Deer Camp: Get Dog Days Tasks Done Now
Dr. John Woods 05.31.15
Last May my deer hunting club held its annual corporate meeting as required by the Secretary of State’s office for registered corporations in my home state. Once we get the formal agenda out of the way, we concentrate on the real issues. How to continue to transform our 680 acre holding into a really good deer hunting property?
One thing we know for sure after over twenty years of owning this property that changing a left behind overgrown farm and timberland into a prime deer hunting club is a whole lot easier said than done. We could easily write a book on all the trials and likely produce a reality TV show as well that could rival those duck boys.
“During our annual meeting we try to formulate a work plan that we usually tackle sometime around Labor Day, but we try to start many jobs earlier in the summer to be ahead of the game. We all dread it because the humidity nearly equals the noon temperature on that weekend, but the work has to get done. At least we know all the jobs we can get done early means the more ready deer camp will be and the more time we can dedicate to deer hunting,” says Drew Dulaney, who heads up our partner-owned hunting property.
You may just be involved in a similar situation. So, what we do at our camp might be of interest to you on your place. Maybe you’re just starting out with a new hunting property of your own and are wondering what to do. Perhaps you have owned or leased hunting land for a while, but are just looking for new ideas to improve your deer hunting efforts. We’ll share our ideas with you.
Start with Maintenance
Dog days deer camp jobs in the summer start with regular maintenance tasks. This means mowing the whole place. That can take 2-3 days alone. We only have access to a loaner tractor and bushhog big enough to handle part of our work load, or we pay a local farmer to do the work if none of the owners are available to actually do the work, which is an issue for us. We decided years ago not to buy, own, or maintain equipment if we can rent it or hire it done. It has worked out better for our operation. There are only 6 owners in our case to get everything done, when we can.
We mow the camp yard and trim around four cabins and all of the ATV trails leading to hunting areas and stands. We cut the side ditches of our main roads and trim up other access areas. We created a 100 yard shooting range that has to be cut, too.
As soon as weather conditions are conducive in September or early October, we start planning our food plots for the fall. To date we have laid out sixteen areas each with a hunting stand of some kind. We mow all the food plot ground on each of these sites to keep them from a permanent overgrowth, but we rotate disking and planting active food plots to save money. We have over 40 acres of wildlife food plots on the place.
You may find this an advantageous approach to implementing your food plot strategy. More and more landowners and hunters are discovering the ever increasing costs of doing food plots from preparations to buying seed and fertilizer. Fertilizer prices have escalated by 5+ times over the past ten years. So, maybe pick out just a few areas each season and concentrate on them. Rotating plots will also help to keep deer from patterning your hunting the same areas year after year.
We hire a local farmer to come in to mow, disk, and plant our wildlife food plots. At $35 an hour, it is more cost effective for us to hire some work done. He brings his own equipment, handles buying the seed and fertilizer from the local Co-Op, and plants the plots we mark for him on a camp map. It is a pretty turnkey operation.
We do try to be on site some on the week he works on the plots so we can change up the shape of things or move the planting to one end or the other in a rotational manner. Since our primary shooting houses are fixed, we alternate the actual plots around them to mix it up from season to season.
Check the Stands
Once the camp is whipped back into shape generally, then we focus on all the hunting stands. We have collected quite a variety over the years, and some are getting some age on them. We have shooting houses with roofs, open shooting windows, and bench seats. They vary 6-8 feet high for better visibility. We also have a number of commercial metal tripod stands and ladder stands to double check and maintain.
We check every stand for stability and maintenance issues. Each is cleaned out, bolts tightened, and squeaks oiled. If a tin roof was torn lose by high winds, we nail those down. We check all stairs and ladders. With sixteen stands, this takes a while. A lot can happen to stands during the off season, so never assume they are in fine shape. If you use strap locks on your ladder stands, then replace them every few years. They do deteriorate.
Whatever stands you use or plan to install, they will need maintenance. Maybe some of them need to be moved. From time to time we find certain hunting areas have produced less deer sightings and harvests. We may abandon those sites for a couple years as a sort of “cooling off” period. We don’t have a sanctuary area, but this comes close.
Each of the owners on our place owns a personal cabin or shares one. There is always work to be done around the camp area and the structures. We share the work for major repairs such as plumbing, electrical, or water issues. A general over all cleaning and restocking is always in order. The weedeaters always get a good workout around the camp, the deer cleaning station, and the shooting range.
Plan for the Future
When we have our annual meeting and also during the fall work day, we stop to share a meal and dream a little. It is easy to get lulled into apathy about a hunting property thinking everything is in order and nothing new needs to be added. In reality that is never the case. Every deer club needs both a gotta-do-list and a wanna-do list.
From past brainstorming we came up with the project to build a first class deer skinning rack. It sits on a concrete floor with a covered roof, electric lights, and two electric hoists. We piped water over from the cabins to clean the deer during the skinning process. It was a really good project.
Other projects we completed included a covered shooting bench at the range with a concrete floor as well. We built a downrange target berm to absorb bullets and constructed a target screen to hold targets with clothes pins. It grows over with vines every summer and has to be reclaimed from nature as it were.
It may be hot now, but get some big camp jobs out of the way early. Don’t be the guy who waits until opening day to get the cabin in shape or clean out a favorite hunting stand. Once the essential work is done, then you can spend more time hunting and dreaming during the season. That is the time for fun and fellowship.