The Deer and the Dirt

Doing the right things for the soil and for wildlife is the main goal, the side effects of greater numbers and better bucks is just an added bonus.

When we purchased our first property, 12 years ago, the main intent was to use it for hunting whitetails. We didn’t know what that would fully entail and how we would become engulfed in the chase until a few years went by. That’s when you start to fully understand the property and have already learned through trial and error. Sometimes, it takes more time to really hit a stride and get comfortable with your role on the property. This is where we are today, pulling away from conventional farming practices to implement regenerative agriculture.

Now, this is not to say conventional agriculture practices are wrong – we used those techniques for years on our property and had great success. The main reason for the switch accompanied a yearning to understand the land and grow into the role of conversationist, instead of just hunter/landowner. Here are the three main reasons why we dove into regenerative agriculture practices.

1. Improving Soil and Deer Herd Health

Just when you think things are cruising like they should, you become educated on another level; this is exactly what happened for us. Hearing how connected wildlife is with the soil and how they cohabitate with each other brought on questions of what we can do to maximize this relationship. The biggest part of regenerative agriculture for the soil is the wide range of seeds being planted at one time; a mix of legumes, broadleaves, grasses and brassicas. The diverse seed mixes are doing two things – some of the seeds are fixing nitrogen, taking it out of the air and putting it into the soil, while other plants are pulling that nitrogen out of the soil to grow. At the same time, the diverse seed mix is providing living roots all the time in the soil; which is key to mycorrhizal growth. This is a fungi that mines nutrients unavailable to a plant’s root and gives them to the plant in return for sugar. (Not to get too technical, we are definitely not scientists.)

This is the reason we no longer need to do commercial fertilization on our property. We are helping the plants create their own fertilizer. So, you’re asking – where do the deer play into this process? Through research, we’ve heard how deer will seek out food sources that have been grown with natural inputs. These natural inputs would be the abundance of natural forming nitrogen with the lack of chemicals and commercial fertilizers. We have not fully experienced this yet as we’re in the first year of a three year conversion. But, have high hopes as our first few plantings have gone very well and the wildlife seem to be taking full advantage.

2. Diversity of Food Availability

Going off of the diversity we just touched on; deer want a balance of different plants to satisfy their gut health. It’s very similar to us, if we had a pile of ice cream we wouldn’t feel good, plus not everyone likes ice cream. Deer are no different, we’ve watched them graze across food plots this year picking at different plants within the mixes. Some deer will focus on legumes and others brassicas, it’s cool to watch the different seed mixes play out at the deer buffet. When we used conventional practices, the monoculture of just corn or just soybeans worked well but during very specific times of the year.

Our expectations for hunting season is that we’ll have different plants maturing out at different times, thus creating a stronger selection of food for the deer to forage on throughout the rut and into those tough winter months.

3. Fewer Passes Across the Fields

One of the big downfalls that we were finding ourselves in, was the lack of time we had to fit conventional agriculture practices into out schedule. There’s plowing, fertilizing, cultivating, planting, spraying (2x) and that all has to get done in the spring through early summer. With regenerative agriculture we can do one or two no-till plantings a year plus crimping. No fertilizer or chemical passes over the ground. People have become accustomed to seeing clean, straight rows when driving down back roads, it takes a ton of chemical to keep that soil black. It’s important to remember that Mother Nature will always grow something on bare soil. So, if you provide a seed to grow on that bare soil, Mother Nature will no longer fill it with “weeds”, in quotes because some weeds are great food sources for the deer.

This is obviously a benefit when it comes to the time factor, but it’s also a huge savings to your cost inputs. You no longer pay for the commercial fertilizer, chemical and fuel/equipment wear while driving over those fields multiple times.


This isn’t about creating “kill” plots to hunt over, it’s about creating food sources that’ll take them from raising fawns and growing velvet, through those exciting fall months and carry them through winter. Regenerative agriculture has been a very rewarding process to implement on our property and we look forward to seeing what will happen in the years to come.


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