Scotland Hunting Club Deer Management Profile – Bill Tomlinson’s Perspective

Bill Tomlinson has managed the timber and wildlife for Scotland Hunting Club, Inc., (“Scotland”) located on the Big Black River in Yazoo County, since 1998. Bill pointed out that excerpts from his most recent deer harvest summary regarding Scotland indicate member willingness and desire to have a long term plan for growth and development of trophy quality deer. He also noted that Scotland is located in Yazoo County, MS. on the north side of the Big Black River in one of the best, if not the best, areas in Mississippi for trophy buck potential. A few excerpts from the summary are:

“Buck harvest pressure is regarded as being consistent with a focus on production of high quality older age class bucks.”
“Significantly, the harvest of 3.5+ (year old) bucks during the past five (5) years has averaged 91% of the total buck harvest at Scotland.”
“Nevertheless, this level of harvest consistency and hunter selectivity continues to indicate a willingness on the part of the Scotland owners to practice self restraint relative to sub-adult buck age classes with an eye toward management of trophy bucks.”
With the above information in mind, Cole DeLong with Larry Smith-Vaniz Realty, LLC, conducted an interview with Bill Tomlinson. A few of the questions asked and Bill’s responses are as follows:

C.D. – In your opinion what is the primary factor that has contributed to Scotland’s success?

B.T. – There are a number of factors that contribute to Scotland’s success. Obviously Scotland is in an area of Mississippi well known for fantastic deer genetics, great habitat and very good soils. The owners though have been committed to quality deer management practices since the late 1980’s when they purchased the property. Over the years they have continued to raise the bar on their buck harvests, manage the doe herd and implement habitat enhancement initiatives. It certainly has been helpful that Scotland is surrounded by large single owner tracts of land which are managed with the same goals and objectives for quality deer management.

C.D. – What types of habitat enhancement initiatives have they implemented?

B.T. – Scotland has enhanced the quality of their deer herd primarily through timber management practices done in the interests of habitat development and recreational development and not economic return. Scotland is 1900 acres comprised of mostly beautiful hardwood timber. Strategic “corridor” timber management has been utilized at Scotland to include edge and transitional type habitat. When implementing “corridor” timber harvests it is best to determine areas that will be improved for deer habitat by utilizing aerial and topographic maps combined with actual hunting experience on the property. Unproductive hunting areas will typically be large areas of open woods with small amounts of escape cover for deer. The key to “corridor” timber harvest thinning is to leave ample amounts of food, create better habitat and escape cover for the deer herd, while also leaving good visibility so hunters can see deer movement.

C.D. – How are land features incorporated into their timber management plan?

B.T. – Scotland has close to 4 miles of river frontage on the Big Black River plus it has creeks and sloughs throughout the property. These features have successfully been incorporated into their habitat enhancement strategy. In their situation this means they have left timber undisturbed along natural travel highways for deer, and over the years thinned further out to provide escape cover along travel routes. The same principle can be applied to a property with ridges and hollows. Deer need escape routes, and cover facilitates their movement. “Corridor” timber management creates a “Jello Ripple Effect”. If you stick your finger in a bowl of jello, it will ripple to the side of the bowl. It is the same with deer. A deer needs the safety of cover. Hunters will see more deer if the deer do not have to run 300 yards to the edge of the bowl to reach escape cover. The ripple needs to stop at a brush pile closer than 300 yards.

C.D. – How were the corridor cuts planned and implemented?

B.T. – The background for the property is that a prior owner conducted a timber harvest in the 1980s which involved a select cut program over much of the 1900 acres which now belongs to the owners of the land Scotland leases. During the 5-7 years following the select cut, there were treetops left from the harvest over most of the land, the land surface had been “scratched” (for lack of a better term) during timber harvest, and canopies were opened up so sunlight reached new growth (trees and plants). The deer habitat was wonderful with abundant food sources and cover. Over the following few years, with the tops rotting or totally gone, the remaining trees canopied back over and blocked sunlight. The result was beautiful open woods, with limited year food sources and very little cover.

When my company was asked to come on board to deal with forestry and game management issues, we conducted a detailed “on the ground” inspection of the land and asked for a meeting with the landowners to discuss and consider landowner goals and objectives. The landowners were asked several pertinent questions with the most significant relating to income dollars from forestry vs. game management. There was no delay in getting the answer… wildlife management and habitat development were primary with long term potential for timber income being a secondary goal.

Using the owner objectives as our mandate, we recommended a 300 +/- acre corridor cut which began near the southeast corner of the property, leading northwesterly to the north property line and then southwesterly to a point near the southwest corner of the Scotland property. The corridor was 300-400 yards wide, and it involved removal of inferior species and damaged trees.

The result was a significant corridor of cover, food and superb habitat running virtually the entire length of the property, with the bonus being that the quality timber was left to grow. The corridor cut plus additional habitat enhancement thinning has resulted in wonderful habitat PLUS an extremely high quality stand of hardwood timber.