One of the biggest factors in holding deer on your hunting ground is natural cover. Food and water are obviously important as well but without cover the deer will not stay, especially once hunting pressure is abundant. In talking about creating a deer sanctuary, it’s anything that provides security for the deer.
A place that makes them feel comfortable and safe year in and year out. This will provide a place for younger bucks to survive hunting season and to mature. It allows a safe haven for deer and other wildlife to raise their young. It also gives them protection from the elements.
There are two types of cover and both are necessary for holding deer. Screening cover keeps deer from being detected. This could be a brush thicket, dense finger woods, tall native grasses, or a river bottom. If your hunting property doesn’t have much existing cover, it isn’t hard to create your own deer sanctuary to help them feel more protected. Planting shrubs or service berries around food plots will screen the deer and make them feel more secure.
Connect food sources and known bedding areas with dense brush and cover and you can almost make the deer go where you want them to. Ideally, you want a few different areas of thick dense cover. This will increase the chances of keeping a few mature bucks on your property. Most state nurseries will sell you chokeberries, winterberries, dogwoods, autumn olive, and other types of fast growing thick cover. The idea is to make the deer feel comfortable.
I like to find or create these deer sanctuaries on a piece of property and then stay out of them. As long as they are holding deer and providing them with security, I am happy hunting the outskirts and catching a good buck coming in or out. The minute you set up and hunt inside the sanctuary it will no longer be safe for big bucks and they will find somewhere else to hold up. Don’t go into these areas unless you absolutely have to. If you have to retrieve a downed deer do it at night and get in and out quickly. Shed hunting these areas can be terrific so I won’t deter you from that, just shed hunt it once a year and it shouldn’t harm anything.
The other type of cover for creating a deer sanctuary is thermal cover. Thermal cover is basically protection from the weather. Just like we use an umbrella, pine trees provide the best type of weather protection for deer. It keeps falling rain and snow off the deer and keeps out cold air flow.
When the temperature drops and precipitation is present you can bet the deer are heading for some pines if available. Again, state nurseries will sell you different sizes and types of pines such as white pines and they can be extremely cheap if you buy enough.
You can rent or borrow a tree planter and in one weekend plant hundreds of trees if desired. Check the spacing and soil type and choose a location that makes sense. Also, if you are not the landowner be sure you have permission.
There are also many types of federal and state wildlife programs that will pay you to plant berry thickets, hardwood trees, brush, native grasses, pines, and so on. Many landowners are converting farm ground into wildlife habitat areas and getting equal to or more money than leasing it to farmers.
Many hunters and landowners are planting their own food plots, as it has become increasingly popular over the past couple of years. Stay ahead of them by providing a better deer habitat with both screening and thermal cover in addition to food. Stay out of those areas and you will find your hunting ground will hold a lot more deer.
Thanks for reading and happy planting!