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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!

Persistence Pays - Big Buck Down in Virginia

by Cody Altizer 5. December 2011 17:24
Cody Altizer

Disclaimer: Okay, let me preface this blog by stating that, like my previous blog, this blog is dedicated to another gun kill.  Yes, obviously this is a bowhunting website, but I (and many of our other staff members as well) equally enjoy taking to the woods every fall with rifle and/or muzzleloader.  After all, we are all hunters and we must support one another, regardless of choice of weapon.  Disclaimer over, read on for the actual blog!

Quite frankly, this has been one of the slowest, most frustrating hunting seasons I have ever been a part of.  I went into this season more prepared and more excited than I had ever gone into a previous season.  Food plots were prepped and planted in the spring and maintained throughout the summer.  Stands were hung during the dog days of summer, and my Mathews was shooting darts.  I was ready to rock n’ roll! 

Here is one of literally hundreds of photos I got of High n' Tight after the season last year.  He certainly wasn't shy as a 2 year old, but it's funny how a whitetail wises up between their second and third birthday.  During the spring, summer and fall, he became a ghost.

I had trail camera photos of two different bucks I was going to be on the lookout for.  The first was a 4 year old buck we had decided to call Clyde.  He was a mainframe 10, and the best we could tell from trail camera photos he would score close to 150 inches.  The second buck, and quite honestly, the buck I thought I would have the best chance at shooting, was a buck nicknamed High n’ Tight.  High n’ Tight was a frequent visitor to our food plots last winter as a 2 year old, and I was excited about hunting him this season as a 3 year old.  His brow tines were high and tight (hence the nickname) and we had over 100 photos of him feeding in our food plots.  He was so visible in our food plots and on trails to and from bedding areas, that I was sure I would get a crack at him early this season.

High n' Tight on his way back to bed in early February.  I searched for hours on end for his sheds, but to no avail.

Unfortunately, as you may have read here, my season got off to a rocky start immediately.  I regrouped after my opening day misfortune, and hunted relatively hard the entire month of October.  As you may have read in my previous blog, I hunted mostly afternoons near food sources as to not pressure a certain buck I had my eyes on.  As the month of October neared its end and November quickly approaching, I was excited about the thought of hunting rutting whitetails.   I had plenty of food available on the property; the deer I would be hunting hadn’t been pressured, and rubs and scrapes and were popping up over night on trails leading to and from bedding areas.  My goal this season was to hunt exclusively with my bow.  I knew it would be tempting to swap the bow for my muzzleloader or rifle once their respective seasons came in, but I wanted, no, needed, to harvest a buck with my this year.  It would be fantastic to harvest a 3 year old buck with my bow in the mountains I hunt, and I was going to be relentless in my pursuit of that goal.

By the time November rolled around, I was a lot like the bucks that were maxed out on testosterone at the same time, it was go time!  Clyde had been captured several times on trail camera, but High n’ Tight was nowhere to be found.  He was so visible during the winter, I simply couldn’t believe he just up and vanished.  Was he poached during the summer?  Did he establish a new home range?  Had Clyde scared him completely out of the state of Virginia?  I was pretty disappointed that the buck I thought I had the best chance of shooting had completely disappeared.

High n' Tight with his older brother, Clyde in January of this year.  I actually didn't know it was Clyde until my brother shot him in early November.  A small cut in his left ear let me know that it was in fact him in this photo.

Nevertheless, on November 1st I checked my Stealth Cam that was overlooking one of my mock scrapes on a field edge, and it revealed Clyde had visited just two days prior.  The next day I took down my Lone Wolf Assault and sticks, packed it on my back and moved it a half mile east to the location of the mock scrape.  The next morning I was 15 yards from that mock scrape and ready to arrow Clyde at 15 yards.  That morning was an exciting morning to be on stand to say the least.  I didn’t see Clyde, but I did see a handful of does and had a close encounter with another one of my target bucks, a tall racked 8 pointer I call Mr. Two Bits.  I have quite a bit of history with Mr. Two Bits, including still photos and video footage of him in velvet in July, and a handful of trail camera photos of him throughout September and October.  He walked out past me at 60 yards, but he busted me as I was trying to get my camera situated and get some footage of him.  So close!  I got down that morning optimistic about what the rest of the month would hold, but I was oblivious to the tough hunting I was about to endure.

In the following weeks I got served a huge dose of bowhunting reality.  The weather for bowhunting the rut was simply terrible.  The following weather pattern repeated itself for almost the entire month: three days of rain, a day of high winds, and then warming temperatures until the next storm system blew in bringing more rain.  It was incredibly frustrating, but I kept hunting hard.  In fact, I was hunting harder than ever.  My Lone Wolf Sit and Climb and I got to be exceptionally close, and I took down and moved my Lone Wolf Assault at least 6 times during a span of 10 days when I thought the bucks would be rutting the hardest.  My efforts were futile.  The terrible weather partnered with a full moon in mid-November and forced me to go deer less on more hunts that I would care to admit.  My brother shot Clyde on November the 12th with his muzzleloader, but that was the only buck activity we experienced the first couple weeks of November.  Exhausted, I took a handful of days off from hunting to get a change of scenery, recharge my batteries and get re-focused for the second half of the month.

