Spring Habitat Management for Better Deer Hunting in the Fall

Baby white tail deer fawn standing in field near forest near doe

When it comes to buying hunting property, Jake Hyland of Hayden Outdoors knows plenty about both. As a broker associate specializing in farm, ranch, dairy stockyards, timberland, and hunting properties, he’s walked thousands of acres on hundreds of farms and ranches throughout the U.S. He’s your go-to guy if you have questions about water and mineral rights, especially in his territories of Colorado, Wyoming, and South Dakota. And when it comes to hunting, his knowledge runs just as deep. Jake has guided trophy elk and deer hunts, pheasants hunts, and waterfowl hunts on some of the most coveted private hunting land in the country. Recently, Jake took a minute to venn diagram his extensive understanding of recreational real estate and spring deer habitat management to talk about spring habitat management for deer hunting to ensure you have a successful hunting season in the fall. 


a young deer in a green field from a trail cam
Photo courtesy of Jake Hyland.


Understanding Deer Behavior in Spring

Jake notes that deer behavior in the spring is very regionalized. “If you’re in Colorado, Montana, or Wyoming, those big game animals – it doesn’t matter if it’s mule deer, elk, whitetail, or pronghorn – they’re going to be migrating. In the spring, these animals are still in their winter range and they’re getting ready to start the reverse migration back up to where they’re going to spend most of their summer.” Jake contributes this nomadic behavior to weather patterns. The more snow in the mountains, the more likely deer are to move to areas with less snow and more exposed food. 

Conversely, when you get to Eastern Colorado, Nebraska, and South Dakota, deer tend to be less nomadic. “They have a more regionalized home base, which still may be a few miles, but you’re not talking about hundred-mile migrations. So on properties in this region, the deer have just been hunkered down for the winter. Generally, you’ll find them congregating around large agricultural fields and places with a lot of good thermal cover.” 

Other things to consider are that does can be pregnant during this time, trying to consume and conserve calories, so they will need to be near ample food and water sources. As spring progresses, big agricultural fields where many deer find safe haven will be plowed up, which will influence the animals’ patterns. “At that point the deer will switch to their summer patterns, browsing newly budded tree limbs and wild plants before transitioning back to row crops.” 


Assessing Your Hunting Property

It’s a well known sales tactic to show property mid-summer. Trees are full, flowers are blooming, prairie grasses sway in the breeze. But Jake takes a different approach. “March 1st until mid-May is my favorite time to look at hunting property with potential buyers. From a hunting perspective, that’s the time of year I want to see it.” He feels spring is the best time to look at potential hunting properties for a number of reasons, including:

  • You’re not intruding into special bedding areas.
  • You’re not impairing any fall hunting conditions or habitats.
  • Spring conditions most closely mirror those of the fall, when branches are bare and wildlife travel corridors are most visible. 

When assessing a hunting property:

  • Make note of how the animals move through the land.
  • See which food sources they’re accessing.
  • Learn where they’re bedding and how they’re traveling.
  • Look for scrapes, rubs, and other rut indicators.
  • Keep an eye out for antler sheds.

When he’s scoping the land, Jake works with his clients to walk it corner to corner, and then begins coming up with a plan for how to make the property better, which leads us to ways to improve the land. 


Longs Peak - Two young mule deers grazing at a mountain meadow at base of majestic Longs Peak on a sunny Spring day. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, USA. spring habitat management for deer hunting


Habitat Improvement Techniques

Like all animals, a deer’s survival depends on three key fundamentals. “Food, cover, and water are the three ingredients animals need. They want food. They need cover and water.” These three necessities provide an excellent framework for your deer hunting land improvement plan

One of the main ways you can improve your deer hunting property in the spring is by planting and maintaining food plots. Jake notes that food and mineral plots for wildlife are very specific region by region, so make sure to check the regulations in your area. The regional characteristics also determine what kind of food your deer will be looking for. For example, in plains areas like Nebraska, your hunting property might border a large corn field where the deer get plenty to eat. In the West, the food plot you plant can entice the animals onto your property. Jake’s rule of thumb is, “Offer your deer something they’re not getting on the neighbor’s property. If you can’t compete with your neighbor’s bedding, then offer the deer a better food plot or water source, such as a pond, spring, or installing an artificial tank.”  

If the deer can find a belly full of corn and grain not far away in an open field, consider providing better cover and water sources that draw them onto your land. Alternatively, if the nearby state forest has an abundance of places to hide, think about putting in a small pond or food plot. 


Creating Edge Habitat

You can also improve edge habitat for the deer. Edge habitat is where two different habitat types come together, and deer spend a lot of their time in this type of area. Some things you can do in the spring to improve edge habitat for the deer are: 

  • Hinge cut trees
  • Prescribed burns
  • Thin dense forest

These methods allow new foliage to grow, providing fresh cover and food for the animals. If you’re weighing the time, money, and energy costs of both methods, Jake recommends the latter. “Strategies like clearing out trees and prescribed burns require a lot less equipment than food plots. Food plots are invaluable, but there are other more cost- and time-effective methods for improving your deer hunting land.” 


Deer drinking from splash with reflection in water.


Ensure Water Access

Water sources are another key feature of any successful deer hunting property. “Water is something that is overlooked in most regions. Deer will need to hit a water source every day at a minimum.” If you don’t have natural water sources on your property, you’ll want to create or install one. Deer-friendly, man-made water sources can include:

  • Small ponds
  • Springs
  • Artificial tanks
  • Rainwater capture systems

Finally, make sure the deer can move freely and easily throughout your property. Clear barriers to entry onto your land, such as old fencing and large downed trees and roots. Providing animals logical and accessible ways to move through your land will help ensure they return year after year. 


Creating a Hunting Oasis

The trail cam industry has come a long way in recent decades. What used to require a trip wire and a visit to your local photo developer now relies on real-time technology and movement-triggered images. “I leave my trail cams out on my farms year-round. If you can help build the full story of the deers’ existence on your property, starting in the spring, you can put the pieces of the puzzle together and learn how you can make your property better.” 

Spring is also a great time to assess the conditions of your hunting blinds. Most branches are still free of leaves and other obstructions, similar to how they will be in the fall during hunting season. “Your chances of disturbing deer go way down if you move big blinds around in April or May versus later in the year.” 


3 mule deer bucks burned forest


Managing Risks

One of the biggest factors when it comes to ensuring a healthy deer population on your property is predator control. Jake emphasizes the importance of checking with your local regulators on what is allowed. “Coyotes can have a very big impact on doe retention rates and fawning. If coyote numbers are really high and deer have had a tough winter, predation can make a really big swing in the pendulum in just one year.” He recommends reaching out to your local NRCS to find information on local trappers. Most organizations will offer a cooperative agreement with state and local government agencies, sharing the costs of the effort with the land owner. 

You’ll also want to patrol your property for invasive plants. While deer typically avoid eating invasive plants in favor of more flavorful, nutrient-rich naturally occurring plants, a deer population can alter the biodiversity of your land. Work with local organizations and ecologists to ensure your property is free of harmful invasive species. 

Additionally, be mindful of diseases in your area that can impact deer herds. Jake makes the point to rely on trail cams to help monitor deer populations. “If you’re in an area that has suffered a disease and you feel your herd numbers are going down, you can mitigate how many animals you harvest in the fall.” 


Deer Population Monitoring

Tracking deer populations on your hunting property is a good way to help maintain healthy herd sizes. Make sure to be diligent about collecting annual data. Jake encourages hunters and property owners to be mindful of herd numbers and demographics and adjust their hunting limits accordingly. “If you’ve historically taken two mature bucks and five does, maybe switch that up and not take any does in years when herd numbers are down. Or maybe you leave one management buck but still go after two trophy-class deer. In other years, it might be the opposite and you need to up your management plan and harvest more does because they’re hounding the resources on the land.” 

Jake once again relies on trail cams and property data to create a complete 12-month synopsis. As your deer hunting property grows and matures, it’s important to make continual improvements to the land, helping to cultivate healthy deer habitat and populations. 



a photo of a buck at dusk or dawn from a trail cam
Photo courtesy of Jake Hyland.




Deer hunting property is a specific kind of real estate. But to Jake, it’s much more than that. “This is probably one of the biggest investments of your life, but it doesn’t do any good if you go buy 100 acres and it doesn’t have any animals on it.” He’s a big believer in working with a recreational real estate agent who not only knows the area, but hunts in the area. “Someone who’s familiar with the area. Someone who maybe even owns land in the area. That means they’re personally invested in it.” 

If you’re in the market for a viable, successful deer hunting property – one that can become a legacy property, passing from this generation to the next – make sure you look to the experts; people who know a thing or two aboeut ranch and recreational properties because that’s where they grew up, and that’s where they live and hunt today.

agent jake hyland with a trophy buck in the snow
Jake Hyland of Hayden Outdoors with his Archery Whitetail

How to Increase the Value of Your Whitetail Hunting Land

Mature male Whitetail deer stands at edge of marsh surveying before walking further out into field during sunset at Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge

Whether you’ve been hunting most of your life or you’re just out for a walk in the late-fall woods, there’s something magical about spotting those towering whitetail tines. Elegant, quick, and agile, whitetail deer provide plenty of hunters with an exciting challenge. 

