When it comes to setting up tree stands to ambush whitetails, hunters typically seek out food sources that are being regularly visited such as soybeans or a stand of oaks. These areas are incredibly efficient and deliver results but just because they are efficient doesn’t mean that they are the only places to harvest deer. Rarely do hunters hunt over water sources like they do agricultural fields and other natural food sources. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to ignore the water on your property as a place to harvest deer.
While it is tough to give up an afternoon overlooking a food plot in order to hunt over a stream or a secluded pond, the results may cause you to rethink your strategy. I have found that deer are more comfortable using smaller water sources during daylight hours. If you can find a pond or stream that is completely secluded in timber or near a food source, you have increased the area’s potential productivity exponentially. When searching for water sources to hunt over, I will use an aerial map or a software program that allows me to zoom in and inspect the water hole before physically scouting it on the ground. Water sources aren’t always just for nourishment and many times whitetails will follow meandering streams and river banks when traveling from feeding to bedding areas and when checking for estrus does during the pre-rut. How many times have you seen a muddy bank around the perimeter of a pond or stream that was covered in tracks? How about rubs and scrapes along ditch banks and drainages flowing to and from water sources? Rarely can you find a water source without deer sign nearby.
These stands are commonly thought to be early season hunting stands due to the warmer temperatures but actually these stands are great all season long. Many times a doe bedding area won’t be located far away from a constant water source. Setting up stands between the bedding areas and the watering hole creates a perfect ambush point. Of course, during the pre-rut and rut, the bucks will have does on their mind and if you can find the does, you can find the bucks. Water attracts whitetails and these communal areas are great places to tag your buck.
Many properties lack a constant water source but may have a seasonal watering hole that consists of water, depending on the year’s precipitation. If your property is missing water sources, you can easily create them. The easiest way to create make shift water sources is to purchase a plastic container from a livestock or farm equipment store and transplant it into the ground. The next step is to bury the container in the ground. The depth depends on the tank’s capacity but dig deep enough to let the top of the container be almost flush with the ground. I would recommend filling the reservoir up at first so the deer associate the new structure in their woods with water. It may take a few days for the deer to locate it and become accustomed to it, but once found it will be frequently used. The key is to situate your new watering hole close by an area that is frequently used by deer. While you can hunt directly over the water source, I would recommend hunting travel routes to and from the water source. This ensures that the deer don’t become skittish of the watering tank and avoid it. The last step is to leave a stick or limb in the container that allows any mice or small critters to escape if they fall into the water tank. Deer probably won’t pay much attention to your makeshift watering hole if dead rodents are floating around in it.
By following these simple steps, you can hunt over natural food sources or create your own. Providing the wildlife on your property more water is a great way to increase the activity on your property, resulting in more eventful hunting.