Archery season is almost upon us, and for ranch owners who love to hunt and have significant acreage to make the pastime possible, it’s time to get the property prepared for the coming season.
Putting in the needed effort now, before you or hunters you allow on your land take to field, can be the difference between a great experience and a failed hunt. Here are some tips for getting your ranch ready for the archery season, and for rifle or upland bird seasons that are also approaching quickly.
Water is vital
Chances are, if your ranch is home to harvestable numbers of game, you have water on the property upon which those animals depend. If you use groundwater to fill ponds or drinkers, make sure the well is working order. Check the pump for any issues, and make sure water flows freely when it’s needed. Game animals ranging from white-tail and mule deer, elk and pronghorns will congregate on habitat that includes a dependable water source.
If your water source is a natural spring or even a creek or a river, ensure that the game can get to the water and that they can feel safe when accessing a water source.
Of course, most ranch owners plant food plots and pasture for the benefit of livestock. But it’s naive to think that only cows, horses and sheep are beneficiaries of healthy food plots. If you’re truly connected to your land, you know that game herds, upland birds and other wildlife use the same pasture as your livestock, particularly if it’s healthy.
One way to prepare food plots for the coming season is to mow it back now to encourage fresh growth that deer, elk and pronghorn enjoy. Simply cut it back, and irrigate it in the weeks leading up to hunting season. You’ll encourage some good habits from these animals that are often motivated by food. This will increase your odds of bagging a trophy buck or bull this season.
If you don’t have a food plot already, consider improving existing pasture grass with other plants that deer, elk and pronghorn love. This may be a project for next spring, but a summer planting of cereal grains like wheat, oats, rye and triticale can carry over into the fall and then really take off next spring. Some ranchers swear by alfalfa and clover, but these crops aren’t always ideal for livestock. Before you go that route, make sure you’re not ruining the crop for your domestic herds in order to make pasture more appealing to wildlife.
Blinds and tree stands
Now is a great time to install blinds on your ranch and, if you have good plots of standing timber, a tree stand or two overlooking obvious game trails can improve your chances for hunting success. Keep a few things in mind, however:
- Know the predominant wind direction on your ranch — you don’t want to build a blind or a tree stand that will put you upwind of your quarry.
- Understand how the game move on your ranch, and, particularly if you’re a bow hunter, place your blind or stand in a location that assures you the best possible target and a dependable kill shot when the time comes.
- Make sure your most dependable target areas are free from debris that might increase the chance of an accident, like hidden rocks, downed timber or other detritus. You want your hunt to be safe and enjoyable, so think ahead when it comes to safety.
Keep traffic down as the season approaches
Deer, elk and pronghorn are naturally skeptical of humans — and for good reason. If you can control traffic on your ranch (and this includes ATV traffic and foot traffic) leading up to hunting season, you’ll instill some security in the minds of the game herds present on your ranch. A few weeks of light traffic — or, better yet, no traffic — will encourage game to move more frequently and increase your chances for hunting success when the time comes.
The final word
Getting prepared now for the coming archery, rifle and upland bird seasons will improve your hunting odds. Additionally, improvements like enhanced food plots and thoughtful placement of blinds and stands can improve the value of your ranch. When land investors who also enjoy hunting look at prospective property, they’ll be more willing to pay top dollar for land that boasts good habitat that encourages the congregation of healthy herds.
Taking care of your ranch isn’t just good for livestock. It’s good for wildlife, and that opens up other revenue options for ranchers interested in income diversity. A ranch that boasts good game habitat could encourage outfitters to lease hunting access to your land, or it could offer up the potential for one day constructing a hunting lodge of your own and welcoming paying guests for hunts in the future.
Getting ready for hunting season this year can also be an investment in the value of your ranch for years to come.