Editor’s Note: Where deer hunters hunt has changed drastically in the last several years.

By: John E. Phillips

By: John E. Phillips

Every deer hunter’s dream is having quality private land for him and his family to hunt and manage. In many states, when you look for a big piece of property to lease, if that property has an abundance of deer and turkey, the lease price is outrageous. When longtime deer hunter Vic Thayer Jr., of Bartlett, Tennessee, started riding the roads and knocking on doors to locate hunting lands, he came upon one landowner who said, “I’ve got all my property leased, except the small 20 acres right behind my house. You’re welcome to go take a look and see if it’s a piece you may want to lease.” This point in time was when Vic Thayer’s deer-hunting strategies changed.

Thayer compares his hunting strategy to his bass-fishing strategy. “If you’re looking for a big bass in a big lake, your chances of finding him are extremely small. However, if you want to take a big bass in a 1/ 4-acre pond, your chances are much better for catching that bass. The same is true for deer hunting. If you’re hunting several thousand acres, a mature buck can be anywhere on that property. He has plenty of room to dodge you. But, if you’re hunting a property of less than 30 acres in size, you’ll know every deer trail, each fence row and every ditch crossing. You can know how the deer are moving through that region at what time of day or night. You can inventory your bucks and does much quicker. I actually think that locating and taking big bucks on small properties is easier than pinpointing big bucks on large properties.


“Both small properties I hunt – the 20-acre and the 30-acre ones – are adjacent to bedding areas or are bedding areas. Or, they may have small fingers of hardwoods in them surrounded by crop lands that I’m sure many hunters will assume are too thick to hunt. Another thing I’ve learned. When most hunters think about leasing land to hunt, they usually try to find 6 to 10 other hunters to join the lease with them. Often, these hunters know they will need at least 100 to possibly 500 acres of land to convince people to join their lease. Very few hunters try to lease small properties for their own private little place to hunt or for themselves and their family members to hunt. Once I find these little woodlots and bedding areas, I know that even though they may hold older-age-class bucks, hunters will rarely, if ever, lease these properties. Most of these little places may not ever have been hunted.”


Thayer also mentions that when looking for little acreages with big bucks, you need to identify small places adjacent to large hunting clubs, because hunting clubs with several members will be applying hunting pressure all around the little properties. The older-age-class bucks will be the first bucks to move into the small sanctuaries, when they feel hunting pressure from the big clubs that surround these small sanctuaries. “The older-age-class bucks will remain in these safe havens, feeding in the agricultural fields or the big woods at night, except perhaps during the rut,” Thayer explains. “Then they may leave these sanctuaries to chase does. I hunt my small woodlots very few days during the hunting season, so they’ll remain sanctuaries for older-age-class bucks.”


Be sure to look for our next installment of Knowing The Wisdom of Hunting Small Properties with Vic Thayer, Jr. – Thayer Studies How Deer Use Small Lands.


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