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Food Plot Stand Location Tips

by Cody Altizer 16. May 2012 04:32
Cody Altizer

The art of taking a whitetail with archery tackle is a continually evolving sport.  As bowhunters, we are constantly on the lookout for strategies, gear and information that can tip the odds of arrowing a mature buck in our favor.  It’s hard to believe, in fact, that hunting from treestands was once thought of as unethical because it would make harvesting whitetails too easy.  We’ve come along away since then; however, many hunters still struggle to get within bow range of a mature whitetail buck during daytime hours.  In recent years hunting over, around and near food plots has become an increasingly popular hunting strategy.  If you’re looking for a new avenue in which to increase your chances of putting down a big bruiser buck this fall, read on for food plot hunting strategies and information!

It’s a common misconception that hunting over food plots is easy.  Some hunters have a very twisted idea that hunting over, or around food plots is no different than hunting over bait.  While that may be a great topic for a later article, I’ll preface this article by stating that hunting over food plots is not easy.  Food plots offer a variety of different hunting opportunities, so I’ll do my best to cover each option.

Food plot hunting is a great way to practice Quality Deer Management because you usually have ample opportunites to harvest adult does.

Retreat to the Timber

If you’ve incorporated food plots into your hunting strategy in the past, you probably quickly learned that the further away you get from the food plot, the better your chances of success can be.  This is true for both morning and afternoon hunts.  Setting up shop right on top of a food plot can be a great way to kill a deer, and it’s a topic I’ll touch on later in this article, but hunting back in the timber off the food plot keeps your very flexible as a bowhunter.  I’ll use my property as an example.

On my 260 acre hunting property in the mountains of Virginia, I have two destination food plots planted.  Each food plot is a little over an acre in size with one being planted in clover, and the other in alfalfa.  Both of these food plots are located in the center of my property strategically placed in areas that require deer to move past my stand sites when going to and from their bedding area.

By hunting off of these food plots, back in the timber, I am giving myself a better chance at seeing a mature buck during the daylight hours than if I were simply sitting right on the plot. Don’t let television shows and magazine articles fool you.  Mature bucks know what it takes to see another sun rise, and feeding in food plots during the day light is a sure fire way to ensure that doesn’t happen. As a result, mature bucks aren’t likely to visit food plots during the daytime.

For afternoon hunts during the early season, I like hanging my Lone Wolf stands about 50 yards or so back in the timber in order to catch bucks, or at least a mature doe, taking thier time getting to the food plot.   Temperatures in Virginia can vary greatly during early October, and if the mercury rises above 80 degrees, the deer aren’t likely to get to the food plot until after dusk.  I don’t want to get too close to the bedding area for an afternoon hunt, however, because I risk the chance of bumping a buck that may have gotten out of his bed earlier than normal.

I harvested this beautiful 127" 3 year old buck in late November, 2011.  I intercepted him on his way back to his bedding area after feeding in one of my clover food plots the night prior.

Many hunters don’t associate morning hunts with food plots.  While I certainly don’t advise sitting over a food plot during the morning (unless trail camera photos give you reason to), catching deer coming off the destination plots on their way back to bed can be a great big buck strategy.  In fact, my brother and I both used this method to shot our biggest bucks during the 2011 season.  

It’s been my experience that bucks will often times use the same trails when returning to their bed in the morning that they used to access the food plot the night prior.  This knowledge gave my brother and I the confidence to hang our stands on these trails and harvest both a 148” and 127” buck.  After field dressing the bucks we found each of their stomachs to be full of clover.  

My brother shot this 148", 15 point bruiser in early November.  He was set up on a trail that this buck used often to access our clover plot from his bedding area.

For morning hunts off of food plots, I like to be closer to bedding areas than if I was hunting the same food plot in the afternoon.  If you hunt to close to the food plot in the morning you run the risk of educating deer to your presence before the hunt even begins.  Also, you could climb your tree and get ready for the hunt well after the deer have exited the food plot and walked past your stand site.  Hunting close to bedding areas in the morning, with respect to food plots, eliminates both of those problems. 

