Deer have a reputation for being elusive, wary and often hard to find, much less kill. The truth is, deer aren’t that smart and if you do things right, they will come to you.
If you get the does coming in, the bucks will follow. You just need enough patience to watch the does and wait for the wall hanger to come trotting out.
I have hunted deer all my life across the United States and I have some tips to help you. Let’s dive right in.
How do you get Deer to Come to you?
To get deer to come to you, you need to first understand why deer do the things they do. Outside of the rut, deer are interested in three main things. They want food, they want to be safe, and they want shelter. Let’s break these down.
- Food: Every creature needs to eat. If you provide deer what they want to eat, they may come to you.
- Safety: If the deer do not feel safe, they will not come to you no matter what food you provide.
- Shelter: They want a safe place to bed down, sleep, and digest their meal.
The best deer hunters I know position their stands close to a fairly safe-location food source. They also know where the deer sleep and the route they travel to the food.
The best hunters’ stands are positioned between the bedding area and the safe location food source.
Yes, deer need to drink, water but they do that very quickly compared to the amount of time they spend feeding. Therefore, hunting water holes works in very dry places.
However, deer habits change during the rut, especially for the bucks. Outside of the rut, whitetail bucks may travel in groups.
When the rut comes on, they go their separate ways, coming together only to battle each other for mating rights.
When the rut is on, the mature males are more interested in finding a mate than eating. The males will eat, if they can do so while keeping an eye on the nearby does.
Safety for a rutting buck is less important than finding a doe. However, hunt-pressured bucks even in high rut will be careful.
Does are still interested in finding a safe place to eat. The bucks will chase the does down to mate.
Therefore, during the rut, you can make some changes to bring the bucks in, while doing the same things to keep the does coming in.
Tips to Attract Deer to your yard
If you want deer to come to your yard, then deer must live in the neighborhood.
North American Whitetail magazine notes there is no fixed distance a deer will travel in 24 hours.If the area has plenty of natural food and excellent cover, a deer will travel under a mile.
If the deer has to find food and cover, it can go several miles in 24 hours. Its home range is defined by the food and shelter. If you can provide both, deer will hang around unless pushed out.
1. Deer Feeders
Deer feeders are an excellent way to bring deer in. Each state has different rules for feeders, especially when hunting, so make sure you know your state’s regulations.
The most popular deer food is corn. You can get corn at hometown hardware stores, farmer’s markets and feed & seed stores.
Other popular foods are apples, sweet potatoes, peanut butter, salt and mineral licks and hay.
States like California prohibit feeding big game. Some states will let you set up a backyard feeder, but you cannot hunt around it. Some states let hunters set up feeders and hunt over them.
- Feeder problems
Deer feeders have a few problems.
If you use a bag-style feeder, the feed could get moldy and ruined if it gets wet. Therefore, it would be best to use a barrel, bucket, or tube-style feeders to keep food dry.
Another big problem with all feeders is other animals. Feeders will encourage rats and mice because of easy food, which in turn brings in predators to eat the little critters.
Bigger animals like raccoons can scoop food out of the feeder and empty it quickly.
2. Food Plots
Food plots are plants you intentionally grow to attract deer. Again, each state may have different regulations regarding hunting over food plots. If you are just watching deer, a food plot is OK.
It does not take a lot to grow a food plot. All you need to do is till the ground and scatter seeds. A food plot needs to be at least 50 feet on two sides.
If you create a narrow plot, it needs to be at least five times longer than it is wide, with a minimum being 5 yards wide. The food plot can wrap around trees and bushes.
The important thing to remember is deer are browsers. They are not going to stand in one place and fill up.
They like to wander around and sample lots of different food sources. If you have a variety of foods, they will hang around longer.
In food plots of any kind, they will eat the most recent and tenderest shoots and move to the next plant. If you have a feeder, they will eat a bit and move away.
You will probably see the deer grazing the plants around the feeder.
An exception to this is where the deer are overpopulated. If the area has too many deer, they quickly eat up all the natural food sources.
They turn to household plans and ornamentals because they are just that hungry.
If you see your plants eaten to the ground and the bushes stripped bare, then you have too many deer in the area.
3. Trees & bushes
Trees and bushes can provide a regular and annual supply of food for deer, even though they aren’t exactly a food plot.
Some of these trees and bushes attract other animals and people. If you live in bear country, you may have to deal with bears climbing the tree.
Apple trees are the top choice. Just be sure to plant at least two trees because apple trees do not self pollinate very well. Other good fruiting trees are cherry, fig and persimmon.
Additionally, blueberry bushes attract deer. You also get results from the bushes much faster than fruit trees.
If you have time to invest, consider mast, which is fruits, nuts, and seeds of woody plants in this context.
Oak trees are a top source of mast for deer and so many other animals. It just takes a few years to see results.
Minerals, like salt lick blocks or ground minerals poured into a pan or into the feed will also attract deer and other animals. The minerals also attract other animals.
Wild hogs will eat everything in one night. You stop this by getting a hanging block. That will not stop bears, but the bear will not eat the whole thing at once either.
Deer hunters use scents, both attractants and cover scents. If you are just interested in bringing deer in, then use attractants.
During the rut, bucks will come running in to the scent of a doe in estrus (heat). The scent markers are in the doe’s urine. Real doe urine stinks but it brings the bucks running.
Scents are less effective on does, but they do work. The smell tells a doe that others are in the area and it must be safe since one of them had time to pee.
In addition to a sense of smell better than a bloodhound’s, deer have incredible hearing. You can use sounds to bring a deer out of the woods and into the clear so you can see it.
Rattling imitates the sounds of two bucks fighting. The antlers crashing together makes a sound that brings other bucks to at least have a look.
You can rattle with real antlers, fake antlers and rattle bags. I prefer rattle bags; they take up less space and do not have poky ends that get hung up on things.
I can also use a rattle bag with one hand while I grunt with the other.
A good grunt call will make sounds ranging from a mature buck to a bleating fawn. With a few minutes practice you can sound like a 12-point telling a doe to stand still to a fawn wondering where his mama went.
You cannot tame a deer because they are not domesticated. You can habituate a deer to humans, which is dangerous for the deer and people. Once the deer learns that people equals food, it may attack people in hopes of being fed. It is illegal to catch and pen deer without a permit in every state.
The smells that attract deer are food and other deer. Peanut butter is a top food scent. Peanut butter scented corn is amazing. The scents of other deer in a calm state will also attract deer.
If you want to attract a deer in minutes, one has to be in the immediate area. Grunt calls and scents will bring one fastest, if it has a mind to come at all.
Deer are pretty common and if they are in your area, pretty easy to bring in. Feeders, especially feeders with a timer, are a great way to draw them in.
The timer lets you decide when the feeder motor spins, scattering the food. Over time, deer learn to associate the sound with food. They also learn when the feeder goes off and will hang out nearby.
Set the timer to go off at sunrise and about 30 minutes before sunset for the best results.
You do need to keep the feeder stocked to develop the habit in the deer. To avoid spooking the deer, try to refill the feeder in the middle of the day.
If you do spook one, hunters call it jumping a deer, do not chase it. It should not go far. Continue to fill the feeder and then walk away.
If you do not want a feeder, then you need to put out some kind of food. Food plots, forage trees and bushes all work. Always remember that sometimes, certain kinds of food plots take more time to develop than others.