Bowhunting.com Submit your photo

Food Plot 101

by Jordan Howell 23. April 2012 10:52
Jordan Howell

One of the hottest topics in the hunting industry today is Food Plots.  Some hunters will argue that they are absolutely necessary to kill big bucks; others will say you don't need them.  Despite the fact that there is no magical big buck potion, food plots definitely have their place in deer management and can drastically increase a hunter's success….IF they are done right.  For a bowhunter who may be a novice when it comes to food plots, trying to figure out everything on your own can be a nightmare.  For example, what to plant, where to plant, and the never ending when, how, and why’s associated with growing food plots can drive a person crazy. Quite often, these are questions many landowners and managers don't have answers to. As a result, many guess or take the advice of friends.  This trial and error method produces mixed results because not everything works in every situation. Hunters also have many misconceptions about food plots; such as you must have access to large equipment to be successful. This isn't true in most cases.  The only thing a hunter really needs is a determined attitude and the patience to do things right. So, if you happen to be one of the many bowhunters who have wanted to start your very own food plot, but didn’t because you thought you couldn’t do it for one reason or another----then this article is for you. Let’s begin with the basics....the EXTREME basics.

Establishing an intimate knowledge of your hunting area will go a long way toward reaching your management goals

It has been said that you must have long term goals to prevent frustration with short term failures. This is definitely true when it comes to habitat management.  Planning and forethought on the part of the hunter will have an immeasurable effect on the success of his/her food plots.  Because every piece of property is different, there is no food plot strategy that works for everyone. In order to be successful, one must carefully examine the needs and capabilities of his/her particular property before starting. The first question a hunter must ask himself is WHY do you want a food plot?  Is it to attract more deer to your property, or perhaps grow bigger bucks? Maybe it is to hold deer on your property by providing them with added nutrition. Before you plant the first seed, take a minute and write down what your short term and long term goals for the property are. This will help determine the starting point for your management plan because not all hunters want the same things, or can realistically achieve the same goals. For example, in the Southeastern part of the country, growing a “Booner  Buck” is not exactly an attainable goal. Many hunters in that region would be happy to simply see more deer while they are hunting. When it comes to your own wants and needs, think about what it is you ultimately wish to accomplish on your property.  Then, evaluate what your property's current short term and long term potential is; writing down its strengths and weaknesses. This will help you come up with a list of goals for the management of the property. 

 

Mineral Sites are an excellent means for not only attracting deer, but also helping bucks maximize their antler potential.

Once you have determined your goals, you can begin formulating a plan to carry them out.  The first thing that I like to do on a property is find out what kind of deer herd I am dealing with.  Although walking the property will give me clues about terrain, available forage, cover etc, there is no way I can accurately inventory the deer herd on a farm without added help.  One of the best tools for helping you do this is a good trail camera.  It will serve as your eyes in the woods….24 hours a day. When selecting a site to place a camera, I always pick an area where I can monitor and check it with minimal pressure to the local deer. This means placing my camera on the fringes of the property; places I can easily drive to or get very close to with my truck, thus minimizing the amount of human scent I leave in the area. This is a key step because the less intrusion I make, the more apt the deer will be to use the area. If placing minerals or attractants is not legal in your state, then pick a location that gets a lot of natural traffic, such as water holes, openings in fences, or where fence-rows meet the woods.  If putting out attractants is legal in your area, then by all means do so. This will increase the number of deer images you capture on your camera. Putting out minerals is also the easiest and cheapest way to establish deer numbers and develop a management plan on your property.  After that, the only decision you will have to make is do you want to simply attract more deer to your property or are you interested in growing bigger and healthier deer?  I know that is a simple question, but remember, we're taking baby steps here. If pure attraction is what you want out of your property, then a product such as Monster Raxx's Whitetail Magnet will work great.  It is a highly concentrated oil based attractant and deer find the sweet smell irresistible. On the other hand, if you want to attract deer, while at the same time, benefit them nutritionally, a product such as Monster Raxx's Trophy Minerals would be a suitable choice. This particular product still has some salt to attract deer, but has many different macro and trace minerals that will help with antler production and doe lactation which will lead to healthier fawns.  Mineral sites serve several roles to a hunter/ land manager. In addition to immediately attracting deer to your area and providing them with a nutritional boost, they help you inventory and keep track of your deer herd by documenting each visitor to the site. Plus they require very little effort on the hunter's part. I can't think of a product that gives a hunter more bang for his buck! 