My Mathews Z7 Xtreme and Lone Wolf Assault and Sticks at the ready.  I logged a lot of stand time with this combo during October and November.

My first hunt after my vacation from hunting was a lot like the first two weeks of November.  Dumping rains kept me in bed the morning of November 17th, and I elected to get in my stand around noon to see if I could catch any bucks up on their feet before the high winds moved.  At 12:45 I heard a deer running behind me to the east and quickly threw up my Leupold Acadia’s to see what causing the commotion.  Shooter buck!  I counted 10 points, good tine length and estimated the buck to score around 130 inches.  Unfortunately, he was downwind of me and a little jittery with the blustery winds.  I wanted so badly to throw him a couple of contact grunts to gauge his interest and aggressiveness, but thought better of it.  Being downwind, he would pick me off in a heartbeat.  Helpless, I spent the better part of 5 minutes glassing him out through my binoculars.  I saw a good right main beam, and 4 tall tines shooting into the air.  He was a great buck, but I had to watch him turn around and trot off in the direction from which he came.  I’m not sure if he winded me, or was more interested in some does.  Nevertheless, I settled back in and enjoyed another deerless afternoon. 

I checked a trail camera on the way out that afternoon and was excited to find a lot of good deer, including a couple shooters moving through the area.  I keep a running file of all the bucks I have gotten on trail camera over the years, and as I copied the new entries into the “Bucks” file, I couldn’t help but notice High n’ Tight.  I had honestly forgotten about him because Clyde and Mr. Two Bits had stolen my attention the majority of the season.  As I sifted through the 50 photos that I kept of him, I couldn’t help but smile.  He was quite the clueless little two year old, who seemed to enjoy having his picture taken.  He was never far from the camera and offered several good looks of his rack, almost as if to say, “Look at me, Cody!  Just think of how big I will be next year!”  I laughed to myself and shut off the computer.

This photo was snapped after I hung my Lone Wolf in some of the nastiest cover on our property.  Warm temperatures and a full moon forced me to get right in the deer's bedroom.

My luck over the next week never improved.  One hunt, I forgot my binoculars.  The next, my safety harness.  Yes, my safety harness.  Don’t worry, I dropped my gear and made the long walk back to camp and put it on before returning to my stand.  I simply couldn’t catch a break.  The bad weather ensued, but I kept pushing on.  I continued to move my stands trying to get closer to the bucks I was chasing.  That plan, like my others, failed me.  There were many instances where I would move my stand from location “a’ to location “b” only to have deer walking right by the tree where my stand was hung at location “a.”  It got quite comical at times, but I couldn’t convince myself that I wasn’t going to catch a break sooner or later.  Fortunately, it proved to be sooner.

The morning of November 26th found me perched in one of my favorite stands.  In fact, it was in this stand that I shot my first deer ever when I was 6 years old.  It was creatively called, “Cody’s Stand” and is a great stand to not only see deer from, but watch the woods wake up as the sun rises.  About 8:00 the sun is high enough in the sky to just barely peak over the mountain to the South of me, and you can literally watch the sun rays shoot through the tall pines in front of the stand.  The frost dances in the forest openings, and I have never seen a deer look so pretty in the sun when they cross a trail 60 yards in front of my stand.  It's poetic.

Like always, I was in my stand over an hour before first light.  With plenty of time to spare, I tightened up my safety harness (I remembered it this time) and took a nice nap.  Getting up at 4:15 in the morning got harder and harder to do with each passing day during November, and these naps weren’t uncommon.  I have an incredible internal clock, and wanted to sleep not a minute past 6:30.  Sure enough, I woke up, checked my watch and it read 6:28.  I was alive, refreshed and ready to hunt!

Sweet November had finally arrived!  Unfortunately, the bucks didn't get the memo until later in the month.

It was a beautiful morning.  It was cold, calm and clear.  The sun had yet to rise, but there was enough light to make out my surroundings.  I was situated halfway between 1 acre of clover, 1 acre of turnips and a known buck bedding area.  The wind was out of the South.  I was expecting to see deer working their way in front of me walking East to West (left to right) back to bed after feeding in the food plots the previous night.  Right at 7:00 am I saw a flicker of movement about 100 yards to my south east.  There is a painfully annoying autumn olive bush at that exact location that always looks like a deer moving with the breeze blows, so I assumed that was what caused my heart to skip a beat.  Wait a minute, why is that autumn olive bush walking?  Bam, it’s a deer.  Up go my Leupold’s and I see a good buck coming my way.  He stops and I have just a couple seconds to determine he has a great rack but wasn’t a big bodied deer.  Just like that, he had disappeared into the timber and I lost him.  He was coming from my turnip food plot, and I was confident he would walk the trail 60 yards right in front of my stand, but I had a decision to make.  Is he a shooter?  He had a beautiful set of antlers, but wasn’t a big bodied deer.  I had to make up my mind.  I decided, “If he takes this trail right in front of my stand, I am taking this deer!”

