Wildlife Habitat Improvement: Eastern North Carolina’s White Oak Ranch
White Oak Ranch hunt club in eastern North Carolina manages for big deer, ducks and turkeys, but its habitat-improvement also produces good populations of small game, black bears and an occasional wild hog.
White Oak Ranch is a private hunt club that has operated in North Carolina’s Edgefield and Bertie counties for well over 20 years. The club’s 14 members invest countless hours on their 4,000 acres to produce a mecca for deer, ducks and wild turkey, that incidentally produces annual harvests of wild hogs, black bear and a variety of small game. White Oak attacks every aspect of wildlife management to improve the quality and quantity of its game through habitat management, food plots hunter management and maybe the most important, cooperative landowners and cooperative harvest management.
Michael Mansell, the club’s president, believes White Oak’s success is centered on a collection of common goals between cooperating property owners, adjacent hunting clubs and the club’s exclusive membership.
“I cannot stress enough how important it is to have quality landowners with similar habitat-improvement goals on their personal properties,” he said. “Additionally, we formed a quality deer management cooperative with our adjacent hunting clubs to ensure that we are all managing our deer the same way. Currently, we have just under 10,000 acres under similar management.”
White Oak Ranch’s club lands are made up of a mixture of timber-managed woodlands and active agriculture. Luckily, its agriculture lands make up about 60 percent of the land cover, with annual rotations of prime crops: soybeans, peanuts, sweet potatoes and corn. Nevertheless, more than 40 acres of cool-season food plots are prepared and cultivated annually with plantings of radishes, clover, turnips, forage oats, and rye.
White Oak Ranch’s membership manages its herd to keep it healthy and, of course, produce quality bucks. The basic management goal is to target only mature bucks and kill twice as many does as bucks to control the population. As with most clubs practicing quality deer management, harvest restrictions always cause difficulties trying to stay within the bounds of the rules. White Oak has tried about every quality deer management approach, from number of points, width, weight and age, but it finally settled on one simple method. It only allows three bucks per members, and members are encouraged to harvest bucks at least 3.5 years old, if not older.
White Oak’s annual harvest is about 25 bucks and 50 does, or one buck and two does for every 180 acres. This management regime eliminates any discussion, controversy, and heartaches among members when a deer bites the dust. Most important, restricting the buck harvest per unit area allows a reasonable harvest of bucks or mature bucks and almost guarantees a mature class of animals remaining for future hunting seasons.
“It is what works for us, and it works well. It drives the correct behavior in the field by the members and any of their guests,” says Mansell.***
For more information, contact Mansell, 919-345-7907 or visit www.ncdeerman.com/WhiteOakNCMM/WhiteOakNC.htm.
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