The West

Western states have a well–deserved reputation for producing trophy elk and mule deer. Lesser known, however, are the fine whitetail populations. Colorado is a perfect example of one of these sleeper states, a fact that Brad Peterson knows all too well. "I'm lucky enough to manage a 4,000–acre farm that lies on the South Platte River, and we have some great whitetail hunting here," he says. "And we have some fine mule deer, too. It's like I've got the best of both worlds."

But Peterson faces his share of challenges. "Food plotting is different here than almost any place I read about," he says. "We receive annual rainfalls of about 14", which is less than half of what most people receive each year. We have nice spring rains that last into June. But July and August are not only dry, but very hot. Plus, all the water is privately owned out here; if you don't have water rights, you don't irrigate. It takes some thinking to figure out what to plant and when. Luck and timing are everything out here."

Peterson's food plots consist of one large 300–acre field that's used to feed deer through winter, combined with smaller plots designed to attract deer for hunting purposes. "We plant the large field to strips of corn, milo, and triticale," he says. "And we've found that no–till planting practices are the way to go for us. No–till saves us much–needed soil moisture and conservative topsoil. On our smaller hunting plot, we do a lot of experimenting; we've had good luck with turnips, and we're planning to try some brassicas this year to see how they'll do."

With many food plot hurdles to overcome, Peterson places lots of importances on managing native vegetation to make it attrative to deer. "Fire is one of our most important tools for managing pastures," he says. "We burn every 3–4 years in the spring, which really encourages wild sweet clover and other native species attractive to deer. "Anyone familiar with managed burns knows that proper tools, mobility, and plenty of help are critical to safe and effective burns, a reason that the Polaris® RANGER XP® 800 is the perfect vehicle for the task. And the powerful 760cc EFI engine is capable of handling some of the roughest terrain with ease, and with 12" of ground clearance and independent rear suspension with 9" of travel, the ride is sure to be smooth and comfortable

Pasture managaement takes place in other unique ways on Peterson's property. "We do a lot of noxious weed management through spraying," he notes. "The area had been neglected when we first purchased it, and there was a real problem with thistle, leafy spurge, and pepperweed. We've found spraying to be an effective method for controlling these undesirable species."

Another unique aspect to the property Peterson manages is that cattle are part of the management plan and landscape. "We use rotational grazing to give cattle good forage and stimulus grass growth," he says. "We employ a fast–but–heavy grazing plan that puts animals on a certain pasture for a short amount of time. To accomplish this we need to do a lot of fencing, which helps us manage pastures properly. We also keep cattle out of the river bottoms and keep that corridor thick and attractie to deer. "Fencing and other ranch chores are ideal tasks for the Polaris® RANGER XP® 800, which features a generous cargo box (36.5"L x 54"W x 11.5"H)* that can store all the necessary tools and gear, as well as handle loads of up to 1000 pounds.

Peterson's hard work has resulted in a whiteail and mule deer paradise along the South Platte River. "We've seen up to 100 deer on a single field in late winter," he says. "It makes you feel good that you can feed that many deer at a time of year when they truly need it. In fact, one of our biggest problems is keeping an adequate antlerless harvest."

Naturally, Peterson is proud of some of the bucks his farm produces, too. "We try to get whitetails at least 4½ years old before we harvest them," he notes. And every year we see bucks in that class. It makes me feel good; despite the weather and lack of water, when you see bucks like that living on your place, you feel like you're doing something right."

*Models approved for sale in California are limited to 600lbs. cargo box capacity (rear–payload capacity per CARB classification), and 1,100lbs. total vehicle payload.


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Deer Population by State

It's time to go hunting. Use our Deer Population tool to see where you should go on your next hunting trip!

Weekly QDM Tips

Prep for Winter: One quality many properties lack is an absence of prime winter cover for deer. Plant conifer (evergreen) trees like pine, spruce and fir to provide the thermal cover whitetails love during the cold months. State game agencies usually sell seedlings of such wildlife-friendly trees for a very nominal cost, and they can usually be ordered in bulk quantities.

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