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  • Writer's pictureSam Bilhorn

7 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Installing a Water Hole for Deer

Updated: Sep 23, 2023

Introduction

When it comes to improving your deer hunting property through habitat projects, installing a water hole for deer can be a game-changer. Watering holes serve as a consistent water source and can significantly influence deer movement.


While deer waterholes can be effective, there are common mistakes often made during installation. Below, we will explore these mistakes and offer tips for avoiding them to help you build effective water holes that improve your deer hunting.


mature bucks at waterhole

Location

proper waterhole location

Placing the waterhole in a location that will not collect water naturally is a sure way to limit the effectiveness, especially in seasons of dry weather.


Look for natural topography that will collect more water than the surrounding areas. Not only will this draw more water to your watering hole, these depressions in topography are areas deer love to use while navigating the land.




Depth

proper depth for deer waterhole

Without a doubt, one of the most common mistakes we see is burying your whitetail waterholes above ground.


If you want water to flow in, you can't leave that lip above grade. 90% of the waterholes we see miss this point. Hit rock or can't get it lower? Cut in some holes to get water in.




Quantity

Having too waterholes on your property can create randomness in deer travel, making it almost impossible to take full advantage of them. More isn't better.


This is where a well thought out plan for managing your whitetail property comes into play. When considering the optimal location for a waterhole, focus on putting them at the top 30% of travel areas for deer movement.


Proximity to Food

Wasting the waterhole on a food plot. A food plot is typically an evening food source that deer already have a reason to travel to. Adding a waterhole within a food plot will only slightly alter travel if anything, oftentimes creating confusion when choosing stand locations around the plot.


Placing a waterhole in the woods on a travel corridor between a bedding area and food can be a great way to get a mature buck into bow range.


deer waterhole in travel corridor

Buying the Wrong Waterhole Tub

Using a tub that is too small or shallow can cause it to dry up, even if it is located in the proper conditions.


Make sure the waterhole tub is at least 12" deep, although 18" is better. Don't worry, deer will hop right in it if the level is low.


Being convinced a "hunting" tub is better. A fancy "zero-depth" tub can cost $100s or even $1000s!


TSC 110 gallon tubs are just $75 and work great. Those "earth like" bottoms look good on the shelf, but 1" of actual dirt on the bottom of our waterholes is free.


finished waterhole setup

Placement

great tree stand waterhole setup

Placing your waterhole on the tree stand side of the corridor can be a critical mistake.


Want a broadside or quartering away shot? Think about this as you are installing the waterhole in relation to you tree stand locations. Put it on the opposite side of the travel corridor to open up the vitals and create better shot opportunities.




Upkeep

rodent stick in waterhole

Having only 1 rodent stick can lead to unwanted pests and water contamination.


Deer and other critters mess with these. If they push in or break the one stick, you will be fishing dead mice out of your putrid puddle.






Conclusion

Installing water holes the right way is a great practice for managing your whitetail property and attracting more deer.


By following proper techniques and strategic placement you can develop effective water holes that hold water, draw deer, and improve your hunting season.


Last but not least, don't forget the trail cameras! These locations provide some of the best picture opportunities for deer and other wildlife among your property.


trail camera picture of mature buck at waterhole


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