Hunting OVER a Food Plot

As mentioned before, hunting directly over food plots can also prove to be a very successful option.  However, sitting directly over a food plot, or any food source for that matter, opens the door to several possible problems.  For one, I’ve always preferred bowhunting whitetails in transition areas; that is, in areas where they are moving, and less likely to look up and spot me in a tree.  When hunting over a food plot there are usually several eyes, ears and noses on the lookout for danger.  Also, when deer feed in a food plot, they usually feed well into the night; making getting down from stand undetected a very real concern.  

All that being said, sitting on a food plot for an afternoon deer hunt can be an effective strategy, and it’s one I utilize often.  There are two important factors to keep in mind, though, to ensure your hunt is as efficient as possible.  For starters, as is the case with all things deer hunting, pay special attention to the wind direction, and if your hunting in hilly country, the thermals as well.  There are few things as painful as sitting in a treestand looking over an empty food plot because the deer winded you.  

Obviously, you don’t want to hunt with a wind that blows your scent back into the timber in the direction in which your deer are traveling.  However, a wind that blows your scent directly out in the food plot isn’t ideal either.  If the deer that feed in your food plot are anything like mine, they prefer a certain area of the plot.  This is usually an inside corner.  A strategically placed Stealth Cam can reveal which inside corner your deer prefer, and you can hang your stands according.  Hunting inside corners is also beneficial because you can hunt cross winds that will keep you from being smelled by the deer.  

Be sure to pay attention to wind direction when hunting around food plots.  Deer are usually on high alert just prior to entering a food plot, so keep this in mind when hanging stands.

If possible, layout your food plot locations with wind direction in mind, and if possible, construct multiple food plots to accommodate different wind directions.  On my property, my two primary hunting plots are laid out to accommodate an east wind, and a west wind for afternoon hunts.  During the deer season, it’s very rare for my property to receive a due north or south wind, so if the forecast is calling for a west wind, I have a stand hung on a clover food plot specifically for that wind.  However, if a tricky east wind blows in, I have a Lone Wolf sitting over an alfalfa field.  

Find an Exit

The single most important factor that can make or break your hunt when sitting over a food plot is your entry and exit route.  Obviously, you don’t want to bump the deer on your way to the stand, but an effective exit strategy takes top priority.  If you don’t harvest a deer during an afternoon sit, chances are there will still be deer feeding in the field when it’s time to get down.

There are a few simple solutions to this problem.  If you’re hunting with a partner, you could have he or she pick you up with their ATV or truck.  Deer are usually very tolerable of a motorized vehicle, and being pushed out of a food plot by one isn’t a big deal.  I’ve also had a lot of success with “blowing” at a deer.  That is, mimicking the alarming sound a deer makes when it senses danger.  I usually do this after dark when it would be harder for a deer to pinpoint my location.  I can remember specific instances when I have blow a family group of does out of a food plot, only to have them return the next afternoon relaxed, calm and unaware of my presence.   I have also heard of hunters mimicking a coyote yelp or scream.  I’ve never done this and don’t question its effectiveness, convincing the deer that a coyote was on a field edge watching them is not a situation I’d like to mirror. 

Food plot hunting isn't as easy as it sounds, but if you follow the tips and information provided in this article then you could very well walk up to your biggest buck ever this fall when hunting food plots!

 

Not as Easy as it Sounds

Hunting over food plots sounds like an easy hunt, right?  The deer walk aimlessly out in a lush clover field, and you casually draw your bow back and send a Carbon Express right through the lungs.  Heck, if you’re lucky, another deer might make the same mistake.  While that may be true for the fortunate hunters who get to relive their hunts on national television, that isn’t the case for the most.  In fact, I sat overlooking a food plot roughly 10 hunts this past year and I only drew back once.  I couldn’t catch a break, nor could I figure out why, but I think it has something to do with me being a bad bowhunter.  

Conclusion

Food plot hunting is one of my favorite hunting strategies.  I usually see a lot of deer, and watching them interact with one another in a food source I created is a very rewarding feeling.  However, I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t expect to shoot a deer each time I hunted over or around a food plot.  Their ability to concentrate deer to a certain area makes for awesome bowhunting opportunities.  If you’ve struggled to find success hunting around food plots in the past, then hopefully the above article provided you with some insight that can help you put down a food plot buck this fall!

