Hunting Your Neighbor’s Ground
The idea of hunting your neighbors ground probably ignites strong feelings for some; especially landowners who have dealt with trespassers, as we have, on a regular basis. I’m certainly not proposing that you trespass onto your neighbors property, however, the first step to closing the distance on a buck this fall is understanding how deer utilize the property you hunt, as well as your neighbor’s. Aerial photographs are an excellent place to start. I use both Google Earth and Bing Maps. While you are at it, head over to www.caltopo.com and access topographical maps for your area as well.
So, why do I suggest that you also consider your neighbors ground? Well, contrary to us humans, the deer obviously aren’t too concerned about boundary lines, and the deer that you are hunting are, at some point, going to be on your neighbors land. This can even be true for landowners that control large tracts of land. Considering how the deer are using all the land within their home ranges (terrain features, food sources, etc.) is an important element in assembling your whitetail puzzle. If there are destination crop fields to the West of your property and desirable bedding to the East. Your property may be a transition area. Considerations need to be made for when and how the deer travel through your property on their way to and from food and bedding and where they are traveling. They may travel low in the early morning hours and at higher elevation through the late morning and midday. You may have to consider a mid morning stand adjustment to keep yourself in the game.
Understanding how deer and why the deer may be utilizing the neighboring properties can help you more strategically place and access stands on the land you hunt. A short, friendly conversation with the neighbor can lead to additional information and cooperation. For example, one of my stands is about 50-60 yards from the neighbors alfalfa field near a terrain feature that I expect will naturally funnel late morning buck activity during the pre-rut cruising phase. To access this spot, I need to walk through a fairly decent portion of woods on the land I hunt. To avoid this problem, I obtained permission from the neighbor to access my stands via the adjacent his alfalfa field just after first light to be sure I am not bumping deer out of the field. This promises to benefit both of us by leaving the majority of the woods untouched and the deer we are both hunting less pressured.
The other reason you need to “hunt” your neighbors ground is that your neighbor may be doing habitat improvement projects that you need to take into account when placing your stands. If there is a large clear cut that is being utilized as a bedding area and it butts up to your property line, there is a good chance that you may find a trail on your side of the fence that skirts this bedding. Determining how the deer are relating to this subtle edge can provide significant shot opportunities. However, there are some considerations to be made for hunting near property lines. The most obvious it to avoid cutting shooting lanes that allow for shots onto your neighbors land. While you can cut whatever trees on your own land that you wish, I think leaving the brush on the property-line side of your stand is a show of good faith and demonstrates that you are only hunting the deer that are traveling on property you have access to. Additionally, whenever possible, I avoid facing my stand toward the property line. Many people wrongly assume the area targeted is that which is in front of the stand. While I often will place stands on the back side of trees to improve cover, when hunting near a property line I take into account how that stand looks to a boundary-walking neighbor. Likewise, I consider how might I feel and what might I assume if the neighbor positioned a stand facing my hunting property.
While you are considering the neighboring habitat improvements, you may also need to be keeping up with the Jones’s. If your neighbor is providing all of the good bedding areas while your timber is mature and lacking in understory, it may be time to consider hinge cutting or logging to bring vital food and cover to the ground level. The property you hunt may still contain trails, rubs and field edge scrapes, however, this sign, when not in relation to a bedding area is usually laid down at night (especially in pressured areas). Conversely, if you have high deer density, and the majority of your property is bedding area, you may have difficulty access evening stand locations without bumping deer from their daytime beds. The deer you are hoping to intercept on their way to your neighbors food source may be inadvertently pushed into deeper security cover and only leave those pockets after dark. Considering stand access and allowing some areas on your property to remain undesirable to deer, for this purpose, can prove beneficial.
The last reason you need to be in tune with your neighbor’s land is that a quick walk of your property boundary can tell you if any of your neighbors have stands close to the line. You need to take this into account when choosing your stand sites. You may need to abandon this part of your property altogether, as you have no control over the scent regimen, frequency of hunting or stand access your neighbor uses. An area that looks hot prior to season can become quickly become cold, due to your neighbors hunting practices. You may be able to manipulate deer movement away from the immediate area through wind-rowing trees, a practice first introduced to me during a tour of North Country Whitetails by habitat specialist Neil Dougherty. Hinging a row of trees across deer trails at an angle can manipulate the deer movement around the windrow and create an artificial funnel. If you are able to do this, you may be able to circumvent the neighbor’s stand in a way that allows you to hunt the deer traveling through the area by redirecting them away from the pressure levied by the adjacent land owner.
In conclusion, just because you can’t access a prime piece of real estate doesn’t mean you can’t fine tune your tactics to allow you to take advantage of situations presented by the dynamics of the neighboring parcels. Becoming familiar with the way deer utilize the property you have access to, while bearing in mind the influence of the nearby property is vital if you want to close the distance on a buck come Fall.