Waterhole for Deer
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How to Create a Waterhole for Deer on Your Property

There is this general rule for creating an ideal habitat for deer that states you essentially only need three things. Those things being food, shelter, and of course, water. While this may seem like a very basic breakdown of creating a great property for deer hunting, it's one that rings true. I've hunted a lot of properties that maybe had two of those but were lacking the third leaving the hunters wondering why there were no deer there. It's usually because the property is missing that water element. Most hunters have the food and shelter down already. Maybe you have multiple food plots on your property or you're in a location with easy access to a big ag field. Maybe you've been hinge cutting trees to create some thick undergrowth that is great for deer to feel safe and hidden. But if you don't have any creeks or ponds on your property, how is it possible for there to be water?

Don't just throw up your hands and try to make do without one. Creating a waterhole can be a great way to keep your deer herd healthy while also adding a great place to set up a stand. It's also easier and cheaper than you might think to build one. Mostly because contrary to popular opinion, you do not need a giant lake or pond to attract and hold whitetails in one area on a consistent basis. Here's what to do when going about constructing one.


Location is the key factor to consider when creating a waterhole. Don't just plunk one down anywhere and call it good. Do some scouting and consider already established travel routes on the property. Deer don't like to travel too far for water, so pick a spot that is close to bedding areas without being so close that you spook every deer out each time you visit it. A little bit of cover to help the deer feel safe using it doesn't hurt either.

Personally, I like to place my waterholes directly between bedding and a primary food source, in a transition area that I can easily access for my evening hunts. If you're hunting a mature buck that only seems to come into your food plots just after legal shooting light, this can be a great way to cut him off while it's still light out. During the rut, the bucks will hit them more frequently throughout the day as dehydration occurs from constant cruising.

Be sure to look for adequate cover to hang a stand or place a blind, and consider enter and exit strategies to it. The water isn't going to do you much good if you cannot stealthily hunt over it. Make sure to hang a trail camera by your waterholes to monitor deer activity and see what their patterns are while using it. In most cases you can expect deer to visit them when they get out of their beds in the evening before they hit the primary food sources. If you ask around with dedicated whitetail hunters, you'll usually find they agree that the tiny stagnant pools seem to draw more deer than a clear spring or creek with running water. The running theory on this is that the deer can hear danger better while drinking from these quiet pools than somewhere where the water is rushing and making lots of noise.

Always note that there is such a thing as too much water on a property. You don't want so many waterholes on your property that it's impossible to predict which one the deer are going to visit. However, I have found a sweet spot is one water hole per every 50 acres, which can vary depending on the size of your deer herd and climate.

How to create a waterhole

Most hunters construct their waterholes using some sort of commercial container. Placing a 50-100-gallon livestock tank directly on the ground can work, however if you're in an area where the deer experience even the slightest bit of pressure, it might also spook the deer. In this case, burying at least part of it will work to your advantage. You don't always need to buy an expensive tank though. We've heard of hunters using a cheap plastic kid's wading pool buried in the ground as a base, or a cheap plastic water tank from your local farm store.

What seems to matter more is the placement we mentioned earlier. Digging a hole that covers at least two-thirds of the tank is ideal. I even placed some large rocks all around it to make it more natural looking, and aesthetically pleasing. Depending on the size of your tank, this can take a good amount of sweat equity. However, you can easily accomplish this without the need for expensive equipment if you get a buddy or two to help with the hard part.

Some of my hunting buddies like to put a good bottom layer of soil at the bottom of the tank to give it a more natural taste. The thought here is that it's also adding some of the benefits of the minerals within the soil. I personally do not do this. If you still want to add some health benefits to the water, Banks Outdoors and several other whitetail mineral companies offer minerals specifically designed for adding to your waterholes. This allows the deer to get those extra nutrients and minerals that they need, especially during summer months when water is scarce. Minerals are also crucial for the nursing fawns and the bucks that are growing back their antlers. Just make sure you check your hunting regulations for legality before using.

I filled up my tanks using five-gallon buckets with water from the hose. However, depending on the size of your tank and how remote your location is, you may need a bigger option to fill them. Occasionally I will have to refill the water tanks in dry months such as July and August, but typically the rain takes care of that for me. Unless you live in an extremely dry climate, it's unlikely that you'll experience a lot of maintenance concerns once the waterhole is in place. And honestly, it's probably better to be as hands-off as possible to make the deer feel comfortable visiting it.

Hunting over waterholes is one of my favorite ways to go after a mature buck. The hardest part of putting in a waterhole is simply setting aside the time to scout for a location and then doing the grunt work of digging. It's a lot of work, but adding a waterhole set up to your toolkit is great to have for any whitetail hunter. If used the right way, it will yield great results this upcoming season!