A Buck Named Clyde: A Testament to Food Plots, QDM and Mock Scrapes

by Cody Altizer 3. December 2011 09:39
Cody Altizer

There are a bevy of emotions we as hunters are fortunate to experience throughout the course of a deer season.  There is the rush of seeing your arrow bury itself behind your prey’s shoulder.  Then there are the uncontrollable shakes that violently rock your body before, during and after the shot at that big buck.  And don’t forget, the most humbling of all, the feeling of thankfulness and gratefulness experienced when you kneel over your trophy, be it a buck or doe, be it big or small.  Finally, there is the camaraderie experienced between you and your hunting buddies.  A couple weeks ago, I got to share an extremely memorable time in the woods with my brother, Damin, as he shot a true giant Virginia whitetail, a buck named Clyde.  

One of the first pictures we got of Clyde.  This image was taken in early January in our clover food plot.

The story for this buck actually begins in 2007, ironically, the birth year of Clyde.  It was that year that my brother, my dad and I really decided to commit to Quality Deer Management (QDM) and try to improve the health of our deer herd and our property’s habitat.  We began planting food plots, established mineral stations and decided to take at least 5 does off our 260 acre property every year.  The mineral stations attracted deer to our property during the summer, and shooting does increased rut activity immediately.  However, I was still unhappy with the amount of food we had on our property during the hunting season.  I simply wasn’t content with the small, secluded food plots we had planted in the past.  Every year, I urged my dad to consider planting two one acre fields in clover.  I was convinced that having a consistent, centralized food source would make a world of difference in holding deer on our property during the hunting season.  During the rut, I was exicted about the amount of rubs and scrapes that would appear in the runways and funnels leading from the fields to bedding areas.

 

Clyde all but disappeared during the spring and summer, except for visiting one of my mineral stations in mid-June, when this photo was taken.

Fast forward to February, 2010, we had finally gained the resources to plant the two large fields, and I can still remember cruising along in my neighbor’s borrowed 40 horsepower tractor and plowing up the field.  By the time I had finished, it was well after dark and the headlights of the tractor were synonymous with a bright future on our hunting property, a future I was extremely excited about.  

This trail camera photo was captured on a frosty night in late September.  The long sweeping right main beam told me who this buck was.  It was this photo that earned him the nickname "Clyde."

That spring and summer I sprayed and tilled, sprayed and tilled, to keep the weeds and have a clean seed bed for the 2010 hunting season.  In August I planted some Imperial Whitetail Clover and oats into the food plots.  We have found that planting clover in the fall and allowing it establish a strong root system in the winter will allow it to explode the following spring.  Obviously, both forages would be attractive to the deer during the season, but the oats were more of a cover crop to keep the deer from overbrowsing the clover.  

Fast forward to this past January, I was in Huntley, IL preparing for the 2011 ATA Show at the Bowhunting.com office and my brother sent me a couple of trail camera images of a buck feeding in our food plot the night after the season went out.  The buck was a 3 year old, had several busted tines, but was clearly a shooter and had the potential to balloon into a true giant the following season.  Our winters in Western Virginia don’t pose serious threats to a whitetail’s life, even worn down bucks, so my primary concern keeping him on our property that following year.  With two acres of lush clover just waiting to explode with a little sunlight and warm weather, I was confident we would regularly catch him on camera feeding in our food plots during the summer.

By mid-October Clyde was convinced their was an intruder buck in his territory thanks to my mock scrapes.

As is often the case with deer hunting and habitat management, things don’t go as expected.  The food plots exploded all right, providing a nutritious, tasty food source to our local whitetails all spring and summer.  Unfortunately, however, we only captured the buck on camera just once during the entire summer, and it wasn’t even in our food plots.  On June 19th he made a brief stop at one of my Monster Raxx mineral stations.  I knew it was the buck from the previous winter, by a cluster of abnormal points on his right main beam.  While he didn’t spend as much time in our food plots, I wasn’t overly concerned.  I knew where he was bedding and knew that having several does feeding in our food plots during the actual hunting season would greatly benefit us.  

As hunting season quickly approached and the temperatures began dropping quickly, I was anxious to see if the buck had began visiting our food plots.  The two clover food plots were planted right in the center of our property, so to visit them, either to feed or check for does, he would have to walk right by several of my stand sites.  Nevertheless, when I checked my cameras on October 1st I was thrilled to find the buck feeding in our food plot just two nights before.  I sent a picture to my brother via cell phone with the text reading, “huge buck in upper field, 140+."  A long sweeping right main beam and the abnormal points on the same side made Clyde an easy choice for a nickname (See Clint Eastwood’s famous flick, “Every Which Way but Loose”).    Let the chess match begin.

