How do you avoid putting too much pressure on the deer on your hunting property?
Hunters and landowners alike have been trying to answer that question for generations now, yet somehow, there is still a misconception about how best answer it.
Should deer hunters turned property owners hold their properties jealously and allow no friends or family members to hunt there? Or should private properties only be hunted sparingly, so as to keep the deer that live there from adopting nocturnal habits or heading for the hills?
In our humble opinion, there is little to no good in owning and maintaining a deer hunting property if you don’t actually use it to…well, hunt deer.
With that in mind, whether you’re a lease owner who needs to think about thee things daily, or wondering if opening up your land would be worth it, we’ve compiled a list of six tips you can use to minimize the pressure of your hunting property without overly restricting its use.
View the slideshow to see the best ways to turn down the pressure on your deer property.
1. Establish deer sanctuaries
Arguably the easiest way to reduce pressure is to establish deer sanctuaries around your property. In far too many cases, hunters assume that there is an “all or nothing” rule when it comes to hunting a given plot of land. Either they don’t hunt their property at all and allow it to become a place where bucks and does feel safe, or they hunt the whole thing and expose those bucks and does to hefty outside pressure.
This doesn’t have to be the case.
A smart hunting property manager will make a point of choosing safe zones around the property where he or she won’t hunt unless the season is dwindling and there is nothing left to lose. How you choose to distribute your sanctuaries – whether by putting an imaginary fence around one entire corner of the property or by leaving heavy cover areas as “off limits” spots – is entirely up to you. The point is to make sure that there are spots where your deer population feels safe and secure, because doing so will go a long way to reduce the effects of pressure. Just remember to inform anyone who hunts your property that they need to observe your sanctuary rules.
2. Avoid bedding areas
This one goes without saying for most hunters who have spent more than a season or so out in the field. Hunting a bedding area is the ultimate invasion of security in the deer-hunting world. It’s also the easiest way to spook deer and send them scattering off to look for a safer place to live.
Our advice? Make a point of locating bedding areas during your pre-season scouting trips, then use those locations as a guide for where to establish your sanctuaries. Ideally, your prime sanctuaries should be centered around bedding area locations.
3. Set up your property strategically
How much pressure a hunter exerts on a property every time he or she hunts depends largely on how the property is set up for hunting. Everything from stand and food plot location to the paths you take to get to and from the property can impact how much pressure deer herds are feeling.
When you start mapping up a seasonal set-up for your property, think of yourself as a war general rallying his troops. You don’t want to alert the enemy to your position, and you want to be as unobtrusive as possible so as to not tip anyone off to your presence. Establish travel paths that won’t cross through deer sanctuaries, and map out several so that you have options depending on the wind direction. The more well thought-out your property set-up is, the more you can use ninja tactics to get in the best position undetected.
4. Add artificial boundaries to direct traffic
Sometimes, excellent property set-up just has to be secured through artificial means. In all likelihood, your property will present you with ample treestand spots that are located close enough to deer traffic routes for you to land a shot, but far enough away from sanctuary areas to exert a minimal level of pressure. If you are having trouble matching traffic routes to treestand spots, however, try to create your own artificial routes to improve your chances.
RELATED: How To Know When to Hang a Treestand
By using large piles of bramble, sizable tree trunks, and other obstacles, you can close off the old pathways and redirect deer directly where you want them to go. You will have to set up these blockades and funnels well ahead of time to make sure you’re not spooking deer within the weeks leading up to Opening Day. With the right preparation and planning however, artificial boundaries can go a long way in improving your property set-up and allowing you to hunt with minimal pressure or impact. Now’s the time to plan and execute.
5. Have several stand options
There are clashing ideologies when it comes to hunting the same stand several days in a row. Some hunters say you should never hunt the same areas repeatedly unless you want to tip deer herds off to your location; others say that you should use a stand as long as it is seeing traffic and producing results.
We fall somewhere between those two beliefs. Simply using the same stand a few days in a row doesn’t have to add a ton of pressure to the property, especially if you are being cautious in your approach. However, we also know that it’s dangerous to become too reliant on a single stand. Having a few options for treestands is a great way to diversify your hunting opportunities, to stay unpredictable, and to avoid distributing your scent too heavily in one particular area.
6. Use caution when giving others permission to hunt your property
It’s a sad fact of the hunting lifestyle that having too many cooks in the kitchen will spoil the broth.
One of the fun things about owning your own deer hunting property is that you can invite your buddies to hunt there as well. However, while giving two or three trusted hunting acquaintances a chance to hunt your property is probably okay, inviting everyone you know to your land is a good way to throw out all of the hard work you’ve done to reduce hunting pressure. When hunters are coming and going frequently, or when gunshots are consistently popping through the air, whitetails are going to notice, and they’re not going to like it.
RELATED: How Whitetails Handle the Winter
Sanctuaries and the other items we discussed above can help to minimize the impacts of these factors, but if you truly want to contain the pressure on your property, you are going to have to be sparing with the invites you give others to hunt there.