Tips for Attracting Deer
By J.W. Carpenter
, last updated January 20, 2012
While successful deer hunting almost always requires large amounts of patience, perseverance, and dedication out in the field, there are several good tips you can use for attracting deer to your location and improving your chances of bagging a trophy buck. Under the right conditions, deer calls, deer scents, salt or mineral licks, and food placements each have the potential of attracting deer. However, attracting deer to your location is an inexact science and becomes really valuable only when combined with good knowledge of the local hunting landscape and the habits of local deer species, in addition to good general hunting practices.
Two Things to Keep in Mind
First, note that deer hunting rules and regulations can vary widely from state to state. Before carrying out any of the methods described below, check with your state Department of Fish and Wildlife or your local hunting authority to ensure that you are acting within the law.
Also, understand that the different deer species around the country are not likely to react uniformly to the various methods of attraction set out below.
Deer Calls and Antler Rattles
Used properly, a deer call can mimic the common grunt sounds made by many deer species. In general, deer produce several different grunt sounds. One type of grunt may be used in challenges between bucks, while another grunt may communicate a desire to breed. With some practice, a deer call is a great method of luring a deer into your immediate area.
An antler rattle is used to mimic the sounds of a fight between two bucks, which can trigger the curiosity of other bucks in the area. While many hunters make their own devices with antlers from past hunts or with wooden dowels, you can also find them in full-service hunting shops.
Using a deer scent is quite common among backcountry and deer-stand hunters. While some hunters prefer to use a cover scent that merely hides one’s human scent, many use scents specifically designed to attract buck deer to the source of the scent. There are a great many scents available at retail, many of which are specialized to particular deer species and periods in the rut phase. When using a deer scent, remember that deer have incredibly sensitive olfactory systems and can pinpoint the source of a scent from a significant distance. So don’t overdo it. Also note that the successful use of attractive scents requires you to monitor the prevailing winds and position yourself such that the scent carries in the appropriate direction for your hunt.
Salt Licks & Food Baiting
Salt licks and bait can be used over time to attract deer and habituate them to a particular area in the backcountry, preferably one in which you have installed a deer stand. In most environments, deer can acquire all their dietary needs from plant life with the exception of sodium. Thus, especially in the summer months, they have a keen eye for natural sources of sodium. Placing a large salt block in an area during the relatively dry summer months is usually a great method of drawing in animals. Salt licks, sometimes called mineral licks, are widely available from hunting outfitters. Similarly, caches containing foods such as corn, soybean, or millet can be maintained in an area to draw in deer.