Two of those hunters, John Tate and Shad Sheldon, have hunted whitetail throughout much of the country. John watched his dad bag a buck in the woods of South Carolina when he was just 6 years old and the love of the hunt grew from there. “I was hooked after that and grew up hunting and fishing – doves and trout and bass and deer.” It was a passion that led to a job as a cameraman, editor, and producer for Realtree Outdoors on the Outdoor Channel and ESPN2 for many years before John traded in the camera for his real estate license and a position with Hayden Outdoors

Shad’s story follows a similar passion-turned-profession trajectory. A hunter since he was just seven-years old, he killed his first deer when he was 10 or 11. Later in life, he bought a tract of land in northwest Kansas that he and his wife developed into a hunting lodge. When they went to sell the property, they turned to Hayden Outdoors for the company’s expertise in selling large acreage hunting, ranching, and recreational properties from coast to coast. 

Today, both men combine their extensive hunting expertise with their work for Hayden Outdoors as recreational real estate agents. They understand the importance of optimizing your property for whitetail deer hunting, and, more importantly, how best to do it. In a recent sit-down – the wall behind Shad clad in impressive whitetail and mule deer mounts – John and Shad shared their thoughts on how best to increase the value of whitetail deer hunting property. 


Understanding Whitetail Deer

Before you optimize your hunting property for whitetail deer habitat, it’s important to understand the animals. The most notable characteristic of whitetail (or white-tailed) deer – and where they get their common name – is their “white flag” tail that stands alert anytime a deer senses trouble. They are herbivores and munch on a variety of tall grasses and plants (and your garden if you’re not careful about putting up proper fencing). 

Female deer, or does, typically give birth to between one and three young (fawns) in early spring. Only male whitetail deer grow antlers, and they shed them every winter. Growth typically begins in late spring and throughout spring and summer, the antlers are covered in a fine-hair membrane that has the appearance of velvet. Antlers will grow through late summer and early fall before hardening on the animal’s head, just in time for bucks to defend their territory during the rut. Whitetail deer tend to graze mostly at dawn or dusk, and they have very good eyesight and hearing. Most live between two to three years, although whitetail deer can live up to 10 years in the wild and longer in captivity. 


Whitetail Deer Behavior and Habits

Whitetail deer are pretty solitary animals. Unlike elk, which migrate in herds, whitetail deer typically move in small family units of a doe and her fawns with the bucks living alone most of their lives. Does and fawns tend to bed close to food and water sources while bucks can be very strategic about where they bed down, especially during hunting season. 

During the spring and summer, bucks will bed down at their convenience, near food and water. However, once hunting season kicks off and they become aware of hunters in the area, bucks will look for safer haven resting with their backs against a solid surface such as downed timber and large rocks, at least before the rut starts. They watch for downwind predators, listen for any nearby threats, and smell for oncoming hunters. 

Does, fawns, and young bucks feel comfortable wandering into open terrain to eat. However, this is not typically the case for mature bucks. They practice safety measures to help lessen threats during hunting season, such as taking indirect routes to food sources and bedding down for large portions of the day, eating and drinking at dawn and dusk. This doesn’t mean it’s impossible to spot a buck during the day, but look for smaller food plots and water sources as opposed to the great wide open. And if you’re tracking the animals, don’t forget about water. Bucks will typically drink between three and five quarts of water a day, so if you can find their water source (keeping in mind it can be as small as a puddle or meager spring), you increase your odds of bagging the prize. 

Two determined Whitetail Deer bucks spar during the rut in the Grasslands region of Alberta increase value of your whitetail hunting land

Rutting Season: A Whitetail Hunter’s Dream

The deer rutting season – when deer mate – takes place between October and early December. Bucks become much more active during this time, venturing out more, and sometimes into more wide open terrain, in an effort to mate with a doe. It’s also a good time of year to spot a big buck during the day as they wander from more well-hidden sanctuaries.

Because of this additional daylight activity, the rut offers the best odds of a hunter bagging a buck. The male deer will go where the does go, so set up your stands and blinds within sight of bedding spots. It’s also this time of the rutting season bucks will abandon meandering trails for more direct routes to food plots and water sources.

There are phases of the rutting season, including:

  • Pre-rut: mid to late October
  • Seeking: late October to the first days of November
  • Chasing (also known as peak rutting): early to mid November
  • Tending (or lockdown): mid to late November
  • Post-rut: late November
  • Second rut: first two weeks of December

If you’re looking to manage whitetail deer behavior on your own hunting property during the rut, John offers some advice. “It all correlates back to food. If you’ve got the food, you’ve got the does. If you’ve got the does, you’ve got the bucks.” 


Whitetail Deer Habitats

Food and Water Needs

To that point, what kind of food is best for whitetail deer? John continues, “It’s all situational. In the Midwest, you’ve got the crops. In Wyoming, you’ve got alfalfa. Do soil tests to make sure you’re getting the soil right and plan around crop rotations.” 

Shad adds that pH levels are critical. “You want your soil to have plenty of nitrogen and phosphorus in it. Generally, you need to have both protein and minerals. Alfalfa, wheat, clover, and oats is a good mix.” Both men point out that owning whitetail deer hunting property is a 365-day endeavor. “Having a successful whitetail hunting property is a year-round job. You can’t just show up on opening day. To be successful, year-in and year-out, you need to be thinking about the land,” says John. 

Shad agrees, “I want to make sure I’ve got enough mineral holes in summer and again in January. The minerals have to be in the deers’ bodies by hunting season to help grow their antlers. We make sure, no matter what time of year, they have access to plenty of minerals.” 

Test your soil and establish the best mix of food for whitetail deer in your area. Common whitetail deer foods include:

  • Seeds and nuts: acorns, chestnuts, and pecans
  • Row Crops: oats, clover, alfalfa, wheat, soybeans, and corn
  • Other wild or cultivated plants like: apples, forb, berries, and native grasses

Like all other animals, deer also need plenty of pure, clean water. Sources will vary from state to state. If there is not an obvious natural water source on your land, such as a lake, pond, stream, creek, or spring, look for alternatives. These can include old wells, troughs, and other rain capture devices. 

Cover and Shelter

Deer need to bed down and feel safe doing it. They require proper ground cover and sanctuary, but this doesn’t mean you need large amounts of established forest on your property. John offers this rule, “33/33/33 is a good balance – roughly one-third full timber, one-third edge property, and one-third open space.” 

Successful whitetail deer hunting land also features tall grass. “One thing I’ve learned,” says John, “Is that you don’t have to have a lot of trees to be successful. Features like fence row and creek beds provide great cover and shelter.” During the offseason, assess your property and learn where the deer trails are and where the main corridor is. 

One point of note is cattle. If you run cattle on your land or lease it to someone who does, it’s important to be mindful of when you pull the cattle off. Shad makes his rancher pull off the first of September. “This allows for a good 30 – 45 days with no cattle on the property to allow deer to get back into the land.” According to the seasoned hunters, a cow can ruin a deer hunt faster than just about anything. 


Young buck whitetail deer grazing for acorns increase value of your whitetail hunting land

Managing a Whitetail-Friendly Property

Spending plenty of time walking your whitetail hunting property is the best way to learn where the deer travel, how they navigate the land, and what they’re eating and when they’re eating it. Keep these practices in mind for maintaining a successful whitetail deer-friendly property:

  1. Maintain built infrastructure such as stands and blinds. 
  2. Establish food plots and mineral licks. 
  3. Position trail and game cams throughout the property. This not only helps with understanding deer behavior, it’s also key when it comes time to sell the property. 
  4. Plant food deer like to eat to help keep them coming back to the property versus wandering farther afield in search of food and water. 
  5. Trim trees and hinge cut trees as necessary, but don’t overdo it. Make sure your efforts contribute to, not take away from, the whitetail deer habitat on your land. 


Improving Your Property Value

Building a good environment for whitetail to thrive benefits not only the deer population on your land, but also has a positive impact on your property value. Well-maintained trails and roads, properly fertilized and cleared row crops, and good sources of water will attract deer – and help maintain your bottom line.

As always in real estate, a well-maintained, turnkey property goes a long way towards building value – and that includes all of your hunting infrastructure. In addition to any homes on a property, make sure all blinds and stands, storage buildings, and barns are clean and sound.

The most important thing to remember when you’re trying to sell or appraise a whitetail hunting property? “Pictures!” says Shad. “If we’re gonna sell it, we’ve got to have proof.” You can talk about those eight-point bucks all day long, but unless there’s actual proof they exist on your property, you might as well be convincing buyers BigFoot hangs out there, too. 


Strategies for Scent Control

Whitetail bucks have a very keen sense of smell, so managing your own odors and scents is important to getting in close enough for the kill. Enlist these tips before hunting season starts or you head into the field to help yourself remain as undetected as possible:

  • Store blinds and stands in a controlled environment, such as a clean storage shed. Simply putting things away in the garage or stashing them behind the shed can result in unwanted contamination from other fumes and odors. 
  • Use scent eliminator sprays on clothing and equipment. Wipe down your gear at the end of the hunt or the end of the season and then store in an air-tight tote. 
  • Wipe down boots, including the soles, with scent eliminating products.
  • Make sure your truck or ATV is clean and clear of other animal and human scents.
  • Use unscented laundry detergents and fabric softeners during hunting season. 
  • Avoid scented soaps, shampoos, or deodorants before you head into the field. 

For the best scent control, however, Shad simply says, “Stay down wind.” And he’s not wrong. Paying close attention to wind direction while you’re hunting offers one of your biggest advantages to being on the right side of that big buck when the time comes. 

