This article on Creating Deer Hubs for Year-Round Digiscoping was written by our friends at 1st Light Hunting Journal.
Sharing deer populations across small properties is a reality for many hunters. The special sections of free-range deer hunting mean a lot of competition for mostly non-resident deer herds that regularly roam across multiple properties with a purpose.
Some parcels are better than others, sporting better browse, bedding thickets, and water sources. Short of planting mini-food plots and other habitat improvements, it can be difficult to sway these purpose-driven creatures to your property, much less toward your stand. Even in areas where baiting is legal, feeders don’t always guarantee any staying power for deer groups – at least not on their own.
Enjoying deer hunting success has much to do with effective scouting and keeping your property relevant for area deer. There’s a catch though, you’ve got to see deer in order to pattern and ultimately hunt them. Whitetails are creatures of habit. This very fact means you can increase your odds if you can find ways to consistently draw them year-round. When you do, you have a much better chance to inventory and document them via digiscoping.
However, deer use different travel patterns throughout the year. There’s the late winter and early spring when they seem to disappear into thin air. There are the spring and summer patterns when bucks grow their antlers and travel in bachelor groups. It’s not long before the pre-rut and rut periods hit and everything gets exciting and erratic. And to think, this doesn’t even cover the October lull, post-rut, and late-season periods.
Suffice to say, you’ll want to provide incentives for deer to visit your hunting property during different seasons – and once you have, you have the unique opportunity to hit the woods with your digiscoping gear and scout them. The deer you hunt move with a purpose. Offset this by acting with your own sense of purpose.
Creating Deer Hubs
In this context, deer hubs are a combination of attractions in a relatively small area. It involves pushing the envelope by creating them, scouting them, and ultimately hunting them. This method casts a wide net at these wily critters and screams, “more is better.” By placing a variety of enticements for deer within close proximity to one another, you can create an advantage over the other properties that surround you – especially the modest-sized ones. As social animals, whitetails naturally gather – whether it’s around nutrition sources or to leave their unique marks at a scrape or rub.
When creating deer hubs, the key is to add attractive features that appeal to deer year-round. The second part is setting up on these hubs and documenting deer movement and behavior with your favorite optics, smartphone, and digiscoping kit. Here’s how to do it.
Pick a Hub Area
Right from the start, look for existing features that are ideal for creating deers hubs. Many small to medium-sized properties don’t necessarily have ideal qualities. Still, there are some things to at least consider for a head start to a hub site. For example, look for areas with any combination of the following features; at or near known funnels, attractive browse, food plots, or mast-producing trees, and an attractive area on the outskirts of a woodlot or creek. If possible, find an area more toward the center of your hunting property. Finally, make sure that there is a place downwind of the area from which you can view and digiscope deer movement. A distance of 100-200 yards is ideal.
Elements of a Deer Hub
Mini-food plots are a good alternative. There are several no-till varieties these days from which to choose based on climate and season. Feeders are also a great component of any deer hub, assuming your state allows it. They’re easy to place where you want and are flexible. For example, automatic feeders can feed weather-hardy corn and free-choice feeders can dispense high-protein pellets which are particularly beneficial and attractive to deer during the harsh winter and summer months.
Waterholes take a little work but are pretty simple features to create. They’re great for summertime, especially in hotter states. They can be placed in an area without too much direct sunlight so that they don’t evaporate during the dog days of summer. Ideal places are under tree canopies or at least at the edge of a clearing that is shaded at least part of the day.
While mineral sites are a great idea on their own, they’re also a worthwhile component of a super-sized deer hub. Simple to create, they can be set up or refreshed in late winter or spring. They provide needed (and sought after) minerals, are particularly attractive to deer in the summer, and are a great way to inventory bucks during the antler growth period. Plus, it’s fun to monitor visiting bucks and imagining how they’ll turn out. No special gear is required, just the mineral block or rock of your choice. There are also granular forms that can be used instead of (or in addition to) the blocks.
What hunter doesn’t like the idea of whitetail bucks making rubs and scrapes on their property? After all, to deer, they’re the ultimate form of communication. This communication, along with the social aspect of community scrapes makes them a great part of any deer hub. Like Feeding areas and mineral stations, they’ve always been a popular area to place trail cameras. They can also – you guessed it – be glassed, and ultimately digiscoped from a distance.
While attractants could arguably be placed in the food section, they represent a good part of any deer hub. They can be used on their own or combined with feeding areas or mineral sites. In addition to a variety of flavors, they typically have aromas that can draw deer in. In the spirit of stacking the odds in your favor, why not add them to a hub area?
Setting Up for Digiscoping
When it’s time to hit your deer lease, club, or favorite public land grounds to digiscope, don’t forget to tend to the basics. Regardless of the season, treat your digiscoping session like you would any hunt. Stay concealed by situating yourself in natural cover or a popup blind. Likewise, exercise scent control by, at a minimum, setting up downwind of your hub. If the conditions aren’t right, pick another day to study your hub area. Dress in dark colors or, even better, camo up. Along with your hub zone, your digiscoping intel just may reveal the buck of your dreams.
So, you’re lucky enough to have some dirt to hunt. Embellish your part of the deer woods with features that will draw the transitory deer at different times of the year by creating deer hubs. Whether it’s deer hunting utopia or a mediocre-at-best destination, you’ll want to capture the movement of these prized creatures.
Your golden one-stop-shopping zone will take advantage of their social and nutritional habits. Don’t stop there though – take it a step further and digiscope your findings. This one-two punch will go a long way toward putting a big-antlered buck on your wall. At a minimum, it will tell you he’s even around to hunt. If you’re anything like me, the latter is enough incentive on its own.