There was only one problem; I still couldn’t find him in the thick timber!  I was looking frantically with my binoculars, but just couldn’t find him.  Finally, I wised up and let my ears find him for me.  I heard consistent footsteps and my eyes trusted my ears and I spotted him walking on the trail that would take him right in front of my stand.  He was in a hurry to get back to his bed, so I quickly grabbed my rifle, waited for him to walk into my shooting lane and stopped him with a soft grunt.  He threw his head up in my direction, and I settled the crosshairs right behind his shoulder.  My rifle rang out, and I saw him buckle up hard before racing straight down below my stand.  I knew he was hit, and hit hard, so I obviously started talking to myself, “That buck is hit hard, that buck is hit hard!”  I had just lost sight of him when I thought I had heard and saw him fall, but I just couldn’t tell.  I welcomed the shakes and adrenaline rush, removed my lucky orange beanie, stuffed it in my pocket, and took a deep breath.  

I texted my brother and dad saying, “Just took a shot on a good buck.  Think I made a good hit, didn’t see him go down.”  My brother responded, “Can I come up?!”  I replied, “Yes, but take your time.  I held right on the heart and he buckled up pretty good, just didn’t see him go down.”  I sent that text at 7:21, no more than 20 minutes later my brother was underneath my stand.  He was just as excited as I was.   

Persistence pays! I was finally able to catch up with High n' Tight the morning of November 25th.

I knew exactly where he was standing, so my brother and I went to recover my blood.  There was blood all over the place at the point of impact.  I’m surprised I didn’t break my brother’s hand when I gave him a fist pound and blurted, “That’s what I am talking about!”  He now calls me Stan Potts, go figure. 

I saw High n' Tight's right main beam a little over a week prior to me taking him.  Having history with a buck you eventually end up harvesting is a sweet feeling!

We took our time following the trail, and as I peaked up over the small hill where I last saw him, there he lay.  I saw a gorgeous right main beam with 4 tall tines, the same buck that slipped past me just a week before!  I walked up to him, lifted his head, looked him over in admiration and was surprised yet again, it was High n’ Tight!  The tall, sharp brow tines gave him away.  I immediately looked up at my brother, who was filming the recovery, and just stared at him blankly.  The buck that I thought I had the best chance at shooting this year, had evaded all 6 of my trail cameras, managed to hide from me all season despite my best efforts and nearly snuck by me again.  

Meet High n' Tight, my biggest buck to date, and the deer I am most proud of!

My dad got down out of his stand early, met my brother and in the frosty timber where High n’ Tight fell, and we celebrated like only a father/son hunting team can.  My brother graciously took a couple hundred photos of me and High n’ Tight, and we taped him out at 126 7/8”, my biggest buck to date, and quite frankly the buck I am most proud of.  I hunt harder than the majority of the guys I know.  The amount of time and effort I spend in preparation, hanging stands, trimming lanes, moving stands, mock scraping, food plotting, etc. is mind boggling, and it would have been easy for me to give in after the rough start to the season I endured and chalk it up to bad luck, but I stayed persistent, kept my nose to the grind stone just waiting for something good to happen, and it did.  I’m still amazed at the irony with High n’ Tight.  I had ran 6 trail cameras all summer and fall, hunted countless stands, moved those stands and moved them again trying to find this guy.  All the while, he was feeding in the same food plot the night before I shot him that he was so visible in from January to March.  

After countless hours of preparation, scouting and time in the stand, giving Thanks is the most appropriate way to honor and give respect to the animal.

This buck, and this hunting season really, also means a lot to me on an emotion level.  My brother, and hunting partner, Damin, will be getting married next spring, and while we’ll still get hunt with each other, our brotherly relationship will take a back seat to him starting a family, as it should.  My brother was right alongside me the majority of this hunting season, which to us began back in January, the day the 2010 season went out.  We shed hunted together, planted the food plots together, hung and moved stands together and, like the previous 20 years of our lives, we were inseparable.  It made for a special season that we each got to be in the woods when the other shot the biggest buck of his life.  To add to the irony, High n’ Tight and Clyde actually grouped up and ran together after the 2010 season.  Where there was one, there was the other.  In the food plots, traveling on trails, they trusted each other. They were, ironically, inseparable.  Just like my brother and I.  Who would have thought that two lucky brothers would be so fortunate to harvest such awesome whitetails that were, in a very real sense, brothers as well?

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.

