Summertime Habitat Tips That Will Improve Your Favorite Whitetail Property

Now is the time to make your slice of whitetail heaven more attractive than the neighbors. Whether you own, lease, or have private-land permission, these simple summertime tactics will help put meat in the freezer come fall. 

Jace Bauserman 

My southeast Colorado deer lease is 266 acres. I call it small. 

Why?

Only 43 acres of the property contain a mixture of timber and CRP. The rest of the farm is comprised of irrigated alfalfa. 

Since falling head-over-heels with whitetails in 2012, I’ve dreamt of creating a Drury-like whitetail heaven. 

Here are my problems:

  1. Property size
  2. Drought
  3. Riparian habitat: bucks wander up and down river
  4. No big timber
  5. No minerals or supplements are allowed

Still, I’m of the big dream camp. Five years ago, I started implementing my management plan on the dirt. The goal was to do the best I could with what I had.

What I had working in my favor:

  1. Exclusive rights to the property
  2. Awesome landowners that allowed me to make improvements
  3. Close to home
  4. Not afraid to work

So, instead of focusing on what wouldn’t work or what I couldn’t control, I put extreme effort into making improvements. Over the past three years, those improvements have produced two Pope & Young and one Boone & Crockett deer. 

The good news is that as long as you own, lease, or have private permission and the landowner allows, these management strategies can be implemented anywhere in the country. 

Boost & Block Travel

One of the first things I did was enhance deer travel by building travel corridors. Deer will take the path of least resistance. I traded a day of farm labor for a John Deere tractor and a mower implement. 

Before creating travel corridors with the tractor and implement, I pulled up my HuntStand app and planned my travel paths. My goal was to develop travel between primary bedding and known food sources that would pull deer past my stands and blinds.

The mowing process took about 25 minutes, and within days, my Muddy Manifest 2.0 and Reveal X-Pro Cellular Trail Cameras told the tale: deer were using my mowed paths. In Colorado, cell cam use is legal, but they must be removed before hunting takes place.

In addition to boosting travel, I also used my STIHL chainsaw to block travel. Too many times, deer have too many options that allow them to slip past us. You can block travel and put deer where you want by dropping a tree here and there.

If the landowner doesn’t want you to cut down trees, you can still use the chainsaw to cut up dead brush and debris. 

Water Wins

I was hesitant to add a pond to my slice of whitetail heaven. The property borders the Arkansas River, and a large irrigation canal slices through its heart. 

Still, I snagged a 10 x 20-foot pond liner from Home Depot and dug a pond. My idea was to locate the pond within 40 yards of a prime bedding area. I had a stand site within shooting distance of the pond, and I figured, like real estate possibly, water was all about location.

I dug the 80-gallon pond in an oval shape and slopped the banks so deer could walk into it if they wanted. The oval shape would also help collect rainwater. 

On October 24, 2021, my target buck walked under my treestand and slurped water from my pond. After running and SEVR-tipped Easton through him, his death sprint was short. 

Since that harvest, I’ve added two more ponds. One is another pond-liner build. The second, which I just added this summer, is a pre-made 125-gallon MacCourt pond. I’m excited to see how it works.

Last season, I shot a 5-1/2-year-old buck that scored 171 inches at my added-that-year pond. 

Pond Tips

  1. Despite being hot during the summer, deer gather much of the moisture they need from vegetation. Don’t expect a ton of action at your pond during the summer. Action at my ponds starts to increase during mid-October, and then, during November, when bucks are running ragged, they are a major draw. 
  2. When putting in your pond, make sure you can shoot to all sides of the pond.
  3. Have a system for filling your pond effectively. I purchased a 132-gallon foldable water bladder from Amazon. After the bladder arrived, a trip to the local hardware store was all that was required to obtain the necessary parts to drain water into my ponds. This bladder is worth its weight in gold.
  4. Add a stick to your ponds. I didn’t do this my first year, and I had field mice and even a raccoon drown. You don’t want to deal with that mess, trust me. 
  5. Even if you have water on your property, a pond in the right location can make a big difference.

Kill Plot

Last season was my first experience putting in a food plot that worked. I’d tried for years, but summertime rainfall is often less than two inches in my neck of the woods. We get weeks of 100-degree-plus temperatures, and our sandy/clay-like soil dries out quickly. 

