It seems that all hunters are looking for any edge to outsmart their favorite game, from small game like migratory birds, to big game such as deer and elk.
One of the ways to try to “outsmart” an animal, is by baiting. From food plots to feeders, hunters in essence, try to entice game to come to an area already pre-decided, where a tree stand or a type of ground blind is set up nearby.
As long as the mechanical and gravity fed feeders are regularly stocked full of corn or protein and are working correctly, the animals may pattern their routines around feeding in that area.
What If I Cannot Use Bait Feeders?
An issue is that not all states allow baiting, so one question many hunters have to ask themselves is; “what other ways can I entice the animals to come to a certain area?”
Life Saving Water
One of the first and foremost methods is based on water. Depending on the terrain, animal and the part of the country where a person is hunting, water holes may be perfect to sit, after all, everything needs water to survive.
However, if hunting in a really wet state, then deer and elk will get enough water when they feed on dew covered grass, only needing to take in around .8 gallons a day. In contrast, a really hot state such as Arizona, the desert mule deer require a little over 6 gallons of water a day.
One problem with planning on sitting water holes during a hunt, is thanks to one of the greatest scouting inventions this day in age has ever seen – Google Earth. Pretty much anyone who is bored at work can find water holes on their computers or phones.
This means that you might have a neighbor or even a fist fight at 4:00 AM as to who arrived at the water hole first and who gets to sit it that day. Many hunters have a blind set up on waterholes months before their hunt, to desensitize the animals and get them comfortable to come in to that specific tank.
If sitting water isn’t the route you would like to take, what would be the next step?
Again, depending on the states’ hunting rules and regulations when it comes to baiting, another option would be the use of salt.
This salt would be the same that rancher’s use for their cattle.
Back to Arizona ,which is widely known for its public land hunting, there isn’t much salt in the ground in the mountainous regions. Because baiting with food is illegal in Arizona, a lot of hunters use the legal method of packing in salt to their stands.
Rather than packing in an actual cattle type block salt licks as the ranchers use, a lot of hunters prefer the small granules. People who use the granules sometimes think that if the salt gets wet and soaks into the ground then that is a bad thing.
They prefer to keep the salt on top of the ground thus giving the deer and elk the opportunity to find and lick the salt itself. But that is just the opposite. It is best to dig a small hole and add a large poundage bag of salt just so the top of the granules is a little below ground level.
Once this is completed a hunter would want to cover the salt with a small dusting of dirt, in a way that makes it hard to be seen (mainly because a hunter would want to hide his hard work from other public land hunters).
After carrying in a fifty pound bag of salt a few miles, several times, they would want to make sure others are not benefiting from their dedication and hard work. Some hunters even go to the extreme of helping Mother Nature run her course and they dump a gallon or two of water on the salt, thus helping it to dissolve and run into the earth surrounding it.
Lesson To Keep In Mind
Sitting in my tree stand one day, I actually witnessed a small coues deer buck sniff around my salted area about 10 feet away from where I placed my salt.
He then proceeded to pick up small pebbles and by using his tongue he rolled them around in his mouth, it was a perfect quiet morning and I could hear the rocks hitting his teeth like dice in a shaker. After about 15 seconds of doing this, he would spit out the pebble, look back down to the ground, sniff around a bit and find another small rock.
He would then repeat the same thing over and over again for around 10 minutes.
It was a sight to see and made me realize that just like my wife’s cooking, too much salt isn’t a good thing. The buck didn’t even touch the actual area I had dropped the salt, instead he was searching “downstream” of where the salt had been spread by the rain.
Why Salt Works?
As humans we need to understand that salt isn’t just for flavor. Animals such as cattle, deer and elk, need the nutrients they get from ingesting salt.
From the complexity that reproduction demands on females, a doe must take in twice as much sodium/salt as a buck. Some areas, these animals can find salt traces in dirt and plants, but for others it can give hunters a huge advantage if they are willing to put in the dedication and work, thus providing an excellent attractant when baiting with food is illegal.