Hunting Food Plots: Experiences and Lessons Learned

by Cody Altizer 15. October 2011 11:38
Cody Altizer

If you have followed my blog with any regularity over the last several months, you are surely aware of the time, effort and enthusiasm I have poured into my food plots preparing them for the upcoming deer season.  I have planted food plots regularly since 2007 and achieved good results, but this hunting season was going to be the first season I would spend considerable time actually hunting the plots.  Whether it is hunting directly over the plot, hunting a man made funnel designed to push the deer past my stand on their way to feed for the afternoon, or hunting trails and runways hundreds of yards off the food plots trying to intercept the deer returning to their beds in the morning, I was excited.  Well, after three hunts hunting the situations above, I am here to share my experiences and the lessons learned from each hunt.   

Preparing a food plot for hunting purposes is a process that began way back in February when my brother, dad and I made a man made funnel to push the deer by my stand on their way to the food plot.  The following month I frost seeded my clover food plots to give it a head start when spring’s warmth would kickoff the growing the season.  It continued into the summer months with regular mowing to keep the weeds controlled and to ensure that the plot stays healthy and attractive to deer.  Finally, as summer burned away into fall, I plated an additional strip of turnips and oats along the timber line of my food plots to provide some variety and increase shot opportunities should I decide to hunt directly over the plot.  The day prior to opening day two weeks ago, I sat in my hunting camp a couple hundred yards off my favorite plot and observed for two hours over 20 deer feed feverishly on the green clover.  I was excited and ready to hunt!  

By hunting smart and analyzing the situation from a distance, I was better able to determine when was the best time to sneak in for the kill.  Now, if I could only figure out the "kill" part...

Opening morning I elected to go to one of my better stands located some 300 yards east of my clover and turnip food plots.  With a West-Northwest wind, I would be downwind of the food plots and would hopefully catch the deer returning to their bed after feeding in the food plots during the night.  My planned worked to perfection, as I had a perfect shot opportunity on a doe at 15 yards, but I made a poor shot on her and never recovered her.  Despite my poor shooting, I believe that shot opportunity is a direct result of the food plots.  Having a food source, in this case located in the center of my property, is extremely advantageous because it increases traffic of both bucks and does on my entire property.  Equally important in this case is how my property is structured regarding the planting locations of the two food plots.   There are known bedding areas around the food plots and there is great edge cover surrounding the food plots allowing the deer to quickly find refuge should danger approach.  I’m also able to enter and exit my stands downwind without being detected.  Being centrally located pulls deer off neighboring properties and keeps them on my property longer.  However, if there weren’t adequate cover around the food plot or bedding areas nearby, the deer wouldn’t feel as secure using my food plots. When planting food plots for hunting purposes, consider your property layout and how the surrounding terrain and prevailing wind direction can impact your hunts.

I spent the entire afternoon on opening day looking for the doe I shot that morning, so I wasn’t able to hunt that afternoon.  The following Monday, however, I climbed into my Lone Wolf stand with a good feeling about the afternoon hunt.  Temperatures were in the low 50s with a stiff breeze out of the West, perfect for this particular location.  I was tucked back in the timber off my clover plot 40 yards sitting right at the pinch I had worked so hard on during the winter.  I snuck into my stand around 2:30 knowing the deer would be moving earlier in the day with the cold front blowing through.  Every 10 minutes or so I would check the wind direction to make sure it stayed true out of the West.  It was beautifully constant.  A little after 5 o’clock I went ahead and stood up to prepare myself for primetime movement and ready myself for a shot.  The deer I was hunting hadn’t been pressured and had been using the trail I was set up over every afternoon routinely. 

Just like any hunting situation, playing close attention to the wind is critically important.  When hunting food plots, this is no different.

 Just as I had stood up I felt a cooling sensation on my face, the same cooling sensation that relaxes and eases the stress of all hunters while on stand; a nice cool breeze.  There was only one problem, that breeze was out of the East, my stomach sank.  Almost immediately I heard deer blowing in all directions west of my location.  I was busted.  The winds shifted and my hunt was ruined.  I heard deer stomping and blowing like crazy no more than 60 yards from my stand.  After I knew they were gone for good, I immediately got down out of the stand with an hour and half of daylight left.  There was no sense is stinking up the spot.  I exited the area and headed back to camp frustrated.  Another seemingly “perfect” opportunity missed.  

The lesson learned here is simple; food plot hunting isn’t immune to swirling winds.  It’s misconceived that when you hunt food plots, the deer aimlessly walk out into your food plot and you shoot them.  Sometimes if you are lucky, you might shoot two.  That’s how it goes on the television shows after all, right?  I needed a West wind to hunt that pinch and I got it.  Unfortunately, 10 minutes of swirling winds blew that hunt for me.  Fortunately, my confidence was restored as I watched from afar 6 does and a handful of yearling bucks feed in that food plot during the last hour of daylight.  Getting down before I did any further damage proved to be the right move.  

