Author: Emily Courtney
Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of being invited on hunts with friends and colleagues to many different properties throughout the southeast. Most of which have been clubs, camps, or farms that I had either never been to before or was only slightly familiar with. On several of these occasions, this lack of familiarity has left me wandering through the woods in the pre-daylight hours trying to follow directions to find my way to my assigned stand or blind. More times than I’d like to admit, that scenario has stranded this treestand hunter on the ground, settling in at the base of a tree for the duration. It’s a helpless feeling to be, let’s say, “turned around” in unfamiliar woods. Unfortunately, this is a feeling that many new landowners get. Not necessarily that they literally get lost on their new property, (although I’ve known it to happen), but they feel helplessly lost as to how to tackle this new journey they’ve embarked on by becoming a landowner.
If you’re a landowner, most likely you were at peak motivation when you first purchased your property. You waited and saved and dreamed of owning your own piece of ground your entire life, and once you got your hands on it, you couldn’t wait to get started. This is completely understandable and to be expected, but it’s important to take some time to just learn your property before jumping into clearing trails and planting food plots and hanging stands. You can make the most of your property by using the features and flora that naturally occur there. Many wildlife biologists and managers hold to the mantra that we don’t manage wildlife, we manage habitat. I’m inclined to agree. This is why it is so important to get to know the land and the habitat as well as who uses it. Get out there and explore your property, every acre of it. Make notes of what you see. Any wildlife sightings, any plants and trees you can identify (or not). Find and mark all of your boundaries. Know where every road and trail goes. Try to determine how resources are being used, what’s abundant and what’s lacking. I won’t go cliché enough to say leave no stone unturned, but I will say you should know your property like the back of your hand.
Once you know what’s out there, you can better understand how to enhance, improve, change, or supplement it to achieve your goals. Take stock of what is there, and let a professional help you visualize what it can be. By taking into account the resources you’re starting with, you can build a management regime that maximizes the potential of what the land has to offer. Just as I would have much more effective hunts if I took the time to glance at a map, or better yet visit a property in person before hunting it, landowners and managers can create a much more effective management strategy by first getting to know what’s out there.