We have all been there. You’re checking trail cameras and it never fails: Somewhere in the middle of all the photos of squirrels and does, you see a photo of a great buck. It also never fails that this picture is occurring well after the legal shooting light.
If you’re anything like me, you hunt small properties no bigger than 50 acres. This means more than likely that buck is spending his daylight hours somewhere other than on your property.
But that’s something we can change. You need to make your property the place where deer want to spend more of their time on during daylight hours. There are several things you can do to give your property the edge over your neighbor’s land. After all, deer only think about three things most of the year: food, cover, and water.
Let’s go over some things that can give you the edge over your neighbor without spending a fortune.
CELLS NOT SD
One of the biggest improvements I made on my property, believe it or not, was switching over to all cell cameras instead of SD-card cameras. I made the switch to all Moultrie mobile cell cameras last year.
I have noticed a big difference in daylight deer sightings while in the stand just by making this small switch. The reason is that there is less human intrusion. I set my Moultrie Edge cell cams out with 16 lithium batteries around July 15. Lithium batteries are a must since they deliver constant power no matter the temperature. The edges run on eight batteries, but they also have the capability for a backup power source, leaving the eight batteries in the battery bank.
If you get the cameras out in July, you won’t pressure the deer, but you’ll still be able to observe what is going on. It’s important to be able to pattern the deer and capitalize on that knowledge when the time is right.
Along with cell cams, another thing I like to do starting around August until the season starts is to glass bean fields in the evenings with my Vortex spotting scope. This tells me what bucks are in the area and where they are feeding. If I have my cameras on primary travel routes, I can pinpoint where they are bedding and feeding. These two methods can be the perfect way to tag a buck on a pattern at the beginning of the season.
THREE BIG THINGS
I said that deer focus on three things most of the year: food, cover, and water. You can make small changes with all three of these on your property that will help you hold deer there year-round.
Let’s start with food. In my area, plenty of soybeans and corn are available from farm fields, so I like to plant small food plots of other preferred food sources for summer and fall. I like to grow plots of Frigid Forage Pure Trophy Clover in the summer. This is a perfect plot to have until the first frost, which usually occurs around the end of October.
I also like to plant Frigid Forage Wild Game Buffet in the early fall. This is a perfect food source, too, as soon as crops are harvested off the fields. I like both of these blends because they don’t require much light and they can be planted in any size plot. I like to make micro plots just in the timber. These can be perfect staging areas for deer before they leave cover completely.
If you’re not able to do food plots, you could add a feeder stocked with corn to your woods. Or, you can even dump corn on the ground. Deer will flock to corn, especially in the woods, but so will other animals, so this method can be costly.
While on the food topic, let’s talk about minerals, because they are another must. Deer seek out minerals to balance their diet. I like to use trophy rocks from Redmond. They seem to be what deer prefer, and in my experience, they last the longest. I like to keep them around water sources.
Speaking of water, deer must have it to survive. I have plenty of water around my land, but if water is lacking in your area, having a source can be a big draw to bring deer in. I have seen people use small plastic swimming pools as a water source. They dig a hole to fit the pool then fill it with water, and it can make a perfect water source.
If you have food and water, the only other thing you need is cover.
As far as cover goes, there are a few ways to get good security cover, which provides preferred bedding locations. One of the easiest ways is to hinge-cut trees.
This technique can be very beneficial for several reasons. It helps create bedding locations, provides browse to eat, and can even be used to funnel deer to a certain location.
Hinge cutting is when you find a small tree and cut halfway through it, allowing it to fall over on its own. Another way to create bedding is to open up the canopy of a wooded area to allow more sunlight to the forest floor. This will allow the understory to grow and create bedding and browse. You can also enroll the outer perimeter of your woods in CRP land if that is an option for you. You can make money on the land and create perfect bedding for deer. Not only will these techniques help hold deer on your property, but they will also help all forms of wildlife.
Another thing I like to do to help keep deer on my property, especially in the fall, is to make mock scrapes. Scrapes are a major form of deer communication and especially so in the fall, when you want the deer in your area.
To make a mock scrape, you clear out an area about 4 feet by 4 feet down to bare dirt. It has to be in an area where you can have a licking branch over the cleared area or else make a licking branch to hang over it. I then put Raw Frozen Scents scrape lure in the bare dirt.
Next, I use pure Whitetail pre-orbital gland scent on the hanging branch. I then hang a Moultrie-edge camera over the area and let the deer take over. Then, I just monitor the area.
I like to make these scrapes along primary travel routes and next to food sources. Scrapes can be one of the best things to hunt over in October, especially after a rain. Bucks will take over scrapes and check them to know when does are ready to come into estrous. This can be just the thing that keeps the bucks on your property when it matters most.
THE BASICS TOO
One last thing I want to do is urge you to remember the basics. All these things will help hold deer, but you can’t forget scent control, the wind, and entry and exit routes. You could have the best location for deer, but if they smell danger and have been pressured, they will be gone.
As far as scent control and the wind, I believe that activated carbon clothing like Scentlok work and help minimize your scent. Besides adding an Ozonics HR500 to my set-up this year, I have yet to be winded. I think this is a great addition to your hunting set-up. As far as entry and exit go, just be mindful of where deer want to be and avoid those areas on your way in and out of your stand. That’s another thing to keep in mind when you plan your stand placement since you will need a scent- free path in and out.
Most of these tactics can be used to help hold deer without breaking the bank. Most require very little money, but they do require some work. If you don’t own the property, some of these steps will be hard to make happen without permission from the landowner. There are a few steps you can incorporate without damaging any part of the property, though. Of all of these tactics,
I think the use of cell cameras to help reduce pressure has been the most beneficial for me.