While most hunters plan for deer sanctuaries and even have fancy signs to establish their boundaries of sanctuary habitat, very few hunters get to experience a highly attractive sanctuary. The #1 test for how attractive your sanctuaries really are, is to calculate the % of acres that deer never see you, smell you or hear you. How many acres do you have, that are completely dedicated to an unsuspecting deer herd? While it's pretty easy to hang some signs and call a portion of your land a sanctuary, very few hunters actually get to experience the power of a true sanctuary on their land.
CREATING A TRUE DEER SANCTUARY
A true deer sanctuary should of course include your deer bedding areas, but I would like you to consider that a sanctuary should also surround your food sources, waterholes, mock scrapes, travel corridors and every other deer improvement or deer feature on your land. When you add up all of your acres that deer can be kept unaware of your hunter site, scent and sound, those acres should equal at least 50% of parcels of 40-60 acres or less and up to 80%, for parcel sizes of 160 acres or larger.
USING SANCTUARIES TO MAKE 80 ACRES MORE VALUABLE THAN 200
Even a solid 40 acres of true sanctuary on 200 acres is often hard to find, even though that number only represents 20% of the total acres. On a highly efficient 80 acre parcel where 60 acres out of 80 have been designated to "all deer, all the time", then the efficiency level is 75%. In reality I have experienced that the 80 acre parcel with an efficiency level of 75%, is ultimately more attractive to deer has a much greater potential of quality herd management, than the 200 acre parcel that is only managed at a level of 20%. In that case, the smaller parcel actually has 50% more acres that can attract, hold, protect, grow and create high quality herd and hunting experiences.
HUNTING A DEER SANCTUARY
By placing your stands along bottlenecks, within natural created deer travel corridors, behind bedding areas, alongside afternoon food source movements and using mock scrapes, waterholes and attractive habitat or topographical features, you can effectively hunt the outsides of your sanctuary from highly attractive stand locations. The further you move into your land to hunt a particular funnel or attractive deer travel corridor, the more acres that you have to sacrifice downwind of your stand locations and for your hunting access. Your parcel efficiency level should represent a balance of going into the heart of your land far enough to experience quality deer movement, but not so far that your overall level of efficiency is severely compromised. Your trail cameras should be near or on the way to your stand locations so that you do not double up your access during the hunting season, and also so that you do not have to travel further into your sanctuary and potential spook deer. The more habitat improvements that you make inside and along the edge of your sanctuary, the more you can expect deer to avoid the outside of the sanctuary, making your access and downwind much, much easier to manage.
It pays to take a good, hard and honest look at what your land's level of efficiency is, after calculating your overall parcel efficiency. After you X out anywhere a deer can smell you, hear you or see you, how many acres are left? That represents your overall level of parcel efficiency and if you don't have at least 50% of your land working for you and the local deer herd, then try making some changes to improve the potential of your herd and hunt.