Rushing home from work, I exchanged my uniform for camouflage-clad clothing and did my best to avoid tripping or sustaining any injuries in the process. It was October, and this was a normal routine for me this time of year, trying to fit in a few hours of bowhunting behind the house. Before the daylight saving time change, I was afforded a month-long window to fit in about a two-hour hunt on stand. Although it was a short hunt by any means, this small amount of time in the deer woods was a welcomed reprieve from the day’s chaos.
Without delay, I made the short journey towards the back of my property, where I soon found myself fifteen feet high with bow in hand and an appetite for tranquility. Nestled amongst green maple leaves mixed with golden invaders captured the essence of fall on this evening vigil. I knocked an arrow, hung my bow from a nearby hook, and settled in for the hunt.
It was a cool, overcast evening with hardly a breeze. Typically, deer entered the food plot directly in front of me, where they maneuvered their way through a small stand of white pines and Norway spruces I had planted a few years ago for screening cover. By now, some stood as tall as seven feet while others weren’t too far behind them. It was rewarding to see their progress.
Besides a few chickadees landing nearby and a grouse flying off for more appealing food and cover, no other creatures were in sight. Doubt started to creep in, and I began to second guess my choice in treestands as I had on other hunts. However, my thoughts were pleasantly interrupted by a buck who stepped out of the thick ferns from an area where I had never seen deer enter the food plot. I could tell by his demeanor he had visited this buffet before. As he closed the distance and approached a mere five yards away, I counted eight points on top of his head. I gave him a free pass and let him walk to the west food plot. After a short while, another smaller buck joined him, and they began to spar, testing each other for the upcoming rut. Over an hour passed when both deer finally decided to exit the plot. This was the first time I had witnessed deer feeding in one of my food plots for this long of a period.
Although I had passed on a shot, it was extremely rewarding to see him feed in the food plot I had planted the previous spring. I had spent many countless hours of planning and preparation to make this food plot come to fruition–spraying, tilling, fertilizing, and planting the seeds. This was the sixth year that I had planted a food plot in this area, and the rewards were starting to pay off. Trail camera photos proved that deer were frequenting the area and utilizing the plot. Last summer, I incorporated three different types of plots: winter wheat, clover, and brassicas. This buffet provided the deer many options as the seasons progressed and their palates changed.
Both sets of my grandparents farmed, and in a small way, I felt the same type of connection they once had with the land and the gratification of seeing the results.
Besides planting food plots each year, I’ve gained satisfaction in completing other types of projects to improve the health of the local deer herd and my chances of attracting more deer to my property. Although it might be considered more of an addition than a project, hanging a vine and creating mock vine scrapes, have positively impacted the areas where I bowhunt. Jeff Sturgis, Whitetail Habitat Solutions founder, created these many years ago, and they have proven very successful.
These scrapes are created by tying off a six-foot long, one-inch diameter vine, about waist to belly high, to a branch using parachute cord along the edge of a field or opening. Deer that pass by–does, bucks, and fawns– leave scent by rubbing their preorbital glands from their eyes and nose and rub it on the end of the vine. Therefore, no additional scent is necessary at these scrape locations. It’s hard to compete against the natural scent left behind by a passing deer.
The first summer I added vines to my treestand locations, I noticed instant results based on trail camera pictures of deer licking and rubbing the end of the vine. This discovery led me to further expand the locations where I utilize this type of scrape.
Another new addition I made a few years ago was installing a 250-gallon livestock tank on my property due to a lack of available water sources. I dug a hole deep enough for the entire tank to sit below ground level and backfilled it to look as natural as possible. I positioned this tank near one of my food plots with some available security cover nearby. Lastly, I placed about a six-foot log in the tank that extends outside of it a few feet. This will allow small critters like raccoons or chipmunks to climb out of the tank and not contaminate the water.
It didn’t take long until I discovered deer tracks leading up to the water tank–proof that there was a need for a water source on my property. So far this summer, I’ve noticed increased visits by deer because of how dry it has been.
Each fall during archery season, I find myself gazing at the work I’ve done from a treestand, analyzing it and coming up with ideas or projects for next spring and summer. Although I’m my worst critic, I try not to be too hard on myself. After all, improving your property for deer is never ending, and with time you will see the results firsthand while spending time in the deer woods.