It's getting that time of the year. Bow season is right around the corner. I have put up four new lock-ons on our property where my wife and I bow hunt. It's hard work for a fat boy in July but hey...it's part of the process of year-around deer hunting and I love it.
Each of my lock-ons is in a unique area where I have - for a variety of reasons - decided we could possibly get a shot at a mature buck. There are two brands of stands and 3 brands of ladders / steps. But there is one common element at each stand...safety lines.
Maybe it's being 50 years old or maybe it's the thought of 3 young boys and a wife at home, but whatever the reason, I'm learning to be safer in the woods. I still stomp through waste-high brush with no real concern for snakes and shimmy across rickety limbs and logs to get across a creek. That's probably just because of the nature of my business. But I don't take chances in the deer stand.
The rising popularity of bow hunting has resulted in a mountain of new products, gizmos and do-dads touting their indispensable use to all hunters. I can do without most of that stuff. However, a benefit of this rise in product development has definitely been in the area of safety products. Lifelines, lineman straps and full-body harnesses are by far the most important items on the market in my opinion. These 3 items alone can make all the difference in safely enjoying hunt after hunt...or suffering a disabling or deadly fall.
I used to be bulletproof. And in some instances (like the snakes and creeks mentioned above) I still think I am. But I have a humble opinion of my claim to good fortune when it comes to a Millennium 16 feet up a red oak. I never hang a stand or set of climbing sticks without my harness and lineman's line. Once the stand is installed, I am hooked to a lifeline to trim all the limbs, screw in bow hooks and make any adjustments to the stand. I use the lifeline in ever hunt I make in the stand. My wife skips the stand hanging and limb trimming in July but she, too, is in a full harness with each hunt. The lifelines are inexpensive and so easy to use that I can't imagine a single legitimate reason a bow hunter won't use it. You connect it to your vest while you're on the ground, climb up to your stand (connected to the safety line all the way up). You are safely tethered while in your stand and on your way down the tree when you leave. It's brainless.
I also use a pull line with a simple carabineer at each stand to raise and lower my bow. This way I have nothing in my hands, nor do I have to balance stuff hanging from my arms or shoulders while i'm climbing in and out of the stand. The pull line lets me get the gear in the stand safely once I'm safely seated. How hard is that?
Every new stand I've purchased in the last couple years comes with a full-body harness, tree strap and a safety DVD. Like me, you may prefer a different style harness...OK...there are dozens of varieties on the market. I now prefer the lifeline as opposed to the tree strap so I can be connected the entire time I'm climbing and hunting. These, too, are inexpensive ($20-30 depending on brand) and they all work the same. We have tree straps on each of the 4 ladder stands we use for bow hunting, too. These two-man stands are easier to get in and out of than lock-ons and have plenty of room to stand, but the safety harness and strap still provides an additional level of safety and peace of mind.
You're all big boys and girls. You make your own decisions. I just encourage you to spend the extra few dollars and take the little extra time at each stand to make your hunting as safe as you can. I think your family and friends would appreciate it.
Kill a big one!
- Pat Porter, RecLand ProStaff Founder...but you won't see him on TV!
"Our deer season is twelve months long, but we just shoot 'em in the Fall." I wish I had a new Millennium lock-on for every time I've said that to someone asking me why I'm doing what I'm doing in March or June. To me, deer season, land management and QDMA practices are year-around activities.
I'm writing this as someone who doesn't have a show on the Outdoor Channel or a DVD series for sale at Bass Pro. And no, I don't have thousands of acres in Iowa or Kansas. My wife, three boys and I own and hunt 134 acres in northeast Louisiana. OK...it's in some of the best part of northeast Louisiana as far as whitetail quality and herd size go, but it's still just 134 acres. Some of the things I mention in the rest of this article were also done on the piney woods lease I belonged to a couple years ago, too. The point is that for someone who loves to deer hunt, the activities associated with its enjoyment and enhancement can be done all year long.
My wife, Elizabeth, bow hunts exclusively. Prior to last season, I just bow hunted the first couple weeks then switched to a rifle for the rest of the year. Last year - our first season on our new 134 acres - I decided to stay with my compound all season. We started October 1st and hunted all the way through to the last few days of January. We got this property in June so there was not a lot of time to work on it. We did, however, have a combination of ground blinds, climbers and ladder stands to give us 9 bow sets and 3 planted food plots around the tract. We are on a pretty strict buck management program, so we never came to full draw on a buck. We both let bucks walk that we would have never passed on in the lease we hunted just last year. We shot 5 does...including 1 we couldn't recover.
