It takes a lot of creativity and hard work to attract deer to your property. (Ed Anderson illustration)
I can imagine all of the raised eyebrows as this title is read. Neighbors' bucks? Trespassing? Poaching? So, no, before someone makes an accusation of promoting anarchy, trespassing and/or poaching, that is not the message of this post. In fact, we most certainly feel these offenses are among the most atrocious of all offenses against wildlife and our hunting heritage.
The second important thing to note is that we don’t own deer. Wildlife laws and the Lacey Act technically prohibit it and it’s distasteful that hunters and landowners “lay claim” to the wild deer that spend time on their property. But, for the sake of common jargon, we’ll refer to the deer on neighboring properties as “the neighbors' bucks.” Furthermore, the overall concept of this idea is to improve habitat and/or make your property more attractive to deer.
But, as for general deer hunting, I’ve always been adamant that a deer hunter is only as good as the property he or she hunts. Regardless of your goal, you can’t kill a deer that isn’t there. It takes a healthy deer population to consistently fill your tags. It takes a healthy buck age structure to consistently kill mature bucks.
But what if target deer spend part of the time on your property, but spend most of it on an adjacent tract? Or, what if they spend all of their time on a neighboring property but are still within a relatively short distance of a location you have permission to be? There are certain things you can do to target those bucks and increase the odds of tagging one of them. And again, trespassing and/or poaching isn’t one of them. There’s only one way you legally set foot on the neighbor’s property for hunting purposes. But more on that later.
1. Provide More Food and Water Sources
One of the best ways to improve the attractiveness of the property you hunt on is to provide better food sources. Achieve this by creating more natural options by planting mast trees (oaks, chestnuts, persimmons, apples, etc.) and conducting prescribed burns (with the proper licenses and following legal regulations) to create more forbs and other early successional growth, etc. Also, provide other food sources by planting food plots with an array of options such as clover, brassicas, oats, wheat, etc. You can even supplement feed (where legal). Regardless of your method, providing more food is a surefire way to draw more deer from neighboring properties onto yours.
Water sources are another important element. If you don’t have water at all, that’s a problem. It’s essential for deer to call your place home. If there is none, add it. If there is some, add some more, but do so in a strategic location.
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2. Create Better Bedding Cover
Bedding is even more important than food. That might sound absurd at first, but it isn’t. Deer will travel miles to reach prime food sources but will do so under the cover of darkness. But the selection of bedding areas, especially in heavily pressured areas, is based on security. And whatever location offers the best survival advantage will be the bedding areas of the older deer in the herd. If that’s not on your property, you’re already at a disadvantage. But if you create it, that makes your property more attractive over time.
3. Learn How to Hunt Property Lines
Hunting property lines is a delicate topic. But, by law, as long as you and the deer in your sights are on your side of the fence, it’s completely legal. That said, unless you’ve talked to and have an agreement with the neighbor, sitting right on a property line can be unethical and frowned upon. The best method is dialogue. Talk to the neighbor. If there are a couple of good stand locations along the property boundary, it might work out that you hunt one of them and the neighbor hunts the other. Just make sure that whatever you do is legal and ethical.
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4. Use Calls to Lure Them Across
No matter what your situation, and how many deer spend time across the fence from you, always hunt legally and ethically. (Russell Graves photo)
There’s nothing illegal or unethical about calling to a deer that’s across a property line. Simply pull out your grunt call, snort-wheeze or rattling antlers and make some magic. If a deer comes trotting onto your property and into range, thank the good Lord and touch that shot off.
5. Stake a Decoy
If you’re hunting in open country, put out a decoy on your side of the property line and send a prayer skyward that the buck you’re after sees it from afar and comes running. It is possible to lure deer within range with this tactic. But don’t try to decoy a buck onto your property if you know the neighbor is out there hunting at the same time as you. That’s distasteful, selfish and borderline unethical. Only use this tactic when you know you won’t mess up another person’s hunt.
6. Stage a Big Buck Intrusion
An acquaintance of mine once told me a story where he hunted a property alongside another person who also had permission. There was a large buck frequenting the property and — however devious and unethical — he convinced the hunter to hunt one side of the property by creating a monstrous mock scrape and rub line and passed it off as made by the trophy buck.
So, first thought — that’s terrible. Second thought — that’s actually a little hilarious. Third thought — we all know this has to come back to bight him in the butt. Well, it did. All of the fake sign attracted the attention of the big buck — in a location he previously hadn’t even been sighted — and the other hunter killed the deer. That’s poetic justice if I’ve ever heard it. But the moral of the story is that creating a sudden concentration of fake buck sign can catch the attention of deer that are nearby, even if they’re spending most of their time on a neighboring property.
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7. Use Scent Lures to Your Advantage
Using scent lures is another way to attract deer to your area. Whether it’s in the form of a scent drag, scent wafers or a mock scrape, the smell can travel far and wide. Sometimes, it can prove enough to pull a deer to your side of the barbwire.
8. Establish a Bait Pile
Some people love baiting. Other people hate it. Either way, where legal, it can be an effective tactic. And even if bucks don’t come to your bait pile to feed, during the rut, they will come to one to check the does that are feeding in the vicinity. So, essentially, draw in the does with the bait and draw in the bucks with the does.
9. Hunt Less Often
You could be doing more harm than good — especially if you hunt frequently on small properties. The very reason deer are spending more time on neighboring properties could be because you pushed them from yours. Hunt less often when odds are better and in your favor.
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10. Ask If You Can Hunt
As previously mentioned, there is only one way to legally go onto a neighboring property — permission. The only way you secure that is by asking if you can hunt. Sometimes they say “yes.” Most times they say “no.” But it’ll always be a “no” if you don’t ask. Get out there and make it happen.
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