Ideally, now would be the optimal time to be putting the finishing touches on late-summer prep work leading up to deer season that’s now only weeks away.
Overgrown shooting lanes should have already been taken care of, stands that needed repairs have hopefully been addressed, tractor work for the food plots is about done and your trail cams are finally showing potential shooters you’ll be on the lookout for later this fall.
After some target practice with your bow or rifle, you’re basically ready to roll for opening day.
Now suppose you were on the other end of the spectrum.
Forget about not having everything ready to go on your property — suppose you didn’t have anywhere to hunt at all. Unexpected lease issues, disputes among camp members or a variety of other issues can leave a hunter suddenly and unexpectedly with no place to call home.
But according to Ray Chagnard, owner of Chag’s Sporting Goods in Metairie and a licensed hunting and recreational land agent with Porter Properties, LLC in Natchez, Miss., there’s still time to buy land and maybe get in some quality hunting time this season.
“It fluctuates from month to month, but there’s a pretty good inventory,” Chagnard said. “It seems like the smaller tracts are harder to find, like 100 acres or under. Obviously, more people can afford a smaller piece than a larger piece.
“Those tend to move faster.”
Chagnard said in Mississippi, counties bordering the Mississippi River and its nutrient-packed soil — like Jefferson, Adams and Claiborne — are all prime deer hunting spots.
“Any deer hunter that knows anything wants to be in a good soil area where there’s good agriculture. It goes right to antler growth and body size,” he said. “You are what you eat — it’s the same thing with deer.”
If you’re in the market to buy some land - no matter which state you plan to hunt in — Chagnard said the first thing to do is figure out how much windshield time you’re willing to put in to get there.
“I would first off figure out what drive you’re comfortable with — if it’s a two-hour drive, a three-hour drive or a four-hour drive,” he said. “All that is going to make a difference in what county you’re going to be in.”
Once you’ve got that figured out, the next step is determining how big of a tract of land you’re interested in. Depending on timber value, Chagnard said prices range anywhere from $2,500 to $3,500 an acre in Mississippi.
“There’s not really a minimum size. It’s more about location, location, location,” he said. “You could have a guy that’s got 50 acres in the right spot and a guy that’s got 200 acres in the wrong spot — and the guy with the 50 acres will outshoot him all day long.
“Bad soil, bad agriculture, bad neighbors or dog hunters around you affect the quality of the hunting you’ll have no matter how many acres you have.”
Figuring on 50 acres per man is a good rule of thumb, but Chagnard said that depends a lot on terrain.
“Hill country hunts a lot bigger than flat country,” he said. “You could get a hundred acres of hill land close to the river and you could hunt three or four guys on it, where you might have a hundred acres of flat land and only hunt two guys on it.”
If you do purchase a 50-acre-or-smaller tract, Chagnard said to consider not putting a camp or house at that location.
“I’d consider staying off the property unless you’ve got really big woods around you. It’s kind of a personal preference. What happens is if you put a home on a property you lose about 10 acres where deer aren’t going to come around,” he said. “So that’s one thing to consider: You’re going to lose some of your huntable woods if you’re putting a house out there.”
Once you focus in on a particular property, Chagnard said your next question for the realtor should be about available water and electricity hook-ups. You might need budget to drill a well, for instance.
And make sure your realtor has a good feel for what types of hunting activity — if any — are happening on adjacent properties.
“If they can’t answer that question, you need a new realtor,” Chagnard said. “I wouldn’t have any of my clients buy something where I would say, ‘I don’t know what’s next door. I don’t know what they do there.’
“It would be an injustice to my client. That’s very important.”
Regardless of where the property is located, Chagnard said your goal should be eventually create a mix of habitat that will attract — and hold — deer.
“If I could have a blank canvas with 100 acres and draw it the way I want it, I want hills and bottoms because deer like to hide,” he said. “I want the bottoms to be as nasty as can be, just thick and full of growth. Up on the top of the hill, I want some oak trees with some food plots. So if you can cut it and make that happen — or if it’s already been cut and is already happening — that’s what you’re trying to achieve.”
That leads to another important question for your realtor — timber value of the property.
“Hunters are finally starting to realize there’s a fine line between timber value and hunting, because the most beautiful piece of woods with great timber is not necessarily the best for deer hunting. Deer like heavy brush and places they can browse with new growth, and that’s all the things you get with a piece of property that’s been logged,” Chagnard said. “It gives you more sunlight to the ground so you get more vegetation and more browse.
“If you’ve got lots of loggable timber that creates a huge canopy, that doesn’t allow the undergrowth to grow. So although you get great forage from acorns — the deer like to feed on that and you need some of that — the guys that are really in the know want a good healthy mix, more so leaning toward cutover than heavy hardwoods.”
Too much solid hardwood, and Chagnard said you’re likely to see lots of nocturnal activity on your trail cams — but fewer deer when you’re actually in the stand.
“They’re living somewhere else because there’s no place to live on your property,” he said. “They come to you at night because they’re pressured and you never see them. Ideally you want some cutover, some nasty bottoms and not particularly flat land unless you’re near agriculture.
“Hiding sources are more important than those big pretty oak trees.”
Although a nice chunk of land represents a sizable investment, Chagnard said a group of hunters can buy a piece of property and invest in creating habitat that will attract deer for years down the road — all while never having to worry about losing their lease again.
“More people are buying now,” he said. “A guy who hunted for years on one place but wound up losing his lease has put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into it over 10 years time. He wants a smaller piece of land that he actually owns, rather than leasing a big piece that he’s constantly worried about losing all the time.”
For more information on potential hunting property, click here or contact Chagnard directly at 504-952-6625.