The first week of February, I had my bow in the shop for new cables and string. I started shooting it the day I picked it up a week or so later. I try to shoot a few arrows 2-3 days a week. I did add a new sight recently, but I've had the same bow for 4 years now. Still, it never made sense to me to have a season come down to one shot that you prepared for by picking up your bow for the first time in September. So, we all try to shoot all year long. Not only does it hone your skill but it helps keep the anticipation level up.
By the end of February, my oldest son and had planted about 70 saw tooth oak tree seedlings along the edges of one existing food plot and two other areas that will be made into food plots. These seedlings were ordered from our state Forestry service for less than $50. The saw tooth oak grows rapidly and can be producing early season acorns in five to seven years. Next February, we'll plant a few more and fertilize the ones we planted this year. I simply marked each seedling with colored flagging so I wouldn't cut them down when I was bush-hogging. So far, 66 of the 70 are living and growing according to green leaves on them.
We also spent a good deal of time walking our property right after bow season ended. The impenetrable thickets were easier to walk though in the dead of winter so we were able to see things we hadn't seen before. Seeing new trails, hookings and bedding areas is not only cool, but it gives great perspective on how the deer actually moved during the season. February and March are great times to see the nooks and crannies of a property. You don't want to do this during the season, of course, and the cool weather and dead foliage make it perfect for walking and looking.
Can I just tell you that for someone who didn't have the privilege of owning land growing up...being able to walk around on your own property and look for - and find! - lots of sheds in late February and March is just plain awesome! I found a huge pile of bones this year. I enjoy shed hunting just about as much as hunting them on the hoof. And prior to this year, my shed hunting had always been with friends on their property or just finding them on the land we looked at in our business. My boys were able to find a few, too. We have them in various piles at our camp. I kept game cameras out through March just to monitor how long the bucks were keeping their antlers. We saw them until about mid-March.
Staying in a deer hunting mind-set and walking the property in March and April allowed me to take a look at possible locations for new bow sets. Seeing a tract in the lush summer foliage and then seeing it when everything is dead and brown is like night and day. I was able to decide that I needed to move a couple stands and put up a couple more in different areas to take advantage of what I'd learned from hunting hard for four months then seeing the playing field after the game.
Our property has the benefit of being loaded with quality vegetation for the deer as well as being located in the heart of a nutrient rich agricultural area. Our deer have plenty of spring and summer forage and browse. The didn't really need my Spring food plots but I planted two anyway in late April. Part of the reason was so I could get this ground in a little better shape for my Fall/Winter plots. I plan to have five or six food plots this Fall. Our plots are relatively small...an acre is the biggest. I prefer small food plots anyway...with lots of edge...and just bow hunting makes this seem like the right way to do it for us. We have several mineral licks that I have created at old stumps that we keep freshened up all Spring and Summer, too.
As the property dried out after a wet Spring, I was able to smooth out our roads, move fallen trees and limbs and bush-hog the roads and trails in May and June. We also started putting out the game cameras in June to catch the bucks growing antlers. It's mid-July at the writing of this article and there are four cameras out now. We've seen some good bucks already so I know the cameras will be worth checking.
We've put up two new bow sets so far and I've cleared limbs on a tree where I will hang another lock-on this week. I have already scouted a couple new places for ground blinds near two new food plots I'll plant this Fall. My twelve year old son will start bow hunting this year and those ground blinds are a great way for him to start learning. His mom and I have killed deer from the ground blinds so I know they are effective if they're brushed in well to help break up the outline. We have a lot of deer - and black bear - on our property so he'll definitely enjoy the show at ground level this Fall.
Looking for fawns and picking and eating dewberries is just something everybody ought to do if they can. My seven year old son is a pro at both. We ride and look...or walk and look. Sometimes we're just out there checking the mineral licks or just making up a reason to be out there. Having the BB gun or .22 with us is just part of it. Though my wife and I are the serious bow hunters - and the oldest son will start this Fall - we are all out there all year long just looking and learning and trying to be grateful for what we have.
I'll try to have all our bow sets in place and ready by the first part of August...all the trees stands...not the ground blinds. We have four box stands that are for rifle hunting for some guests that we'll have out there a few times during the year. We'll get these cleaned out as needed. I just want to get it all done so I can focus on the food plots in September. I'll get two or three ground blinds in place and brushed in when I get the food plots done. A long four month bow season will require that I have to "freshen up" the brushing on those blinds but having them in place when deer start using the food plots seems to help them get used to them.