John agrees, “You can use scent-free soaps and sprays, but at the end of the day, you’ve gotta hunt the wind. It’s your biggest adversary and your biggest helper. My experience is, those scent reducing techniques only help on the borderline. The only way to fool whitetail deers’ noses is to be downwind of them.” 


Hunting Ethics and Conservation

When it comes to managing your whitetail deer hunting land year after year, hunting ethics and resource conservation lead the way. Make sure your visitors and guides have taken proper hunting safety courses, and understand the importance of ethical shot placement and how best to achieve it. 

Working to conserve your resources prevents disease and overpopulation. It also benefits all of the species that wander your property. “The deer aren’t the only ones that benefit from these food plots and land improvements,” says Shad. “Quail do; mule deer do; turkeys do. I’ve seen disease and drought ravage deer populations, but we can, to a point, improve the land deer are living on with food plots, trimming vegetation, and hinge tree cutting so the deer aren’t stressed. It can give the herd a healthy existence for years and years to come.” 

Buck Whitetail Deer in Colorado During the Rut in Autumn increase value of your whitetail hunting land


Whitetail deer hunting is about more than meat. It’s about more than the trophy. It’s about spending time outside with friends and family and connecting with the land. For John and Shad and so many other passionate hunters like them, it’s a lifelong journey. 

“It’s a good way to get outdoors. To connect with your family. A good way to spend time not on the phone or in front of a TV,” says John. “We all want to shoot a deer like the ones on Shad’s wall, but those animals represent a story and a journey and where he came from. The five-pointer my dad shot in South Carolina when I was a kid means just as much or more to me than anything I’ve shot because I was with him. Now I’m hunting with my nephew. I’ve hunted with a lot of people over the years. Some hunts were successful; some weren’t. It’s funny how friendships are born being out in the woods together, around a whitetail deer camp.” 

John continues to point out that not as many people hunt any more, and yet, it remains an important tradition and inextricable way to connect with the land, with conservation, and with whitetail. Learn more about owning your own whitetail deer hunting land in Kansas, North Carolina, Missouri, or Nebraska, and all of the magic and reward that comes with it.

The Benefits of Setting Up Trail Cams on Your Property

Trail cameras, or more commonly, trail cams, are a helpful tool when it comes to monitoring your property.

Scouting and glassing for this year’s hunt can be thrilling – catching a glimpse of the trophies that might be waiting there as the season nears. Adding some additional eyes to the effort, including late in the evening and at night when some animals become particularly active, can help your odds even more. Trail cams are providing this kind of visibility, and gaining popularity because of it. Those are only a few of the benefits of setting up trail cams.

Trail cams are discreet cameras people position throughout property – and sometimes on public lands – to get a complete picture of animal activity. These types of cameras are triggered by a motion sensor, capturing pictures as the animal moves through the field of vision. They range from relatively basic, taking pictures that are stored on a secure digital card and retrieved later, to much more high tech. REVEAL’s Cellular Cameras fall into the latter category, offering a mobile app that sends trail cam images to your device in real-time. 

While the technology continues to get better and better, the strategy behind mounting and positioning trail cams is also important to consider. Three Hayden Outdoors recreational real estate experts recently chimed in on how they use trail cams for hunting, safety, and general wildlife management. As lifelong hunting guides and outdoor enthusiasts, Shad Sheldon, Heath Thompson, and Lonnie Gustin provided a brief master class in proper trail cam management. Hailing from the Plains, the South, and the Rocky Mountain West respectively, their insight spans a variety of purposes and touches nearly every corner of the country.



Trail Camera Basics

Quality and capabilities vary, but most cameras feature:


Power source

Make sure to see how long a camera’s battery lasts.

Detection circuit or PIR sensor

This piece detects both heat and motion, then triggers the camera. 

Infrared LEDs

The small lights allows for night-vision pictures. 

Protective casing

Make sure yours can stand up to the elements in your area.

Mounting apparatus

Choose a camera you can easily install





Types of Trail Cams

Modern trail cameras fall into two categories: cellular and non-cellular. Each has their benefits. Non-cellular cameras don’t allow for real-time viewing, but they are typically less expensive. Alternatively, cellular cameras allow you to keep an eye on animals without having to retrieve camera chips or disturb the area.

Shad Sheldon has been hunting since he was 7, and bagged his first deer at 10. He started bow hunting in his late teens, a passion ever since. He and his wife ran a hunting lodge in Goodland, KS until about 10 years ago, when they turned to Hayden Outdoors to help them sell it. Not long after he joined Hayden as an agent, specializing in hunting properties and farmland.

These days, Shad and his wife spend their time in eastern Kansas, as close to the land and its rhythms as possible. He relies on trail cams for a variety of reasons, both personally and professionally when he’s helping clients list their land. We asked what he looks for in a good trail camera.

“I like good resolution and good pictures with true color. Most cameras will fire right away; you won’t get a lot of blurry moments. I like to put great pictures on our website to help clients sell property. And of course, it needs to be easy-to-use.”


Choosing a Trail Cam

Before you throw down a good chunk of change – trail cams can range from $50 – $600 – it’s good to know what you want to accomplish with your equipment. Talk with your local dealer about the features of the camera. Some important things to think about are:

  • Do you want a wireless camera, or will traditional work?
  • Do you need video capabilities as well as still shots?
  • What kind of image quality do you want?
  • What is the trigger time – the time between the animal moving across the field of vision and the picture being taken? Slower trigger times result in blurrier images.
  • What is the power supply and/or battery life?
  • Does the camera offer security features to help prevent theft?


Setting Up Trail Cams

Heath Thompson grew up on a farm in Georgia, and has a degree in Forestry. He’s been in the business a long time, hunting, guiding, and managing land. These days, Heath’s family owns 1,500 acres, row crops, and grows hay. He has a history in agricultural, hunting, timber, recreational, and farmland with Hayden Outdoors in the Southeast. He understands the importance of the perfect hunting property like no one else.

When it comes to trail cams, Heath doesn’t mess around. “I worry about additional scents on my cameras, so I’ll hang them outside at my house in the yard for a while to get the correct smell. When I go to place them on the property, I’ll wear rubber boots and gloves.


Placing trail cams in the right spot is key. Our agents have some tips:

  • Set up near scrapes so you can see which bucks are scraping when.
  • Set up feeders year-round to see seasonal and yearly patterns.
  • If allowed, consider bait such as a mineral lick, soy, alfalfa, or scent.
  • Look for game trails. Mount your camera alongside them to track animal movement.
  • Look for water sources, and mount a camera nearby. 

How many cameras you hang depends on the size of the land, your objective, and your budget. Heath offers these tips on trail cam height. “I hang mine three feet from the ground to the bottom of the camera to get a full view of the animal. I also keep the sun’s direction in mind, pointing cameras northeast or northwest to avoid over exposure.”

Look closely for nearby plants that might trigger the camera. There’s nothing worse than hoping for a great shot of that Boone-and-Crockett buck only to get hundreds of pictures of grain or a branch.



Using Trail Cams to Enhance Wildlife Observation

You might be using trail cams for hunting, or just to get an inside view of the wildlife. Lonnie Gustin is familiar with both. He’s been hunting and wandering the mountains of the West his whole life, but is quick to tell you he’s never been an outfitter. “I always said I liked hunting too much to be a guide.” Nowadays, he hunts with his boys along the Rocky Mountain Front throughout Wyoming and Colorado. He calls 4,000 acres along the Western Slope of Colorado and Wyoming home, and joined Hayden Outdoors “back in the day,” about 13 years ago. If you’re looking to buy or sell a farm, hunting property, or ranch land in the area, Lonnie is your guy.

He uses trail cams all the time, most commonly placing them near water sources where he might catch a glimpse of big game – typically elk or mule deer in his neck of the woods. And sometimes, a camera will capture something else – another big Western predator making its way across the land. Trail cams are an excellent way to learn more about the wildlife in the area. Bears, wolves, lynx, mountain lions, coyotes, fowl, and varmints – trail cams paint broad strokes of the wildlife living on your land. For Lonnie and others, trail cams also offer a unique way to understand the local wildlife population – how and where animals are moving; which water sources they rely on; and how land use shifts from one season to the next.


Using Trail Cams for a Better Hunting Experience

While trail cams can certainly enhance the hunting experience, Heath gives fair warning, “The worst thing you can do is look at trail cams. It’ll make you sick; big buck after big buck you might never see again.” And while he’s right – some of the biggest racks don’t make it onto the wall – having trail cams on the property can help you prepare.

He adds, “We use trail cams for animal counts. We count every deer we see. It lets us know what’s on the property.” Lonnie counts on trail cams for knowing the time of day animals are coming in. And Shad likes to use them to learn more about what comes after hunting season. “After last rifle season was over, we had about three to four 150-class bucks show up. We saw new deer move in.” Heath notes trail cams aren’t just for big game. “They’re great for turkey hunting, too. Trail cams let me see where the turkeys are, because down here, turkeys don’t gobble a lot. So we’re using trail cams to see where they’re traveling in and out.”



Using Trail Cams to Increase Property Value

Hayden Outdoors real estate agents are known for showcasing every aspect of a property when it comes to selling it, and cutting-edge cellular trail cams are a big part of the strategy. Shad sums it up this way: “The bigger bucks I pull off the property, the more it’s going to go for. The more good pictures I have of those bucks, the more money we can bring in.”

Lonnie agrees, “Trail cams are pretty damn important when I’m selling land. They let me prove the wildlife moving on the property. If I can actually show people some background and some shots and they can see where that huge elk was, it’s an important selling point.

