Why You Need A Deer Sanctuary

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Through very careful hunting, you can make your entire hunting area feel like a sanctuary to the deer using it.  That should be your goal each season. Hunter shown wearing Mathews Lost Camo.

This deer hunter didn’t take any chances with spooking that buck out of the area. Because of how carefully he hunted, and the fact that he only hunted tree stands that set up perfectly, the small area never burned out. The deer hunting was just as good on the last day of the season as it had been on the first.  He never burned that area out even though he spent nearly all his time on just 40 acres. He saw some good bucks, just not the one he was after.

Though he didn’t get him, this deer hunter learned a very valuable lesson. You can keep a small farm fresh all season if you hunt it carefully enough. The farm was 125 acres and he only hunted about 40 acres of it. The other 85 acres he left completely alone. The majority of the small farm was actually a deer sanctuary.

Since then, this deer hunter has never hunted that farm again with the same intensity since that time. After that buck turned up dead, it took the wind out his sails. But he has applied what he learned during those deer hunting seasons to other areas he has hunted. Now he selects fewer tree stands, but better tree stands and he hunts his areas lighter. In other words, he bets that at least half, if not three-quarters, of his hunting area is now a deer sanctuary! It is an amazing thing to consider, but he literally stays out of most of his deer hunting area now.

As a good rule of thumb, you should have a minimum of 20 to 25% in deer sanctuaries. One big deer sanctuary in the center of your property is better than a few smaller ones scattered all around.

If you take nothing else from this article, please take note of this next sentence. You don’t have to hunt every inch of a property to do it justice. It is much better to hunt the best tree stand locations often and carefully and leave the rest of the area alone so the bucks remain relaxed. Eventually, they will cycle through the places where you are sitting. If it feels like you are burrowing in too deep – like you are going to spook something with every step you take – then you probably are. It is better to pull back and hunt those bucks somewhere else where you have the advantage. Give them the places that are hard for you to hunt without being detected.

Where To Select Your Deer Sanctuary

food plots for deer sanctuaries
Don’t reserve your best food plots for areas you can hunt.  Your deer sanctuaries should contain everything deer need to thrive, food, water, cover and seclusion.  Hunter shown wearing Mathews Lost Camo.

It is easy for some deer hunters to decide which parts of their hunting area to leave untouched – they are the spots where you would spook the deer if you hunted them there. It is simple. If there is only one good tree stand on 500 acres, then you will have a 490-acre deer sanctuary!

This strategy makes the most sense. You are not giving up anything when you establish a deer sanctuary. In fact, in some ways, establishing the deer sanctuary simply forces you to be more disciplined in your tree stand selection strategies. That is something you should be doing anyway – just as the deer hunter learned above.

If you want a more systematic approach to selecting a deer sanctuary, here are a few other ideas. Start with valleys or deep draws. These spots usually have water running through the bottom (deer like that). They also have some flat areas with good soils that make good food plots (they like that too). And they are very hard to hunt effectively because of the swirling winds. These features all make valleys the perfect deer sanctuaries. This is referring to narrow valleys. Obviously, if a valley is wider than about 300 yards, the wind won’t swirl nearly as noticeably and you may be able to hunt the area more effectively. With that being the case, we can’t automatically turn a wide valley into a deer sanctuary without thinking about it further.

No doubt, one side of a wide valley will set up the best for undetected deer hunting. Turn the other side into a deer sanctuary. Again, it makes the most sense to turn areas that are hard to hunt into deer sanctuaries.

Earlier it was mentioned that you want to provide the deer with everything they could need in your deer sanctuary. The idea is to make it a very attractive place that they don’t want to leave. That means you need food, water, cover and seclusion. If they have these four things they will spend a good deal of time on your property creating hunting opportunities all season long. At the same time you will be preserving younger bucks from being taken on surrounding properties.

Do a good job of creating food sources within your deer sanctuary. Some would argue about this, because they want the deer to have to leave their deer sanctuary to feed so they have better opportunities at hunting them, but some deer hunters prefer to have some food plots within the boundary of the deer sanctuary itself. Give them a truly safe haven.

Levels Of Seclusion In Your Deer Sanctuary

Now you have to decide how much you are going to enter these deer sanctuaries and for what reasons. The opinions here run all across the board. There are some deer hunters who won’t even shed hunt within their deer sanctuaries. No one goes in there ever, for any reason other than to follow a wounded deer. This is the most conservative approach, to be sure. You can’t fault a person for doing this, but it may not be practical for everyone.

There are other deer hunters who keep their deer sanctuaries off-limits only during the hunting season and the rest of the year they are in there cutting firewood, turkey hunting, looking for morel mushrooms and grabbing antlers. This approach errs in the opposite direction, allowing too much access that puts regular stress on the deer.

In some sanctuaries, you might shed hunt and that is it. No one goes in there for any other reason during the rest of the year other than to plant food plots. You may turkey hunt in there, but only sit on the open fields (food plots) where the birds come to peck and strut. Stay out of the cover (especially the remote areas). This strikes a realistic balance between access and seclusion.

Deer sanctuaries become harder to control during the off-season on properties that you don’t own. It is not possible, for example, to tell the landowner that he shouldn’t cut firewood or look for mushrooms in a certain part of his property. If you are leasing the ground, you can build that into your lease agreement. However, it does make sense to mention your goals. If the landowner has options, he or she will often honor your goals and conduct their activities elsewhere.

Deer Hunting Strategies

When determining the location for your sanctuary, select places that are difficult to hunt.  As long as these areas contain the other elements required for a sanctuary: food, water and cover, they represent the best return for your sacrifice of hunting grounds. Hunter shown wearing Mathews Lost Camo.

These final thoughts revolve around how you should hunt around your deer sanctuary. Of course, you are going to be careful to keep your scent from blowing into the deer sanctuary area. That is simply part of smart deer hunting because you aren’t going to do well if you let your scent blow into the very areas from which you expect the deer to approach.

Lets take things a step farther. Some deer hunters like to cushion their deer sanctuaries by staying as far from them as possible while still producing good hunting. In other words, rather than crowd your deer sanctuaries and fight to make them as small as possible, you want to hang back and make them as large as possible.

For example, let’s assume you have a food plot near a deer sanctuary. In the first place, you are unlikely to hunt between the deer sanctuary and the food plot. You are more inclined to hunt the opposite side of the food plot from the deer sanctuary. This permits you to play a very favorable wind, not taking any chances with getting busted near the deer sanctuary. It also allows you to get in and out easier without the deer detecting you and, in general, makes the deer sanctuary seem even larger to the deer without sacrificing much in the way of hunting success.

Look for similar situations, where you can buffer the deer sanctuary easily by not hunting right up next to it. In essence, if you are deer hunting carefully, keeping the deer from knowing you are hunting them, your entire hunting property should feel like a deer sanctuary to the deer. They should never be able to tell where the deer sanctuary boundary lies.

If they feel consistent pressure outside the deer sanctuary, then you are doing something wrong – deer hunting the wrong tree stands or pushing too hard without an advantage. Of course, it is also quite possible that you don’t control all the hunting pressure. In that case, you have to live with other deer hunters’ mistakes or over-aggressiveness. Then the deer sanctuary becomes doubly important.

In summary, you should look at deer sanctuaries as entirely essential to the success of your season. Furthermore, strive to turn your entire deer hunting area into a default deer sanctuary through careful hunting. If the deer don’t know you are hunting them, the ideal situation, they will think your entire hunting area is a sanctuary. Mission accomplished! No matter how you set them up, deer sanctuaries are one of the most important keys to successful buck hunting.

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