This Fall's food plots will include one pure clover stand and the rest an oat/cowpea/clover mix. Having the clover in place for the late Winter/early Spring is important to help the bucks recover their body weight lost during our late season rut. I'm not a biologist but I do know that three ingredients for maximizing antler growth are age, genetics and nutrition. We can control the age factor by letting them walk until they are 4 1/2 or 5 1/2 years old. We have terrific genetics in this region of the Mississippi Alluvial Basin. We can supplement the nutrition by having high protein clovers on the ground for them once the season is over. My Fall / Winter food plots are not only harvest plots for hunting season but nutrition plots for that period of time between the end of the season and the time when the browse and forage have "greened up."
Once deer season starts we try to have as little impact on the tract as we can. We park our truck at a common area gate about a mile away and ride a Polaris to the property line. We try to walk in to our various stands as quietly as possible. We've spent a lot of time and effort to get ready for this time of the year.
We're fortunate in that we can spend a large number of days in a bow stand. We homeschool the boys. And while my work running a couple of real estate companies is demanding, a lot of it can be managed from an Iphone and Ipad. We hunt hard from October 1 to the end of January. We will see lots of deer...see some bucks we can't believe we're passing on, hopefully get a shot or two at some does...and if that shooter gets in range...!!! Anyway, we hunt to shoot 'em in Fall but our season runs for twelve months. It's the sheds in March, hanging from a lineman's rope to put up a lock-on in July and watching the oats pop through the ground in September that really make deer hunting what it is for us. If killing one in October was all I had to look forward to, I think I'd find something else to do.
Whether you own or lease; whether it's a big place or a forty; whether it's in Buffalo county Wisconsin or Caldwell parish, Louisiana...make the most of your deer "season" by lengthening it to include year-around elements for success, enjoyment and strengthening the existing herd.
- Pat Porter, RecLand ProStaff Founder...but you won't see him on TV!
Are BMPs for You?
What are BMPs? Best Management Practices are proactive methods or practices that have been determined to be both effective and practicable and used during forest management activities to prevent or reduce the amount of pollution by non-point sources to water quality while achieving related goals to silviculture, wildlife, biodiversity, aesthetics and/or recreation.
The following chart (Smallidge & Goff 1998) shows some various categories of BMPs and goals related to each of those categories.
BMPs can be divided into separate categories that relate to specific, if somewhat subjective goals. Goals specify the outcome of forest management activities associated with each category of BMP
wildlife and biodiversity
Obviously, these practices will vary widely by region and state and actual implementation will be determined by many variables/constraints such as the biological and physical characteristics of a forest stand. These characteristics include topography, soil type, timber type and density, distance to water body or water source, etc. Other variables/constraints may include stewardship and financial interests of the landowner.
The key word in the previous definition is proactive. Being proactive simply means planning ahead. Using the BMP handouts published by your state or consulting with a professional forester to pre plan any forest management activity is the first step in the process of implementing the proper Best Management Practices.
Timber harvesting or logging is the forest management practice most associated with BMPs. This is where planning is vital. For example, since in-woods rutting during a harvest operation is a major contributor to soil disturbance and erosion, the soil types that are present should be identified in advance. It can then be decided whether harvesting can be done during wet conditions or whether it is a dry weather tract only. The Sale layout (where the timber will be cut) is another major factor in planning harvest operations. The sale layout should include such things as: identifying, delineating and mapping tract boundaries, specific harvest areas, special sites if applicable, Streamside Management Zones (SMZs), logging/haul roads, sets/loading deck locations, etc.
Let’s use SMZs for a quick look at what could be considered on just one major factor…
SMZs: Can you avoid crossing them with skid trails and logging equipment during your operation? If SMZs must be crossed, identify each logical crossing location, determine adequate or acceptable crossing methods and plan how those crossings will be treated after harvesting is completed.
Another example of an area for careful planning is deciding if building/pushing new roads is needed. Consideration should be given on where the road is located based on soil type, topography, will the road be a temporary or permanent and whether or not it will cross any streams. If stream crossings are unavoidable, the same, if not more planning and care should be taken as with the in-woods crossing on skid trails. There are several BMPs that should be used to stabilize the roads after the harvesting is complete such as water diversion devices like water bars, rolling dips, wing ditches, silt screen or seeding. These should be used whether the roads are new or existing. If this is not done then all the pre planning was for naught. By planning and effectively implementing the proper BMPs the likelihood of preventing and controlling nonpoint source pollutions is greatly increased.
An obviously important factor to the effectiveness of BMPs associated with timber harvesting is the actual contractor doing the logging. This is where having a forester that has worked with several local contractors can be critical. If you prefer to manage the operation yourself then do your homework and get as much information about potential logging contractors as possible. I know that Louisiana and Texas have training programs available to logging contractors that specifically teach and train them in BMPs. You can find lists of these trained loggers on the state forest service websites or the Texas or Louisiana Forestry Association websites. For Louisiana these trained loggers are referred to as Master Loggers and in Texas they are Pro Loggers.
