Last month, we discussed the critical importance of investing time and money in establishing spring and summer food plots plus advocating springtime habitat alteration projects. Remember these are critical growth months for young fawns, nursing does and regeneration of new antlers for bucks. These spring plots go a long way toward supplying high-quality nutrition to help the deer put on weight grow strong. It's also the best time to get other work completed on the hunting property as well.

However, summer plots demand additional care and maintenance to maximize the quantity and quality of these supplemental plantings. But it doesn't end there either. Other tasks should be accomplished to maintain and enhance the entire whitetail habitat to make it productive through the hot and often dry summer then into the pre-fall plot months.


Summer habitat assessment

"Far too often hunting land managers and deer hunters either don't plant summer plots or they just walk away at the end of last season's closing date and don't show up again until they get ready to work up new fall plots," says Chris Clifton of Madison, who manages more than 1,000 acres in Hinds County. "This is only half of any realistic quality deer management plan at least from a habitat standpoint. Maintaining quality deer habitat means developing a year-around plan and working it all year long."

First on the agenda is either a mental or physical review of the property. Certainly it is assumed that hunters who own their property know it like the backs of their hands and likewise should have a sense of what work needs to be done to maintain quality deer habitat. Others who lease hunting lands or belong to club with numerous members may have to work at this a little harder.

Get out the topographic maps and aerial photos one more time for a general overview of the property layout. Note the locations of all the established food plots, ATV trails, other roads, buffered timber zones, riparian areas, streams, ponds, camping or staging areas, creek crossings, deer travel funnels and spots where shooting houses or other open-area hunting stands are positioned. All of these areas may need some kind of summer maintenance attention.

Set a priority work project list considering the available time, expenses involved and the potential for getting help. This is an advantage for a club with numerous members, but may be tougher on a landowner trying to go it alone. Even then, manageable projects can be selected, and certainly anything that can be done will enhance the habitat at some level.


Regular work projects

Have you ever visited an outfitter's hunting camp where everything looked like it was groomed and kept up like some kind of exotic garden? Some farms and private hunting lands are like that, too. All the turn rows around every crop field are mowed, unplanted or layover plots are kept disked, mowed or sprayed with herbicides. Roads are kept up, ditches cleared, areas around out buildings are neat and timberland edges are maintained as well. There is a reason.

Now this may sound like it's going overboard to do all these things, but all of these projects help maintain a hunting habitat in top condition. Select cleared pathways also offer deer well-used travel routes they will use frequently again during the hunting season. Mowing, disking and spraying will knock back profuse weed growth, thus reducing high-cost labor and fuel later to do extensive prep to all these areas prior to hunting season. It's smarter to do some work projects along the way during the summer just to keep ahead of everything.

"We were guilty of basic habitat neglect I guess," said Shawn Perry, a landowner in Northern Holmes County along the Big Black River. "After the season was over, we just let Mother Nature take the place back over until fall. Then it was twice as hard and a lot more costly to get it all back in shape. We learned it the hard way, and I sure don't recommend doing nothing all summer long if your goal is to maintain top notch white-tailed deer habitat."

If you find yourself limited by time and resources, just pick the very top-priority items. If I made those choices, it would be maintaining via mowing or spraying the perimeters around prime food plots. If unplanted, then mow it all at least once in the summer or use a wholesale application of herbicide to maintain weed control.

Ditto on cutting main hunting land roadways, access trails and forest roads. Note downed trees or limbs that need to be cut up into camp firewood and removed. Mow roadside ditches, around the edges of dried-up duck ponds, corners and funnels between varying types of habitats. Check fencing, posted signs, gate or cable maintenance and camp areas to give a sense of owner presence. Pick a few bigger projects with some smaller ones mixed in. Pace yourself.

For the really dedicated deer hunters and land managers, the summer time months are not the time to slack off work. Quality deer lands simply demand some basic maintenance work to be performed at different times all year long.