By Josh Boyd
Deer require three main elements for survival, an adequate source of food, the availability of water, and sufficient cover for safe bedding. While many hunters plant annual or perennial food plots and dig strategically placed watering holes, far fewer tend to the task of creating quality bedding cover on their property, if it does not already exist.
This creates a problem for many hunters, as a property void of bedding cover, even with abundant food and water, is not always conducive to quality hunting. The issue stems from the fact that if deer are bedding elsewhere, they must travel to reach the food that you have provided them.
While it is no problem for deer to travel a lengthy distance to reach favored food sources, they commonly only do so under the cover of darkness. Therefore, those that hunt properties without prime bedding cover are less likely to see the heavy daytime deer movement that they anticipate, instead, being presented with a multitude of nighttime trail camera photos.
As a general rule, the closer a deer’s bed is to a favored food source, the more likely they are to visit it during daylight hours. Once deer rise from their bed shortly before nightfall, they slowly begin to meander toward where their stomachs lead them. If this location is nearby, they will likely beat the fall of darkness as they reach their destination.
How To Construct Bedding Cover
While habitat management methods such as hinge cutting certainly do work to a high degree when attempting to create bedding cover, there is a simple alternative to this method that can also yield excellent results.
Walk through nearly any stand of woods in the nation, and you will be greeted by downed limbs, dead saplings, and various other versions of woodland decay. This is quite normal, as 365 days worth of ever-changing weather conditions can certainly take its toll.
However, for those with a solid work ethic and a little bit of creativity, this woodland clutter can be constructed into prime deer bedding cover. This is accomplished by gathering any downed limbs or saplings for placement into a wall of structure that will provide cover and sanctuary for deer to bed within.
Placement Is Key
When constructing brush pile based bedding cover, location is everything. Deer, both bucks and does, choose their bedding locations based upon the level of seclusion that they offer. For a deer to use a particular location for bedding cover regularly, they must feel as if they are safe from outside intrusion.
For this reason, attempting to create bedding cover within close proximity to locations that see extensive human activity is often futile. Deer simply have too many other quality locations to choose from for bedding purposes, than to remain in an area that could potentially expose them to danger.
Instead, try to locate man-made bedding cover in an area that is secluded from excessive intrusion, but is also near favored food sources that allow you to have an ambush point to work from when hunting. By constructing these bedding sites close to nearby food sources, but away from your entry and exit routes to and from a stand, you are afforded a better than average chance of catching deer on their feet during daylight hours.
Additionally, it is worth mentioning that one is wise to consider the prevailing wind direction at a given site. If you will be hunting a food source adjacent to your man-made bedding cover, you never want this cover placed in a way that makes it difficult to hunt without casting your wind in that direction.
While not all sites feature such a level of consistency regarding wind direction, frequent monitoring will often yield a pattern, which will reveal one or two wind directions that are more prevalent than others. Let these patterns in wind direction be your guide to bedding cover placement.
It is also wise to construct bedding cover in a location that makes it naturally attractive to deer. In most areas, deer have many options in regards to cover. Therefore, you must make your pre-chosen location stand out for one reason or another.
This can be done by considering what makes heavily used bedding sites welcoming to deer. Deer often seek out southern facing slopes during the late season, as these locations are among the first to receive the sun’s warming rays. Likewise, deer can often be observed hunkering down in saddles and low spots within the topography of an area, to gain a reprieve from persistent winds.
By seeking out such locations when attempting to place bedding cover, you can make your newly constructed site more appealing to deer of an area, leading to more consistent use.
Putting A Plan Into Action
Noteworthy bedding cover can often be constructed in a single afternoon, especially when working in tandem with a hunting partner to efficiently move larger debris. It can also be helpful to drag fallen brush into a pile in advance of final placement, as it saves additional steps and allows you to take stock of materials before building commences.
Begin by lining the perimeter of the area that you will be encompassing with an initial layer of brush. This can be done in virtually any shape or pattern, but semi-circles or s-shaped designs are often among some of the best.
Once you have outlined your bedding area, begin to stack brush on top of this initial layer, interweaving it where possible. Limbs, downed tree-tops, and fallen saplings can all be used in this process, with every piece fitting together as if working a puzzle.
Continue piling this brush into a barrier type construction until it is approximately waist-high in height. Once this point has been reached, any excess brush can be stacked, spread, or draped intermittently within the bounds of your newly constructed bedding cover. With time, vines, shrubs, and other greenery will begin growing in and around this cover, making it denser, and binding together your original brush pilings.
Ready-Made Bedding Cover
With a little sweat equity, you can not only clean up the understory of any woodlot, but construct prime bedding cover that will be used for years to come as well. When properly placed, you will be fitting together yet another piece of your property’s habitat management puzzle. As the following fall comes to pass, you will reap the fruits of your labor from the vantage point of a treestand.