The day after my wind swirling fiasco, I took down my Lone Wolf and tucked it into a red maple on an inside corner right on the edge of the clover where deer enter and exit the field.  I wasn’t completely confident with the cover I had back in the timber, and since the deer had busted me, I wanted to keep them guessing.  I had initially considered hanging the stand in the maple during the summer, but decided to go deeper in the timber next to my funnel.  Having a “back-up” tree picked out before the season starts can prove to be a wise decision if you get busted from your first stand choice.  I had taken down, moved my stand 100 yards east and had it hung all in less than 30 minutes.  That simply would not have been possible without my Lone Wolf Alpha and Sticks, and it allowed me plenty of time to cool off before the afternoon sit.  I was happy with my new stand choice as it provided me with ample cover and two shooting lanes at 15 yards.  It would be impossible for the deer to see me until it’s too late, or at least that’s the plan.

The temperatures had warmed to the mid 70s by this point but I was confident I would see deer activity before dark.  In fact, I watched with frustration and a feeling of “can’t I catch a break?” as deer fed on my turnips to the south of me out of range. They weren’t supposed to touch those until the first frost!  Ah, the joys of high deer densities, I guess. Nevertheless, I knew deer would feed in the clover before too long.  At 6:00, just like clockwork, 7 does came running out of the timber to feed on the clover.  Literally, they were running.  I think they were actually more invested in an afternoon of tag and chase than they were feeding because for 10 minutes they chased each other back and forth in the clover.  It was fun to watch, and reassuring because these were likely the same deer that had busted me just days prior.  They still felt completely safe feeding during the daytime, which made me feel good.  

My Lone Wolf Alpha and Sticks allow me to stay mobile, keep the deer guessing and keep my best areas fresh.

At one point one of the larger does got irritated and came within 20 yards of my stand, but a branch prevented a shot.  The younger does kept chasing each other back and forth, in and out of the timber, back into the plot and back out again for another 10 minutes or so until a yearling buck decided that the game his sisters was playing looked like fun.  There must have been a “no boys allowed” clause in the rule, because the does quickly became agitated with the young buck and fled the food plot entirely.  I got down with about 10 minutes of light left when there were no longer any deer in the field and snuck back to camp.  I came close again, but wasn’t able to harvest a deer and it was an enjoyable hunt nonetheless.  

That hunt reinforced a strategy that I don’t think enough hunters employ, being mobile.  Just days before that hunt nearly every deer in the area knew they were being hunted due to the swirling winds.  However, by staying flexible, and having a back up tree in mind, I was able to buy myself another hunt on that plot within just a couple of days by keeping the deer guessing.  Deer are very instinctive animals, but I am convinced they aren’t good problem solvers.  If you get lazy and educate the deer to your location, you’re opportunities will be limited.  However if you can keep them guessing by staying mobile, keeping areas fresh and hunting the wind correctly, the deer will continue to feel comfortable feeding in your food plot during daytime hours.

I had three hunts game planned around my food plots during the first week of the season, but wasn’t able to harvest a deer.  I haven’t hunted since last Thursday and likely won’t hunt again until next Wednesday, so I am anxious to get back in stand with the cooler temperature and better moon phases.  I wish I could have called this blog: “How To:  Successful Food Plot Hunting Strategies” but that simply wouldn’t be the case, because I haven’t been successful yet.  The season is still young, and the cooler temperatures will hopefully drive the deer to the carbohydrate rich food plots.  Stay tuned to my blog throughout the season to see if my food plots will pay dividends as the season progresses!

 

Final Food Plot Preparations and Whitetail Photography

by Cody Altizer 25. August 2011 11:06
Cody Altizer

I hate this time of year.  Late August and early September to me is like Christmas Eve to a 5 year old youngster ready to jump on mom and dad’s bed the minute they wake up on Christmas morning.  So close, yet so far away.  What I enjoy most in my simplistically complex world is about to begin so, so soon: college football, the fall season, but more importantly the start of another bowhunting season.  This last stretch is brutal, because I can see myself sitting in an opening day stand, but it’s all a little blurry still.  However, the days are getting shorter, the nights are getting cooler and I’ve just spent the final month prepping my final food plots and getting a gauge on the caliber of deer in my area.  It won’t be long folks, it won’t be long…

I am counting on these oats to provide a consistent and reliable food source this fall.

My food plot season has been very erratic this year so far.  If you are a follower of my blogs, you read back in May how exceptionally well my clover was doing.  With spring rains and warm nights, it had grown to lush 17 inches in height and the deer couldn’t eat it down if they tried.  Fast forward to mid-August, and my clover was on the brink of exhaustion.  As deer farmers across the country are well aware, this summer has been brutally hot and dry, and West Central Virginia was no exception.  From July 4th to August 15th, we went without a drop of rain.  And when I say not a drop of rain, I don’t mean a trace here or there, I mean zero drops of water touched my food plots.  Still, there was a respectable amount of Imperial Clover in the plot, but it was hurting badly.

Quality fertilizer will give your food plots an added boost!

