I cut my bowhunting teeth chasing plains muleys. In my tiny slice of southeastern Colorado heaven, you’d be a fool not to. Then, in 2012, I went to Illinois on a whitetail hunt. I was blessed to bowhunt a fantastic piece of dirt and the whitetail rut was in full swing. Thus began my obsession with whitetails.
Yup, stick-and-string muley ventures are a rarity for me these days. From 2012 to the present, I’ve chased whitetail deer in numerous states, but one of my favorite locales is five miles from my Colorado home. I took what I’d learned from spending time with whitetail Yodas around the country and implemented what I could on my small parcel of Centennial State river-bottom ground. You can do the same.
It doesn’t matter where you live or how small your whitetail ground is; if you put these tips to practice, you’ll have better sits and kill more deer.
Add a Post and Licking Branch to Your Whitetail Property
My good buddy and Nebraska native Terron Bauer taught me this one, and to date, it’s the best, most economical tip I can give to make your whitetail ground more appealing. All you need is a shovel, a cedar post, a licking branch, and a two-position flag-pole bracket.
The cedar post is the key. Cedar is aromatic and reasonably soft, which makes it a prime whitetail marking post. White pine also works well. I’ve had the best luck with circular cedar posts (not square), and if you can harvest the posts from a live cedar, all the better.
The post will be buried three feet deep, so keep this in mind if you’re cutting your own. If you’re buying posts, most come in lengths of eight feet, which is perfect — three feet in the ground and five feet above. Don’t skimp on how deep you bury these things. Bucks will thrash them and push against them with all their weight.
Situate each post within shooting distance of your treestand, and once buried, take a tree saw and blaze the post to simulate a whitetail rub. Next, attach the flag pole bracket to the top of the post, cut a licking branch, and position that branch so bucks can easily reach it with their nose.
Another way to attach a licking branch is to drill a hole in the post and slide the branch through, but this makes it easier for bucks to push the limb out of the hole. At the bottom of the branch, put in a mock scrape. You can add these posts throughout your whitetail property. They will boost buck sightings and are excellent for creating a perfect shot when a buck comes in.
Strategically Make Travel Easier
This tactic is another favorite of mine and another I gleaned from Mr. Whitetail, Terron Bauer. Over the years, I’ve accomplished the task of boosting travel and making travel easier in multiple ways. I’ve used a weed eater, limb lobbers to drop willows and like to enhance river crossings, and used hand-push mowers. This past year, I leased a small John Deere with a mower implement for a day. The investment was well worth it. In two hours, I mowed six-foot-wide travel paths and connected my travel corridors. When you can do this, you can make whitetail travel where you want them to go.
I also like to block travel routes. You can take away the desire of a deer to go one way or the other by using a chain or handsaw and dropping a tree or piling debris across a trail. This is another simple, cost-effective method that will make your property more appealing to whitetails in a hurry.
Put in a Pond on Your Whitetail Property
A 200-pound whitetail buck will drink between three and five quarts of water per day. Few things have upped my success rate — early season and during the rut — like my 60-gallon pond. Creating it was simple: I purchased some heavy-duty plastic from Amazon, dug a hole, lined it with plastic, and filled it with water.
Yes, it takes some sweat equity, and depending on how many deer are using the area, you may have to fill it regularly, but you can’t beat a pond. I’m not a massive fan of putting in a tank. It seems deer use ponds more frequently because they don’t have to dip their eyes below the rim of the tank.
You can go bigger or smaller when it comes to pond size, and this summer, I will be removing my pond liner and adding a prefabbed medium size pond from Earth Blinds ($220). I like the design, and the 60-65 gallon size is ideal for my area. This season, on October 24, I arrowed a beautiful Colorado buck while he slurped water from the pond I’d created. All life needs water. Add it to your ground, and you’ll boost deer encounters.
Let ‘Em Rest
You can put more does on your whitetail property at certain times of the year by doing some hinge-cutting. I recommended a chainsaw for this, but the task can be accomplished with a handsaw if needed.
Hinge cutting is simple. Locate an area where you want to put does and cut a few trees using a downward cut angle of 45 degrees. Cut through two-thirds of the tree, and use a habitat hook or recruit a few buddies to help the tree fall where you want it. Safety is critical, and you should never attempt hinge-cutting on your own.
Pick trees with trunk diameters between 3 and 6 inches. Trees of this size are easier to work with; however, if you have the help, larger trees do provide more deer browse and bedding cover.
With one-third of the tree still connected to the trunk, stump sprouts are created, and the fallen branches will put browse at eye level. In addition, and most importantly, in my opinion, the fallen trees create excellent doe bedding. During the rut, bucks will cruise these areas to check for estrous does.
With a bit of elbow grease, you can make your whitetail property heaven on earth for deer, and you don’t even have to add a food plot. All of the tactics above require very few greenbacks — sweat equity and the desire to take your little slice of whitetail dirt and make it better than ever are all that are needed.