Not every parcel needs more water. However...if you have daytime bedding areas with dry ambush sites on the way to evening food sources, adding water can be an outstanding feature to your small parcel.
Large ponds can take up way too much space, while at the same time creating an area of higher stress levels that may be acceptable to doe family groups while actually repelling mature bucks to 50 yards or more from the location...some of us just do not have that much room to lose!
So, I have really enjoyed using small tanks or hand-dug (I'm cheap) holes to meet the needs of water for the local deer herd while not detracting from the amount of cover or habitat I have in the area. I thought I would share a few pictures from some of my own waterholes...I love em and I shot my 2nd largest bow buck while sitting over a new one this year...
My favorite set-up is placing a waterhole in a secure travel corridor between bedding and feeding. When deer sit dry all day they love hitting water on the way to feed so it makes it an outstanding evening sit. On the otherhand deer browse heavily in many regions all night on moisture rich green vegetation, so outside of the rut, I've gotten very few game camera pics of mature bucks on water in the morning. You can always tell when the rut is kicking in because a flury of mature buck pics will start showing up during the morning hours on water.
A small waterhole is just a quick stop on the way to somewhere else. Deer are drinking for a few minutes at the most and move on quickly. It becomes an extremely low-stress stop for deer and I've even had early season mid-day use by mature bucks which greatly suggests a mature buck doesn't mind bedding pretty close to a man-made tank.
My current favorite is a 110 gallon tank from TSC that sells for about $70. Plastic 55 gallon drums cut lengthwise aren't a bad choice either, especially when dug into clay with a nice bowl around the top to help hold and collect water during a good rain...especially when located on a slight hill. I have 3, 15 gallon jugs used for milk in dairy areas that work great to roll down through the woods to a spot and I've also used rubbermaid containers and coolers as well to fill locations during dry periods.
I am sold on the small containers because they are extremely low impact, non-invasive, and convenient. I also lose ZERO habitat and mature bucks don't seem to mind them being installed pretty close to their bedding areas. If you haven't tried them already I would really go for it...think of installing one on the way to an evening food source between bedding and feeding, use the winds and access to your advantage...climb a tree and enjoy! Hey, if nothing else they are a GREAT spot for a game camera ;)
By Jeff Sturgis, www.whitetailhabitatsolutions....