Water…one of the few absolute necessities in every animal’s life. They have to have it, whether you’re a deer or a bird. Water is the key to life.
A lot of hunters get caught up in supplemental feeding such as feeding deer protein pellets, cottonseed and other supplemental feed in the spring and summer.
But what about supplemental water? Do you really need to “serve” water? The answer can vary from state to state, county to county or even ranch to ranch.
Some hunters in northern states do not have to worry about water in the spring and summer because it’s normally not as hot and rainfall is more plentiful. Sure, from time to time, drought will hit but it’s a safe bet to say Iowa gets more annual rainfall than Texas.
In Texas when the BIG heats comes, June-August, water can be in critical short supply. Natural springs dry up from lack of rain recharge. Creeks run dry except for those lucky shady spots that are protected from the brutal midday to evening sun and stock tanks start to wither away as the searing sun beats down on the beast of the earth.
These hopefully temporary events do offer the hunter an opportunity to set out trail cameras around these dwindling water sources and get some good scouting done as the animals are often forced to use them.
The picture above is of a nice 3.5 year old whitetail buck making his way to a small creek with a little bit of water in it. We placed this camera in the shade (which helps save the batteries) and along a well worn game trial.
The downside to a shrinking water supply is that it sets up the predators to stake out these locations. I haven’t seen any studies released on this topic but I think it is safe to say that their success ratio goes way up when water is scarce.
A good majority of Texas ranches have some sort of livestock operation on them. Cattle require a good amount of water in the summer so cattle ranchers are normally real good about making sure the troughs are functioning as they should. Most pastures will have multiple water troughs so there too is a great place to put up a trail camera.
The picture above is of a cattle trough on Rancho Bandido. As you can see, the water is full of algae and the water level is not suited for the fawns.
Shortly after this pictures was seen, we offered to clean out the tank with a skimming device we made and we built up the sides of the water tank so the fawns could drink. Most of the time, cattle ranchers will not turn you down if you volunteer to clean their stock tanks.
The best way to effectively clean a stock tank whether it’s plastic or stone is to drain the tank and let it dry completely. Then get inside the tank with a scraping device and remove all the crusted algae and other gunk removing it completely from the tank.
Rinse the tank as best you can and refill it. A word of caution before you do this. ALWAYS ask the ranch/owner first. You can quickly transform from the being the hero to villain if the water won’t come back on or something happens of that nature. Make a plan before you do this and try to clean these tanks out in the spring when alternative water sources are available for thirsty stock.
In our opinion, the best watering devices for wildlife are the in ground troughs as they allow all wildlife to use them.
Yes, they do get dirtier quicker but I tend to get better/more pictures around these as they are more accommodating to critters big and small.
Here is a quick tip for you. Bring your kids out with a bag of feed when you go to set up the game cameras around water. The feed keeps the animals occupied while your camera snaps away!
So back to the question, can you offer supplemental water on your place?
Absolutely you should!
Another idea: every cattle ranch has an ample supply of super heavy duty cattle lick tub buckets. 9 out of 10 times you would be doing the rancher a favor by picking them up. Below is a little video I made dedicated the cattle lick tub bucket and its many uses!
First, find an empty lick tub bucket and wash it out as best as you can. Then, fill up the biggest cooler you have with fresh water.
When picking a location I always pick a spot near a feeding station and in the shade. This will help cut down on the evaporation from the sun.
Next, put a stick in the bucket to act as a ramp for the mice and other small animals to be able to get out if they fall in You don’t want their carcasses rotting and ruining the water. They are going to use it so don’t fight it! Also, make sure your bird dog samples it!
Bottom line, water is absolutely essential to every game and non game animal on earth so don’t over look it!