Heath goes so far as to compile entire albums for the properties he represents. “You need to have proof, and you can’t get it in just a week. Property trail cam capture takes a long time. Having historical timestamps on a lot of photos adds a lot more value than just having one good buck on a single trail cam shot.”

In addition to buying and selling, trail cams add additional value to the property by aiding in pest control and property security. Placing trail cams at a property entrance or lesser known access point is a great way to see if people are wandering in when they shouldn’t be.



Setting up trail cams on your property offers a variety of benefits, including:

  • Hunting preparation 
  • Wildlife observation
  • Property security
  • Habitat conservation

Adding a trail cam system to your land can help bolster its value over time. It’s also an excellent way to learn the ins, outs, and animals who call your acres theirs, too. Chat with your local sporting goods dealer about the best setup for your land, or upgrade to trail cams that let you know which four-legged creatures are cruising though as soon as they’ve crossed the camera’s lens.

What to Know Before Building a Gun Range on Your Property

For the past 35 years, Clay Owens has been among the top names in big game hunting in the U.S. He was an outfitter in Western Colorado, managing three of the largest operations in the state for 20 years. Today, he still actively guides hunts near Steamboat Springs, and in 2018, he applied his deep knowledge of rangelands and Midwest hunting properties to a different endeavor – recreational real estate agent for Hayden Outdoors. Neatly put, Clay knows a lot about building a gun range on your property.

As a guide on some of the country’s most notable hunting lands, Clay became an expert in setting up long-range shooting courses. Now he puts that knowledge to good use, helping his clients find property that can accommodate a personal gun range, and he’ll be quick to note that when you’re building a gun range on your property, there are several considerations you should keep in mind. It’s also important to note these considerations are general guidelines, and the specific requirements vary depending on your location. 

Clay stresses, “It’s crucial to consult with local authorities, legal professionals, and shooting range experts who can provide guidance based on your jurisdiction’s laws and regulations.” With that in mind, he also provided these key factors to consider when setting up a personal gun range.


Building a shooting range on your property to practice for hunting - Clay Owens guides Allen Treadwell on a predator hunt filmed for Life on the Land TV Show.

Building a shooting range on your property to practice for hunting – Hayden Outdoors agent Clay Owens guides Allen Treadwell on a predator hunt filmed for Life on the Land TV Show.

Assessing the Suitability of Your Property for a Gun Range


There are a variety of property considerations for home gun ranges, starting with size and a proper backdrop for the target area. 

“The biggest safety factor is your backdrop; it needs to be big enough to prevent ricochet and bullets from flying past the target, typically 20 – 60 feet high.” Clay explains this backdrop can be an established natural feature, such as a cliff wall, or something you build, like a large dirt bank. If you’re looking to buy land that’s well suited for a home gun range or build one on land you already own, Clay recommends utilizing heavy topography, such as canyons and hills, for a backdrop. The parcel should also be a minimum of 40 acres, although simple home handgun ranges require less acreage. If your goal is long-range shooting, the number goes up, with 500 acres being the minimum land you should look for to ensure success and safety. 

To put this into real world context, Clay is currently overseeing the build and installment of a long range at the Hayden Outdoors Ranch in Nebraska. About as complex and involved as a personal gun range can get, this impressive amenity will feature a five-stand shot range for sporting clays, a hand gun range with a cliff wall backdrop to prevent any escaped projectiles, and a 1,550-yard long range with steel plate targets every 100 yards. All of this is located in a canyon where shooters can practice out of the wind. 


Understanding Legal and Regulatory Requirements


Once you have established a workable piece of land for building a gun range on your property, it’s important to check in with relevant county officials to ensure you’re complying with any permitting, insurance requirements, private gun range laws, and noise ordinances. 

Clay suggests starting by visiting your county website to determine who the best person to talk to might be. Typically this is the county commissioner or sheriff’s office. And while it’s not necessary on private land, he also suggests putting up proper signage around the gun range so visitors know it’s an active shooting zone. 

“Generally speaking, most rural areas are not going to have any kind of regulation for that type of activity. The closer you get to an urban or neighborhood setting, the more you’ll need to take noise and compliance into account.” 


Safety Considerations for Your Home Gun Range


Again, Clay emphasizes the importance of implementing proper backdrops, bulletproof barriers, and safety berms to mitigate ricochet or stray bullets. It’s also key to establish clear safety protocols and range rules. “It’s important to let people know when you are having active fire on the range. For dude ranches, hunting properties, or family plots where people are doing other activities, put up a sign that designates the range is active.”

Dan Brunk, Marketing Director at Hayden Outdoors, sights in his rifle before his elk hunt.

Insurance and Liability


Clay points out that building a gun range on your property typically doesn’t require insurance riders, but it’s important to check with your insurance agent to make sure. “If you have gun range courses or start charging for use, then you’ll need to explore liability insurance and waivers.” 

Whether private or part of your property’s larger revenue generation activities, understanding the risks associated with operating a gun range is imperative to its success and the safety of its users. If you’re not sure what these risks might be, talk with a gun range expert to learn more or reach out to Evan Anderson, the Hayden Outdoors’ Insurance Representative. 


Private Gun Range Noise Management


If you’re lucky enough to shoot on a 1,500-acre gun range like the one Clay is building at the Hayden Outdoors Ranch, noise is most likely not an issue. The sound of shots fired will ultimately be swallowed up by the surrounding landscape or fade into the vastness of such immense acreage. But if you’re building a private gun range on less acreage and closer to neighbors, it’s important to understand – and mitigate – the impact of shooting range noise. 

Start by understanding the potential noise impact on neighbors, and communicating with them your intent for the range, your frequency and hours of use, and then address any concerns they might have. Taking a few minutes to talk with your neighbors now can save you countless angry phone calls and complaints later. Also research sound-dampening techniques and materials and acoustical barriers.


Environmental Impact


The environmental impact of a home gun range is something to consider from the very beginning of the process. It can influence the design of target retrieval roads and trails, and all ranges should consider soil contamination from lead but especially those built near natural water sources, such as streams and creeks flowing through the property. 

“In regards to lead, there are companies that will come and retrieve the lead out of banks and shooting ranges,” says Clay. “For folks who are really concerned about lead contamination, you can shoot copper bullets exclusively.” 

Additionally, be mindful of target retrieval roads and trails, making sure they don’t disrupt wildlife habitat such as bedding, roosting, and resting areas. This is particularly important if the land doubles as a hunting property

Dr. Peddicord of Environmental Range Protection has years of experience consulting private land owners and public entities on proper range environmental practices. “A fundamental objective is to keep bullets and shot off neighboring properties. For rifle/pistol ranges this requires appropriate space and terrain to place adequate backstops far enough from property boundaries that bullets ricocheted or flipped off the backstop will not reach the property boundary.” For shotgun clay target venues, recognize that shot deposits much farther downrange than often expected, especially when shooting downslope. As an initial generalization, recognize that shot may fall 300 yards and perhaps more from the shooting position, depending on terrain and site conditions.

 “It is important that shot and target debris do not reach adjoining property and that they do not fall into waters or wetlands on your property. If siting a range for a business or more frequent use, the most fundamental management consideration is periodic reclaiming and recycling of bullets and shot on ranges. Keep in mind this is much more efficient on moderately slopping un-forested areas without boulder fields where the necessary equipment can operate effectively.”

For further gun range consultation please reach out to Dr. Peddicord at http://environmentalrangeprotection.com.

Designing Your Home Gun Range


As discussed, your personal shooting range is going to be specific to your property and its allowances. Before you begin, determine the layout of the range (indoor or outdoor) and the appropriate shooting lanes and target distances. This is an excellent time to consult with a shooting range expert on best practices to ensure you get the most out of yours. 

It’s also important to think about orientation if you have the flexibility to do so. For example, a south-to-north range will maximize natural light on the targets while minimizing glare from natural light in the shooter’s eyes. 

Select appropriate materials for construction, targets, and safe backdrops. This will vary if you’re building an indoor or outdoor range. Earth berms, log walls, and railroad ties walls work well for outdoor backdrops as do swinging steel targets that can absorb a bullet’s velocity without shattering. They also allow the shooter to hear the hit, versus having to walk long distances to confirm impact. 


Equipment and Maintenance


The size and location of your home gun range will determine the equipment required to maintain it. Targets, shooting lanes, and shooting benches all require upkeep, so it’s important to keep this in mind when budgeting for your range. 

Setting up a maintenance schedule can help. Consider the work required to maintain the backdrop – be it a natural one or something you’ve built. Additionally, map out what you think will be required to keep your shooting range in proper working order, including trail maintenance, materials reviews, target replacements, etc. 

Clay points out, “If you’re having to construct a backdrop, you’re going to always need to add dirt. For active ranges, you’ll be replacing targets constantly.”

Safety Training and Education


Personal shooting ranges provide a lot of opportunity. There’s the thrill of shooting, the possibility to improve, and camaraderie of target practice with friends. But there’s also the benefit of learning about the sport in a safe environment, one that can promote responsible gun ownership and firearm handling. 

For those looking to incorporate gun safety training and education into their home gun range, Clay recommends a few things. First, the NRA offers an abundance of gun safety and gun education resources, especially for those who are new to the sport like young children and women – the fastest growing segment of gun owners. 

“I also always recommend people go to their local gun shop. Talk to them about training or people in the area who offer it locally. It’s a great way to learn the basics of gun safety as well as any local rules and regulations that might be relevant to your gun range.”




