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Water for Healthy Deer Herds

As summer nears and we focus our attention on getting plots into the ground, we need to also be mindful of the importance of water for our deer herds.

The south has been in a prolonged draught for the past seven years (depending on your specific location) and the water table is at record lows. Many recreational properties are struggling to keep a steady supply of water in their creeks and ponds.

Charles Ruth of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources says that a lot of hunters and land owners are very mindful of planting their food plots but over look the need deer have for adequate water supply. During the hottest periods of the year, mature deer will have to water several times a day to combat the heat and dehydration that comes with it. While studies haven’t been done specifically on the volume of water a deer will drink, some estimates are in the 3-4 gallons per day per animal. Again, this is a rough estimate and cannot be quantified by any true scientific data, however it can provide a good rule when planning to supplement water for deer.

As a land owner, there are several options available to offset what mother nature can provide. Constructing ponds is one method that produces excellent results. However many land owners cannot afford the thousands of dollars this type of investment will require. An alternative method is constructing “mini ponds” in many different locations across your property. These mini ponds can consist of what some dub, “man-made mud holes” to one  quarter acre in size. Some of he smaller ones can be fashioned by hand, simply digging a shallow area and filling it with water and to catch rain water that may fall. Another method that a friend of mine uses with pretty good success is using 55 gallon plastic drums cut in half length wise, bury them in the ground to almost the top of the edge. In the very dry periods, he actually hauls water to these drums and fills them. He has over twenty of these on his land providing water to his wildlife.

While this may be a bit excessive for many hunters, of for those who live a distance from their property; it shows that with a little ingenuity we can help our wildlife gain the water they need.

These watering holes also provide excellent locations to place scouting cameras (more about this in the coming weeks). But animals will come to water and these make excellent locations to place cameras.

Another method is to slow the flow of your natural creeks. These slow flow areas are not dams per se; they are instead more like locks, shallow walls. In the creek on my property I have noticed through these dry years that it is susceptible to the drought. So at several locations along its course, I piled some debris, and rocks to slow its flow thus creating deep pools that will hold water longer when the natural flow is slowing due to the draught.

As hunters and land owners or managers we cannot underestimate the importance of water to our wildlife. During the hot and often oppressive summers we encounter in the Carolina’s and Georgia, we need to take measures to protect the water resources we have, and look for methods to enhance these and possibly creating alternate sources of water.

If there is one thing that can bring value to land, it’s water. Having road access is nice, but having water for our recreational lands is vital to it being a successful and wise investment. By creating these strategic water sources, you are increasing the overall health of your wildlife and increasing the value of your land.