I’d almost given up on food plots. Then, I purchased cereal grain rye from a local seed store. Cereal winter rye is easy to grow, deer love it, and it’s reasonably drought tolerant. 

An annual, there is no need to plant this fast-growing deer snack until late August or, in my case, early September. By this time, day and nighttime temps are starting to cool down, which gives your rye better chance at survival. Also, cereal grain winter rye is most palatable and attractive to ungulates between three and six inches tall. Plant it too soon, and it will be unattractive to the deer by the time you’re ready to hunt.  

This year, I used my four-wheeler and a pull-behind disc to work a small corridor where deer like to travel. The corridor is located in a staging area between bedding and larger agricultural fields. 

After plowing the dirt, I used a broadcast seeder and went heavy on the seed. Next, I used a rake to cover the seed and then used a pull-behind cultipacker

I planted on a heavy rain forecast, which gave the seed excellent germination. Then, with no rain forecasted for weeks, I used my 132-gallon water bladder and a garden hose to water the plot. 

Was it a lush, massive green plot like those on many outdoor television shows? Not at all. It was small, which was the idea because watering took time. However, like my ponds, it was all about location. 

The first deer to hit my plot was an old buck I call Funky Town. I have two years of sheds and know he is 5-1/2. The second, third, and fourth deer to hit my plot were a family group of does, which is what I want. If you can give the girls a snack sight — a location where they can munch before hitting more prominent food sources — you’ll have bucks checking your food source during the rut.

Then, on October 13, my number one target buck — a buck I passed as a 4-1/2-year-old — hit the plot. That night, Too Tall (what I named him) followed the mowed path from my food plot to two of my ponds. Too Tall hit the food plot and at least one pond for the next two weeks at least twice a week. 

On October 23, 2023, I could hear a deer munching rye in my plot. Occasionally, leaves would crunch, and a stick would snap under their deer’s hooves. I figured it to be a doe. There was still plenty of shooting light, and the daytime high was 74 degrees. 

I could have seen the deer if I’d been in my Muddy hang-on. On this evening, though, an east wind blew, which put me in my Redneck Soft Side 360° Ghillie Deluxe 6×6 Ground Blind

Another Quick Tip: Too often, we only get to hunt our best spots a few times a year due to the ever-changing wind direction. When you have an excellent place, hang multiple treestands or use a combination of stands and blinds to hunt the spot on various winds. 

Though ground blinds limit visibility, excellent makes like those from Redneck and others contain human stink exceptionally well. When used in combination with an Ozonics unit, you can get away with a lot.

The deer stayed on the plot for a long time. Then, with the light waning, it stepped out. I about fell out of my ALPS Stealth Hunter chair. It was Too Tall. He never even glanced in my direction. Instead, he lowered his head and lengthened his gate as he approached the pond. At 27 yards, I sent a SEVR-tipped Easton 4MM Axis Long Range through his lungs. 

Put In A Post

My last big tip to improve your whitetail dirt is to add signing posts at each stand site. 

Why?

Whitetails love to rub! Not only is a blaze on a tree visible to other bucks, but when a buck rubs, he puts scent from his preorbital gland—located just below the corner of his eyes— and forehead on what he’s rubbing.

Though you can purchase cedar posts from a lumber store, I’ve had the very best results going out and cutting 9- to 10-foot cedar posts and putting them in the ground.

Deer like cedar because it’s soft and aromatic. I dig a three-foot-deep hole twice as wide as the post’s base. Also, be sure you can shoot to the post. I’ve killed several deer that follow one of my travel corridors and stop at one of my posts. Setting a post does you no good if you can’t shoot to it. Next, I put the post in the hole and add dirt and a little water to help my tamper pack the dirt tightly. Take your time with this process. I’ve watched gagger whitetails put everything they have into my posts. If they aren’t set well, bucks will push them over. 

#0:T80:S48:Y15:B-43:I61-#1:T80:S37:Y163:B11:I61-M0:ALS0:C1:T64:S21:Y:163:B11:I61 LS:1 1

After the post is set, you can scar it with a saw or knife to release the scent. 

Final Thoughts

Now is the time to start building your whitetail paradise. Set realistic expectations, work within your budget, and you’ll be able to create a whitetail haven. 

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