This trail camera photo revealed to us Clyde's bedding area.  This photo was taken two nights before Halloween about 30 minutes before sunrise.  

I knew it would be unwise to dive right in after this buck after a handful of nighttime trail camera photos.  I knew where he was bedding, I knew how he accessing our food plots, I just had to be patient and not over hunt him.  I immediately made a series of mock scrapes along his access trails to and from the food plot using Tink’s Power Scrape.  The idea was to paint a picture of another big, old buck  moving into his territory.  He didn’t like the thought of that.  He began working over those scrapes within days, and the giant rubs and scrapes that dotted the edge of the food plots could only have been made by him.  This was his food plot, the clover belonged to him, the does belonged to him; no other bucks were welcome.

After seeing the massive rubs and watching the scrapes being freshened up nightly, I took extreme measures as to not pressure the buck.  The only problem with the location of our two food plots is location.  Yes, they were centrally located, but they were also right beside our hunting camp, which sees a lot of human activity.  During October, I likely only hunted 3 mornings so I didn’t push him off the food plot on my way to the stand.  My dad and brother would have liked to kill me because I was constantly reminding them to be quiet around the camp and to walk on the far side of the camp to hide our existence from deer feeding in the food plot. I probably took it too far in some cases, but there was a giant buck living very close by, and I was determined that one of use was going to kill him.

Throughout October we captured Clyde on trail camera in the food plot, at mock scrapes, and on trails heading back to his bed in the late morning.  My brother had two weeks of vacation planned for early November and we were going to exhaust every opportunity we had to close the deal on the giant.  Unfortunately we got slammed by two weeks of bad weather.  Dumping rains, high winds and warm temperatures made hunting very difficult.  At the end of every unsuccessful day of hunting my brother would ask me, “Where in the world Clyde?”  My response was always the same, “Not far.”

Multiple rubs of this size began popping up in trails and runways from the food plot to bedding areas.  Clyde was becoming more and more vulnerable with each passing day.  We were onto him, we just had to play it smart.

Friday November 11th was again a terribly slow day of hunting.  A full moon and high winds and warm temperatures had shut down all deer movement, but there was hope in sight.  The first clear, cold night in several weeks was forecasted that night.  That night I remember my brother asking me yet again, “Where is Clyde?”  But this time I responded, “Not far.  He’s got to be covering some ground at night, if we can get a good, hard frost tonight, that should keep him on his feet longer into the morning on his way back to bed for the day.”  It wasn’t much to go on, but was it was a hopeful thought, and that was all we needed.

I had been bowhunting like a madman the first two weeks of November, so I elected to take my muzzleloader that morning for a change of pace.  We had got the hard frost we were hoping for and we had got into our stands over an hour before first light.  I had seen a couple does filtering back to bed right at first light, and was hopeful a buck would soon follow suit, but I never got the chance to find out.  At 7:14 I heard my brother’s muzzleloader ring out.  Since it was my brother’s last day of vacation, we both decided to try and shoot a couple does if the opportunity presented itself, so I just assumed he had shot a doe.  However, his “13 pointer down!!!!!” text eliminated that theory.  My mind began racing, “Did he really shoot a 13 pointer?  Maybe he did shoot a doe and is just joking around.  A 13 pointer?  Clyde was only a 10 in the trail camera photos.”   Anxious to see what he had shot I responded, “Can I come up?”  His response, “Clyde!!!!”  I gathered my gear, got down out of my stand and all but ran through the woods to see the fallen giant.

My brother and hunting partner, Damin, admiring the legendary buck known as Clyde.  Mission complete!

When I finally met up with my brother, he had his coat draped over Clyde’s rack.  As he unveiled him, I simply couldn’t believe the massive antlers coming off this buck’s head; a true giant.  I must have hugged and high fived Damin a good 20 times in a span of 5 minutes.  Damin relived the hunt for me, and I was happy as could be for him.  It turns out that cold, hard frost kept Clyde on his feet just long enough this morning, because my brother shot him working one of the mock scrape lines I had built back in early October.  My brother stopped him at 50 yards broadside, and made a perfect shot, and Clyde died within sight.  