Adding a home gun range to your recreational property is a great way to increase the land’s versatility while also adding value. Clay concludes, “Adding a gun range to your property can absolutely increase its worth. It’ll enhance the value to a certain segment of buyers – people looking for hunting land with a range set up.”

To this point, he recommends getting in touch with a recreational real estate agent as soon as you decide you’re interested in a gun range property. Clay uses his expertise to identify and purchase legacy properties for his clients – the kind that speak to personal passions and generational family involvement. 

The avid outdoorsman drives the point home. “My family loves to go out and clink at different things. My wife, daughter, and son are all shooters. It becomes a fun competition with our kids, and it’s a lifelong activity for our family. There are a lot of people buying firearms for recreational shooting, now more than ever before.” 

Clay is quick to reiterate the need for encouraging responsible and safe firearm use, while also pointing out how building a gun range on your property offers an excellent opportunity to accomplish both. If you’re interested in learning more about selling property you feel is ideal for a home gun range, or you’re in the market to buy recreational land that can become the future home of one, talk with Clay Owens or a Hayden Outdoors real estate professional today. They’re the outdoor experts in the type of hunting or personal gun range property you’re looking for. 


Best Practices for Wildlife Management on Western Ranches

wildlife management on western ranches - mule deer on a ranch in cody, wyoming

Duncan Clark knows cattle ranching. Growing up in a ranching family in West Texas, he learned the life balance between the magic of wide open spaces and the work it takes to maintain them early on. These days, he lives along Colorado’s Front Range, just shy of the Wyoming border, a short drive from his family’s 6,500-acre cattle ranch where he spends much of his time. 

After graduating from Colorado State University with a degree in finance and real estate, Duncan turned his love of the land into a full-time job as a recreational real estate agent for Hayden Outdoors. He’s gone on to help broker a number of notable ranch real estate transactions in the past decade. From summers spent mending fences to balancing the intricacies of maintaining forage in the extreme winter months for wildlife and stock alike, Duncan understands the rhythms of ranch land like few others do. At the heart of that connection is a passion for the intersection of wildlife and ranching. Duncan is an expert in managing and maintaining range and wildlife habitat in a way that elevates both.

“Wildlife management on a ranch is critical for a lot of reasons. The healthier the animal population, the more your ranch is going to be worth.” From guided hunting and fishing income to proper land and habitat management, Duncan dives into the key factors to consider when managing wildlife on ranches in the West. 



Understanding Western Ranches and Wildlife


Ranches in the West provide ideal habitat for deer, elk, and antelope. Commonly, a ranch will be home to one or two of these species, but if you’re lucky enough to gain access to an expansive ranch in the western plains, you might come across all three. Additionally, ranches with viable water sources, including rivers, streams, ponds, or lakes can offer premier fishing. But as Duncan is quick to point out, you don’t have to be an avid hunter to want to manage the wildlife on your property. “The unique thing about land is that it’s an investment you can enjoy. Maybe you hunt; maybe you don’t. Regardless, driving around a ranch watching herds of elk and deer is a pretty special thing to see” 


That said, hunting and fishing can be a viable income opportunity for ranchers in the West. Hunters and anglers spend an estimated $2 billion annually in Colorado alone. “Wildlife is big business in the West, and it provides incentives for landowners to manage this profitable resource, whether the focus is on cattle, farming, or recreation.” Guided elk hunts can garner anywhere from $5,000-$20,000 a hunt depending on trophy quality. If a rancher is able to work with a local outfitter or guide to lease the land for hunting, the revenue can offset a large portion of ranch expenses. 


Planning and Implementing a Wildlife Management Plan


Before you begin building your wildlife management plan, it’s important to outline and understand your objectives. This includes the wildlife population objective that will dictate how many animals to harvest from the property each year in order to maintain healthy herd numbers. It’s also essential to work with an expert – local fish, wildlife, and land managers as well as nearby guides and outfitters – in order to optimize both wildlife and cattle health on the ranch. Start by evaluating how many animals you currently have on the property. Trail cams are an extremely useful tool for this. Additional considerations include the size of your property, any adjacent public lands or ranch sizes, and if there’s a well known hunting outfitter in the area. If so, how many animals are they harvesting?

Assess the habitat health, including water sources, food plots, vegetation, and landscape. From there, develop a management plan that balances your economic and conservation goals, working to maximize revenue while simultaneously catering to wildlife health and safety on the property. Manage and monitor progress throughout hunting seasons and year to year. 


Moose in the wild - wildlife management on western ranches


Wildlife Habitat Management Techniques


Duncan outlines the following guidelines for optimum wildlife habitat management on western ranches:

Water Sources:

  • Water is a key ingredient to any farm or ranch property and the leading factor in determining the value of the land and the quantity and variety of wildlife it can support. While many western ranches have multiple water sources, including springs, creeks, or rivers, these sources aren’t always accessible to animals and they’re susceptible to drought. “With a prolonged drought that affects groundwater sources encompassing much of the West, I’ve seen a number of different ways to maximize water resources. I’ve worked with clients to build ponds, develop spring water catchment systems, and even implement water guzzlers. If you want your ranch to maintain its value, paying close attention to the water sources on the land is step number one.”


Brush & Range Management:

  • Controlling the right blend of escape and bedding cover, along with the number of openings wildlife use to feed, is important for all species of wildlife. “Often, we see mountain ranches with dense deadfall of pine and aspen that provide little value to wildlife. If controlled burns are not an option – and they typically aren’t on a private ranch – a sound brush control strategy can maximize the wildlife value.” 


Wildlife-friendly Fencing:

  • Duncan notes that this oft-overlooked aspect of wildlife management on ranches is an incredibly important one. While barbed wire might still line the perimeter of a ranch, it can be detrimental to healthy migration paths. You don’t have to pull out all of the barbed wire fencing in place, but Duncan does suggest modifying it to more modern standards. “By taking off the bottom and top strands of barbed wire and installing a smooth or high-visibility wire, you can drastically improve the viability of the fence. I recommend leaving an 18-inch space between the ground and the bottom strand of wire to allow animals to crawl underneath it.” 


Rotational Grazing Strategies to Maximize Browse:

  • Another important tool for wildlife is balancing the grazing strategy. But as Duncan notes, this tip is particularly specific to each and every ranch. “If you were to ask a hundred different folks the best way to effectively run cattle on a property while also maximizing the hunting potential, you would likely get a hundred different answers.” 


Food Plots that Attract More Animals:

  • Food plots have long been an important tool for farmers and ranchers in the South and Midwest who also lease the property for hunting. However, there just isn’t enough information or data available for western landowners trying to create food plots for elk and mule deer. Enter Duncan’s expertise. “I’ve done plenty of trial and error food plot tests and this is what I’ve found to work at an elevation of approximately 7,300 feet. With a disc and grain drill, we have successfully established food plots consisting of a blend of winter grain rye, annual clover, and sainfoin (a perennial drought-resistant legume). With ample rainfall and the right soil, I believe this can be done on most ranches in the western states. I’ve seen it work first-hand, especially when the native browse starts to go dormant and the winter rye and clover hold green browse late into the fall.” 


Wildlife Population Management Techniques


Maintaining healthy populations, including cattle, deer, elk, and antelope, on your ranch is another pillar of ranch wildlife management. If overgrazing or overpopulation become an issue, you might need to manipulate habitat in order to draw one species to a different part of the ranch. Another important aspect of wildlife population management is the utilization of predator control. Predators are elemental to a healthy ecosystem – every ranch needs a sound predator control program to benefit both wildlife and cattle – but again, ranchers need to understand the ideal predator population for their land. 

When opening your ranch land to hunting, fishing, and trapping, make sure you do so with best practices top of mind. Has everyone hunting the property taken any necessary hunter’s safety course? Know when to fish, and when doing so might stress fish populations. Talk with local outfitters, guides, and other experts about current trapping regulations. Doing so will help ensure your ranch is hunter- and angler-friendly for years to come. 



Benefits of Wildlife Management


As Duncan will tell you, the primary financial goal of any ranch is to break even. Wildlife can be a key factor in doing so. “If you’re running a hunting outfitter on your ranch property, you can certainly offset a lot of your operational costs.” These regulations and opportunities vary state by state. Colorado and New Mexico are very land-owner friendly, for example. If you’re looking at ranches for sale in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, or Arizona, it’s important to work with a ranch real estate specialist to learn more about the revenue opportunities for that particular property. 

Of course, the benefits of having wildlife on your ranch go far beyond potential profits. Wildlife and cattle can pair perfectly when it comes to maintaining habitat health, with opposing grazing and range seasons. There’s the opportunity to watch out the truck window as herds of elk or deer or antelope make their way across your acres. Those who don’t have immediate access to wild spaces and species can find it on your land. Wildlife management on your ranch runs the right direction both ways, providing safe, healthy refuge for the animals and a balanced value-add for your property. 




Wildlife management on western ranches is the future of this unique way of life. If you’re interested in buying ranch land where you can prioritize wildlife management, the recreational real estate agents at Hayden Outdoors are experts in the field. And if you simply want to learn more about how you can integrate healthier wildlife management practices into your ranch, give Duncan Clark a call. With a lifetime of ranching in his back pocket, he’s your guy. 

What Really Makes the Best Turkey Hunting Land?

