On a stifling afternoon in the second week of October, I sat on the edge of a cornfield and glassed 30 deer piling into a distant copse of trees.
“What’s up with that patch?” I asked my buddy when he picked me up after dark.
“The farmer can’t cultivate that spot,” he said. “Not much in there. Just rocks, scrub trees and a spring-fed pond.”
The water was drawing the deer.
The next day I sneaked in there, hung a stand and watched 15 deer mill around the pond. The best buck was a 130-class eight-pointer-no monster, but a shooter in my book. I didn’t get him, but at least I got in the game.
Early October is a hot, dry time in many parts of the country, perfect for lying in wait near a cool, shady water hole. The tactic is so obvious that many hunters overlook it. Don’t.
Studies have shown that when the heat stays on in the fall, deer may go to water two or three times a day.
Not just any agua will do. Scout and find an isolated hole-a beaver pond deep in the woods, the biggest pool in a trickling creek…you get the idea. If there is too much water-say a large stream or river-you can’t home in on a spot that concentrates deer.
A good water hole will be in or around a feeding area. The best ponds or pools are located within 100 yards of crops or mast and back toward thickets where deer bed. When the heat is on and the logistics are right, a good buck might get up 10 minutes early one afternoon and head toward a water hole to stage before moving on out to feed at dusk. Be there with an arrow nocked. Hang a stand downwind of the water or along a trail that leads to it. Try to set up where terrain or structure will funnel thirsty deer within 30 yards of your stand. It might be a pond dam, a creek crossing or a wire fence near a stock tank. If you don’t see a good buck after two days of hunting over water, it’s time to change tactics. But if the weather turns unseasonably hot and dry later in the rut, don’t be afraid to head back to the water hole. When bucks are moving all day in search of does, they naturally get thirsty.