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One thing bow hunters and land managers can do to see more deer

By Matt Dye
April 6, 2020

One thing bow hunters and land managers can do to see more deer

Edge-feathering—or, simply creating a gradual transition between two different habitat types—is not a commonly implemented practice, but the end results serve a critical role in most landscapes. As we travel across the country, we find the most properties lack the “transitional zone.” Often, the timber will transition directly into a crop, food plot, or pasture fields. This creates a hard edge, but what is often lacking are the vegetative species that dwell along the edge.

These species play a critical role in the life cycles of turkeys, whitetail deer, bobwhite quail, ruffed grouse, and various other game and nongame species. These diminishing plant communities not only require partial sunlight to grow, but they provide both forage and cover for a whole host of wildlife species.

Edge Feathering

Here’s an example of a field with no edge feathering—It goes directly from grass to trees.

To create this we commonly recommend busting out the chainsaws and dropping trees reaching out into the opening, expanding the “transitional zone” further into the field and back into the timber. Depending on the tree species growing along the edge we may decide to cut 15-30 yards deep into the timber, creating a 50-yard “transitional zone.” Remember, this type of habitat is lacking, so we want to create as much as the property will allow.

When the “edge,” or line between timber and open field is expanded, often we find the most desirable species of vegetation growing. Plants such as blackberry, goldenrod, common ragweed, American plum, gray dogwood, daisy flea-bane, beggars’ lice, and a whole host of others, all great for cover and forage.

Another reason, beyond having more beneficial plant species growing on your property that will provide forage and cover, is to help steer deer in front of stand locations. We strongly recommend to clients we work with where to use open versus closed-edge feathering. Open edge-feathering is when the trees are dropped in a direction that is perpendicular to the field edge. In comparison, closed-edge feathering is where trees are dropped parallel to the field edge that will inhibit or deter deer from entering and exiting the field in certain locations.

Edge Feathering

Here, trees have been cut to create a more gradual transition between field and forest.

As much of a benefit to the habitat as this practice is, it is just as beneficial from the hunting side. By utilizing a rangefinder to accurately determine the distance from the stand location to the beginning of the closed-edge feathering, a seasoned land manager and hunter can push a large majority of deer within shooting distance by manipulating the vegetation and utilizing the closed-edge feathering technique in the right locations. With the right application of edge feathering, dynamic and long-term pinch points can be created with ease.

Once the right tree is selected in a food plot, incorporate the edge-feathering technique to put the odds back in your favor. Use a dependable rangefinder to place this new and highly desired feature in the proper location that will result in deer passing through bow range.

This easy technique is often under-utilized, but in large destination food plots, edge feathering can seemingly shrink the size of the food plot as more deer enter and exit within range. Be sure to wear all the necessary safety gear when operating a chainsaw.

Edge Feathering

This photo was taken in the same place as the previous photo. Edge feathering creates ideal habitat for deer, something land managers and hunters should note.

Have fun and be safe!

By Matt Dye Co-Owner of Land & Legacy

Want to see what edge feathering looks like in action? Check out this video from the Land & Legacy team for some ideas. Need some more white tail content to keep you going until fall? Get a jump on next year’s rut by listening to our podcast.

Matt Dye Co-Owner of Land & Legacy


Matt Dye is a Virginia native, he received his B.S. in Biology with a concentration in Wildlife Management from Bridgewater College, in Bridgewater, Virginia. His education and career experiences have provided him opportunities to work with whitetails on private, state, and federal levels across the country. He is the co-owner of Land & Legacy. This business was created to educate others about habitat management and hunting strategies by producing a weekly podcast in addition to providing private land consultation services across the country.

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