A large eastern turkey strutting in a field spring turkey hunting land

Here’s a challenge: talk with Brandon Pendergrass of Hayden Outdoors for more than two minutes and try your hardest not to fall in love with turkey hunting. And not just the idea of it, but the lifestyle of it – the actual interaction with the birds and the habitat and how it all comes together on one idyllic springtime day in Missouri. Or Nebraska. Or Tennessee. Or Texas. Take your pick of premier turkey hunting land in the US

“Turkey hunting is a great gateway for anyone looking to learn more about hunting or just wanting to be outside, connecting with the land. It’s the perfect day because it happens in the spring, when the weather is warm. And it doesn’t take all day if you’re with someone who knows what they’re doing. So after hunting it’s time to fish in a nearby pond, river, lake, or creek where the fish will be hungry, because – again – it’s spring and all animals are. Then go scout for some mushrooms. Then fire up the grill and cook that fish or that turkey while you drink some sweet tea. Maybe in a field, maybe in a small stand of timber, maybe along some water. Sit in the sun and enjoy. That’s what it’s all about.” 

Sign us up.


Meet Brandon

Brandon has been an expert on turkey hunting nearly his entire life, beginning with his morning chores on his family’s 500-acre farm in southern Missouri when he was a kid. “It was my job to feed the pigs before the bus came to take me to school, and the turkeys were always gobblin’ back there, so I spent a lot of time with them, watching them, listening to them.” From there, he started hunting turkeys with friends, became a devout turkey hunter by age 16, and he’s been all-in ever since, moving onto guiding, hunting show appearances, and competitions all over the country.


Brandon recently gave a rundown on what to consider when buying turkey hunting property. Here are some tips, including his expertise and insights. 


Cook Mountain Turkey Spring Turkey Hunting Land


What makes a good turkey hunting property?


When buying turkey hunting land, you should consider factors such as location, size, terrain and habitat. Look for land that has plenty of natural vegetation, water sources, and cover for turkeys. According to Brandon, a mixture of landscape is key, as is close proximity to water. “The perfect property would be 50% open space and 50% timberland. Big, mature timber will offer a lot of roost trees and food sources like acorns and berries. Look for some overgrown fields with native grasses and property that provides a variety of food sources. A majority of the time, turkeys will try to find roost sites that are close to water, so if you use the land year-round, it’s important to have a water source such as a spring, pond, lake, or other source that’s resistant to drought.” 


Why is now a good time to invest in turkey hunting land in the Midwest?


Brandon cites one of the tenets and most important truths of real estate investment, “There’s never a bad time to invest in land, because there’s only so much of it.” This is particularly relevant to turkey hunting property. Luckily, the United States features a variety of states that offer premier turkey hunting land, such as Missouri, Nebraska, Tennessee, Texas, and Florida.

The time to buy is when the right property pops up, so the best thing you can do is be prepared. Make sure your financing is secured, and contact your local recreational land real estate expert. Hunting land can be a very valuable and lucrative investment – monetarily, personally, and generationally. Back to Brandon’s ideal spring day, owning your own turkey hunting land can be a great way to bond with friends and family, establishing the kinds of adventurous traditions that are harder and harder to come by in today’s busy world. 


What are some ways owners can offset the cost of buying turkey hunting land?


Logging the timber on your property is a great way to generate income from the land. Selective logging can help open up food plots and create road systems. If the land is conducive to farming, you can lease the land to a producer, which is also great for turkey hunting habitat as it provides a consistent food source. 

Another income opportunity to consider is leasing the land to other hunters, hunting outfits, or hunting guides. This can add to the value of your asset, demonstrating the property’s productivity and income possibilities. 


What are the biggest differences between turkey hunting on private and public land?


The first part of the answer is probably the most obvious, “When you own a good piece of hunting ground, you control all of that,” says Brandon. No competing for spots on opening day, pressured birds, or other bird hunters. It also ensures your hunting experience is private, uninterrupted, and most importantly, safe. He adds, “Safety is a big point. There’s also the pressure put on the turkeys. You can control or better regulate the pressure on the flock when hunting private land. Public birds can be pressured making it harder to hear or locate them. It also allows you to better control the habitat.”


small turkeys in the brush spring turkey hunting land


What are some effective ways to scout for quality turkey hunting land?


Start with mapping. Mapright, onX, and Google are all excellent sources of information as is aerial imagery. Look at the area as a whole to understand the location and surrounding properties. Talk with other local landowners and hunters to gain insights. Look at the habitat. 

Pull on your best hiking boots and walk the property (with the current owner’s permission). This is particularly important to do right at daylight in the spring if possible. This is probably the most effective way to locate signs of turkey activity and learn more about the habitat. 

Brandon’s pro tip? Bring binoculars so you can glass fields. This can help you scout and see the landscape and population or activities of the turkeys. Also consider calling the listing agent to ask about the history of the land as it relates to turkey hunting, including looking at any trail cam pictures or other documentation. 


What kind of land maintenance should you consider to improve your chances of success in the field?


The beauty of owning the land is your ability and freedom to personalize it to your needs and preferences. You can design the property to attract turkeys by planting specific vegetation, building cover such as ground blinds, putting in roads or openings, and planting food plots. It’s important to understand how flocks have behaved in previous seasons, and customize the land to cater to those habits.

Brandon suggests establishing a road system and watering holes. “Turkeys rely a lot on their eyesight. They like spaces where they can feel comfortable coming out and strutting with their hens. Road systems allow you to slip around quietly as you’re turkey hunting.” He also suggests letting some old fields grow to become more dense with native grasses and flora, while cutting down other taller grasses. Consider planting chicory, clover, or other turkey-friendly food sources. In short, habitat variety is essential. And when you own the land, you can establish multiple hunting locations for cover and ground blinds based on previous flock activity for different scenarios. 


What is the biggest benefit of having a turkey hunting land expert as your real estate agent?


Brandon points out that working with a recreational land real estate agent offers huge benefits. “You’re talking to someone who not only understands the business of real estate; they’re also passionate about the outdoors. As outdoorsmen and women, even if they’re not a turkey hunter, they will have been paying attention to the land, making note of when and where they see wildlife, and for how many days in a row. These details set the experience apart from working with a traditional residential or commercial agent.” 


The Investment of a Lifetime


Brandon leaves us with this thought, “Purchasing turkey hunting property you can utilize in the springtime will be one of the best investments of your lifetime. It’s an all-inclusive experience that creates an immediate connection between you, the birds, the land, your friends, and your family.” It’s a pretty special thing – to have that kind of unlimited access to prime turkey hunting land, and to create the traditions and memories that come along with it.

If you’re looking to buy prime turkey hunting land, contact the recreational real estate specialists at Hayden Outdoors, where the reason you should is right there in the name. All of the agents are experts in the great outdoors. They know where to look and what to look for when it comes to buying an ideal hunting property in your neck of the woods. 

Brandon Pendergrass photo below with fellow agent Jeff Lovan and Bree Lovan.
Also pictured with hunters in Hawaii as a guide. 

Pro Tips for Buying & Managing Duck Hunting Land

When it comes to vast swaths of land, it doesn’t seem like 300 yards would affect whether or not that land serves its purpose. Give a partial river bank here, take a slice of sand bar there; it’s all the same in the grand scheme, right? Not exactly, and according to professional recreational real estate agents, Jake Hyland and Taylor Dunnigan, definitely not when it comes to looking for prime waterfowl hunting land. Spend a moment talking with these two about finding the perfect property for duck hunting, and you’ll quickly learn how situational an effort it is. “Acre-to-acre, foot-to-foot,” according to Taylor.

Buying waterfowl hunting land for personal recreation or as an investment isn’t easy. Taylor says, “It might be once every five years that a duck hunting property in your budget comes up for sale. And you need to be ready.” It’s why Jake and Taylor are the people you want to talk to if you’re in the market for the waterfowl hunting property of your dreams – they’re both seasoned recreational real estate agents with a long history buying and selling this type of property. But their expertise extends well beyond that. Both grew up smack in the middle of some of the best duck hunting in the West, on Colorado’s Front Range. They went on to guide on some of the most coveted goose and duck hunting land in the country. Give these two a few minutes walking a potential property and they can tell you if it’s worth your time or not.

We spent some time with Jake and Taylor – goose and bird dog pictures mounted on the wall squarely behind them – to learn more about finding the ideal waterfowl property and getting their expert advice on buying duck or goose hunting land.



What are the primary attributes of quality duck hunting property?


These two agents have a four-point checklist when looking for prime duck hunting land: food, refuge, open water and location.

According to Jake and Taylor, water controls everything when you’re hunting waterfowl. It’s where birds take refuge – a spot where they can loaf and hang out. It’s why finding duck hunting land with an ideal water source is not only essential, it’s also important for the overall management and use of the property as it can affect other aspects such as flight paths and feed for waterfowl. If water doesn’t currently exist on the property, is there an opportunity to catch water and move it around? The abundance of duck- and goose-friendly water is what makes South Dakota, Nebraska and Arkansas so good for waterfowl hunting.

But there are other great regions for duck hunting property, if you’re working with a real estate agent who knows where to look and what to look for. Certain areas in the Midwest and along the Mississippi and Platte Rivers can also offer ideal waterfowl hunting land ownership opportunities.


How important are historical flyways for waterfowl land?


Very. Historical flyways are important for waterfowl hunting properties because they indicate the migration patterns of ducks and geese. And they can shift. Taylor points out that we’re starting to see shifts in the flyways wherein geese are moving much farther west. In fact, migration can shift 50 to 75 miles east or west of a particular zone. It’s why agent knowledge about the location and history of the property is so valuable in determining its potential for waterfowl hunting.

