Creating sites for food plots, clearing vegetation to or near stands and making your deer hunting areas better doesn’t require a lot of money or loads of equipment.
For the last few years my main hunting property was a hardwood tract with too much leaf litter, rocks and boulders, and poor soils that I never figured could grow anything other than the existing trees unless serious work was done.
By serious, I mean cutting the timber to create openings and then working your butt off to clear out rocks and stumps. But the landowner had checked into having the timber cut and it wasn’t financially viable. Besides, I honestly didn’t want to see those gorgeous hardwoods cut but it wasn’t my land or my decision.
So, I had to make the best of what I had inasmuch as tools and equipment. That meant, basically, nothing. I don’t have an ATV or side-by-side. I don’t have tractors or plows. They would be nice to have, but such is life.
What I have is what a lot of Joe Everyday Hunter has: hands, tools, limited money and determination. About a year ago I wanted to see if I could grow a few very small kill plots in the woods. These wouldn’t be the lush, gorgeous ankle- or knee-deep food plots like you see in magazines or TV shows. And they wouldn’t even be “food plots,” because my main objective was to get a deer to stop there long enough for me to kill it.
This would require some sweat equity and something that would grow easily in limited sun. For the latter I used Evolved Harvest Easy Plot, which even says “No Equipment Required” on the bag. They’re right. With nothing but a yard rake, sweat and time, I raked out three areas, scattered the seed and hoped. My hopes paid off with emerald green patches that deer visited.
Another thing I did was create clear, leaf-free paths to different stand sites. To me this is time well spent and worth the effort. Yes, you may get some leaves on the trails in autumn after they fall. But the paths I created stayed relatively leaf-free, which allowed me to walk more quietly to my spots. If you have time and can do it, I recommend it.
You don’t need a ton of equipment that costs a lot, either. Some of my items below I have purchased at Lowe’s and Dollar General stores. Others I’ve had for a while. Be sure to get some good gloves, too, so you can avoid blisters. They don’t feel good.
These are great for removing leaves, obviously, for trails, kill plots, ground blind areas and around existing stands. One of the blinds where I hunted was elevated about 3-4 feet. Leaves piled up underneath along with brush. Another was literally tin and 2x4s, on the ground. The rake was nice to have to make sure there were no snakes under or around them.
Super for turning the ground for mineral licks, digging holes for mock scrapes and licking branches and severing the heads of copperheaded rattle moccasins. You may also find some kind of flowers or shrubs to dig up and bring home to make your wife happy.
Sprayer and Herbicide
When you need vegetation killed, it’s tough to beat a good sprayer and something like Roundup. Follow directions, get rid of vegetation, be done with it.
Yes, fire. This is nature’s way of purging and replenishing, and yet 100 or so years ago we got into this Smokey Bear mentality of protecting everything. Bah. Fire is good when it is controlled and used at the right time. Many state wildlife agencies offer public courses on prescribed burning; find one, or find a certified burner to help. It can pay off.
Doesn’t matter to me what you use, but I like having some cold beverages in my Yeti Tundra 35 in the truck when I’m done. If I’m going into the woods then I may tote a few on ice in the Hopper 2 and head out. The way the Hopper 2 is designed makes it easier to carry and it keeps goodies cold for when you’re sweating your butt off and need a break.
A couple of summers ago the guy who lives near my hunting tract asked if I’d seen any rattlesnakes and then said, “There’s some shor’enuff grandaddy snakes up there.” Yikes! Having a Taurus Judge or Public Defender revolver loaded with .410 bore shells can easily dispatch a buzzworm if necessary.
Throw and Grow Seed
The aforementioned Evolved Harvest Easy Plot worked great for me, and I’ve tried it again on another tract to see if anything shows up. This tract has fewer deer but I’m hopeful. Select your own “no equipment needed” seed combo if you have a favorite, or create your own with assistance from someone at your local co-op. If you’re on a budget and want a few small plots on marginal soil, this may be your best option.
When you need to cut trails, limbs around stands or get other woody things removed, it’s great to have saws that get the job done easily. Hooyman’s electric pole saws extend so you can reach and trim limbs safely. The hand saws are compact, lightweight and zip through limbs and saplings. I have a couple and a couple of Gerber saws in my packs and truck.
MTM Case-Gard Ammo Crates
Ever had one of those moments in the woods when Ma Nature made an urgent call? That’s when you might need some dry toilet paper or wet wipes. Whether you’re working in summer and have a box of gear in your truck or are hunting and need a dry storage box, a few of the MTM Case-Gard ammo boxes or their other boxes for gear are worth their weight. Stock them with TP, wipes, tools, zip ties or whatever.
Weed Whacker and Leaf Blower
Three years ago one of the best purchases I ever made was a Stihl power blower. Combined with my weed whacker, these two gas-powered tools are fantastic in the woods. Why? Because I can cut trails through vegetation to the ground if need be and then blow the path clear. I don’t worry about noise in summer months ahead of the season. One thing I also do is walk through quickly with my rake to make the paths I want for different access to stands, based on wind, and then go back with the power blower to make it clean. Sounds crazy, but I think it helps.
I’m still amazed at the number of people who ask, “Do these really work?” Yes, the Thermacell units really work and they’re great. Yes, they’re worth the cost. No, I don’t believe whatever minimal scent is on the repellent pad can be detected by deer enough to scare them away. Besides, if they smell a little Thermacell then you’re probably already in deep trouble anyway. The larger Thermacell units with the lights are great for ground and box blinds, too.
Wear the Right Clothing
Last year I went on a late summer squirrel hunt in Illinois and got absolutely destroyed by stickers, burrs and other plants that stuck to my shirt and pants. They even got on my cap. It was so bad that I just threw the shirt away because I couldn’t get them all off.
Shortly after that I got some Rocky Venator Burr-Reistant Pants and haven’t had to worry about them since. I’ve worn them hunting for deer, raccoons, squirrels and rabbits, along with work days, and nothing sticks. When it’s cooler I may opt for some Carhartt gear, along with my LaCrosse snake boots almost year-round.
Have you ever used a machete in the woods for hacking through vines, brush or privet (aka, the Scourge of the South)? A good machete with a keen edge can be quite useful alongside hedge trimmers or limb cutters. It may sound goofy but a machete is a good investment. Trust me.
These tools and things make me a better hunter because I get my work done more efficiently, comfortably and can create things for access and hunting during the season. These may not all be up your alley but they work for me and I think some of them can help you, too.