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GameKeepers Can’t Overlook the Importance of Water for Deer

Scott Davis | Mossy Oak ProStaff

Deer by watering hole

As GameKeepers, we often emphasize planting and habitat management, but we can’t forget the importance of having plenty of water on the property we’re managing for deer and turkeys. Although wildlife gets much of its water from the foods they eat, in drought conditions, the deer can become very stressed or may have to travel long distances for water. 

We’ve created water collection systems on our two properties to improve the amount of available water, especially during droughts. If we know we have deer coming to a food plot or mineral lick and there’s no water nearby, we may put out a trough to hold water for the deer to have near their food. Or we’ll try to locate an area in the woods that’s holding water and create a small food plot close to that water. During the early deer season when the weather is hot, older-age-class bucks prefer to bed close to food and water. We don’t want the bucks we’ve been raising all year to leave our land because they’re not close to food and water. 

Each season we attempt to take two or three bucks off each property, but this year was an exception. We harvested four mature bucks off these two, 150-acre plots. We also took some younger family members, primarily nieces and nephews, and let them take their first bucks. 

We believe we’re holding at least two to three mature bucks on these two pieces of land. However, once the rut kicks in, our lands attract more mature bucks due to our management system and the food and water available for them. During the early season, when the bucks are still in bachelor groups (generally each of these properties will hold one or two bachelor groups) there are two to three shooter bucks in the group. 

Usually the bucks we take will be 4-1/2 years old and score 130–140 on Boone & Crockett. If a buck lives to be a 5-1/2-year-old deer, he’ll be around 150 B&C. Since we’ve been managing deer on those two lands, we’ve taken two bucks that have scored 150 B&C or more. 

One of the most critical elements to growing older-age-class bucks on small properties is that the people who hunt those lands must be in agreement on the management system that’s set up for that property. They also all must have the same goals for hunting deer. On the two farms we hunt, we like to get together and set up strategies to keep the bucks on our lands and identify the tactics we’ll use to take the older-age-class bucks. We all enjoy seeing trail camera pictures of the deer holding on each property. All of us enjoy seeing the work we’ve put in to produce the kind of bucks we want to take and want our friends and family members to take.

Although I’ve said that rules are important, and they are, we do have one variation. If a youngster who’s never taken a buck before is hunting with us, then that youngster can take whatever buck he sees and wants to harvest. But after that first buck, that youngster must abide by the 130-or-better rule for harvesting bucks on our lands. We want the people who hunt our lands to enjoy using our management system, seeing numbers of bucks and having the opportunity to take a very nice buck. 

Mossy Oak GameKeepers ProStaffer Scott Davis of Louisville, Kentucky, grew up hunting on his family’s farm. Davis shares that The GameKeepers program fits his family’s lifestyle, giving back to the land and to the animals and giving more than you take.

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