Safe Havens

Safe Havens

There are many management strategies and practices that can be conducted on your property. Each property is different, therefore what needs to be done from a management and hunting standpoint varies from tract to tract. Regardless of how you manage and hunt your land, what every tract needs is a deer sanctuary. This is why and how you should establish sanctuaries on your land.

Sanctuaries are essentially safe havens for deer. They consist of an acreage of land allocated to deer bedding and security. By increasing the amount of untouched acreage and decreasing the acreage you hunt, you can actually increase your chances of harvesting more deer. If you are like me, your hunting land isn’t nearly as large as you would wish but that doesn’t mean that some land shouldn’t be allocated to a sanctuary. I understand, it’s tough to have X amount of land and then take a fraction of it and pretend it isn’t there. Many landowners scoff at the thought of this and immediately reject the concept. They paid to own it therefore they will hunt it. On the other hand I’ve yet to suggest a sanctuary to a landowner who didn’t maintain it in their management plan in the following years. I think of it like this, you have spent untold amounts of money on land and land management in order to draw in deer along with hunting equipment, stands and licenses so you can harvest deer. So why not finish it off and create a sanctuary that provides security?

When deciding on what areas to use as sanctuaries you should seek areas that have a relatively thick understory and provides cover. Usually most hunters assign roughly 5-10 percent of their land for sanctuaries but larger portions are sometimes set aside. If a food source is nearby this will also increase its productivity. While smaller, undisturbed, isolated fields are ideal avoid open agricultural fields and areas where hunters must pass by or could possibly cause a commotion. Vegetation that has sprouted after a timber harvest is a great place to start. While bigger is better, don’t underestimate the potential of draws, ridges, and other environmental characteristics that can be found on topographical maps. One of the best sanctuaries I have seen consisted of 5 acres of dense pines that bordered 8 acres of CRP and a small pond. As you can see the sanctuary wasn’t very large but it did its job and the landowner not only spotted, but harvested more deer the year of sanctuary establishment than any previous seasons.

Of course, there are some exceptions that allow brief disturbances. Some landowners go in and conduct hinge cuts to create thick bedding areas but that can be done in one day and the results last for years. This is common when the landowner has a lack of forested diversity on their land so they have to actually create a refuge. Aside from taking my shed hunting dog out searching for shed antlers or blood trailing a deer, I won’t enter a sanctuary at any time. That means no trail cameras and especially not a tree stand. I try to avoid intrusion at all cost, especially during the hunting season.

This year try it out and set aside a portion of your land as a sanctuary. If left untouched and unmolested, you will see the benefits. I consider this a major component of any management plan and I hope it aids you as much as it has myself and other landowners and deer hunters.

 

~ Andrew Walters  Mossy Oak Properties

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