I still had to get my fall food plots planted, though.  So, with on August 14th my dad and I got the tractor, seeder and spreader ready to plant our fall plots.  There was rain in the forecast so we going to take advantage of a sunny Sunday and trust the weatherman.  We had a lot of success last year broadcasting oats, turnips and rape so I stuck with that combination again this year.  I manned the hand seeder and dad hopped on the ATV with the spreader and we got our seeds in the ground in no time, although we were both a bit dusty.  The next step was to throw down some fertilizer to give the crops a boost once they germinated and hopefully taste a little bit sweeter to the deer this fall.  The final step, a step that is critical for all food plotters and one I feel they often neglect, pray for rain.   And rain it did!  That night and into the morning we got a slow steady soaking rain, the perfect rain to get those seeds germinated and growing in no time!  The following afternoon we received another good soaking and I, along with the wildlife in West Central Virginia all took a deep breath and gave Thanks.

What's bare earth now will hopefully be loaded with turnips, rape and oats here soon!

The moisture we received from those rains should be enough to shock my clover plots back to life, and get my fall plots off and running.  Provided we get average rainfall (and I type this with my fingers cross, pretty talented, eh?) my plots should be alive and well come October 1st.  I have never had a consistent, reliable food source on my property during the hunting season, but I am confident I will this season.  Despite the harsh weather this summer, I stand by my prediction that I will shoot a whitetail opening day.  While a specific stand hasn’t been decided on (why can’t the wind blow from the North West all the time?) I will either shoot a buck or doe going back to bed after a nightly feeding in my food plots during a morning hunt, or arrow one on their way to snack during the afternoon.  It will happen.

I was also able to get out and snap some photos on the deer on my property as well.  I’ve had my worst summer ever running trail cameras, but I had a little bit more luck with my Canon 7D.  I was able to get some decent photos of a couple does and a young 8 pointer making his way to feed in a hay field one afternoon.  If outdoor photography is something that interests you, let me recommend Cambell Cameras to you.  They have everything the aspiring outdoor photographer and videographer could want or need.  Enjoy the photos!

This doe already has it figured out and the season is still over a month away!

I intercepted this buck on his way to a freshly cut hay field for an afternoon snack.  I still haven't made up my mind if I would shoot this buck or not?

Over the years my family and I have done a good job of keeping doe numbers in check, but each year brings new opportunities to harvest does.  Hopefully, I'll get an opportunity at one opening day!

As close as I am to sitting in a tree stand, I still have over a month to wait.  That’s a harsh reality that I, and many of you out there, must accept.  True, it will be here be we know it, but that doesn’t make that time go by any quicker.  Think of it this way, after reading this blog, you are that much closer to your opening day.  

Hanging Deer Stands and Glassing for Velvet Bucks

by Cody Altizer 23. July 2011 15:24
Cody Altizer

This coming fall will be my seventh season bowhunting for whitetails, and I have learned quite a bit about the sport during that time, and still have a lot to learn.  One thing I have learned is that there are no certainties in the whitetail woods.  That being said, however, I have come to expect a peak in anticipation for the upcoming season during mid to late July, and this year is no different.  While the recent country wide heat wave will do it’s best to prove otherwise, I feel the onset of autumn more and more with each passing day.  Fortunately, I was able to spend a couple days on my property in Virginia last week prepping for the quickly approaching season.


I was excited about the possibility of pegging a potential shooter this fall while glassing a couple weeks.  Unfortunately, all I saw was does.  Maybe next time!

 My trip home was short lived, so I had to make the very most of time in the woods.  I arrived in Virginia during the middle of the afternoon on Wednesday the 13th, and immediately went glassing for bucks.  I have permission to glass and shoot photos on a neighboring property, so I made the quick drive down the road and set prepared to enjoy a hot summer afternoon.  The evening came and went with no bucks spotted.  I did, however, see 10-15 does feeding the hayfields I was glassing, but they were a good 300 yards away and I wasn’t able to snap any photos or record any video.  Alas, such is life!


I was able to snap a photo of this doe as she effortlessly jogged through the tall grass.  I was particularly offended by her taunting me by sticking her tongue out at me as she ran to safety.  Hopefully, this won't be a recurring theme this fall!

The next day, also my last day home, would be spent hanging stands.  I had 5 Lone Wolf stands I wanted to get hung, and was able to get all 5 of them hung in a day’s time.  I was pretty proud of myself, but I have been hunting this piece of property for what will be my 16th season, so I know my away around the woods pretty well.  Now, if I could just figure out how to kill these mountain bucks; but, I digress.  After I hung my stands and got my shooting lanes trimmed out, I wanted to check on my food plots.  If you have followed my blog and Bowhunt or Die episodes throughout the offseason, you know how excited I have been about a particular clover food plot and its impact on my hunting this coming fall.  Well, I must admit that the key to my success was taking a hit as of a week ago, and is likely in even worse shape as we speak.  July has been an abnormally hot and dry month in Virginia, and what was once a thick, green jungle of clover is quickly getting eaten to the ground by the deer and burnt up by the heat.  There is still a good bit of clover, and given the conditions it has provided a nutritious and consistent food source all summer, but it sure could use a drink of water!  You hear that Rain gods?  I am talking to you!