Clyde is by far the biggest buck ever taken off our property.  The hard work we all put in over the past 4 years finally paid off with a dandy buck.

I offered to drag Clyde out of the woods for Damin, we met up with my dad and mom at camp and thus began the day of celebration.  We took well over 100 photos, put a tape to him, weighed him, caped him out and readied him for the taxidermist.  Clyde ended up scoring 148 6/8” as a mainframe 10 with 5 kickers.  He had three abnormal points sprouting at the base of his right G3 and had an inch and a half kicker at the base of each antler.  He was 220 pounds live weight and dressed 185, which makes for a giant bodied whitetail in Western Virginia.

The fallen giant and the lucky hunter who harvested him overlooking the mountains and food plot the massive buck once called home.

While Clyde scored well, and was the size of a small cow, his statistics do very little for this buck's legacy.  When I think of Clyde I will think of the countless hours spent running trail cameras, planting food plots, freshening mineral stations, and scouting since 2007, the year he was born and the year we started QDM.  I will think of the discussions I had with my dad and brother about when, and how we should go about trying to harvest this deer.  But ultimately, I will remember walking up to the fallen buck with my brother standing over him with a contagious smile and the brotherly emotions we shared in the woods November 12th.  That, I think, is what Clyde most represents and what an animal of his caliber should be remembered for.

Early Spring Bowhunting Preparations

by Todd Graf 29. April 2011 08:55
Todd Graf

Springtime is upon us, fellow bowhunters!  With the snow and cold days behind us (I hope) here in Northern Illinois, it is time to really focus on preparing for the 2011 deer season, which will be here before you know it!  April was an especially very busy month for me (then again, what month isn’t) between trade shows, habitat management projects on my properties and a little turkey hunting adventure with my little man, Craig.

As many of your probably know, Bowhunting.com was well represented at the Illinois and Wisconsin Deer Classics over the past month.  I always enjoy those shows and it is a real blast to get out there and meet the genuine, down to earth bowhunters who love and enjoy the sport just as much as I do!  We had a great showing at both of these expos and I met a lot of great new people and saw some magnificent deer as well.

By far my favorite mount at the Illinois Deer and Turkey Expo was this 197" monster harvested by Mason Paul.  I love how the mount sits on top of the collection of antlers!

I also enjoyed meeting some of our loyal Facebook friends at the show as well.  If you haven't done so, check out Bowhunting.com on Facebook here!

I was excited to get my 2010 buck from officially being scored by the Pope and Young Club.  This monster Illinois whitetail buck officially netted 140 3/8”!  This was my third straight season of harvest a buck over 140 inches with my bow.  I understand that hunting mature, trophy bucks isn’t for everyone, but man, I can’t get enough of it!

From the field...

... to the record book!

Despite the dreary weather we have been experiencing in the Upper Midwest, I have been able to get out on my hunting property and begin work on some of my offseason habitat improvement projects.  Don’t let the cold and wet conditions keep you from bettering your hunting property, now is the perfect time!  I was fortunate enough to get a lot of work done recently.  On one of my 60 acre farms I just finished a TSI (Timber Stand Improvement) project on 10 acres that will increase the health and longevity of the forested area on this farm.  I know a lot of talk these days are about food plots being the secret to killing big deer, and they certainly help, TSI is also a great way to improve the overall habitat on your property as well.  I also mowed down the standing corn stalks from last year, fertilized several food plots and performed some controlled burns to get the soil ready for food plot and native grass plantings.

Conrolled burns will greatly improve the soil for my summer food plot and native grass plantings.  

Finding sheds is always exciting!  This one looks like it may be a couple years old.

I was also able to plant some hardwood and softwood trees, as well as some soft mast bearing trees as well to create added diversity for the deer that visit my farm,  All in all, I planted and caged (have to keep the deer away from them for now!) 50 oaks, 6 pears, 30 pines and 30 more apple trees.  The oaks and apple trees won’t bear fruit for several years down the road, but it will be an enjoyable experience watching them grow and mature through the years.  However, what I take pride in is the thought that my little man Craig will have the opportunity to hunt from those same trees in the future!  A big part of Quality Deer Management is protecting this sport we enjoy so much, and ensuring that younger generations can enjoy it just the same as we did!     