 This plot was selected to be a "kill plot" inorder to intercept cruising bucks during the rut.

Once you have completed your mineral site setup, you can then begin to evaluate your property's food plot potential. The most important thing to remember is that without a clear picture of what your farm needs or what the conditions are, no one can offer a “catch-all” solution that will work.  The number one reason for food plot failure is improper site and/or forage selection. I cringe when I hear a plethora of different answers to questions regarding “what to plant” or “what to do” to improve a particular plot. While suggestions such as plant clover, plant beans, or add lime CAN be good, first and foremost, site selection and “plot purpose” must be taken into consideration. 
For example, currently I am working on a new plot on a piece of property that presents some unique challenges. I have hunted this particular farm for seven seasons. The entire southwestern corner of the property is roughly made up of 20 acre’s of impenetrable thicket; so thick that I can’t walk through it, much less hunt it.  The northeast section of this farm contains a swamp and holds a lot of deer.  The deer feed to the south in large agricultural fields. The swamp is the sanctuary on the property, so I don't hunt there. The center of the farm has little timber and is difficult to hunt.  I have put in a couple of plots in the center to provide late season forage for the deer.  This year I have decided to utilize the thicket that I haven’t been able to do anything with. 

 Treestand view from the "kill plot".

I have basically cleared out a section of the thicket where several trails crisscross and planted about a 1/3 acre “kill plot” in this section. I plan to utilize this particular area during the rut when I hope to capitalize on bucks cruising from North to South in search of does.  The addition of a plot surrounded by security cover will give wary bucks a spot to stop briefly and scent check for a receptive mate. Also, access to this location is perfect. With a North or Northeast wind I will be able to walk up the tree-line to the west and climb into the stand without alerting any deer to my presence. I cannot stress enough the importance of a covert access when hunting a food plot, or anywhere for that matter.  A good spot with perfect access is better than a great spot with bad access. If the deer know you are hunting them the greenest plot in the world won't do you any good. Once you have selected a location, you must decide on what type of forage to plant. Before doing this please remember to do one thing……A SOIL TEST!  This information will prove to be invaluable.  Not only will it provide you with soil PH, it will tell you soil type and nutrient levels as well. This will help you determine what kind of plot will grow the best on your land. 

After a site has been selected for your new food plot, it is vital to conduct a soil sample test.

In the case of the new plot on my farm, the soil test indicated my PH was low, and the soil was sandy, but organic matter was high. This is fairly typical of plots in the woods that have never been cultivated.  I wanted a clover plot, but typically clovers do better in heavier soils because they need a good amount of moisture. Based on the information in my soil test, I decided on a blend of annual clovers and brassicas, as well as alfalfa and chicory. I want a plot that will have peak attractiveness during the rut; when I plan to hunt it. The clovers and brassicas will provide that attractiveness, while the alfalfa's large roots will help hold moisture that the soil won’t; which allows the clover to attach to and utilize the water in its root system.
There are forages that would be easier to establish, but again I want peak attraction to be late October through November. The annual clovers will provide a quick green-up and will give the plot attractiveness while the lime builds up in the soil to raise the PH. Once the PH reaches 6.5, hopefully by next year, then I will plant a perennial. 

Success is failure turned inside out.  No matter what your goals are for a property, careful planning will make all the difference in the success of your food plots.  It isn't rocket science by any means, and anyone who wants to do it can.  All it takes is effort, determination, and creativity.  Just remember that to reach a destination, you must first know where you are going.  Make a list of management goals for your property, stick to them, and don't cut any corners achieving them.  If done correctly, food plots will be another deadly weapon in your arsenal of tactics. In my next article we will discuss soil testing a little more in-depth and move forward with the over-all food plot construction.