My Lone Wolf stand sitting in a tree between a bedding area and a clover food plot; how many more days until opening day?!

After an exhausting day hanging stands and looking over my food plots, I was anxious to get home and check the trail cameras I had placed over my Monster Raxx minerals.  To my disappointment, I only had shooter buck visit the minerals, but it looks as if he will be quite a dandy.  The photo was snapped in mid-June and he was already a main frame 10 with some junk around his bases and something funky growing on his right main beam.  I am hoping to get another picture of this buck and hopefully have the chance to put my tag on him this fall!

My clover went from this...

... to this, all in a matter of two months!  It really is amazing what a lack of rain can do to your food plots!

Unfortunately, my trip home was short lived.  I really had only one goal while I was home, and that was to get my stands hung without disturbing the deer too much; a goal I feel I accomplished.  I will be returning to Virginia in a few short weeks so I can begin work on my fall food plots.  Then after that, all that is left to do is continue shooting my Mathews and count down the days until the season starts.  I am sure I say this every year, but I have literally never been more excited about a hunting season than I am this one.  I can’t wait to document my entire season on video and through photography, so be sure to follow my blogs throughout the season.  God Bless and happy hunting everyone!


With a little over two months remaining until the opening day of Virginia's archery season, all I have left to do is a little food plotting, and a lot of dreaming, particularly of this big boy!  October 1st, October 1st...

Summer Bowhunting Preparations and Activities

by Todd Graf 2. June 2011 05:50
Todd Graf

As the month of May slowly burns away into June, I can’t help but think that the hunting season begins in just three and a half months.  Before I know it, I will be sitting in a tree in my swamp property of Wisconsin waiting for a mature buck to make the fatal mistake of wandering by my position.  That being said, there is still a lot of work to be done before I can convince myself I am ready for another season, and I am looking forward to an exciting and eventful summer. 

The cool, rainy weather we have had here in the Midwest has been great for my clover and chicory plots!

One of my favorite offseason activities is prepping food plots and other habitat management projects for the upcoming season.  My ultimate goal is to provide the whitetails that visit my property with enough food sources that they don’t need to leave my property.  It may sound like a losing battle, but I welcome the challenge!

These apple trees are only in their second year of growth, however, they are growing beautifully.  Once they begin to produce fruit they will provide another food source for the deer on my property.

The cool rainy weather has been perfect for my clover and chicory plots so far this spring; a few spots measured over 20 inches of growth!  I hate to have to mow it this week, with it looking so beautiful, but it is the best option for weed control.  This time of year also means corn planting time in the Midwest.  When it comes to late season food plot attraction, it’s tough to beat corn.  My corn plots got absolutely hammered last winter during the late season.  The deer are worn down for the rut and crave the carbohydrate rich kernels of corn that keep their bodies warm during the winter cold!  I have also been very pleased with the apple trees I had planted.  They are now in their second year of growth and have almost doubled their size.  

Here I am getting ready to plant my corn.  I can't wait for the late season when the deer will really hit my corn plots hard!

Despite the fact that I killed this field with Round Up and most of the grass was dead, the ground was still pretty hard and the corn was not getting into the ground.  I made a few adjustments and was back in business!  Persistence pays!

This time of year is also my favorite time to get out in the backyard and fling some arrows.  Just recently, I have taken the time to get my little man, Craig, involved in the sport of archery.  If you have little ones that are interested in bowhunting or archery, I strongly recommend you look into the Mathews line of kids bows.  From Mathews to Mission Archery to the Genesis line of bows, they have the flexibility and specifications to get your kids started bowhunting.  With the number of kids hunting decreasing every year, it is important that we get our youth involved in the sport we love so much so that one day they may experience the rush and thrill of deer hunting!

Here's my little man, Craig, getting set up with his new Mathews Craze!

Craig was having a little trouble pulling back the Craze, so I ordered the Mathews Menace.  The Craze was a great bow, but the specs on the Menace fit Craig better physically.  At this point, it is all about keeping Craig interested and having fun!

I first set up Craig with the Mathews Craze, but the draw length was about two inches too long and Craig was having to lean back to hold up the weight, so I decided to go ahead and order the Mathews Menace.  The Craze was a great bow, however, with adjustable draw lengths anywhere from 15-70 pounds and 80% let-off; it can be enjoyed by beginner archers or all skills and age levels.  The Menace weighs about .6 pounds lighter than the Craze and the draw length is two inches shorter than the Craze, so it fits Craig much better physically which will allow for a better overall experience.  But above all else, the goal is to make sure that he is having fun!

