Some hunters hope to hold their target bucks, and more bucks, on smaller acreages of land. But that isn’t easy, especially given that the average home range of a whitetail buck is 250 acres. But done correctly, a land manager can encourage a deer to spend more time in a confined area, even if it isn’t 100%. Here are 15 tips to hold a buck in a smaller area.
1. Create Pockets of Bedding Cover
Bucks aren’t territorial over ground, but they do like seclusion while bedded, especially during fall and winter months when testosterone levels are higher. Because of this, it’s better to create numerous pockets of bedding cover, which segregates bucks and does, and bucks from other bucks. Doing so will make deer more comfortable and more likely to stick around.
2. Create Pockets of Food Sources
Likewise, it’s crucial to have multiple smaller pockets of cover instead of one or two large ones. This also lends to seclusion, which deer prefer. By creating various hubs of bedding cover and food sources (that integrate), you’re more likely to hold deer, and hold more deer, in smaller areas.
3. Install Water Sources
The same should be done with water sources. Install small watering holes close to bedding cover, but between the bedding areas and food sources. It also works to put these on the edges of food sources, too, but staging areas are the best locations.
4. Amplify Native Browse
Even in ag country, a deer’s diet consists mostly of browse, which they find mostly in areas rich with early successional habitat. This is best described as young growth. (Think the opposite of mature hardwoods.) The property should offer a lot of this food source, which carries deer throughout the year, but especially winter.
5. Provide Seasonal Needs
Deer need various types of food sources and bedding cover throughout the year. Providing those needs ensures deer spend more time on smaller properties.
6. Offer Minerals
Deer oftentimes seek out mineral sources, especially in areas where the soil is lacking. Where legal, offering this during the winter, spring, and summer months can really boost a deer’s desire to spend time on the property.
7. Create Staging Areas
Mature bucks routinely hang up within cover, and then enter food sources after dark. Providing brushy spots like this between bedding areas and food sources provides them this need, and you a good place to hunt.
8. Provide Diversity
Whitetails are concentrate selectors, meaning they eat the best parts of the best plants available. Giving them a lot of different options only increases their desire to be there.
9. Optimize Every Acre
Wasted acres don’t work on small properties. It’s important to milk the value from every acre on the property, especially when it’s a smaller tract. It needs to be bedding, food sources, water sources, travel routes, access routes, screening cover, or serve some other purpose.
10. Establish Defined Lines of Movement
However, the property is laid out, it must steer deer along a definitive line of movement. Doing so decreases the travel distance needed for deer to reach your stand locations. It also pulls deer away from neighboring hunters, and toward you instead.
11. Close Everything In
People shouldn’t be able to see into your property from property lines. It needs to be closed visually. This will make deer feel safer on your land. Mature bucks are also more likely to walk during daylight. You even run less risk of something off-tract spooking deer that are on your property.
12. Shoot More Does
In areas where the deer population isn’t too low, the closer the buck-to-doe ratio is to 1:1, the better. Shooting does helps accomplish this. It also makes more room for bucks, which matriarch does commonly push out.
13. Cull Inferior Bucks
You aren’t culling inferior bucks to improve genetics. (Most studies show that it doesn’t work in wild deer herds.) Instead, you’re culling inferior bucks to make room for bucks with bigger antlers.
14. Hunt Smarter
Hunting less often is generally a good idea on smaller properties. This is especially true for tracts that don’t have foolproof entry and exit routes to stand locations. Furthermore, it’s good to hunt smarter, such as hunting the fringes of the property, and leaving interior portions as sanctuary.
15. Dial in Just-Off Winds
There’s less room to work with on smaller tracts. Therefore, these are sometimes more difficult to access correctly. Still, hunting a just-off wind is crucial, as bucks think they have the wind advantage, but it’s you who actually does.
Here are some more deer hunting tips and tricks.