Creating and Hunting Waterholes for Deer

HuntStand Defintions | Waterholes for Deer

Ever hunt over a waterhole for deer? If not, you’re missing out. While they are no pile of corn, they do have the potential to draw in a mature buck to a specific spot more naturally than almost anything out there. In fact, a waterhole may be deadlier than a corn pile when it comes to mature bucks because most of the time you won’t have to put pressure on the area to keep them full or “baited” like you would a feeder or bait pile.

Before we jump into detail about watering holes, it’s important to understand there’s a big difference between a water source and a waterhole or at least how we classify them in this article – specifically in size and design. A water source can literally be anything from a lake, river, pond, swamp, etc. Whereas a waterhole for deer is generally much smaller, and often placed strategically. The big advantage with waterholes is knowing exactly where deer will come in for a drink, which ultimately dictates your ability to get off a clean shot at a known range.

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PHOTO: The big advantage with waterholes is knowing exactly where deer will come in for a drink, which ultimately dictates your ability to get off a clean shot at a known range. This one happens to be in a brassica fall plot acting as a staging food plot from a known bedding area to a larger soybean field. This setup with a north wind is an ideal setup for a 20 or 30 yard chip shot with a bow.

Creating Your Own Waterholes

When it comes to constructing your own waterholes, most people do one of two things – they dig them or they put out a catchment container of some sort. Digging may be the best long-term option if the soil has enough clay content to hold water. If that’s not the case on your property, many land managers and pond companies use a mineral called bentonite to seal the bottom of their pond. Bentonite is a type of clay that expands and swells when wet, making it the perfect natural pond liner when mixed or applied on top of the soil. If bentonite isn’t an option, you can opt for a rubber membrane liner, which work well but are more susceptible to holes over time, especially considering how sharp deer hooves can be.

Due to the simplicity and recent rise in popularity of hunting over waterholes, many hunters are taking the DIY approach and putting just about anything that can hold water out in the woods and in their food plots. You can use anything from a buried cattle tank, to 50-gallon drums cut in half, to kiddie swimming pools. Heck, I’ve even seen an old cast iron bathtub buried on a ridgetop! As long as it holds water, it can serve an as effective attraction for deer.

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PHOTO: Due to the simplicity and recent rise in popularity of hunting over waterholes, many hunters are taking the DIY approach and putting just about anything that can hold water out in the woods and in their food plots.

Where to Put Deer Waterholes

Perhaps the best thing about waterholes is that you have the ability to place them just about anywhere with relative ease. Unlike a food plot where you almost always need large equipment and flat ground, all you need for a waterhole is a shovel and some sort of liner or catchment container. Placing them on ridgetops and funnels is the perfect way to slow up a cruising buck during the rut. Setting them up in open timber or along field edges can also help draw in those wandering deer to within bow range. The best times to capitalize on a waterhole setup is during the rut and in the early season when temps are still hot.

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PHOTO: For whatever reason, it seems like deer and bucks specifically, prefer to drink from small pools of dirty water over larger water sources that exist like rivers and streams. If you don’t believe it yourself, put out a waterhole within 100 yards of an existing water source and run a trail camera test.

Even if you hunt a property where deer are not stressed for water, waterholes can still be extremely effective. For whatever reason, it seems like deer and bucks specifically, prefer to drink from small pools of dirty water over larger water sources that exist like rivers and streams. If you don’t believe it yourself, put out a waterhole within 100 yards of an existing water source and run a trail camera test. You’ll likely be surprised. Bottom line, don’t knock it until you try it.

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