These trees may be small now, but one day my son, Craig, will hopefully be hanging a tree stand from them!

Speaking of Craig, he and I were able to get out together to do a little turkey hunting a couple weeks ago.  We didn’t see any, but their thunderous gobbles rang throughout the woods and got Craig and I both pretty excited!  

Our turkey hunting set-up; Craig and didn't see any but we sure heard them gobbling!

Unfortunately, the onset of Spring also means it is tick season, and man, do I hate these things!   These pesky pests used to find their way on me every time I went outside this time of year.  However, this year I have been wearing Elimitck Clothing from Gamehide Gear and haven’t found a single tick on me.  Elimitick Clothing is my clothing of choice this time of year that is for sure!

ElimiTick Clothing from Gamehide Gear is my clothing of choice this time of year. 

I’d like to close out this blog by show an example of just how random my life can be.  My wife talked me into buying a goat!  My wife loves all animals and, even though I enjoy nothing more than harvesting mature animals during the fall, I have a soft spot in my heart for all animals as well. Maybe, buying this goat will earn me some brownie points this fall and a little extra time in the treestand? We’ll see! 

Yes, somehow I got talked into buying a goat!

Bowhunting Insight; What Are You Giving Back?

by Cody Altizer 30. December 2010 07:50
Cody Altizer

 With the Christmas Holiday still fresh in our minds, we certainly feel a sense of gratitude and thankfulness for the time spent with family and the gifts we received.  Often times, however, we forget about what we gave and how those gifts impact other’s lives.  Unfortunately, this is often the case in the world of deer hunting as well.  We get so caught up in the “take, take, take!” aspect of bowhunting that we forget to give back.  With precious resources such as the wilderness and whitetail available to us, I feel that what we give back to Mother Nature is far more important than what we take from Her.


   I love shooting deer as much as anybody I know.  The feeling I get from having outsmarted a whitetail’s wits provides me with a high that can literally last for days.  First, the adrenaline rush immediately following the shot is unlike any other; I wouldn’t trade it for the world!  Recovering the deer is a testament to my tireless work ethic during the summer practicing with my bow to make sure I make a quick, clean kill.  Being able to hold the antlers of a bow harvested buck is indescribable, and it feels good to know that I was able to provide food for myself and family.  I earn respect of friends and fellow bowhunters every time I slay a whitetail and I share beautiful harvest pictures of my trophy on the internet to let others know of my success.  Man, it feels good to take a deer doesn’t it?!  Yes, of course it does, but in that sequence of events you didn’t once hear me mention of what I gave back to Mother Nature in return, did you?  I sound pretty selfish now, huh?  Giving back to Mother Nature, your deer herd, and the sport of bowhunting in general is far more rewarding than actually taking a deer and there are endless ways of doing so.

A scenic shot of three does feeding in a clover plot with my family's hunting camp in the background.  It's images like these that make me want to keep giving back to Mother Nature and the property I hunt every year.


   I’ve been fully engulfed in the world of Quality Deer Management (QDM) for about 4 years now.  On my home piece of property in Virginia, my family and I have invested countless hours and a lot of money (more than I care to admit!) towards bettering the habitat for not just deer, but wildlife in general.  The 7 food plots we plant yearly have had a tremendous impact on our deer herd.  Fawns are born healthier, does are heavier and the bucks sport larger racks.  Allowing power lines and fields to grow tall and thick has provided excellent fawning areas for does, increased overall bedding area and allows more deer to feel comfortable on our property. However, it has also helped the grouse population on our property rebound, which in turn provides a delicious food source for the foxes and bobcats that call our property home.  Every winter I head out with a chainsaw and cut pole size poplar trees at knee level to allow the deer to browse on the young, tender buds during winter.  The following spring, the stump will sprout several young poplar saplings which will again provide tender, nutritious browse.  Every winter my family and I will plant 5-6 fruit trees to provide a delicious food source in the coming years, and we also prune the natural fruit trees to allow for better fruit production.  The local black bear population sure appreciates this! This past spring, my brother and I transplanted close over 50 yearling autumn olive bushes to provide cover and food for deer, bears and turkeys that otherwise would have been cut and mowed over.  We also transplanted close to 20 white cedars that weren’t receiving enough sunlight.  This will provide a food source for birds, squirrels and deer, as well as providing some thermal bedding cover for the deer during the winter.  It may sound as if I am patting myself and stroking my ego, but that’s not the case.  The pride and fulfillment I derive from giving back to Mother Nature is simply a great feeling.

