The Carolinas are chock full of great places to hunt, and with the stifling economy, the real-estate market is flooded with available rural properties. Prospective buyers have their choice of almost every type of land option, but some properties will serve them better than others as determined by how the properties are managed or showcased.

Every county in both Carolinas can offer avid outdoorsman prime hunting opportunities if the land is prepared in such a way to attract and keep wildlife and hunters happy. Landowners wishing to unload their rural tracts can take a little extra time to make their to shine above all others by following a few "must do's" to snag today's buyer. Not only will these habitat-management tactics offer a prospective buyer something aesthetically-pleasing, but the benefits to wildlife will be extraordinary.

Wildlife are fairly simple creatures; they require a few simple resources to keep them happy on a daily basis. Ace Parker of Whitetail Properties South of North Myrtle Beach, S.C. (843-241-0646) stresses to landowners to provide a consistent food source. This food source will attract and keep wildlife fat and happy.

"Food is important to have available year-round, not just during deer season," he said.

Food plots should be available for deer and other wildlife throughout the year to keep these animals feeding within the boundaries of the parcel. Landowners should not allow any open land to lay fallow. Food plots will provide habitat and a food resource for a wide variety of species. If no open areas are available to plant, they can be created after clear-cut harvests or any other time. Food plots should make up two to five percent of the total land area. Additionally, shoulders of roads, power lines right-of-ways, and old logging decks can be planted to contribute to the overall food plot percentage.

Jason Burbage of Carolina Land and Realty in Charleston, S.C. (843-708-8278) recognizes that food plots and green space will bring some color to the site and quick value to a listed property for recreational use.

"Green sells! Plant winter wheat in cool months," he said.

Additionally, Burbage recommends landowners plant a variety of soft and hard mast in the food plots and along other routine feeding zones on the property.

"Plant sawtooth oaks and pear trees; they are a great source of nutrition," he said.

Even though mast trees only offers wildlife with a short-term food source, the varied nutritional component and flood of resources in the late summer/early fall will bring or keep animals in the area when it's most important.

Beyond a constant food source, deer and other wildlife must have adequate cover. Parker recommends adequate bedding areas and cover are available for wildlife.

"Create (heavy cover) areas to make wildlife feel secure and to keep them there," he said.

Steve Dana of Farms & Land Realty in Southern Pines, N.C. (910-690-5800), also recommends that landowners take steps to keep the wildlife at ease while traveling across the property.

"Leave wildlife buffers around edges for deer and other wildlife to use as corridors from 50- to 75-feet wide or wider."

The buffers will allow game species to travel across from one area to the next without heading through vulnerable areas lacking cover. They also end up doubling as places to erect stands.

Water is another added benefit to properties and has a collection of benefits for a many different species of wildlife. Deer and other wildlife migrate to water sources throughout the year for one reason or another. Burbage always get requests from potential buyers for water or properties with ponds for duck hunting and fishing opportunities.

"Landowners should create ponds or accentuate any water sources on the property to promote recreational opportunities for buyers," he said.

Food, cover, and water are among the most important factors to keep deer and other wildlife interested in a property, but many buyers look for properties with a certain level of diversity. A good mixture of fields, water and forests of various age and type are attractive to buyers, with many added benefits to a wide range of wildlife species from small to large game species.


Provide Logistical Data

Rural tracts can be wild or tame with respect to the access to their interior and the overall condition of different parts of the tract. While some tracts may have hunting areas already established on the site, other may have been dormant for several years. Turn-key tracts ready for a new owner to come by and pick up where the previous owner left are a very attractive.

Burbage said that landowners should highlight all improvements made on their property. He compiles a package of high-resolution photos and aerial photographs that illustrates the makeup and the charms of the property.

"Accentuate habitat and logistical improvements that hunters key on and would like," he said.

Potential landowners want the ability to enter and travel through their site with no difficulties. Burbage recommends maintaining the existing road system and proposing construction through certain areas where access is deficient.

"An interior road system is important for showing property and for future owner access," he said.

Prospective buyers must be able to see every corner of the property, and good access roads will insure connectivity between each habitat and forest.

In addition to roads and good access, many hunters will fancy a series of well-made deer stands scattered throughout the property. Dana recommends erecting numerous permanent deer stands adjacent to food plots and high wildlife travel areas.

"Build large box stands with steps versus ladders that will be friendly for small children and older hunters," he said.

Existing deer stands over active food plots offers hunters with a turn-key operation, with almost everything needed for the opening of the hunting season taken care of.


Provide forest data and plans

Even though most land purchases for recreational use involve primarily hunting concerns, land acquisitions are still investments. Forested and un-forested sections offer potential landowners with an asset to be discovered and managed.

As many landowners prepare for a land sale, timber is often harvested on sections or across the entire tract. While some landowners may prefer tracts to be void of timber, most prospective buyers would value a forested, mature parcel over a clear-cut parcel. Edwin Orr of Timber Marketing and Management of the Carolinas in Raleigh, N.C. believe hunters and recreational land buyers will realize the value of the forested region above just the timber values. On the flip side, he says that buyers will devalue clear-cut parcels by at least the amount of the site preparation and reforestation expenses – and sometimes even more.

"Having a site reforested after a harvest will be critical for most buyers," he said. "Everybody will sell land eventually, and owners should manage properties with that in mind."

Any timber-cruise data, forest-management plans and wetland-delineation data should be provided for prospective buyers. While this data may not always be flattering, it will provide the prospective buyer documentation of the land and its resources it has to offer.

Lastly, potential landowners want to see what they are buying. Orr recommends sellers to provide an accurate land survey with well-marked property lines.