Wildlife Management for Your Homestead

Learn how to attract wildlife to your property with food plots and more.

| January/February 2015

  • A food plot for wildlife management, like this field of clover, brings joy to observers.
    Photo by Paul Rezendes
  • Gritty on the tractor.
    Photo by Brad Anderson Illustration
  • Disking is one option to get rid of weeds and scrub brush for a wildlife food plot and for those who don’t wish to use chemicals.
    Photo by Linda Freshwaters Arndt
  • Burning grass helps clear the way for some food plot varieties like sorghum and beans.
    Photo by iStockphoto.com/tbgrant
  • Establishing a permanent water source will irrigate surrounding plant life while attracting animals. Mallard drakes are a favorite target of duck hunters throughout the United States.
    Photo by Fotolia/Saharrr
  • A covey of bobwhite quail stop for water – a crucial element to attract wildlife.
    Photo by Stephen Goodman
  • Lush foliage and cover makes for a nice food plot for deer. This will entice deer to hang around, which makes for better hunting grounds.
    Photo by AKM Images/Brady Beck
  • Upland game birds are beautiful to watch. The spruce grouse inhabits coniferous forests in much of Canada and the northern United States.
    Photo by AKM Images/Raymond James Barlow

Managing your land for wildlife can provide you with an opportunity to increase the carrying capacity and concentration of wildlife on your property. Whether your passion is hunting, photography or simply observing nature, there are several things you can do — without spending a lot of money — that will make your land more attractive to everything from butterflies to whitetail deer.

Providing nourishment

To make your property more attractive to wildlife, there are several different components that need to be addressed. One of the most common practices is to create food plots, an excellent way to provide a supplemental food source for wildlife. Food plots are definitely a piece to the puzzle, but without good natural habitat providing suitable shelter, food and water, you may be wasting your time and money.

The popularity of food plots has increased dramatically over the last 10 or 15 years. New companies are dedicated to providing seed, equipment and implements to help establish and maintain food plots. Hunting and rural lifestyle magazines are a good source of information on products that will help turn an old worn-out hayfield into a wildlife mecca.

While it may sound like establishing a food plot will be expensive, depending on your goals and the types of food plots you want to develop, costs can be relatively inexpensive. It would also provide an opportunity for a family or community project.


Creating a habitat suitable for wildlife can be achieved by selectively clearing areas of old-growth woods and brush to allow for new growth. Hand cutting, mowing, disking and burning help renew and reshape an overgrown plot. Planting fruit and mast shrubs and trees will help provide protection and serve as additional food sources. Mast varieties including wild plums, crab-apples and chokecherry, or trees such as hazel and oak are good selections depending on your location. Your local Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) and your state university extension services are great resources for information to determine varieties of trees and shrubs that are best suited to your local environment.

Water sources

If wildlife will need to travel great distances to find water, the odds are greatly reduced that they will return or remain nearby. Improving existing water sources on your land — whether it’s permanent or a result of seasonal runoff — will help attract and sustain a variety of wildlife.

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