Cover, Food, and Protection in a Sanctuary for Deer on your property
North to south, and east to west there are considerable threats to the deer herd. Among these growing concerns, the top two are hunter access and deer habitat loss. Land to hunt on is hard to come by for hunters, and a good chunk of “decent hunting” public land is sometimes even harder. This means higher hunter densities on the land that can be hunted, putting a lot of pressure on deer. To add to this the land itself is dwindling. Habitat loss, number two on the threat list, has considerably effected today’s deer herd. Increased agricultural lands, less forests, and declines in CRP/early successional habitat are all taking a big toll. These two threats alone spell disaster for a deer, leaving them to seek only one place…a sanctuary. The keywords here are cover, food, diversity, and protection for deer. All can be incorporated into the term “sanctuary” which is a section of your property that you do not hunt, or even walk/drive through for the simple fact of leaving it strictly for the deer.
Kind of sounds like a waste of property, right? Wrong.
You have great habitat, cover, and more than enough food plots but for some reason you’re not attracting and holding mature bucks. Or in the more likely case you have great deer, tons of pictures of Booners even but all that action is at night. Well no wonder! Have you ever thought that running that 4 wheeler and “hootin’ and hollerin” every week leading up to deer season might affect your deer? Well it does!
Your bucks have gone completely nocturnal, or they have just simply moved on to your neighbors. Hunting and human pressure can kill a great property, surprisingly fast at that. This is why you need a sanctuary. Putting aside a chunk of the property for the deer with strictly and enforced “no human interference” is exactly what you need. A thick, protected area free of human scent and interaction. Giving deer that area will not only attract does and bucks but hold them and increase daytime movement.
If you have the back 40 acres then devote as much as you can to a sanctuary. The same goes for having 1,000 acres. Once you try it you will quickly find out that more sanctuary equals more deer encounters and hunting success. This is not even mentioned the increased benefits for fawning habitats. Or how about places for hot does to hold up with bucks? Now you’re thinking!
Choose an area of the property that’s already deemed “unhuntable”. That holler, ridge, bottom, or thicket is impossible to get into without scaring deer out. The winds is never right, the creek is too deep, and yep even the leaves are somehow crunchier! You are doing more harm than good just attempting to hunt these areas. Don’t be greedy, let the deer have this one.
If your braindead and don’t have an area popping up in mind a little scouting can go a long way. These spots can be quickly identified by looking at aerials and studying the topography. Look for southern slopes, hard to reach corners of the property, and the thickest snakiest looking places you’ve ever laid eyes on. They all make for excellent candidates for sanctuaries. It’s already a bedding area but now making it illegal to step foot in it has greatly improved its effectiveness.
If you property is lacking any sort of cover or bedding area then this is the right way to change that. Pick a spot whether its timber, pines, or an old field. Sanctuaries can be placed in a variety of different types of habitats. By simply not interfering with it and making the lacking area thicker or more ideal for deer bedding is how to start.
Timber and Pines
Timber stand improvement for deer will do exactly what you need in your timber or pines that you don’t like hunting or would like to make a sanctuary. Selective harvesting or hinge cutting less desirable trees will open the forest floor to sunlight. New, lush regeneration will occur making not only ideal thick cover but tons of forage and browse available all season long.
The once row cropped agricultural fields have turned fallow grown up with fescue, weeds, cedars, sumac, and might even have redbuds and maples. These areas are already used as bedding for your deer, that’s a promise. Once again a little work converting the field into native grasses and using prescribed fire can go a long ways. Keeping these types of habitats as sanctuaries and in early succession is ideal for holding mature bucks.
The Whole Package
There are some that take every part of sanctuary serious, and beyond and it couldn’t be improved upon. They strive to make the whitetail mecca, food plots, thick timber, open timber, pines, ponds, native grasses, and more all without or with as little human interaction as possible. Setting aside half if not more of the farm strictly for whitetails and leaving the rest for hunting ensure you are always keeping deer on your property in close. Come fall and the rut mature bucks will show up frequently in the other sections of your property when they venture from the safety of the sanctuary.
You may not be able to set aside half or even a quarter of your property to a sanctuary but anything is better than nothing. Deer today are in a world of hurt. The land is shrinking around them, there’s more predators, and more orange heads in their areas than ever before. Deer need every available acre they can get of peace and quiet even if it’s the center, or corner of your 20 acre hunting getaway. Give the deer what they want, what your property needs, and what will give you results! Put a Sanctuary for deer on your property.