Stan Potts' First Velvet Whitetail

by Brenda Potts 18. September 2011 09:41
Brenda Potts

After more than 45 years of bowhunting, Stan finally got his first whitetail buck in velvet, and it is quite a trophy. With 16 scorable points, the basic framed 7 x 5 with 4 stickers, grosses 197 4/8 inches.

Four strategies came together to let Stan kill this buck. First, they had a couple photos on a trail camera that let them know the buck was on the property. Second, topo maps and aerial photos gave an indication of how the buck might be moving to and from bedding and food sources. Third, a small, early season, green field food plot located in a very secluded timber setting was key to catching this buck on his feet in daylight hours. And fourth, an unbelievable intuitive knowledge of big buck habits honed over many years of bowhunting, combined with confidence in the stand choice is what finally pulled it all together. This was a non-guided hunt on private property we just leased in western Kentucky. No outfitter was involved.

Stan and cameraman Barry Greenhaw went in a few days prior to the Kentucky bow opener to scout and learn the property. They had never been on this farm before and had only just recently closed the deal on the lease. They quickly hung 4 double stand sets for filming and tried not to disturb the property.

The KY bow season opened with super hot temps in the high 90s. They decided not to hunt at all the first day. On the second afternoon, t he temps weren't much better and they only saw a few deer from the stand that afternoon. Stan poured over the topo maps and aerial photos of the farm. They didn't want to spend time on foot going through the property any more than they had to for fear of putting the big buck off his pattern. He decided by looking at the maps the most logical place for the buck to be bedded was on some benches in a big drainage.  He predicted the buck would be using the drainage to go to and from a secluded green food plot.


The weather cooled off on Monday. The stand location they decided to hunt was nearly half a mile from where they had trail camera photos of the buck, but Stan felt sure the buck would eventually use the drainage to feed.

I drove them to the stand in a utility vehicle Monday afternoon. There were already does and fawn in the field and they scattered when we approached. I waited until they were in the treestands before pulling out of the field. Stan said it wasn't 10 minutes before they deer came back out. Eventually a doe got downwind of them and spooked all the deer out of the food plot. After 45 minutes Barry spotted a buck stepping out of the timber into the foot plot. It was the buck they were after!

A second buck a 150 class 10 pointer was with him. That deer was broadside at 20 yards for about 10 minutes but the buck Stan wanted most did not present a good shot. He was either quartering toward or behind, or in front of the other buck. Finally after what seemed like an eternity, but was probably more like 10 minutes, the buck began to move toward another one that had just appeared. This gave Stan the chance he had been waiting for. The shot was broadside at about 20 yards. With Mathews in hand he sent his broadhead to its mark and the deer didn't go far, going down in the timber. Footage from the hunt will be on Mathews Dominant Bucks TV (Outdoor Channel) and North American Whitetail TV (Sportsmen Channel) next year.

 

 

Kill Plots The Other Food Plot

by Dan Schafer 6. July 2011 18:31
Dan Schafer

When someone mentions a food plot, one’s mind tends to think about a one to five acre area with lush greens full of deer foraging on high protein brassicas or grains.  While these plots are great for feeding deer, they tend to be destination areas and not great spots to hunt mature bucks.  Lets take a look at these big plots’ little brother, what I call, the kill plot.

A kill plot has one purpose, just like the name implies, for killing a mature buck.  Unlike big brother, these plots are small.  In fact, size is the least of your concerns; in this case location is all that matters. 

This past winter, while scouting a newly acquired piece of land, we located a major buck bedding area and not far away, a perfect spot for a kill plot.  Within 100-125 yards of this bedding area was a small grassy opening, about 1/5 of an acre in size.  Not only was this spot close to the bedding area, it was also close to a large beaver pond that the deer travel around when heading to feed in the larger fields about 500 yards away.  Because of its proximity to the thick bedding area and the travel routes, we determined that this would be a spot that a mature buck would feel comfortable getting a snack at during light before he heads to the larger fields to feed for the night.

You can see the location of this Kill Plot is key.  Its close to the buck bedding, a thick area and in a perfect travel corridor heading to the larger fields at night.


