By Mark Kenyon:
Food plots. We see them on TV and read about them all the time, but usually we hear about them in generalities. Today I want to break that mold, by showing you very specifically how and why I’ve implemented food plots on a hunting property in 2013.
Below I’ve detailed 3 food plots that I’ve been working on this year, and have explained the purpose, design, placement, and hunting strategy for each. Hopefully by seeing my strategy and plans, you’ll be able to take a lesson or two which you can implement on your own property.
So to get things kicked off, take a look at the basic sketch below which shows the 3 food plots in relation to the rest of the property. Then read on for the explanation of the what, how, and why for each plot!
1.) Front Food Plot
Purpose: This is a new plot for 2013, and it was planned primarily just to add a little more food to this property for during the hunting season. My hope is that this will help hold more deer, specifically bucks, throughout the season. I had more seed than I ended up needing this year, so at the last minute I decided to look for a new area to get more food in the ground and this ended up being the spot. Additionally, given the location (described below), I determined that it could be a good place for harvesting does, while minimizing the impact on the core of the property.
Crop Planted: In this plot I will be planting Whitetail Oats Plus from the Whitetail Institute of North America (am planning on finishing planting the plot this weekend). This is a winter hardy forage oat, which is a fall planted annual. Also included are small amounts of winter wheat and triticale to boost cold-tolerance. As mentioned above, I’m looking to provide some extra food to hold deer during the hunting season, and these oats are super attractive from the moment they emerge in the late summer, all the way into the late fall. I’m also interested in possibly doing some doe harvest here, and the high sugar content and fresh growth of these oats should be a great draw for does early in the season.
Design: Because this was a last minute plot, almost a bonus planting, I was looking for an easy, low impact location to get food in the ground. That said, I found an area in some native grasses that bordered a corn field that was relatively light on competing vegetation (you can see the plot area, post the initial herbicide application, in the photo above). For that reason the design of this plot was simply a long rectangle, which corresponded to the opening in the vegetation. The long skinny design of the plot also will work well to move deer down the length of the plot, which will help me with my goal of harvesting does here.
Placement: As mentioned above, I placed this plot next to a corn field along the outer border of this property because it was an easy location to get a plot in. Additionally it also allowed for easy access and hunting without disturbing the core of the property.
Hunting Strategy: This food plot will not be a huge part of my hunting strategy. As mentioned above, probably the only hunting I’ll do here will be the occasional early or late season doe hunt when the wind is right. That said, this plot will still serve a purpose in my overall hunting strategy for the property. This plot does two things for me from a hunting perspective. Number one, having more attractive food on the property will help me hold more deer. But possibly more importantly, this plot helps me improve the directional flow of deer throughout the property on a given day. Having more food on the outer edges of the property will hopefully direct more deer to move from the timber/bedding at the core of the farm, towards the outer edges of the property, where a number of my stands are placed to intercept.
2.) Middle Food Plot
Purpose: This food plot is slightly more hunting focused than the Front Food Plot, both given it’s placement and design. The Middle Food Plot will hopefully be a high quality hunting location early in the season, and then will also serve as a possible secondary rut location. Then again in the late season, I expect this to be a decent secondary option for hunting. On top of the hunting purposes, getting 1.5 acres of additional food on the property certainly has benefits as well.
Crop Planted: The Middle Food Plot is planted in Whitetails Institute’s Pure Attraction food plot blend. This is a mix of the Whitetail Oats Plus used in my Front Food Plot, along with a supplement of brassicas and winter peas. What I like about this is the early season attraction the the oats should provide, along with the late season attraction of the brassicas. Another big perk is how quickly this forage establishes. I planted this plot last week, and already we’ve got oats 4 inches tall (you can see in the image a little further down the page). In addition to the Pure Attraction I also planted a “food plot screen” of egyptian wheat and sorghum around the edge of the plot. This has grown up into a wall of 8-12 foot cover, which essentially secludes the plot from the outside and makes feeding deer feel more comfortable.
