The Ultimate Deer Stands: Here’s A Recipe To Consistently Harvest Adult, Whitetail Bucks By Making Your Own Luck…
To me, deer hunting is about a lot more than just trying to ambush a buck out in the woods. Over the years I’ve practically become addicted to manipulating the habitat to create the ultimate in deer hunting spots. I call these setups deer traps. It involves more strategy and resources than most hunters are willing to invest, however when it all comes together it just may be the ultimate deer hunting rush. It’s really like making your own luck. I just love it when a plan comes together.
One of my favorite deer stands I named the Triple Treestand. It’s located along a field edge about 15 yards inside the tree line. Nestled among three large maples, the stand is well concealed and comfortable enough for long, fall vigils waiting for Mr. Big to show up.
A while back an outbreak of Dutch elm disease killed about half the trees along that field edge. I have a wood burning stove in my house and so does the land owner, so I got permission from him to harvest the dead elms, which we shared. I cut many truck loads of firewood from that spot and piled all the leftover tops strategically along the field blocking all passage to and from the crop field accept for one spot: Right in front of the Triple Treestand. I also opened up the deer trails leading past that stand. Most deer are rather lazy and unless disturbed; they will usually choose the path of least resistance. The strategy worked like a charm as deer use near that stand was magnified exponentially.
About two weeks into the bow season, with the wind in the right direction, I sat in that stand for an evening hunt. About an hour before dark I heard some crunching and sticks breaking from within the bowls of the dense swamp. A few minutes later and two deer appeared walking slowly along one of my man-made deer trails heading right towards me. The deer were separated by about 40 yards. The first deer was a yearling four pointer, which I passed up. I knew the second deer was also a buck, but my heart skipped a beat when he stepped into the clear and I got a good look at him. He was simply big and beautiful with a huge body and a dandy rack. The buck slowly worked his way towards the field edge browsing and sniffing the air along the way. When he stepped into my carefully prepared shooting lane at 15 yards, I came to full draw and then touched the trigger of my old, reliable Cobra release. The shot hit with a “thud,” but the buck barely even reacted. He took a few steps, wobbled a little and then fell over and died right below my stand. What a thrill. That eight-pointer was extra special because he was the direct result of a deer trap that was planned, setup and executed with precision accuracy. I made my own luck that day which made the experience all the more rewarding. That was the beginning of an addiction to creating deer traps.
Deer gravitate to certain types of water sources while ignoring others. They seem to prefer small waterholes in heavy cover close to their bedding areas. I have a crystal clear trout stream that flows through my U.P. hunting property; still, the deer in my area prefer to drink from muddy, little waterholes that I dug. They probably get minerals and vitamins from that dirty water. To add even more attraction, I almost always install a mineral station next to my man-made waterholes. Waterholes don’t have to be big either. I just dug one last year in a low spot using nothing more than a shovel. It’s about 10′ in diameter and 5′ deep. It took me a couple hours to excavate it, but the rewards were certainly well worth the effort as deer use it daily. If you don’t have a high enough water table in your hunting area where you can just dig a waterhole, don’t despair. I seen great waterholes created on sandy uplands using small, plastic kid’s swimming pools buried in natural depressions. Those pools will fill up with water when it rains and the deer will flock to them, especially during hot dry periods. During prolonged droughts, you can also haul water to those pools by hand or with an ATV and because water often very scarce in such habitat, deer will really hit those pools hard.
It’s hard to beat food plots for a whitetail food source. I’ve been messing with food plots for over 15 years and have plots on my lands of all shapes and sizes. Some are as small as a couple hundred square feet while my largest is about five acres. Small plots are great because they are easier to hunt effectively. You can hunt right over them. I usually set up my stands a minimum of 100 yards away from larger food plots though. The majority of my food plots are planted with Imperial Whitetail Clover which is proven forage that can draw deer from miles away.
Mineral stations are another great draw for deer. I use mineral licks in combination with food plots and waterholes at many of my deer traps. I prefer to put the minerals around stumps on high spots. The stumps tend to prevent the deer from digging a big hole at the site. I still add dirt to the spots every year to replace what the deer consume because if a hole forms, the site will get muddy and will see less use. I prefer 30-06 Minerals and Vitamins and have been using that product for over 10 years with great results.
Baiting is another productive method to draw deer. Most bowhunters that use bait usually put out way too much, causing the deer to only visit the spot at night. By only putting out small quantities of feed the deer will get competitive for the food source and usually tend to visit more during the daylight hours. With bait, less is better especially if you are targeting adult bucks. Like food plots, baited sites are also best hunted from mid-morning until dark.
Funneling Deer with Habitat Manipulation
I own a chunk of hunting land in the big woods of the central U.P. I’ve created many extremely productive stand setups there by manipulating the habitat to my advantage. One is a ground blind archery setup along a clear cut. Twenty yards in front of the blind is a 30-06 mineral lick and a water hole, surrounded by a small Imperial Whitetail Clover food plot. The deer hit those minerals hard during the spring and summer. They don’t use the minerals much during the fall, but the deer still visit the site regularly out of habit; the spot acts as a social gathering place in the fall, especially for bucks.
A thick cedar swamp lies to the west and a long established, large, Imperial Whitetail Clover food plot is situated about 200 yards to the east. The cedar swamp is a great bedding area. I altered the landscape in the area with my chainsaw, dropping trees in strategic spots. I also piled up logs so the deer are funneled close by the south side of the blind. The end product is a stand that’s a consistent, nearly ideal deer ambush.
A while back I used that stand on a sunny autumn afternoon. With about five minutes of legal shooting time left I heard the telltale sound of a stick snapping. Hidden in my ground blind, I slowly turned in my seat and peered out the peep hole. I spotted two deer approaching and my pulse pounded when I noticed that both of them carried nice racks. They were both adult bucks: The first one was a large six pointer and the other buck carried a 10-point rack with some character. I focused my attention towards the 10 pointer. As he angled past me about 20 yards away, I eased my bow to full draw and steadied my aim on his vitals. When I shot, both deer exploded away in different directions. The 10-pointer dashed just 50 yards before cartwheeling into a heap. I just love it when a plan comes together.