By Cody Altizer
As a deer hunter and deer manager, I resigned a long time ago to the fact that the pursuit of mature whitetail deer is a 365-day a year gig. I’ve penned these words many times here on Wired to Hunt, but there really is no off-season when it comes to managing your property for big, old bucks. That being said, I’d be lying if I told you there weren’t certain times of the year where I go through a bit of a lull, and experience a bit of inactivity. Winter is one of those times. Sure, I got out a couple times and did some significant hinge cutting on my property, but spring time and food plots is when I really get after it. In today’s post, I am going to share four different things that I do (and encourage you to as well) NOW to help me harvest a deer during the fall.
There’s really nothing sexy or amazing about frost seeding your food plots, but it can make a HUGE difference in the health of both your food plot and deer herd once the plot comes out of dormancy. It’s a simple process, really, and all it involves is your broadcasting your seed onto an already established food plot, and letting the freeze-thaw effect provide optimal seed to soil moisture for excellent germination. This process, also known as heaving, is ideal for seeding small seed plots like a alfalfa and clover, because it creates the same effect as disking the seed into the ground.
Timing is key, however, when frost seeding your plots because you obviously want to wait for a night that results in cold, hard frost, and a sunny, warm day the following to day to that the frozen ground. Check out your 10-day forecast and when you find a night with temperatures in the 20s at night, and a sunny high in the upper 40s or higher the following day, get your seed in the ground!
Cut Shooting Lanes
It’s hard to believe, but spring is right around the corner, and with that comes turkey hunting for some, and an explosion of green for the natural world. If you haven’t done so already, now is the perfect time to cut your shooting lanes around any of your stands, but especially around your food plots. The woods are still barren, and look the same now as they did during November and December. This allows you to get a pretty good idea of what needs cut, what doesn’t, how much cover your favorite stand has, and if you should move that stand.
It’s best to go ahead and tackle tasks like that now, because before you know it you’ll be turkey hunting, the woods will be green and full of snakes and bees, it’ll be hot out, and the last thing you’ll want to do is cut and trim shooting lanes.
Funnel Your Deer
Since you’ve likely already got your chainsaw up and running from cutting shooting lanes, you might as well keep it hot to funnel the deer past your stand on the way to the food plot while you’re at it!
Similar to cutting shooting lanes, late spring is the perfect time to fell trees and build funnels that will force deer right past your stand location. Trust me, hunting food plots can be very frustrating, because often times deer will enter the plot at completely different and random locations. However, funneling the deer past your stand can increase your success rate drastically because it gives you control over where the deer enter the plot.
I usually like to fell junk trees (trees with little to no value to wildlife) like black locust, white and Virginia pine, and yellow poplar. You can also hinge cut these same trees and lay the trees over to not only dictate deer movement, but increase security cover and available browse as well.
Enhance Your Plot
This is a pretty vague category, simply because the options within are seemingly limitless. When I say enhance your plot, I mean make it as attractive to mature whitetails as possible. Obviously, the key to a successful hunting plot is to be hunting mature deer while you’re in stand. It sounds silly, but you can’t hunt what isn’t there. As delicious as a stand of clover can be to a deer, if they don’t feel comfortable feeding there during daylight hours, they’ll just wait until after dark, when you can’t legally hunt them.
As mentioned, though, this can be done in a variety of ways. I’ve had tremendous success lining my food plots with food plot screens like Egyptian wheat and grain sorghum. This increases cover, secludes the plot, and gives mature deer a heightened sense of security. However, those plants shouldn’t be planted until May / June. Regardless, for mature to feed in your plot when you can actually hunt them, you may have to get creative and give them reason to be there during the daylight. How you do that is up to you, as each property is different and unique, but get creative! You’ll be surprised with the results.
While you may still be weathering the final lingering effects of winter, spring is right on the doorstep. And with spring comes food plots. Make sure you’re working now, to make yourself better prepared for the usual spring and summer food plot chores yet to be done. Remember, hard work in the spring can pay off with big results (ie. mature bucks) in the fall!
– Cody Altizer, CodyAltizerPhotography.com