Indian Hammock Hunt and Riding Club

A little bit of old Florida preserved in a modern world

General Habitat Assessment and Population Estimation

I. Habitat Assessment Summary:

The native habitat on the entire 3600 or so acres of Indian Hammock is very diverse with oak hammocks, pine plantations, cypress breaks, native grass lands, palmetto thickets, and other wildlife friendly habitat types. There are multiple ponds, creeks, and canals that run through the property, which make up many micro-ecosystems of their own. These habitat types and micro-ecosystems are sufficient enough to provide wildlife with decent native browse and other food options, good bedding and nesting grounds, and adequate “everyday life areas” that are important to all wildlife. With deer and turkey being the major wildlife species of interest for all residents, it is in my professional opinion that the property has a native carrying capacity (that’s the total amount of a particular species the native habitat can support) is up to around 350 deer and 100 turkeys. However, with good sound management practices (quality food plots, a good feeding system, selective harvest, and others) the property could support an added 100 to 150 deer and 35 to 60 turkeys.


II. Deer Population Estimation:

As of now the deer population concerns are the focus of this part of the assessment. The deer population estimate was based on the use of both actual wildlife sightings and game camera surveys. With the help from Mike and Greg, I have been compiling data for the past month or so to achieve the data needed to obtain the most accurate population estimate that I could. However, remember this is only an estimate and I will continue to collect data as time goes on to better monitor this number.

            * Total Deer Population: 152

                        1. Bucks: 42

                                    a. 1.5 Year-Old Age Class: 17

                                    b. 2.5 Year-Old Age Class: 15

                                    c. 3.5 Year-Old Age Class: 7

                                    d. 4.5 Year-Old Age Class: 3

                                    e. 5.5 Plus year Old Age Class: 0

                        2. Does: 80

                        3. Fawns: 30         


III. Biologist Concerns and Recommendations:

1. Population Concerns and Recommendations: There are many things that can be done to improve the overall “deer situation” on Indian Hammock. However, there is one that will improve that situation the most; and that is to Close Deer Hunting for the next two years on Indian Hammock. The biggest problem that Indian Hammock has its deficiency of older age class bucks. The majority of the buck population is yearlings and 2.5-year-old bucks. The 4.5-year-old plus categories must be populated more in order to have a successful trophy buck program. Not hunting for the next two years will give Indian Hammock the possibility to have 24 bucks in this age class. Even if half of those deer survive or don’t leave it will give Indian Hammock 12 deer in that age class; that’s a 400% increase in 4.5 year-old plus bucks in what you have currently.


The absence of older age class bucks is the most pressing concern, but really it’s the relatively low population of all deer compared to Indian Hammock’s carrying capacity. As noted earlier Indian Hammock’s carrying capacity is for around 350 deer, but the population surveys only show around half of that. Even though you see lots of does and even small bucks “stacked up” in the residential areas, this is NOT the real picture of total population. In short, not hunting for two years will increase the population due to no harvests, decrease the pressure which decreases buck dispersal, and will increase immigration of other deer into Indian Hammock.


2. Nutritional Concerns and Recommendations: There are three important thoughts to consider, native carrying capacity, the current nutritional impact specifically on buck antler expression, and the impact that quality year round nutrition can do to improve the two previous thoughts. As noted earlier quality year round food with other sound management practices can greatly increase Indian Hammock’s carrying capacity by around 35 to 40 percent. Also, good year round nutrition can increase a buck’s antler expression by around 20 percent. To give you an example let’s take a buck scoring 125 inches gross B&C points. If you add 20 percent to that he could score 150 inches gross B&C points. That takes an average trophy to a buck of a lifetime for most hunters anywhere in the country.


To achieve these nutritional needs Indian Hammock needs to add more food plot acreage with high protein plants. My suggestion to you is this fall plant as many acres in a plot mix with both high protein annuals and perennials. Due to the wet conditions during the spring and summer your food plot areas are not conducive to planting warm season plots. However, the perennials planted in the fall will continue to provide the adequate nutrition into the spring and summer (the most important time for fawn growth and antler development) which is needed to achieve said goals. As a suppliment to the food plots feeding protein pellets will need to be done to fully meet the nutritional needs of the property. A ration of 20% or higher protein feed will be needed. To adequately feed the deer on Indian Hammock you will need 18 gravity feeders (1 per 200 acres) spread throughout the property.