This brief article is simply a quick and general overview of what Best Management Practices are, how they are used and why they are important. While in most states these practices are voluntary and the law does not require the use of them, forest certification programs driven by market demand has elevated the awareness and implementation of BMPs. These certification programs require that individual landowners, timber investment management organizations and/or corporations participating either meet or exceed the recommended BMPs for each state where they own timberland or operate a manufacturing facility. Whether or not you are required by law or by participation in a certification program, we as foresters and land managers strongly encourage that you implement BMPs whenever you conduct forestry activities. First and foremost it’s the right thing to do for the protection, conservation and overall health of our environment. Secondly, it goes a long way in public relations, personal impressions and general acceptance of forestry activities as a whole. And if you are a landowner with money invested in timber, the forestry industry is an important part of the equation for the overall value of your land.
Most states have some available material describing their own Best Management Practices and any regulations associated with those practices. This material will give recommendations, definitions and describe in detail the implementation of specific practices and procedures. In most cases their BMP manuals are available in both hard copy and digital form. See the links below to review the Best Management Practices manuals for both Texas and Louisiana. Other links are provided for the TFA and LFA websites for lists of trained loggers and other landowner information.
- Brandon White is a consulting forester and a licensed real estate professional for RecLand Realty in Jasper, TX. Click HERE for his contact information.
10th Biennial Longleaf Conference,
Sponge Palmer, our agent in Mandeville, LA, has officially announced his engagement to Allison Lee!
RecLand added two new LA agents today.
Lee Denny is a business man and land owner from Lake Providence, LA.
Kirk Scriber is a business man in Mandeville, LA with ties to the Pine Bluff, AR area.
Their information is on our contact page.
Some tracts can sell with a single phone call just because they are that desirable or - like quality farmland - just in big demand. But let's be honest - most land needs a period of time on the market to find the right buyer for the right price. If it's cheap enough, it'll sell. If it's in big demand, it'll sell. But what can you do if your tract is not in those two fast-moving categories? Let's consider a few steps that can help.
None of these are a silver bullet solution to your land selling immediately, but taking care of some of these items will certainly make your tract more desirable to buyers who are becoming more and more discriminating.
1. Decide if you really want to sell. This seems simple enough but you'd be surprised at the number of owners who call a land agent, spend all day showing him the property and completing the paperwork to list the tract. They spend weeks fielding phone calls and emails from the listing agent with questions and offers from potential buyers...only to still be wondering if they really want to sell it. This situation is usually the real meaning behind the statement "If it sells, it sells...if it doesn't, it doesn't." It's common for people to be in a position to not have to sell a piece a property - and that's a good position to be in. But an owner needs to make a decision that the property has a price and if he gets that price he'll sell. Or if she gets an offer close to it, she really needs to think it through. That old saying "the first offer is often the best offer" is true more times than not. Being uncertain about your intentions to sell can cost you money.
2. Make a good first impression. If you were buying a house, the last thing you'd want to see is the current owner's dirty clothes in the middle of the floor, a sink full of dishes or a car on blocks in the front yard. Those don't make a positive impact on a buyer when he shows up to look. Well, neither does a gate that won't swing open, roads that haven't been bush-hogged all summer or piles of trash and old appliances scattered around just off the main road. A little cleaning up and clipping the roads goes a long way in making a good first impression.
Just like a lived in home will have dings and battle scars, so will your land. No one expects it to be perfect. But take a look around and see what can be done to simply give it a fresher look. Hiring someone for a couple hundred dollars to simply bush hog the roads and trails in early summer could have a big impact on the buyers your land agent brings to see your property.
3. Eliminate the problems buyers don't want to inherit. That property line dispute you've had with Joe may seem like a little annoyance to you, but any new buyer will likely see it as a potential landmine he'd prefer to avoid. He'll just go buy something else. There are a whole list of issues that may be things we don't want to tackle, but most recreational land buyers are not looking for more problems...especially ones they may pay $2500 / acre for! They just want a nice place to hunt and bring their family and friends. Those issues need to be corrected before your property goes on the market. Here is a list of common problems that don't pass along very well:
No Legal Access - Most buyers avoid this situation like the plague. Talk to someone to guide you on getting the access you've always used made official and recorded in the courthouse. This step will likely cost you some money and some time, but it will make your property more valuable. It will also help sell it in a reasonable time period. If you can't secure legal access then be prepared to price the property accordingly.