Had this small opening been in another spot, I probably wouldn’t have given it a thought to put a kill plot in here.  I have a number of spots on this property that look like potential locations for a kill plot, but they are just not in the right area.  Doing your off season scouting and really mapping out your deer herd will go a long ways to help you pick the right spot for your kill plot.

Before we started on the Kill Plot, it was a grassy area that was going to need a lot of work.

 

Besides not picking the right location for a kill plot, another mistake a lot of hunters make is not preparing the area like they should.  I do all of the same preparations on these small plots as I do on the larger ones, including spraying, discing, liming and fertilizing.  This particular plot will be planted with a turnip, rape and lettuce mix.  I’m not a big fan of heading to the local hardware store and picking out a throw and grow type of plot seed and hoping for the best.  That little extra work to make sure your plot grows to its full potential and picking the right seed will pay huge dividends when the season rolls around.

We were fortunate enough to be able to get an ATV with a disc into this area.  Had we not been able to, we would have made the extra effort and used a rototiller.

Proper soil preperation is also key to growing a quality Kill Plot.  Liming and fertilizing are essential.

With the discing and liming done, this Kill Plot will be ready for one last light discing, planting and fertilizing in Mid-July.


You picked the spot, worked your tail off in 90-degree heat during the summer getting the kill plot ready, now its time to hunt it.  Like any hunting spot, how and when you hunt your kill plot is going to be key. 

During the early season, I will only hunt the kill plot during the evening.  I’m not looking to catch a buck on his way back to the bedding area, only trying to catch him on his way to the fields to feed for the night.  On this particular plot, there will be only one stand.  There won’t be options for different winds; it will only be hunted if all conditions are perfect.  Being this close to the bedding area, extreme caution is also going to be needed when getting in and out. 

During the rut, I will actually sit on a kill plot all day.  Not only are bucks going to be using this plot throughout fall, but does will too.  Again, with the location of the plot close to the bucks bedding area and them feeling secure in the plot, they will be checking for hot does during daylight hours. 

It's still early July, so if you’ve thought about giving a kill plot a try for this fall, I highly encourage it, there’s plenty of time.  They may be small in size and hide in the big food plots’ shadow, but their location gives them an edge big brother doesn’t have.

2010 Bowhunting Season In Pictures.....So Far

by John Mueller 15. November 2010 13:57
John Mueller

I have had a very good season of bowhunting so far. I have seen a lot of deer, including a few good bucks and a lot of small bucks. I have even managed to kill a doe in the early season. But I just can't seem to be in the right spot when a big buck does show up in daylight. This is also the first season I have made the commitment to seriously concentrate on filming all of my hunts. I have had some interesting encounters while doing this. It is a challange, but fun and rewarding too. So here is my season in pictures so far.

 

I now carry the camera and camera arm along on every hunt. It takes a little more time and is more weight to lug around, but it's always fun to go back and see what happened on the previous hunts.

Looking over the food plot on a mid October hunt.

Bowhunting during youth gun season. Hunter orange required for bowhunters also.

My trap has been set. A strategically placed path through the corn planted with turnips.

Tools of the trade. The Bowtech Captain is waiting for action.

The Rage is at the ready.

Trying the other end of the food plot.

The autumn colors are starting to pop.

Scrapes are showing up everywhere.

 

The leaves have almost all fallen, leaving the woods more open.

Trying to make a big buck mad and attack the poor little decoy for invading his territory.

My early October doe harvest which can be seen on Bowhunt or Die, episode 2.

http://www.bowhunting.com/videos/bowhunting-videos/bowhunt-or-die-season-01-episode-02_887

 




About the Authors

The Bowhunting.com staff is made up of "Average Joe" bowhunters from around the country who are serious about one thing - BOWHUNTING.  Keep up to date with them as they work year-round at persuing their passion and bring you the most up-to-date information on bowhunting gear and archery equipment.

» Click here to learn more about the Bowhunting.com Staff.

Editorial Disclaimer

The opinions expressed by Hunting Network LLC bloggers and by those members providing comments are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or policies of Hunting Network LLC. Hunting Network LLC is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by bloggers or forum participants. Hunting Network LLC is not responsible for any offense caused inadvertently through interpretation of grammar, punctuation or language.


Sitemap