By Mark Kenyon:
With my headlights illuminating the way ahead, I put the finishing touches on the discing of my “back food plot.” It was 10:00 PM this past Sunday night, and I had been hurriedly working up this food plot, with hopes of having it cut up and planted by early the next morning before the three days of rain showers hit. This plot would be planted in “Winter Greens“, a brassica mix, and it would be one of my most important hunting plots for this fall.
Why is this plot so important? Because it is designed specifically to kill deer. Not just to feed them, or to hold them on my property, but to specifically kill them. So how do I do this? The answer is simple, I must properly design the actual size and shape of the plot to allow for easy kill opportunities. That said, below I’ve outlined the basics of three simple and effective food plot designs that will help you kill more deer. I certainly didn’t come up with these designs on my own, these are just three that I’ve read about in various books and magazines. But I have been able to use a couple of these successfully in my own food plots, and I believe you can too.
The Skinny Rectangle: This long, thin food plot may be one of the most popular designs for food plots today and for good reason. The basic idea behind this plot is to keep the distance across the skinny part of the rectangle to within bow range. This, of course, allows you as a hunter a good shot across the plot at any deer moving through. Having the plot be long allows you to still get the acreage you want, and also helps to funnel deer down past your stand location. Additionally, given the small width of the plot, deer will typically feel safer feeding, as escape cover is never too far away. This is the design I used for my “back food plot”, and it afforded me two easy shots at feeding does last December. A quick note on food plot size, all of these hunting plot designs I’ll be mentioning should typically be used on “small plots”. I would call a small plot one that is from .25 to 1 acre.
The Hour Glass: Another popular design for food plots is the “hour glass”, shown in the middle of the image above. Again the idea here is to get the deer into the plot and move them past your stand location. With the hour glass design, your tree stand should be located near the pinch point of the hour glass. Deer will naturally want to move throughout the plot, and will be curious to see what lies in the other section beyond the pinch. This will lead to them being funneled through the pinch and past your stand. Perfect for an easy shot with a bow. When placing your tree stands, be sure to keep wind in mind. It’s often a good idea to place a stand on either side of the plot to accommodate for multiple wind directions.
The Boomerang: The Boomerang plot (pictured on the right) again takes advantage of a curve or pinch to funnel deer past a tree stand. This time your plot is shaped just like a boomerang, with a stand typically placed at the bend. Deer will naturally feed along the length of the skinny legs of the boomerang, and eventually will move through the neck to get to the other side. Typically, a stand would be placed on the inside of the boomerang, so in the example pictured above the stand would be on the south side of the plot. I’m using this design on another of my food plots and have high hopes for it this fall!
Other Considerations: When designing your food plots make sure to think through wind direction, access, bedding cover and other habitat features that effect deer travel and behavior. A thick and green hour glass food plot does no good if you can’t access it without trudging through the middle of a bedding area. Additionally, if these plots aren’t located in relatively thick cover you may not see much daylight deer activity. If you’re limited to planting plots in areas that lack good cover or are open on several sides, consider planting a “food plot fence.” This is basically the use of a tall and thick forage, such as corn, egyptian wheat or sorghum to plant a barrier of vegetation that will act as cover for the deer. I’ve done this on two of my food plots this year (you can see one of my “food plot screens” in the image below), and it looks like it should significantly increase the daylight use of my plots.
Lastly, when hunting on food plots keep in mind the pressure you’re putting on the deer in the area. Every time you move into a location such as a food plot, there is a high chance of spooking deer – either with your current presence or with scent left behind. That said, I’d highly recommend limiting your hunts in these locations as much as possible. But when the conditions are just right, move in for the kill and get it done.
There’s much more to planting food plots than just tossing some seed into the ground, and if you’re hoping to kill a deer from your plots it’s an even more tricky proposition. But if you’re smart about your design and location, food plots can be terrific locations to kill more and better deer. We’re right in the heart of fall food plot planting season now, so good luck and get planting!