By Mark Kenyon
Over recent years many well known whitetail experts have recommended creating a “sanctuary” on your hunting property, where all human activity is prohibited, to allow mature bucks to have a core area, free of humans, where they’ll feel safe enough to stick around. The theory here is that if you can provide this safe zone, mature bucks will stay around, and you’ll eventually have an opportunity at these animals outside of that sanctuary. But is that situation realistic in high hunting pressure settings? Or will those mature deer simply stay in your sanctuary during daylight and never provide a shot?
Dan Infalt, a big buck hunter specializing in hunting high hunting pressure areas, believes that this latter situation is more likely. Here are a few thoughts from Dan on why he believes a sanctuary strategy might not be as fool-proof as some think…
“I really don’t agree with the sanctuary theory. The only way I would make a sanctuary on a property is if I had others hunting the property that I could not control or it was for an outfitter that can’t take new hunters into the bedding areas each week.
Mature bucks ( 4.5 years or older ) reside all over the areas we hunt, but rarely get shot. Don’t believe that? Just put out a few trail cams and see what roams through at night. Once bucks reach an age of 4.5 or older, the reason they rarely get shot is because they rarely leave the security of there bedding area and they seek out places people don’t go. The sanctuary theory says that’s a good thing because you leave the sanctuary alone and the buck stays on your property. I say yep, he stays there all right, and he stays in the area you don’t hunt until its too dark to shoot! I have watched many big bucks rise from there beds and move off to feed. The overall majority of the mature ones I have observed rarely get more than 200 yards from their bed before it is to dark to shoot.
Does this mean you should camp out in their bedding area? No. If you do, they will leave. Instead, it means occasionally when the timing is right, the weather is right, moon phase, etc – you make your move.
Another thing to keep in mind about sanctuaries, is that guys generally section off a big piece for their sanctuary, not knowing where the buck beds are. But some of this area would not even be effected if you passed through or set up. Remember, coyotes, dogs, trespassers, etc, occasionally go through your sanctuaries. Is that it? A coyote went through your sanctuary and now the bucks will never bed there again? Nope.
They tolerate a certain amount of intrusion. Occasionally a hunter needs to slip in, or he is not even in the game for hunting “truly” mature animals.”
As to my thoughts, it seems that every year I come to think more and more like Dan on this one.
In lower hunting pressure situations, I do certainly think that sanctuaries can work, because those bucks will call the sanctuaries home, but still feel comfortable enough to move outside of those areas during daylight. But in areas of intense hunting pressure, like southern Michigan, I think you’re going to have a hard time getting a crack at a buck like that unless you’re much tighter to his bedding area. But of course, you need to be smart about it.
So what do you think? Are you pro-sanctuary, against them or somewhere in between? Make your case in the comments section!
If you’d like more insight into my thoughts on this, and the pro’s and con’s of the sanctuary theory vs hunting bedding areas/sanctuaries, check out “The Great Debate: Hunt Bedding Areas Or Keep Them As Sanctuaries?”