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Food Plot Strategies and Food Plot Maintenance

by Cody Altizer 29. May 2011 10:31
Cody Altizer

In Episode 4 of Bowhunt or Die last fall, Justin Zarr made a bold prediction concerning the success of the remainder of his hunting season.  He said, with confidence and certainty, that he was going to kill a mature buck off his hunting property in Lake County, Illinois.  His trust in his skills and strategy was admirable and I immediately knew that he was going to put his tag on a mature buck.

With summer just weeks away, and my mind slowly, but comfortingly, thinking of cool fall days spent in the tree stand, I am going to make a fearless forecast myself.  I WILL shoot a mature whitetail on October 1st, the opening day of the Virginia archery season.  I haven’t felt this confident in an opening day set up ever, and I am sure I can put the pieces together this offseason to accomplish my goal.  Here’s how.

My Imperial Whitetail Clover food plot measure 17 inches before I cut it with the bush hog.  It was a beautiful sight and I felt good knowing that I had supplied a constant, nutritious food source for the deer. 

This quest for an opening day whitetail actually began last August, when I planted a clover and oat food plot.  The oats were planted for fall attraction, and they performed extremely well last hunting season.  However, I was more excited about how the clover would take off this spring and it did not disappoint.  A little spot seeding in late March proved to be beneficial because by mid-May, my food plot had turned into a lush green carpet of delicious, nutritious deer food.  Couple that with the steady rainfall we have been receiving in Virginia and the clover had grown to be 17 inches tall!  This was turning out to be the most successful food plot I had ever planted.

It was bittersweet mowing my clover food plot, but it had to be done.  This simple step will ensure the health and attractiveness of this food plot throughout the summer and into fall.

In order to ensure that deer continue feeding in my food plot throughout the summer months and into the hunting season, an important task must be completed regularly, mowing.  Mowing a food plot is a step that can drastically increase the overall health of the food plot while making it more attractive to deer at the same time.  As a food plot matures and continues to grow, it will actually lose its nutritional value and attractiveness when it gets to a certain age, or more appropriately, length.  I must admit, it was a bittersweet experience mowing my food plot.  The white blooms were so prevalent that it looked as if a mid-May snowfall had blanketed the food plot and walking in clover 17 inches tall made me feel like I was doing something right.   Nevertheless, the mowing had to be done.  

This shot illustrates just how well the clover was doing.  I used the lens hood off my 24-105mm Wide Angle lens for a size reference.  

This cutting will likely be the first of 4-5 cuttings I will make this summer, depending on rainfall.  Mowing the clover will help make sure the protein level remains, not peaks, at 20-25% throughout the summer, which is needed for the antler growing bucks, lactating does and young fawns on my property.  Keeping the clover young and tender not only keeps it at its most nutritional and digestible state, but also helps with weed control as well.  Cutting back the weeds will allow the quickly regenerating clover to choke out the weeds and unwanted grasses that do their best to take over my food plot.  I do not substitute mowing for regular spraying, however.  

After I finished mowing the clover, I took a quick minute to hang my CamTrakker so I could monitor what deer are utilizing my food plot right now.  I honestly do not expect a whole of activity right away.  Spring green up is in full swing in Virginia so there is plenty of tender, nutritious natural browse available for the deer in the woods.  In fact, I will actually be thrilled if the deer aren’t feeding heavily on the clover right now, because that tells me that I’ve done a good job in recent years controlling the doe population and supplementing natural browse.   

A strategically placed CamTrakker will let me know what caliber deer are feeding in my food plot and when.  

So there you have it, a hunting prediction made in late May.  You’re probably thinking, “He must be crazy, he can’t honestly believe he can make a guarantee that leaves so much to chance like hunting does!”  Well you’re right; I am crazy, but also confident.   If the conditions are right in Virginia on October 1st, then I should harvest a whitetail in the morning on its way to bed after feeding in the clover, or on its way for dinner in the afternoon.  A crazy prediction it is, but I bet you’ll be checking back in October to see if I was right.  




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