These two pear trees were planted in the Spring of 2008.  They likely won't produce any fruit for a couple more years, but knowing the deer will have a sustainable food source in the years to come keeps me planting fruit trees every year.


   Sure, the food plots are expensive.  By the time you buy the seed, lime, fertilizer, and diesel fuel for the tractor you have spent a lot of money.  The fruit trees aren’t cheap either, and it takes at least 5-6 years for them produce fruit and there is no guarantee they will live to reach maturity.  However, watching deer feed in the food plots before dusk and monitoring the fruit trees growth every year is worth every penny.
   Carefully planned timber harvests have also had a positive impact on our property’s habitat and can produce a good source of income as well.  Removing trees that provide little benefit to wildlife such as Virginia pine, black locust and yellow poplar among others, allow for more sunlight to reach the forest floor which results in a thick understory of lush, nutritious vegetation for all animals. 

Too many deer can create a lot problems including disease and winter starvation.  Harvesting does is a great way to ensure a healthy deer herd.


   Habitat management is just one aspect of QDM that enables you to give back to the deer herd.  Herd management is equally rewarding and has a far greater impact on the overall health of a deer herd.  Regularly harvesting does will decrease the threat of disease transmission and preserves the habitat for the rest of the deer herd and other creatures as well.  It’s hard to believe, but whitetails actually eat between 1-1 ½ tons of food per year.  Removing just two does off a hundred acre piece of property provides the deer herd with up to three tons of food the following year!  It’s truly amazing when you think about it.  Harvesting does is also a great way to put food on your table, and allows you to donate the meat to needy families who need it more than you.  Think about it, by harvesting just one doe, you aren’t just putting more food in the bellies of the wildlife on your property, but providing a family with several meals as well.  Giving back sounds pretty good right now doesn’t it?

Regularly harvesting does benefits many.  It contributes to a healthy deer herd and an overall healthier ecosystem, and puts delicious meat on the table for you or needy families.


   QDM isn’t the only way to give back.  Introducing a kid or friend to hunting protects the future of our sport and can change their life in the process.   Hunting numbers is declining with the majority of our nation’s hunters being 50 years old or older!  This is frightening news for the future of our sport.  We have got to pull kids off the computer and video game systems and introduce them to the outdoors.  It will change their lives for the better, and can change yours too if you let it.  I credit my father for getting me involved in hunting and the patience, persistence, determination and work ethic I have developed today came directly from sitting in a tree stand from October through January as a kid.  


 With the 2010-2011 deer season wrapping up in many states across the United States, now is a perfect time to sit back and reflect on the past year, but more importantly plan for the year ahead.  For the 2011 season I encourage, no, challenge you to give back to whitetail woods more than you take.  It will be your best season to date if you do so.

Thankful for Bowhunting Home, Time With Family

by Cody Altizer 30. November 2010 02:27
Cody Altizer

 If you have followed my blog throughout the 2010 hunting season, you certainly know how much I am enjoying my time in the upper Midwest.  Whether it be chasing these giant whitetails with bow in hand or behind the camera filming Justin Zarr and Todd Graf and their hunts, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every second I’ve spent in the deer woods of Wisconsin and Illinois so far this year.  However, this past week was by far the most enjoyable time I’ve spent hunting all year as I was able to fly back home and hunt my family owned property in Virginia the entire week of Thanksgiving.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to harvest a deer back home, but the time spent in the tree with my brother, around the hunting camp with my dad and at the dinner table with my mom is what made the trip so enjoyable.

My second home, Rocking Chair Hunt Club.  It was a blast to be able to be able to go home and hunt the property I grew up on.  There is nothing better!


