Poachers (TIP) hotline is a great way to report poaching of wild game. The program offers up to a $1,000 reward for cases leading to an arrest! We can’t let poachers steal from private landowners and unethically kill the magnificent animals displayed on the Wall of Shame at the Minnesota Deer Classic. Check your state for similar organizations.
11. Barrier Cover
Add more barrier cover (dense conifers, thick re-growth, etc.) to hold more deer on your land. Deer will flock to these areas to hide out in inclement weather. However, these barriers may even be so dense as to hide rival doe groups from encountering each other very often, which will keep more deer on your property.
Thanks to the organizers for another great year at the Minnesota Deer Classic!
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