Boundary Line Disputes or Uncertainty - People want to know where the lines are when they look at a tract. They want to see the corners marked. Get some prices and consider having a survey done. A survey will also clear up acreage issues that may come up prior to a sale that would cause delays or even a blown deal. If you have good corners, you can also hire a forester to lay in your lines. He can paint the lines or just simply flag them. You could go back and paint the flagged lines. Boundary disputes will come up with a serious buyer and a good land agent. It will get discovered and likely ruin the deal. Talk to your attorney and make a plan to get a permanent resolution to it.
Unopened Successions or Partial Interests - You have to have good title to be able to sell your land to most buyers. Unless buyers are familiar with partial interests, or you're selling it well below market value or you're selling interests in a larger tract (like a hunting club) you're wasting your time trying to sell an undivided share to the general market place of buyers. Property you inherited from a family member may be "yours" in sentiment, but it's not yours in title until the succession is complete and the judgment of possession names you as successor in title. Be sure that family property you have is 100% yours in title before you try to market it for full price.
Encroachments - If you know that your neighbor's barn is across the property line, get it resolved. There are also ways to manage encroachments so as not to allow it to become a form of adverse possession (where possession leads to ownership) over time. Sometimes encroachments can carry over to new owners with no real issues if they've been managed properly. Deal with it today so it's not a bigger problem tomorrow.
These are a few of the major issues that must be handled prior to putting your land on the market - and not just put off on new buyers - if you want the best price in the quickest reasonable time.
4. Roads, Trails & Crossings. Your tract may be drop dead beautiful down by that cypress slough, but if we can't get buyers down there to it...well, you get the point. Sellers will typically underestimate the value in passable roads, trails and creek crossings. But buyers notice them, or lack of them, right away. And they put more value on them being there than it usually will cost to put them there. Most buyers don't want to pay $450,000 for a project. They want to be able to close at 11:00 a.m. and be riding their 4-wheeler on the place before dark. You and I know that a decent dozer operator can cut a lot of trails for $100/hr. over a couple days and that a 36"' culvert can get us across that creek in the back, but most buyers don't solve that problem themselves. If you invested the time and/or money to get some of this done, you'd be half way to selling the tract before the buyer even shows up. Don't think that you need all-weather rock roads everywhere. Sometimes just 4-wheelers trails, bush-hogged and 1 and a 1/2 or 2 dozer blades wide, is enough to get around the tract and show off the highlights. Make the roads and crossings fit the type tract it is and the price you want to ask for it.
5. Price it Right. One of RecLand's best agents says this almost daily..."If no one's calling about it (your land) it's priced too high." He's right. However, all the high-roller action in the farm land market, pie-in-the-sky promises from weak land agents and what "land is selling for in________" (fill in your own unreasonable comparative area here) causes some people to expect the sun, moon and the stars for their 40 acre land-locked cutover. In our region of the country, if it's priced right - not under-priced! - but priced right, it will get some attention, some calls and will sell in a reasonable time.
Sometimes a buyer with different motivations will pay way more than typical market value for a tract. But that's not the norm. And waiting for that buyer to come along will likely cost you time and money in lost opportunity.
Get a good idea of what the market value of your tract is in a range. I'd rather hear someone say a tract will probably sell in the $1400-$1600 / acre range than try to hit the bull's eye with "I'll get you $1450 / ac for it." He doesn't know that for sure unless he already has a deal in mind and may be leaving some money on the table by not giving it some time on the market. The range of market value, when exposed for a period of time to many land buyers, lets you price it a little above the top of the range. This lets serious buyers know you are for real and presents the opportunity to get at or near the top of the range if it's a desirable place. When you get offers in the range, you can feel confident in making a selling decision knowing you're selling it for what it's worth.
Sometimes a property has enough uniqueness to it that we are not certain where the market values it. Or a seller insists on a much higher asking price than we recommend. In these cases we have strategies to help accommodate unusually high asking prices in order to meet the demands of the tract and still try to get it sold in a reasonable time.
Don't fall into the "Let's ask (sun, moon & stars) for it and see if someone will pay it." This is a bad idea if your goal is to sell the place for its real market value. Serious buyers will just avoid your listing believing that they'd be wasting their time doing any due diligence or trying to deal with that seller. They'll go look at more reasonable deals.
Every real estate company has overpriced listings. It's impossible to completely avoid. Have a reasonable idea of actual market value and what your selling goal is regarding time frame. Then price your tract accordingly.
Good land agents will guide you through the items listed here - and others that are relevant to your particular tract - to help you get the most money you can within the quickest reasonable time frame. These items have made this list because they've been discovered through many land showings and deals made. Give yours tract the edge it needs in a competitive market by doing the extras that will set it apart from the rest.
- Pat Porter