Jon Kocan

Jon Kocan

Most hunters and landowners are willing to put in a lot of work to attract wildlife, but are you making any long-term investments?

I grew up in what would be considered the country, but in a neighborhood of sorts. Each lot had forest and fields, and some had creeks and ponds. It wasn’t a large piece of land compared to local standards, but it was more than enough to immerse myself in wild places.

We never had deer around our home until our apple trees dropped their fruit. In late summer as soon as the apples hit the ground, deer would be a few feet from the back porch in early morning. If those trees wouldn’t have been there, we may have never been able to say we saw a deer around our home.

There are so many more ways to improve a hunting location or tract of land beyond putting up a feeder or planting a food plot.

I’ve recently been making long-term investments by planting trees. I started a small orchard on a fence line close to my house, and have transplanted several varieties of oak trees I find onto my place. The free pine trees from the spring home and garden show are also doing well.

These improvements were not done for next season, but instead for several years down the road. There is no doubt that deer are influenced by their stomach, and a large, productive oak tree can be a stable feeding location for deer throughout the fall.

The one thing that can be verified from time spent hunting and observing deer is that they prefer options, and like to have a variety of forage choices.

Some days they walk past a corn pile, through a field of winter wheat, and brows on some brush growing along the field edge. They, and all the local wildlife, are true foragers.

Deer hunters are well aware of what happens in the fall when food sources change. It’s pretty obvious when acorns start to rain from the trees. Trail cameras in October see a steep drop in activity, and the period gets labeled as a “lull.”

I think controlled burning is another long-term investment that is worth the effort. I accidentally burned a large portion of my pasture a few winters ago, and after that I had every critter in the area feeding in the spot when spring began.

Turkeys made a visit to the spot every day for several months. It was amazing to see the impact that a burnt spot in the pasture had on local wildlife.

One of the best long-term investments for deer hunting came from conviction. I dedicate sanctuary areas in hunting locations, and believe that keeping my presence out of these areas has been the key to my deer hunting success.

I hunt on the edges of these places and walk them in the spring looking for antlers. Other than that, I stay out and leave them as wild as possible.

It’s the perfect time to make some long-term investments in your hunting lease or property. Attracting wildlife can be done in many ways. It’s easy to do something that will last for years and not just next season.

Jon Kocan is the Stillwater News Press outdoors writer and a longtime hunter. He can be reached at