The Power of a Deer Sanctuary
Dr. John Woods 08.06.20
Land managers and deer management hunters are learning the value of establishing a sanctuary on hunting properties. This amounts to no more than setting aside a piece of the hunting lands to reserve it for the deer without bother or pressure. This gives all the deer, especially the bucks, a hideout away from hunter interaction. How is this done?
It helps to have a good aerial view map of the land you hunt. This overhead viewpoint can help you locate viable areas to close off or reduce human intervention. It is best if a section of land can be completely cut off from hunter access. This will ensure the deer can slip into these areas and not be pursued. It gives the deer confidence they will not be harassed in this area. A sanctuary need not be large say just 5-10 acres with good cover and minimal access.
The key to maintaining a safe sanctuary is to ensure that it’s left alone. This means during the regular hunting seasons, no one even steps foot inside the sanctuary. That rule has to be agreed upon by all the hunters and completely enforced. Any violation will defeat the purpose of establishing a sanctuary.
So, why even have a sanctuary? All deer need a secure area where they can bed, feed, and breed without disturbance. This promotes deer herd health and gives a fair advantage to allow bucks to grow older and to produce larger antlers all else being equal. Deer will continue to migrate and move in and out of a sanctuary area, so it is not like you are totally excluding those deer from ever being harvested. That will come naturally. Deer will not totally reside inside of a designated sanctuary area.
Over time the deer and the hunters will learn that when humans approach a sanctuary area, the deer do not simply run off to hide inside the sanctuary. It just becomes a natural area where the deer will take up periodic residence away from otherwise applied hunting pressure.
Can a sanctuary ever be breached? Yes. Immediately after all hunting seasons are closed in late winter is a good time to scout a sanctuary area. This should be done quietly and deliberately without extensive disturbance. It can be a good time for shed hunting looking for evidence of the deer using the area. Also search for typical deer sign like rubs and scrapes. This is further information that can help landowners and hunters about the deer on their property.