3. Selective Harvest Program. As stated earlier protecting your younger age class bucks and producing more older age class bucks is a must in any trophy buck program. It’s really simple; don’t shot any buck until he is 4.5 or older (personally the goal should 5.5 or older). However, I understand that everyone cannot age deer “on the hoof” adequately (at least that is the excuse) so other methods of achieving this must be put into place. The best method is the “Hit List” method. Simply compile of list of bucks that are 4.5 or older from the game camera pictures. Then only bucks that are put on this list are to be harvested. This is my recommendation to Indian Hammock for your selective harvest program. Then there is the most used way of selective harvest and that is antler restrictions. A set of antler beam, width, tine, or mass measurement restrictions are formulated to determine a “shooter buck”. This method can work, but it has its flaws. There will be some really good young bucks (that don’t need to be shot) that will be shooters based on set antler requirements and some old bucks (that need to be shot) that are not shooters because of those same antler requirements.


*** Ultimately it’s all up to you on how you carry on here at Indian Hammock. In my professional option as a wildlife biologist and as a deer and turkey professional, this place could be one of the best properties in South Florida for the enjoyment of all wildlife, but primarily for the production of a quality deer herd at all levels. I have given you the biological results of my study, my recommendations on how to make this place better, and my personal opinions on this property in general. Now it is up to you.


I have taken some rules, restrictions, and limits that other organizations have used and tried to format them in a way that would work for Indian Hammock. You may have to alter these some but these should work to help keep everyone honest and to improve the wildlife you love and enjoy here on Indian Hammock.                 



Rules, Restrictions, and Limits for Indian Hammock Hunting Club


I. White-tailed Deer.

A. Harvest Limits: Only ONE Buck and ONE Doe per hunting season per Indian Hammock Lot.

* Does can only be harvested during the “doe days” or other designated times set aside by the State of Florida.

B. Antler Restrictions: A legal buck on IHHC must meet or exceed the below antler criteria.

1. Antlers much have at least 8 points that measure one inch or greater.

2. Antlers measurements must meet or exceed at least one of the below criteria.

a. Antler width (inside the mainbeams) must be 16 inches or greater.

b. Antler beam length must be 18 inches or greater.

* If a buck’s beam width appears to be outside the ears or more then it will meet at least one of these requirements.

c. Buck is 4.5 years old or older (Biologist Approval, Hit List) 

C. Proof of Harvest:

1. Harvest Photos. Pictures are to be taken of your harvest and submitted.

a. Does: Only one picture is required, but more can be submitted.

b. Bucks: Three pictures are required; one frontal picture and one from each side.    

2. Harvest Reports. A harvest report is to be submitted.

* Harvest reports and harvest photos must be submitted within 72 hours. All harvest reports are to be submitted electronically to Indian Hammock office and to chairman and if there is more than one chairman then to both Co-chairman.


D. Hunting Restrictions:

1. Hunters must abide by all Florida Game Laws and Regulations.

2. Hunters must be at least 100 yards from any feeder, feed or attractant that is not planted when hunting or harvesting a deer. (Corn, protein feed, rice brand, others attractants).

II. Osceola Wild Turkey

A. Harvest Limits: Only one gobbler per hunting season per Indian Hammock Lot. 

B. Harvest Restrictions: A gobbler must have at least an 8 inch beard or 0.75 inch spurs.

C. Proof of Harvest:

1. Harvest Photos. One picture of you and your bird is to be submitted.

2. Harvest Reports. A harvest report is to be submitted.

* Harvest reports and harvest photos must be submitted within 72 hours. All harvest reports are to be submitted electronically to Indian Hammock office and to chairman and if there is more than one chairman then to both Co-chairman.

D. Hunting Restrictions:

1. Hunters must abide by all Florida Game Laws and Regulation.

2. Hunters must be at least 100 yards from any feeder, feed or attractant that is not planted when hunting or harvesting a deer.  


Technical Assistance Summary


Name of FWC biologist(s) providing TA:  Mark Asleson and Tim Towles


Landowner name:   Indian Hammock Hunt & Riding Club, members present: Greg Young, Max Kolshak, Bob Baum (Indian Hammock Manager), Ralph Wagaman


Landowner Address:  32801 US Hwy 441 North #400, Okeechobee, FL 34972


Landowner Phone number:               

Indian Hammock Office: (863) 763-9401

Bob Baum: (863) 532-5510

Greg Young: (561) 691-4716

Max Kolshak: (561) 433-2227

Property name (if applicable):  Indian Hammock Hunt & Riding Club (IHHC)


Property location:  US Hwy 441, 11.5 miles south of SR 60, Okeechobee County


Date of site visit:  September 11, 2018

Property Summary

Indian Hammock Hunt and Riding Club (IHHC) is a 3,600-acre community that has 299 platted homesites that are about 2.5 acres each.  Most of the lots have homes on them and are occupied by seasonal or year-round residents.  The residential area is generally found in the central third of the property.  Only the residents of the community are allowed to hunt the property and there are about 27-30 residents who actively participate in hunting. 


