One of the most crucial needs for bucks over the age of 2 is a safe area where they can rest and feel secure. If they don’t have one on or near the land you hunt, odds are they will find one somewhere else when the hunting pressure builds.

These safe areas or refuges aren’t a luxury item for deer. They need it for security and survival.

Chances are there is somewhere on the land you hunt that almost fits the needs already for a buck sanctuary and just needs a few final touches. If not, you may have to build it yourself. It’s not hard or expensive, and spring is the perfect time to pursue this project.

One refuge is adequate for 25 to 50 acres. For bigger tracts of land, you may want two. Anywhere from three to 20 or more acres could be involved. It all depends on the topography and thickness of the vegetation.

Tools needed to complete the job include a chain saw and safety equipment, a shovel and some pine seedlings.

The first step is to locate the best spot. The most useful safe areas are in remote, hard-to-reach locations where rough or swampy habitat discourages humans from entering. Study a topographical map and satellite photograph of the land you hunt and then scout to find the best spot that fits these needs, preferably near the middle of the property.

Prime locations include the heads of draws, mountain benches, brushy hollows or overgrown marshes. Also look for shrubs, bushes, saplings, honeysuckle, and greenbrier. They offer food and cover and make the spot even more appealing to an old buck.

A useful step in most cases is to cut some trees. Fell a number of low-quality trees in the area for bucks to bed up against. That gives them security cover, protection from wind and also tender branch tips they can browse on.

Sever some of these only partially through—just enough so they fall but remain attached to the stump and roots. These will live for another year or two in some cases, providing even more browse. This technique is called “hinge cutting.”

Try to drop several trees in clusters, so they fall at angles on top of one another. This provides high-stacked cover so a large buck can hunker down in the jungle and have his tall rack hidden. Make sure you wear all safety gear and have a partner and cell phone with you when you do any chainsaw work. And don’t cut large trees for safety reasons.

The third step is to plant evergreens. Depending on how much cover is present, you may or may not need to do this. Putting in some fast-growing pines or other evergreens, though, will provide a wind break and thermal shelter from storms, drawing bucks into your safe area.

Plant these conifers 8 to 12 feet apart in clusters of one half to one acre. You can buy these trees and seedlings from the Virginia Department of Forestry for very reasonable prices. I’ve planted thousands of these on my property in the Shenandoah Valley, usually buying either 250 or 500 white pine seedlings and planting them in spring.

The final step is simple: Do not disturb the safe area you have built for the deer.

The crucial thing that makes or breaks the success of this project is whether you truly respect it and stay out, except to retrieve a hit deer or maybe to search for sheds in spring one time.

The goal is for older bucks in the area to feel this is the refuge where they need to be to survive. Give them that and they will use your safe area. Then next fall, you may catch one of them out in another area where you do hunt and get your chance.

We have emphasized building these refuges for bucks, but does also need places to hide from hunting pressure and will use these along with male deer. Sometimes bucks will claim one and does another.

With long open seasons and cold winters to survive, female deer need a secluded place to hide from pressure and find protection from bad weather just like their male counterparts. So you’re really doing the whole herd a favor when you build a safe area.

Award-winning outdoors writer Gerald Almy is a Maurertown resident