By Mark Kenyon

Why do you plant food plots?

For some, the answer might be to attract deer to a stand site for better hunting opportunities. For others, you might be trying to just provide nutritional food sources to improve the health of your local whitetails. I’m doubtful though that many of you are planting food plots to influence where deer bed. In fact, many of you might not have even known that this was possible. But, it is and today we’re discussing how this is the case and how you can use this concept to improve the hunting on your own property.

I was introduced to this concept of influencing deer bedding through food plots first by Jeff Sturgis. Jeff is a renowned whitetail habitat consultant and the author of the books Whitetail Success By DesignFood Plot Success By Design and Mature Buck Success By Design. The latter, Food Plot Success By Design, is just being released this week (when this article was originally published) and it’s within these pages that I found some very interesting information on this topic.

Because doe family groups relate to food sources in predictable ways, Jeff has found that you can also influence the bedding areas of does by where you place food plots. The benefit of influencing doe bedding areas is that you then are influencing where bucks bed and where bucks cruise during the rut. By understanding these core areas better, you ultimately will have a better idea of how to hunt come fall.

In “Food Plot Success By Design” Jeff describes further:

…does will bed as close as safely possible to their preferred evening food source. By locating food sources in areas that allow you to “hide” does in adjacent bedding cover that you never spook while hunting, you have the opportunity to create a lot of additional cover for just bucks. However, if your food is scattered and randomly located throughout your parcel, the deer movements are less well defined and difficult to pattern, and there may be limited opportunities for bucks to bed on your parcel. In my first book I introduced the concept of “Depth of Cover”. Briefly, this concepts suggests that if food sources are located near the borders of your parcel (instead of in the middle), you will have the opportunity to maximize the “depth” of cover on your parcel and thereby have adequate room to establish both doe bedding and buck bedding areas in the areas not occupied by food sources. By strategically selecting food plot locations you can effectively determine where does and bucks bed on your parcel…

By placing food plots in locations that support adjacent doe bedding areas, and then allowing enough room for mature bucks to bed on the back side of doe bedding areas, you can create attractive buck bedding opportunities that are isolated from the stress of doe family group daily movement patterns between bedding and food source locations….Within mixed agricultural regions where the woodlots frequently offer similar habitat, it is pretty easy to determine where a mature buck might be bedding, by simply seeking out the most remote portions of cover that are farthest away from quality food in any direction. This makes it fairly easy on agricultural land to predict buck movements, because there is a distinct difference between the “edge” bedding areas occupied by the does and fawns, and the more remote areas that could possibly house a mature buck…By using food to determine where the does bed, you can more efficiently determine the potential mature buck bedding locations.

So what are the key take-aways here?

1. Don’t just plant your food plots in the easiest open area. Think through the location of your plots, so that it helps your hunting. Strategically place food plots in areas where doe family groups can easily and safely bed near to the food source. The key here is to have these bedding areas be safe – AKA not being spooked by consistent human presence.

2. That said, DON’T plant food plots in an area where you’re typically going to be passing by and spooking does out of these bedding areas.

3. By having quality doe bedding cover up close to the food plots, you’ll then be more likely to have bucks bedding further back from that food source – but still within a decent range.

4. Now that you have a strategically placed plot, with likely doe bedding areas up close and buck bedding areas further back, use this information when hunting. During the rut, position yourself downwind of these likely doe bedding areas, where bucks will be cruising. Outside of the rut, if you’re the kind of guy that likes to hunt closer to buck bedding areas, you should now have a better idea of where those does are bedded, where a buck would most likely be bedded, and the “safe zone” outside of that, where you might be able to approach from.

For more on this concept and many other advanced ideas for food plot strategy, be sure to check out Jeff’s new book “Food Plot Success By Design and tune in to our podcast episodes in which we’ve interviewed Jeff:

Ep #11 – Food Plot Success By Design with Jeff Sturgis

Ep #77 – Jeff Sturgis, Killer Cold Fronts & Forecasting the Rut

If you’re interested in learning more about food plots, check out our “Best Of” page, where we’ve linked many articles sharing food plotting tips. Also visit the Whitetail Institute website for more great food plotting articles, recommended planting dates, and more information.