Taylor also looks at agriculture and other large bodies of water around the subject property. One of his biggest considerations on behalf of his clients is pressure. For example, 200 acres of hunting property that borders 2,000 acres of public land can be a catch 22. If you can find a collective of private landowners all managing for the same purpose – hunting waterfowl – you’ll do ten times better.

Jake notes the time of year.

“It’s easy to assume a property is ideal for duck hunting in the fall or early winter when you can see the ducks. But our knowledge shines when we visit a property mid-summer and need to paint the picture for a potential client. We might see three ducks during that time, and the client has to trust our knowledge and experience about the flyways and potential of the land.”



What are other ways owners can offset the cost of buying waterfowl land?


There are various ways to generate income from a hunting property, such as leasing it to farmers or conservation organizations. Taylor chimes in, “If you’re looking at a property that has everything – water, ag, etc. – you can rent that land out to a farmer and then reap some of the benefits of the harvest. I also know guys who will contact Denver University to put properties under conservation easements. If you’re solely a hunting property, these easements improve the habitat, which improves the hunting. These easements do come with some restrictions, so it’s important to understand those before going down this path.”


What kind of habitat maintenance do you need to attract waterfowl to your land year after year?


Habitat maintenance is important for fostering the property as a viable resource for wildlife. Land improvements such as fencing, hunting pits, ground blinds and other infrastructure also add value. Wildlife photography, videography and trail cams are an excellent way to document migration patterns and wildlife land use for future sales opportunities. Jake even tells us of a client who keeps a rolodex of duck kills, taking pictures of ducks on the property, which can come in handy when talking with potential buyers or guides.

Back to water, water management is another key way to improve the quality of your duck hunting investment or recreational property. This can include flooding or water capture that improve the habitat, but these measures will be regulated differently in different states. Colorado, for instance, can be a difficult place to move water due to irrigation restrictions, which is why it’s important to understand what it means to own land with water rights in Colorado. According to Jake and Taylor, if you can move water on your waterfowl hunting property, that’s huge. You’re maximizing improvements to your duck hunting land and what it can do.


How important is it to have a recreational agent advise you before buying waterfowl hunting land?


Very important. And Jake and Taylor can’t emphasize this enough, for good reason. Jake notes, “Duck hunting properties are the highest supply and demand right now when it comes to recreational or investment hunting land. There just aren’t that many of them per the factors we’ve talked about. There isn’t a surplus.”

Taylor adds, “There are properties that were good 20 years ago, and they’ll probably be good in 20 years. They’re just historically special properties. However, there are parts of the country where duck hunting is absolutely terrible. There are parts where it’s really good, but finding special properties comes down to working with a recreational land agent who is knowledgeable and has the expertise on waterfowl hunting in a specific regional flyway.”

If there’s still a question as to whether or not Jake and Taylor are experts on the subject of waterfowl hunting properties, Taylor puts those to rest. “We both grew up obsessing about this hobby and guiding all over the country. And now it gets to be our career. Jake and I have put in that time.”

Jake continues, “It’s a passion. It’s the pinnacle hunting property and inventory is slim. We know where to look and what to look for. We view ourselves more as advisors than traditional real estate agents when it comes to this type of property transaction. We work with some clients for years finding them the right duck hunting property within their budget.”

It’s a relationship that goes beyond the exchange of cash and land. Jake and Taylor stay in touch with their clients, providing advice and counsel on how to better the land and optimize the hunting. “Reach out to us, even if it’s early on, so we can understand what you’re looking for. We have the inside track.”




Pro’s Perspective on Buying Real Estate in the West

Lookout Mountain Hunting Ranch Oregon

Advice Before Buying Land in the Big West


There are the real estate agents who know the square footage, can speak to how many bathrooms are enough, and whether or not the school district fits the bill. Then there are the uncommon real estate agents who offer a different kind of experience. They know cows, grazing limits, water rights, minerals rights, and irrigation systems. And if they don’t have the answer, they know the experts who do. Austin Callison with Hayden Outdoors is a mix of both – equal parts seasoned residential real estate agent and highly knowledgeable farm and ranch land real estate specialist.

As the West becomes a hotbed for real estate activity, Austin knows the questions clients should ask when trying to find the perfect property in Idaho, WashingtonOregon and even California,  since that’s where Callison grew up ranching. And the former collegiate defensive lineman doesn’t shy away from sharing his real estate knowledge, ensuring his clients are buying land that will offer a healthy return on investment. 

Austin is a ranch kid at heart, as he grew up in a small ranch community in Northern California. He moved to Boise in 2002 after playing college football in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He’s been in the Treasure Valley ever since, enjoying the ways of the West and tapping into the intrinsic beauty of it. He’s an expert in both real estate and the nuances that come with buying farm and ranch land in the region. He gave us a glimpse into what he’s seeing in the market right now, and what he looks for on behalf of buyers and sellers. 


Two Types of Buyers and a Potential Market Correction


“We’re seeing a couple of different market drivers right now. Relocation buyers are driving the housing market in my territory, mostly those relocating from California. I also work with people who are selling property somewhere else wanting to move out here and live on a little bit of acreage. It could be a horse property or maybe they want to raise their own food. That trend has definitely driven the market up. In order to stay in business, local farmers need to step up to California prices.” 

While the market continues to be one of the fastest growing in the country, Austin notes a downward trend in real estate prices. “In Ada County, prices have increased 5x in the past ten years. It’s not sustainable. But we are starting to see some sort of correction, especially with rates going up. 



The Ins and Outs of Buying Ranch Land


As hit shows like Yellowstone evoke the romance of the West and ranch life, Austin notes it’s not quite as easy as simply pulling up stakes, hitching the U-Haul to your pick-up, and purchasing some ranch property. “I work closely with buyers to understand which leases are in place on the property. We’ve run into situations with gas and mineral leases. These can be a real ‘gotcha’. Purchasing ranch land should always be contingent on a title report. I also look at the productivity of the land and water with the property, which can be significantly impacted by drought.” Austin is the first to tell you he might not have all of the answers, but when he doesn’t, he knows who to turn to. “I like to think of myself as a resource. When it’s time to bring in an expert, I know smart people I can put clients in touch with to help them with due diligence.” 


Advice Selling Ranch Land


When it comes to selling your ranch, Austin has a cornerstone piece of advice.

“If you want to get top dollar for your ground, make sure fences and water are in place. Also, the ground shouldn’t be over-grazed. Whenever someone owns land and they don’t know the specifics of running cows, they can quickly ruin the land.” The same concept applies to farm land, especially if you plan to rent it out. “Make sure your tenant is set up to succeed. Clearly outline what is going to be planted and harvested, and have a good irrigation system in place.”


Tower View Ranch Wyoming

Key Questions to Ask When Buying Farm or Ranch Land in Idaho, Washington or Oregon


Austin has a few questions he always asks the realtor when buying large acreage land:

  • Are there any leases in place?
  • How many water rights or shares are included? Cost?
  • What type of fencing is on the property?
  • How are the neighbors?
  • What’s the carrying capacity of the land?
  • How many cows has the owner run on it in the past?
  • For farm ground, what is the productivity of the land? For example, if the farmer is growing alfalfa, how many tons to the acre are they getting, and how many cuttings are they getting?
  • What are the power costs?
  • Are there any easements?


How a Real Estate Agent Helps in Development Projects


For buyers searching for development projects in his region, Austin says due diligence needs to be front and center. “In most cases, there is a significant amount of due diligence required for development projects. Make sure you understand which hoops you’ll have to jump through.” So, what are some of those hoops? Austin quickly rattled off a list, just to name a few. “Understand water rights, soil types, how deep the water is, where the utilities are located and whether or not you’ll need to bring utilities to the property. Is the project high or low density? Does it have a private septic system or is it on a public county or city sewer system? Are the neighbors going to push back?” 

Developing land in the West has gone from luxury to necessity as rural areas absorb larger populations. “Once again, I’m a resource for my clients. I connect them with the engineers, county planners, water rights specialists, and architects to make sure the development is a successful one.” 

Austin calls Idaho’s Treasure Valley home because he knows they call it the Treasure Valley for a reason. He hunts, fishes, ATVs, and snowmobiles. He adventures through the foothills and sage-lands with his wife and two kids. He’s a family man, a ranch kid, an outdoor enthusiast, and a real estate agent. Austin gets the West in the same way the West gets him. His career is built on sharing that connection with his clients, helping them find their own tillable, ranch-able, or development acreage. Learn more about large acreage real estate in Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and California by visiting our website or getting in touch with a Hayden Outdoors real estate professional today.

Waterfront Property in the Southeast U.S. – Where Your Dream Lifestyle Comes to Life

Where to Find Your Dream Waterfront Property in The Southeast U.S.


As Hayden Outdoors expands its high-end real estate services to include the enriched states of the Southeast U.S., one question tops the list for many buyers, “How far do I have to run before I’m in open water?” Which is to say, according to Hayden Outdoors Partner Greg Liddle, “The Southeast offers a certain type of freedom – thousands and thousands of untouched acres and endless miles of wide-open ocean blue. Florida alone is one of the most moved-to states in the country right now, and for good reason. The seafood is a helluva lot better on the coast!”

To listen to Greg talk about life and real estate in the Southeast is to fall in love with it almost immediately. There’s the affordability of it— if the most desirable areas of the coastal Carolinas or Florida aren’t an option, consider the quiet and sanctity of the Florida panhandle, Alabama or inland Georgia – as well as the opportunity to tap into a way of life in a place you might not have considered until now. Of course, the Southeast is as geologically diverse a part of the country as any, and Greg notes the important things to consider when looking for waterfront land, investment property, or homeownership in this region.