A habitat management plan was written for IHHC by Terry Gilbert (GFC) in 1984.  In 2004, the property received WHIP funding to conduct prescribed burns, treat Brazilian pepper, roller-chop the quail area, clear openings northwest of the quail area, erect wood duck boxes, and plant/fertilize wildlife food plots.  In 2008, the property was enrolled in a 6-year WHIP and the property received cost shares for prescribed burning, roller chopping, and invasive species control for Brazilian pepper and Old World climbing fern (35 ac.).  Bob became the new land manager around 2015 and has been more actively managing the habitat than previous ranch managers.  Bob has 4 full time staff to help maintain the property and club members are also allowed to participate in maintenance but in a limited capacity.


Greg, Max, Tim and Mark took a thorough tour of the property and took note of the various habitats and their current condition.  Overall, the property offers a diversity of ecological communities including sand pine scrub, wetland and upland hardwood hammocks, mesic pine flatwoods, scrubby flatwoods, freshwater marsh and improved pasture.  Although there is evidence of recent prescribed burns in a few areas, the property overall suffers from lack of native habitat management.  Much of the native stands have a well-developed mid-story with high fuel loads that represent a high risk of wildfire and potential damage to structures and timber.  Some invasive plant species observed include cogon grass, Old World climbing fern, tropical soda apple, air potato, Caesar’s weed and Chinese tallow tree.  Of these, cogon grass and Old World climbing fern represent the greatest coverage and threat to the native habitats.


The property currently has about 15 acres of food plots, each a couple acres in size, and 14 wildlife feeders from which corn is dispensed.  All feeders have fencing around them to keep out non-target wildlife.  Food plot success is a concern for the club members and they are seeking guidance on alternative species to plant.  The primary problem with the food plots is that they are planted in the spring but frequently get flooded.  The club has had good success planting aeschynomene, cow peas and sorghum.  A former dove field was observed during the tour but it has been idle for several years.  There are cattle on the property but they are relegated to improved pastures with fenced perimeters and the stocking rate is low.


The IHHC is enrolled in FWC’s Antlerless Deer Permit Program and receives about 24 antlerless tags per year (1/150 acres).  The Club has occasionally collected harvest records in the past, but complete records are lacking due to the lack of enforcement for collecting data.  The club has recently instituted antler point restrictions for bucks and now all bucks harvested must have at least 8 points and have an inside spread that is wider than the ears when the deer’s ears are in an alert position.


After the field tour, we met in the office to discuss our observations with Bob and provided some suggestions.


Narrative describing the assistance that was provided.

The following list of verbal recommendations were provided during the meeting and property tour. 

  1. Make it a priority to manage the native habitat first, and then supplement those efforts with food plots and feeders.  The native habitat needs to be in condition that will support all essential life behaviors of feeding, breeding, nesting, rearing of young, etc.
  2. Treat, and retreat as necessary, all invasive plant species.  HIGHEST PRIORITY – cogon grass and Old World climbing fern.
  3. Continue, and expand, prescribed burning efforts.  Attempt to achieve a 2 to 3-year burn rotation in quail areas and 3 to 5-year rotation in other pine and scrubby flatwoods stands.
  4. Prioritize which stands are to be treated either mechanically and/or with prescribed fire and implement treatment as soon as practical.
  5. Create and maintain activity records for each management unit.
  6. Roller chop, mow, chip, etc. areas with dense mid-story vegetation before applying initial winter burns.
  7. Incorporate growing season burns (March – July) into the burn regime when fuel loads in the management units allow for the safe application of fire.  Growing season burns will promote native grasses and forbs (highly desirable forage for deer) and reduce hardwood and palmetto encroachment better than dormant season (winter) burns.
  8. Consider hiring a consulting forester to assess forest health and the feasibility of timber thinning/harvesting.
  9. Collect soil samples from food plots and submit for testing to get proper liming and fertilizing rates.
  10. Herbicide food plots with a glyphosate-based herbicide to kill weeds.
  11. Disk food plots and apply lime and fertilizer per soil test results.
  12. Maintain feeders with corn or protein pellets as desired.  Relocate stands to a nearby location if current areas become excessively trampled.
  13. Reinstate mandatory annual harvest data collection using existing data sheet but adding three more spaces; one for Jawbone Removed, a second for AGE and a third for Antler Score.  This additional data will be used in conjunction with other biological data to establish a baseline, document changes in age structure, body and antler size and ultimately, guide future management decisions.  FWC can provide jawbone aging and antler scoring services.
  14. Collect jaws from every deer harvested and label (hunter name, deer number, etc.) so it can be matched to the corresponding data sheet.  For bucks that will be mounted, have the taxidermist remove the jaw and return it to the hunter for recording on the harvest log.


Next Steps:

  1. Wait for invitation from IHHC to attend club meeting where FWC will talk to all the members about habitat and hunting recommendations.