The South

Deer managers obviously put in hours of labor trying to make things better for whitetails. What's less frequently talked about is the tremendous benefits received by the person performing all that work—the hunter/manager. That fact isn't lost on Mississippi expert Brad Farris. "I guess I lust love being in the woods as much as I can, and putting in food plot and managing timber is work that I enjoy so much," he says. "It's just part of the total outdoor experience for me."

And while "food plot" and "deer management" are closely linked terms, Farris emphasizes that nutrition is far more than a lush green field. "It's just as important to manage your native browse and mast crops as it is to maintain great food plots," he says. "Food plots won't meet the needs of deer all the time. For example, dewberry is a highly preferred native species for summer whitetails, and we place a lot of emphasis on managing that and other desirable species. Native species are an important part of nutrition."

Farris, a proud member of the Primos hunting team, says an often–overlooked aspect of managing such species is simply that keeping whitetail populations in tune with the habitat. "The only way to accomplish that, when your deer numbers are high, is to shoot enough does," he stresses. "if you're not doing that, the deer will destroy native vegetation and any timber management projects that are going on. We make it a point to harvest a lot of does on any property we think needs it. Naturally, when it's time to haul deer fom the woods and back to camp, the Polaris® RANGER XP® 800 is an ideal vehicle. With a generous cargo box (36.5"L x 54"W x 11.5"H)* that sports a 1,000–pound carrying capacity, there's room for guns, gear and deer.

Timber management is an important part of habitat work, and Farris considers his hunting strategies as he designs cutting plans. "I want deer to have to get up and walk between bed and feeding," he says. "So we keep our cuts off the food source a ways. Also, I want to be able to effectively hunt the prime cover that results after a timber cut. For example, we did a series of six different clear–cuts recently, In each cut, we left a 60–foot corridor in the middle;this allows me to sneak close to, and set up near, bedding areas without disturbing deer. Better yet, bucks love walking these corridors and feel completely comfortable. they get absolutely torn up with rubs and scrapes each fall."

Naturally, food plots are an integral part of Farris's overall scheme, but his approach is somewhat unusual. "I love hopping on a bulldozer and creating small food plots that I situate with prevailing fall winds in mind. I study those prevailing winds, then design plots that will let me hunt from a bunch of different directions. I spend a lot of time prepping the plot, spraying weeds, liming and fertilizing ahead of time so that I can get the most out of my seed. And I've really been impressed with the quality implements available for side–by–Side's recently, you can get a lot of work out of something that people used to think was just for recreation. Polaris® owners know this very well, of course, especially if they use an extreme performing machine like the RANGER XP® 800, which features side–by–side seating for up to three people, a 760cc EFI engine, 12 inches of ground clearance, and an independent rear suspension.

Farris divides his plot into annual and perennial plantings, each with a different intent. "Most of our clover plantings are dual–purpose," he says. "They're obviously great for hunting, but they're also the first green foods source of the spring, when deer really need that. Perennials, which are mainly brassicas, are a late-season mainstay. They produce so much food so fast, and come cold weather, they're just a place deer flock to. We've had more than twenty bucks in a single food plot during the late season. And that's just nothing but exciting."

The benefits of such a careful, thoughtful approach are both tangible and exciting for Farris. "I feel the properties I work on can literally draw deer for miles," he says. "Whitetails are benefitting from getting the best food and habitat in the neighborhood, and they're healthier because of it. And I benefit from having some great hunting. But for me, this has become less about hunting and more about just giving something back. I just enjoy the whole process."

*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

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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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