Buying Land or Waterfront Property in Florida

As a child of Florida, Greg has an intimate knowledge and understanding of the state and its many nuances. “For me, Florida’s beauty and its draw lie in the vast wilderness of ocean people can access from the nearly 2,500 miles of coastal Florida we represent at Hayden Outdoors. Hop in the boat, get beyond the No Wake Zone and open up the throttle before parking yourself in the midst of some of the bluest, clearest salt water that surrounds this country. It’s a lot harder to get stuck in traffic when you’re out on the ocean.”



Greg outlines some additional important things to consider when buying real estate in Florida, including:

  • Easy access by boat to restaurants, special events, neighbors, access to water sports and more!
  • There is no state income tax in Florida and in many places, the cost of living is below the national average.
  • When looking at beach and waterfront properties, make sure to work with your real estate professional to identify those that are above the flood zone.
  • Consider your desired property’s proximity to medical services and shopping.
  • Florida is a popular place for people to spend the winter months. Be mindful that some areas will see the population double during this time.
  • You’re going to be in a hurricane corridor every few years somewhere in Florida. Work with your real estate agent to better understand how this might affect your purchase and securing the proper homeowner’s insurance for it.
  • Florida is particularly friendly for short-term rentals and investment properties.
  • For aviation enthusiasts, Greg adds a particularly enticing bonus, “The Blue Angels train in the Panhandle. There’s nothing quite like going out in your boat and fishing while the planes acrobat in the sky. Blue up above, blue down below.”
  • The coveted red snapper fishing season. This is a biggie for everyone from those tossing their line into the water for the first time to the fishing-is-life crowd. Florida boasts a relatively extensive season for red snapper, which typically runs mid-June through the end of July and then again for a handful of weekends throughout October and November.


Buying Land or Waterfront in Georgia

While Georgia echoes many of the coastal benefits of Florida, it also boasts expansive farm land, unique hunting properties, and expansive equine properties.


Keep these things in mind when buying real estate in Georgia:

  • To coast or not to coast? It’s a big question, but a good place to start if Georgia is on your real estate search list. There are the vast beaches of Savannah, the bluffs above the Savannah River, and waterfront along Lake Sinclair. And then there’s the Low Country of Burke County and hidden historic cottage gems that pepper the state’s spectacular countryside. Chat with your real estate agent about your lifestyle goals and where you might best meet them in Georgia.
  • If you do buy a waterfront property, understand your property rights, high water marks, and other important waterfront property considerations.
  • Georgia offers a variety of ways to get outside and play. These include some of the country’s most renowned golf courses to fishing, sailing, hiking, stand-up paddle boarding, and more.


Buying Land or Waterfront in Alabama

If you haven’t put Alabama on your “Top 10 Places to Move” list, then you probably haven’t been there. The inlet of Mobile Bay combines ocean living with calm waters and lively nightlife. The Mobile-Tensaw Delta is a vast river delta and wetland – one of the largest in the country in fact. Waterfront living comes in all ways here, from bays and beaches to storied bayous.


Here are a few things Greg recommends considering when buying real estate in Alabama. Roll Tide!

For those with new-found work-remote freedom who want to tap into one of the best kept secrets in the country, make sure to talk with your Hayden Outdoors real estate representative about Alabama. Neither your pocketbook nor your way of life will be disappointed.

  • Climate – and really, this is a big consideration anywhere in the Southeast because it can vary more than one might think. The trade winds blowing off the coast can cool things down quickly, while inland climes tend to be more humid and consistent year-round.
  • Chat with your real estate agent about how living near a flood zone might affect your property purchase and long-term viability.
  • Like many other states in the region, look for higher indications of hurricane incidents where you’re considering buying, and note the costs of insurance when buying property.
  • If you’re looking to rebuild or remodel, you might need to build your home up above the floodplain.
  • If you don’t want to make an investment in a waterfront property, Hayden Outdoors can help you find a boat slip or more affordable property that includes waterfront access.


Buying Land or Waterfront in South Carolina

“Carolina beach music,” Dupree said, coming up the porch. “The holiest sound on earth.” It’s a line from Beach Music by Pat Conroy, one of South Carolina’s most notable writers. He wrote about South Carolina the way so many of its residents live in the state – with love, celebration, exploration, and an undeniable island vibe. The inlets of Hilton Head, the cobblestone history of Charleston, the 60 miles of serene coastline of Myrtle Beach – South Carolina doesn’t shy away from everything it has to offer.



Keep these things in mind when looking for real estate in South Carolina:

  • Assuming you’re moving to South Carolina for its beach life, think about which beach might be the best fit. Surfers often love Folly Beach best. Those looking for a little luxury should consider Hilton Head and its many amenities. Investors might want to consider Sullivan’s Island, while first-time home buyers can often find friendlier costs in Surfside Beach.
  • Scuba diving is fantastic here (and this includes rivers and lakes as well as oceans), so for those who want to infuse their lifestyle with as much underwater exploration as possible, South Carolina is a must on the consideration list. Natural wonders and artificial reefs such as shipwrecks beckon all day long.
  • To this end, chat with your real estate professional about water clarity in your area.
    Consider erosion, hurricanes, and flooding as it relates to your potential real estate purchase.


Buying Land or Waterfront in North Carolina

North Carolina says it all in its name. It combines the waterways and coastal amenities of South Carolina with an abundance of forests, meadows, coves, and ancient mountain ranges including the Appalachian, Blue Ridge, and Great Smoky Mountains. While North Carolina’s real estate might be lesser known and lesser sought by those looking to relocate, people who live there understand its endless beauty.


north carolina waterfront property


Is North Carolina real estate on your list? Consider this:

  • Small town living. North Carolina has plenty of it, and it’s the kind of small town living so many of us crave right now.
  • Big land living. On the flip side, North Carolina’s rolling hills and mountains offer a variety of property types, from vast farmland to hidden coves surrounded by endless green trees. If you’re looking to relocate to a place where you can afford some serious recreational land just far enough away from it all, North Carolina might be your best bet.
  • There’s water here, too. From the nightlife of Wilmington to the storied Outer Banks (literally storied, as in the current Netflix hit Outer Banks), and famous off-shore fishing of Nag’s Head, North Carolina’s shoreline is the choose-your-own-adventure-kind.
  • Hurricane season does descend upon the state, so make sure you understand the implications of this when buying real estate here.
  • Winters here are short and mild. Summers are subtropical and the mountains can experience heavy rainfall.

If you’re buying waterfront property in North Carolina, understand the difference between public and private beach access. Greg points out, “In some areas, you’ll own a portion of the beach, but you can only build up to a certain point. Sand dune fencing can go to a certain point and the public can still access through your property. It’s important to understand which part of the beach you do, or do not, own.”


The Southeast is an extraordinary place, and for many, a very accessible and appealing one. If you crave the kind of lifestyle you can make all your own, with instant access to waterways, forests, bayous and back roads that are getting harder and harder to find, reach out to a Hayden Outdoors professional. They have the important lifelong understanding of how to achieve the kind of life this region of the country holds so dear.

How Winchester Firearms Continues to Build the Ultimate “Rifleman’s Rifle”

Article by:
Allen Treadwell
(479) 903-4109

[email protected]


With rifle season officially upon us, it’s time to consider adding the ultimate rifleman’s rifle to this year’s hunting kit. When it comes to the best firearms out there, one name comes to mind: Winchester. The new Model 70 and XPR bolt action rifles are the benchmark against which every other bolt-action rifle is measured. 


The Model 70

Model 70 Bolt Action Rifle


Never your ordinary bolt action, the new Model 70 continues to elevate the excellence that has defined this firearm since it was created in 1936. Key features include:

  • M.O.A.™ Trigger System 
  • Improved fit and finish
  • Enhanced accuracy
  • Classic Pre-’64 controlled round feeding

The new M.O.A. Trigger System takes accuracy to an entirely new level, providing the most precise three-lever trigger system in the world. The Pre-’64 controlled round feed fully controls the cartridge from magazine to chamber to ejection. Trip Zero Advantage means there is zero take up (the distance the trigger piece travels prior to the shooter feeling resistance), zero creep (perceived movement of the trigger just before the release of the firing pin or striker), and zero overtravel (rearward movement of the trigger once the firing pin or striker has been released). In short, this is as smooth a shot as it gets. The new Model 70 also has a three-position safety, which is easy and convenient to operate with the thumb of your firing hand. 


The Winchester XPR Rifle

Winchester XPR Rifle

Like the Model 70, the Winchester XPR was designed with hunters’ needs in mind. Leading in both performance and precision, the XPR’s innovation caters to the following key issues:

  • Overall accuracy
  • Quality of the trigger system
  • Advanced features
  • Lasting value

The M.O.A. Trigger is also at the heart of the XPR, complemented with the highest quality barrel and action, including its rifling, crown, action interface, and headspace. The result is a comprehensive, expertly crafted, advanced firearm that promises remarkable accuracy. It’s the details that set this rifleman’s rifle apart. Additional features include:

  • Bolt release button for opening the bolt with the safety on
  • Fast 60-degree bolt lift that leaves ample clearance for your scope
  • Superior Inflex Technology recoil pad system


Winchester has been creating world-class weaponry since 1866, from rifles to shotguns and accessories. Make this hunting season your best yet with the superior firearm you deserve – a new Model 70 or XPR bolt action rifle. 

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