Creating a Honey Hole

How to make your hunting area more inviting to deer

Three does appeared at the edge of a small opening I'd cleared within a dense stand of hardwoods. Testing the wind, they walked into the clearing of nurtured native and planted browse. They nibbled at tender leaves, alternately picking up acorns from the forest floor.

Just beyond the wall of trees I could hear faint footsteps, and then a mature eight-point buck appeared, carefully surveying his lair. The lure of does and food was too great. I gently squeezed the rifle's trigger when he presented a clear shot. Moments later I attached my deer tag to his antlers. All had worked to perfection, the results of a long-developing plan.

Three years earlier, while scouting the area, I had found a shed antler cast by a young buck near the intersection of two trails. Hidden by tall hardwoods and underbrush, the place appealed to me because it was ideally suited to creating a whitetail "honey hole."

Previously I had made numerous deer-attracting areas on properties I managed for quality whitetails -- sanctuaries for deer when hunting pressure got a bit heavy. Each of the places contained abundant high-quality food created by lowering the browse to a level deer could reach and fertilizing native browse and oaks to increase mast crops and forage quality. Plant growth hormones were also used to greatly increase palatability and nutrient content. These small sanctuaries proved highly successful in various whitetail management programs. They also taught me some valuable lessons about what is involved in establishing a honey hole for hunting whitetails.

Pruning for Production
The first step in creating your own honey hole is deciding where to establish the special attractant area. One of the primary reasons I had selected the place where I shot the big eight-point was because it was where two trails crossed and away from where anyone else hunted. The area was about 100 square feet. Someone had already removed a big hardwood; otherwise I would have removed a tree. Removing the canopy is important in order to allow sunlight to reach the ground and thus encourage the optimum growth of native and planted browse species.

With the canopy already removed, I cleared the area of limbs and debris. The native browse species had grown too tall, with the most nutritious portion of the plant's foliage well beyond the reach of deer. I pruned the shrubs down to about 12 to 16 inches in height. Once pruned the excellent root stock would produce considerable tender, leafy browse. The shrubs were eventually allowed to grow back to about 24 inches but then were maintained at that height by pruning.

Planting Pointers
I hand-planted a mixture of seeds, including various clovers, alfalfa, millet and triticale using a blend purchased from Wildlife Nutrition Systems (www. Seeds were planted by poking a hole into the ground with a sharpened stick and dropping in some of the blend. I also planted some honeysuckle cuttings, then stacked branches over the top to provide protection as well as support for vine growth.

Fertilizing Your Field
The next step was to fertilize. Fertilizers such as those produced by Scott's and others are available at farm and ranch stores or nurseries. I also limed the area with commercial lime available from the same sources. Both were applied with a hand-crank spreader.

To determine which fertilizers to use and the application rate, I took a soil sample from the middle of the small opening and contacted the local county Agricultural Agent, headquartered at my county seat. He had the sample analyzed at the state's soil laboratory. I fertilized the browse species with the kind of fertilizer and rate recommended by the soil analysis and continued doing so in subsequent years.

During the fall, after leaf drop, I dug a shallow ditch along the drip line of the oak trees that bordeered the opening. Most of a tree's feeder roots can be found under and just beyond the reach of the outermost branches. Here I placed a general-purpose fertilizer. The procedure continues to be repeated each year at the same time. During late winter I pour a mixture of Power Grow X (a combination of growth hormones) and water along the trees' drip line. The combined efforts result in a plentiful, annual acorn crop.

After spring greenup I apply a hand-sprayed foliar application of Power Grow X and water on the leaves of the shrubs, legumes and trees in the immediate area. This too is repeated each spring.

It did not take deer long to find the new honey hole -- one of the reasons for establishing it where the two trails intersected. In less than a week deer began regular visits.

Over the years I watched the young eight-point develop into a dominant, mature buck. While waiting for him to mature I harvested other bucks and does that frequented my secret spot.

Creating a whitetail honey hole takes a bit of work, time, seeds, fertilizer and growth stimulants, but the results are well worth the effort.

Jump-Starting Natural Food Plantings
Growth stimulants (particularly mixtures of naturally existing plant-growth hormones) have been used by those farming row crops for years. Now quality deer managers are fertilizing native browse and food plots planted for wildlife. Growth hormones, such as those found in Highlander Sport's Power Grow X Food Plot Stimulant, greatly increase a plant's root system, vitality, nutritional content, production and palatability, as well as optimizing such elements as copper, zinc and manganese (essential for the well-being of ruminants and antler development). Foliar applications of Power Grow X can be applied to any green and growing plant. Because of increased palatability and nutrient content, deer will search out treated plants. Its use will greatly increase the "value" of your whitetail honey hole.

Contact: Highlander Sports (Dept. OL, 3004 11th Avenue, Huntsville, AL 35805; 800-758-2346).