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Creating Sanctuaries For your Deer Herd

There are a lot of philosophies for land owners and land managers all across the country. So when studying certain practices it’s a good idea to look for a common thread among people from all areas and see if there is anything we can learn from them. While there are several we could expound on, the one today is creating and maintain Sanctuaries on your hunting ground.

Deer hunters in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia all want to produce some quality bucks. And we all know that to do that we need three basic things, genetics, age and nutrition. And we will discuss on here how to enhance these to some degree. Some are out of our control or to some degree not as influential as others. We can control nutrition the most, and age to some degree by allowing young deer to live and only harvesting older mature bucks. However, for bucks to stay on our land they have to feel safe. This is where sanctuaries come in.

Having an area of your land that is off limits will allow the deer to feel safe, and tend to migrate to these areas when pressure increases. Studies show that when pressured the biggest bucks will hunker down and stay very close to home. Giving them a sanctuary will keep them on your ground instead of somewhere else. While there are several methods to creating sanctuaries, it’s really a simple tactic. Designate areas of your land that provide decent cover and label these as off limits. And by off limits, it means off limits. I know some land owners who have sanctuaries and they stay off during deer season but plow through it in the off season scouting. I really don’t know why they scout areas they won’t hunt, but they walk through these and disturb them all year until season. Thereby educating the deer to their presence and limiting the use of the sanctuary.

An effective sanctuary is never penetrated. Unless blood trailing a wounded animal we never, ever go onto the sanctuaries of our property. Sure it’s tempting, sure I want to go look for sheds there, but it’s off limits. By doing this we are seeing more and bigger bucks living on our land and staying on the land.

Sanctuaries need to be proportional to your land. In fact we have two areas on our land that is designated off limits. We even went so far as placing signs on the boarder to prevent inadvertent penetration. These areas are approximately thirty acres each. However if our land was bigger, the sanctuary would be bigger. We have seen that by creating this area, deer will indeed stay on our land and even leave adjacent land to come to our sanctuaries.


Hunting sanctuaries is obviously off limits, however hunting the edges is not. We harvest some of our finest bucks along the edge of these safe zones knowing that bucks won’t travel too far from safety we set up ambush points along the sanctuaries to get these big bucks. While it may be inconvenient to establish safe zones, and it will take a few years to notice the impact, it is definitely worth the effort to establish these zones.

One of the most effective methods we established when first identifying the areas we would use as sanctuaries. We identified the areas deer were naturally bedding in, and the areas that we had difficulty accessing stands without spooking deer. Since these were almost impossible to hunt anyway, we set these aside. Prior to setting aside we enhanced the fawning cover to help the does during their fawning to find good cover for their fawns thereby enhancing survival rate of our herd.

As you will see, all of these things go hand in hand. Fawning areas, sanctuaries, cover, access to water all are important aspects to successful deer management and successful deer hunting.

Deer hunting successfully takes year around commitment and work. Establishing your land and maintaining good cover and safe zones will not only keep bucks on your land it will draw them from other areas. They need to feel safe and to use the old adage; “if you build it they will come” is no more true than it is with sanctuaries on your hunting land.