Whitetail housing: The habitat issue affects more than ducks and pheasants
Amidst the low deer numbers debates raging on across the Midwest, a few common themes have emerged. One in particular, I feel, deserves a bit more attention than it’s received, and that involves habitat. We lament the loss of habitat when talking ducks and pheasants, but seem to gloss over it with whitetails.
This is probably due to the fact that whitetails seem to be able to live anywhere, and at least on the surface, don’t appear to be so dependent on quality habitat. While it’s true that they are masters at setting up shop in a wide variety of forests and grasslands, the reality is they do much better with the right habitat.
Take the kind of deciduous forest that appeals to most humans, with its full-trunked oaks and fairly open ground beneath the leafy canopy. This kind of woods will support deer, but if you went through with a chainsaw and felled even 10-percent of the old growth trees you’d see the deer numbers jump quickly. Woods that are thick with browse and cover are harder to hunt and less aesthetically pleasing, but are better for deer populations.
The same goes for a CRP field versus any agricultural field. CRP is phenomenal deer cover, and while a cornfield can also hide plenty of whitetails, it only lasts a short time each year. Year-round cover is a much better option, even if it contains fewer readily available calories than an ag field. Of course, a good mix of cover and food is better yet, but if you’re working with a small chunk of ground that might not be in the cards.
Take a look at your hunting grounds and if you’ve got the chance invest a little sweat equity this spring cutting junk trees and opening up the forest floor to some sunlight, consider it. This might not seem like much, but in these modern times of a somewhat-crashed deer herd, anything will help.