 When I flew in on the 19th I had high hopes of harvesting a Virginia whitetail the following week.  I knew it was going to be tough as Virginia was currently in its fourth week of gun season (two weeks of early Muzzleloading followed by two weeks of rifle season) but I was still optimistic.  My brother had been my eyes and ears all season long had been seeing some quality bucks and plenty of does so I was eager to get in the treestand.  However, extremely warm temperatures slowed deer movement early in the week and I didn’t even see a deer Monday or Tuesday. 
Wednesday morning my brother and I saw plenty of good deer activity, but as is often the case in the big woods mountains of Virginia; the deer just seemed to wander through the woods without any sense of direction and never made it by our stand.  Wednesday afternoon was much like Monday and Tuesday as I never saw a deer from stand.  I will admit though, that I took out my Traditions muzzleloader hoping to harvest a buck that way, but to no avail.  Thanksgiving morning my brother and I were back at and again saw several deer, just nothing within bow range.  We did, however, see well over 40 turkeys that morning and in my experience, deer just don’t tolerate the noise turkeys make scratching through the woods.  Then again, my brother and I got pretty fed up with seeing gang after gang of turkeys too!

It was nice to have a camera man film my hunts for a change.  A BIG thanks goes out to my brother, Damin, for giving up quality hunting time to film my hunts.  We probably ended up scaring away more deer than we actually saw because we were laughing so hard at each other in the treestand.  I wouldn't trade that time in the stand for anything!


I chose to sleep in on Friday to catch up on a little sleep to prepare myself for the last day and a half of hunting because I was really going to get after it hard.  Friday afternoon my brother and snuck as close as we could get to a bedding area without disturbing the deer with climbers on our back.  Prior to this hunt I wasn’t a big fan of climbing tree stands.  I trusted their safety and purpose, but honestly didn’t like the effort it took to get up a tree and would just assume carry a hang on and sticks with me in the woods.  However, my brother had just bought the Summit Viper and allowed me to try it out and all I can say is this: I WILL buy one this offseason.  It was an incredibly light treestand to carry into the woods, setup easily and I was able to safely ascend up the tree and get set up within no time.  I felt safe and stealthy the entire time and decided I needed one for myself. 

We intensely practice Quality Deer Management on hunting property in Bath County, Virginia.  If you have the time, land and resources to do, I encourage you to implement some sort of management plan on your hunting property.  Results won't be immediate, but the gratification you will receive from benefitting your herd and habitat is well worth the patience required.


Friday afternoon ended up turning out to be our most productive hunt of the entire week.  Around 4 pm we had a group of does make their way out of the bedding area we were set up so close to.  As soon as exited from the bedding area they began feeding on white oak acorns about 70 yards north of our stand.  I knew that the longer they fed on those acorns, the less our chances would be of being able to harvest one of these deer.  I’ve learned the longer you have deer around your stand that aren’t in bow range, the less chance you will have of shooting them.  We’d been given a steady dose of South, Southwest Winds that afternoon; however, after 45 minutes of those feeding on acorns the winds shifted out of the east and they busted us, just as they were begin to make their way past our climbers.  It was a tough break to catch, but it was an exciting encounter nonetheless.  Just a heart-pounding, close encounter was all I really needed to call my trip home a success in terms of hunting.  My brother and I hunted hard Saturday from the same location, but high winds only resulted in us seeing a couple spikes harassing a doe in the morning, and a solid 2 year old 8 pointer in the afternoon.  Just as quickly as my hunting trip back home started, it was over.

One of the several scrapes we found littered throughout our hunting property.  We knew the big bucks were there, we just couldn't pull it off!  Bowhunting during the second week of rifle season proved to be quite a challenge, but I have no regrets taking my bow hunting rather than my rifle.

A view of one our Imperial Whitetail Clover Food Plots.  We planted this plot in early August and despite a lack of consistent rainfall, the food plot has flourished.  I am really looking forward to how it goes back next spring!


I wasn’t able to harvest a deer on my home property in Bath County, Virginia, but I had an incredible time at home nonetheless.  We manage those 260 acres of paradise very intensely and our food plots were doing exceptionally well, the timber was littered with scrapes and rubs and throughout the course of the week between my dad, my brother and me, we all several young bucks that made it through the rifle season and will be shooters next year.  But, of course, the best part was spending time with my family over the Thanksgiving holiday and enjoying quality time together.  Christmas will be here before you know it and I am anxiously looking forward to returning home to the Virginia Mountains and hunting late season whitetails with my family!

 




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