Design: Since this plot is meant to be hunted, the design was more carefully thought out than the Front Plot. I wrote in great detail about this plot last year, when I had planted it in clover and you can read about it by clicking here. That said, the design is essentially the same this year and that design is a boomerang shape. At the corner of the boomerang is a Redneck box blind, which is perfectly placed to intercept any deer that are moving from one leg of the boomerang to the other. This corner of the boomerang is also a narrow pinch point, which brings any deer within shooting range.
Placement: The placement of this plot makes for some exciting hunting opportunities this fall. The bedding area to the NW of this plot in the image above usually holds a lot of deer, and usually a good buck or two. By placing the food plot just outside of this bedding area, I’m hoping to catch a good buck moving out to feed in the secluded plot just before dark. This could also be a good place during the rut, as bucks will certainly be cruising that bedding area for does, and could easily swing by the plot to check as well.
Hunting Strategy: Given the early season attracting power of the Pure Attraction seed blend, the secluded nature of the plot and the proximity to a great bedding area, I feel as though this plot could be a dynamite early season location. I’m planning on probably hunting here a couple nights, if conditions are right, as soon as the season opens. After that, I’m planning on leaving this spot alone until late October or early November when I expect the bigger deer to start moving again. Early on I’ll be hoping for that feeding pattern, while in November I’ll be hoping that the nearby bedding area, or a feeding doe could draw a shooter buck into my “boomerang” plot.
3.) Back Food Plot
Purpose: This plot is my ace in the hole. In fact, it’s a true hunting honey hole. Last year, hunting near this plot produced stellar results and I’m hoping for much the same in 2013. Needless to say, every decision made around this plot was focused on maximizing hunting opportunities – specifically during the rut and late season.
Crop Planted: As I did last year, this Back Food Plot has been planted in Whitetail Institute’s Winter Greens. In fact, Winter Greens have become my favorite food plot forage to plant (I explained in detail why in this post – 4 Reason’s Why Winter Greens Is My Current Food Plot of Choice). This is mostly because of the incredibly strong attractive power this forage has for deer during November and December. Winter Greens includes a variety of brassicas, which are leafy, lettuce type plants that are nearly irresistible for deer after cold temperatures start moving in. In the image at the very top of this post you can see how nicely the plot is already coming in.
In addition, similar to what I did on the Middle Food Plot, I also planted a food plot screen of egyptian wheat and sorghum around this plot. It came in very well, and has now essentially boxed in this plot completely from the outside world.
Design: This plot utilizes the long skinny rectangle design, allowing me a ~50 yard shot across the plot and encouraging lateral movement from one end to the other.
Placement: This is a stellar hunting plot location primarily because of it’s placement in relationship to the rest of the property. As you can see in the map sketch at the top of this article, this plot is located in between two bedding areas. During the rut, bucks travel along the downwind side of each bedding area in search of does and then also travel between the two bedding areas as well. Both travel patterns bring deer within shooting range of my stand, placed in the timber alongside this plot. In addition, being so close to doe bedding areas, many does feed here – which of course pulls in bucks during the rut. I also have a relatively secluded access route along the edge of the small timber line to get into this location without bumping many deer.
Hunting Strategy: As mentioned earlier, this plot is very important to my hunting strategy on this property. In fact, I reserve this area for use only during the best of conditions. This plot will only be hunted during the rut, or during icey cold/snowy late season evenings.
Given the placement at the core of the property and in between two major bedding areas, this is a prime area to see rutting action. When the wind is right, I’ll be heading in to one of two different stands that I have in this general area and will be sitting all day.
As to late season hunting, because the brassicas in Winter Greens are so attractive to deer after cold weather, deer end up pouring into this plot in the winter. I had several hunts last year on this plot where upwards of 15-20 deer were feeding at a time. It makes for a great spot to kill does!
The most important factor to hunting this plot, I believe, is keeping the pressure off of it until the right time. I visited this plot a week ago (Aug 24ish) and I won’t return again until the end of October/early November. Hopefully the lack of human pressure will result in mature bucks and does feeling very comfortable moving in this area during the day.
As you can see, most everything about my food plots has been done with a purpose and with a plan in mind. If you’re not giving this kind of thought to your plots yet, I’d encourage you to give it a try.
If thought through and executed properly, a food plot plan can drastically improve your hunting property and your chances of hunting success on it. That said, hopefully a few of my plans and thoughts explained today can help you on that path to success!