We’re gonna jump right in, John. And what the heck is land management? First, it was food plots, now everybody has got a sign out saying, “I’m a land manager.” Help me out here, buddy.
John: Yeah. The industry, you’ve been seeing a little bit of shift. You’re gonna continue to see a shift towards people spending money on consultants, land managers trying to dial in. You hear in your own particular wildlife program a little better. What is land management? That’s a great question. Everybody would have a different interpretation. Everybody has a different expectation. Some people are also more focused on short-term. And my little words that I wanna throw at you and others out there is short-term planning is great, but long-term, having a vision and trying to create a sustainable property, a sustainable program is the way to start. Sacrifice sometimes in the short-term because I think all of us wanna have not just instant success, short-term success, I think we wanna enjoy the fruits of our labor for not just this year, but many years into the future.
Bruce: So John, you see it, I see it all over social media, you know, land management. And I think you said it well. You know, do you have just a…”You know, I’m leasing a land for three years, what can I do real quick down and dirty?” And then, “I’ve got a five-year lease on this thing,” or, “Heck, the family owns this farm.” So what do we need to do? I know on our farm along the Baraboo River, we did some timber cutting up on a ridge that hadn’t been touched in you know how long, and it’s all climax forest and there was no undergrowth. And now we’re gonna have, you know, a jungle fest. But we’ll work on that. But having said that, a lot of people are thinking, “Okay, I’ve gotta do better for my land. I can’t just go sit in the concussion stand and hope a deer comes by and that stand was put up 10 years ago.” So how does all that relate, what I just said, to land management?
when anybody comes to me or at shows and we get into this topic, there’s a series of questions that need to be asked to be able to give anybody a great answer versus just an answer
John: Yeah, when anybody comes to me or at shows and we get into this topic, there’s a series of questions that need to be asked to be able to give anybody a great answer versus just an answer. And so, you know, whether you have a situation like yours or maybe you have a three-year, five-year lease, that’ll affect, you know, your plan if you don’t have a commitment where what you’re doing today could be, you know, utilized, you know, for five years down the line. It’s different if the guy owns the land and he’s planning on owning the land for a number of years, no matter what the situation is, no matter if you have a lease or an ownership, no matter if you have 15 acres or 500 acres, they’re still the same basic concepts.
The first thing that I wanna throw at people, though, is, besides having a vision, besides having a plan, don’t rush to start hacking trees. Don’t rush to do too much too fast, because so many people will make mistakes. And it’s easy to make mistakes and it’s hard to make up for those.
So again, I will recommend people surrounding yourself with a good team of land managers. So for example, my focus, you know, my specialty is soil, seed. There’s guys like Art Helin that I believe you’ve actually interviewed a number of times. His specialty is timber stand improvement. There’s other guys out there that specialize in water. So again, there’s no one expert in the industry that can be an expert at all phases of property and land management. Guys like myself work with guys like Zack Huser on the water and guys like Art Helin. So there might be three, four different sets of eyes looking at one property, working as a team, with a long-term goal in mind. And I believe that’s a sound approach and something more people should consider is making it a team approach to long-term sustainability.
Bruce: Now, when you mentioned…you know, you just mentioned timber, you just mentioned water, and, you know, cover. Those are the three critical things that deer need to have. If you don’t have those, you’re not gonna keep deer. They might come through but you’re not gonna keep deer. So when you look…when somebody calls you up, are they calling you up specifically on the food plot, are you walking the land and telling them how to lay out everything as far as food plots or do you yourself just bring an art and say, “Hey, take a look at this timber?” And, you know, how do you work there at Grandpa Ray?
John: Yeah. There’s cases where they might have already had other experts like Art Helin, guys like Jim Ward, you know, Tony LaPratt, other people like that that might have already been on the property. And people get a hold of me because they’ve already got their property laid out. Maybe their stand locations are laid out and now they’re really wanting to dial in, you know, the food plots. But there’s other cases too where maybe I’m the first guy on the property. And, you know, even though I’m pretty good with helping people lay out, “Hey, this is a great spot for putting your stand. Here’s a spot that’d probably be ideal for putting water. Here’s some habitat areas that you should look at doing,” you know. So there’s all different situations.
And for me, you know, there’s no right or wrong answer as far as, you know, should I be on the property first, should I be out there after your property has already been laid out. For what I do, if somebody gets a hold of me, I do ask those questions. “Has anybody been there before?” If there has, you know, “Did the guy do a bunch of hinge-cutting? Did he do a bunch of stump-cutting? What has been done on your property?” And then we’ll go from there based on what a guy is really wanting from me.
And again, what they’ll get from me is a whole different perspective than what they’re gonna get from most other people industry because, again, I’m not just focused on, “Okay, let’s just plant something this year. Here’s some of the better things you could plant this year.” I’m looking at their specific goals. Factors like how many dear are on your property? What are the neighbors doing? A whole list of questions that will affect all these other factors as far as where do you cut trees if you cut trees? Where do you put water if you need to put water? Where to put food plots. Because it isn’t just, “Hey, what are you looking to do on your property.” Your neighbors can have a huge influence on what we’re gonna decide to do. And when I say we, it could be me an individual, it could be me and other team members that are working with the client on their property. Those are things that most people don’t think about.
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