The Importance of a Deer Sanctuary
Deer will always be able to find food and water. They are survivors. A lot of us plan for these elements to attract them by planting food plots, establishing mineral licks, digging ponds, etc. But through all this hard work, one thing is not extremely apparent; and that’s the need to leave some of the natural habitat to allow deer a place to escape, relax and feel safe.
We see many properties that have been groomed with a fine-tooth comb. It looks very nice, but if you’re trying to attract the whitetail deer hunter as a potential buyer, there needs to be proof that deer actually live on the land and don’t just pass through. In other words, you're going to need a deer sanctuary.
What is a Deer Sanctuary?
There are two kinds of sanctuaries. One is the thicket that nobody hunts because it’s hard to get to, can’t hang a stand in and has poor visibility and thus provides a safe haven for deer. The second, of course, is one the landowner or deer manager consciously creates in order to provide that same sense of security for deer.
The latter is a key ingredient to keeping native bucks on your property, meaning young bucks that grow accustomed to the area, maybe they’re born there. They will likely stay on the property as long as they are not pressured to leave by older deer or hunters. These sanctuaries also serve to protect the bucks that your shoot-anything neighbors would probably kill without thinking twice about it.
Establish Ground Rules
The sanctuary does not get hunted, period. You can’t allow yourself to make exceptions because then it will be easier to do so the next time and even easier the time after that. It’s okay to hang a camera or two in the designated area during the summer, but they should be removed about a month before opening day to allow human scent to dissipate.
Go Deep Into the Interior
Obviously the bigger the area you can provide, the better, especially in the interior part of your property that is void of roads where trucks, ATVs and road hunters can clear the area out of all wildlife. Plus, designating a sanctuary in the dead center of your property allows you to hunt the perimeter, but not too close. Setting up a stand or shooting house in between the sanctuary and a food source is totally acceptable as long as you aren’t giving your scent a chance to enter.
More is Better
We talked about young bucks getting forced out by older, more mature deer. But instead of them leaving the property completely, why not let them retreat to another sanctuary within your fence line? If you have the space to create multiple areas, we’d strongly encourage you to do so. Plus, once the rut begins and does are being constantly bird dogged by bucks, they will look for alternate thickets to escape, partially unaware that a buck is still likely to follow them there. And if you’re at the right spot at the right time, who knows what could happen.
An absence of human activity is really what defines a sanctuary. If you’re buying, selling or managing a deer hunting property, the safe haven you create will define how many deer heads are on the wall.
Take away food plots and watering systems. Well, there are all kinds of browse and natural forage in the woods. Even rivers and farm ponds for them to get a drink. The one thing you cannot take away and still expect to kill mature bucks is a place for them to feel safe that is void of any human activity.