Bowhunting.com Staff members Richie Music and Tom Alford also came over for a friendly bow shooting competition.  We enjoyed a day of dialing in our Mathews and preparing for the upcoming Bowhunting.com Get Together and Bow Shoot at Coon Creek Hunt Club in Garden Prairie, Illinois.  This is going to be our biggest and best shoot yet, and I encourage everyone who is able to make it to come out and enjoy a fun day of shooting, prizes, food and beverages.  If you are looking for more information, visit this link which will direct you to our forum where you will find all the information you need.  Every one is welcome hope to see every one of you there!

A shot of my backyard practice range.  

Here I am prepping for the 3rd Annual Bowhunting.com Get Together and Bow Shoot.  I think that would kill a turkey, don't you?

Richie's last shot before he lost the competition to Tom and I.  Now he owes us a pizza!

Richie just couldn't pull it off after 4 shots.  Oh well, stick to hunting those giant sub-urban whitetails, Richie!

To makes things interesting we spiced up our shooting with a little competition, and my buddy Richie Music came out on the losing end.  He may be an expert when it comes to shooting giant bucks from the same tree stand, but he was no match for me and Tom!  He was unable to shoot the Rinehart target in the head above the red line at 30 yards, so he has to buy both Tom and I a pizza!  Better luck next time, Richie!  

Before we all know it we’ll bow hunting our favorite spots in the bitter cold of sweet November.  It’s an exciting thought, but be sure you enjoy yourself this summer.  Get a kid involved in archery or have your buddies over to the house for a night of shooting and friendly competition; it’s equally as rewarding as harvesting that mature buck you’ve been patterning!  Okay, maybe not, but it does make the summer go by more quickly! 

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.  

Early Season Whitetails and Food Plots

by Cody Altizer 31. August 2010 08:49
Cody Altizer

As the Dog Days of summer begin to dwindle down to the early stages of fall, so my excitement and enthusiasm for the opening day of bow season rises.  As if it could rise any higher!  Opening day for some is just weeks away, but for most of us we still have to wait until October to ascend into our favorite early season tree.  Regardless, we will all be bowhunting for whitetails before we know it.
    The early season is one of my favorite times to bowhunt.  The anticipation and uncertainty of a new season, coupled with the beautiful transition into fall, make any trip to the woods in October a successful one.  In fact, chances are that in the first two weeks, often the first couple days of a new season, we are presented with the best opportunity of harvesting a mature buck.  This year is no different with my fall food plots planted and thriving.  Also, 2010 has proven to be a banner year for many of the hard and soft mast producing species on my property.  The white oaks have produced an excellent crop of acorns which is important to my hunting success, as 90% of the 260 acres I hunt is mature timber.  Soft mast species such as apple trees and autumn olive groves have also produced a bountiful yield which can be early season hot spots as well.

Success during the early season often boils down to finding a favored food source.  Be on the look out for soft mast species, such as autumn olives, as they can be little honey holes.

      This fall I have 7 different food plots planted and all are in excellent condition heading into the hunting season.  I have two small hunting plots planted in Whitetail Institute’s Imperial Whitetail Clover.  These plots have been established for three years now.  Since their first planting in the spring of 2007, they’ve attracted and held many whitetails on my hunting property without having to be reseeded.  I do, however, frost seed them every late winter/early spring to increase the tonnage.  I also have an additional food plot, about one acre in size, planted in Whitetail Institute’s Extreme.  The soil in this particular plot is marginal at best, mostly composed of sand and clay, making it extremely difficult to grow my seed of choice, Whitetail Institute’s Imperial Whitetail CloverWhitetail Institute’s Extreme, however, has performed beautifully this spring and summer.  This chicory, clover, alfa-alfa, burnet blend established quickly in the spring and has grown tall, thick and lush all summer long, despite the poor soil conditions and record heat in Western Virginia.

Imperial Whitetail Clover has been my seed of choice when it comes to food plot planting since I began using it in 2007.  It's simply the best!

    Temperatures this summer in Virginia’s Mountain Valleys were scorching.  Daytime highs averaged over 90 degrees since late May, during which the mercury rose above 100 degrees 5 times, including three days consecutively!  This type of weather is abnormal for Western Virginia.  Still, my Whitetail Institute food plots not only survived but continued to grow and are strong and healthy heading into the hunting season.

Apples are another early season food source enjoyed by deer.  If you have apple trees, or any other fruit trees for that matter, they certainly warrant a hunt during the early season.

    My fall food plot planting is what has me the most excited.  In two separate locations, totaling almost to two acres, I sowed in some winter oats as part of a “dual plot.”  Fortunately, just days after I sowed the oats, we received steady rainfall and the oats germinated and took off quickly!  I then immediately sowed more Whitetail Institute’s Imperial Whitetail Clover to grow alongside the oats.  This all took place over a week and half in mid August and both plants are growing quickly.  I cannot be thankful enough for the ample, steady rainfall we have received.  Ideally, the oats will serve as a hardy, nutritious, attractive food source throughout the hunting season.  When next spring rolls around, the clover will have an established root system and flourish.  The final two food plots, totaling about 1 ½ acres, are made of turnips and rape.  Both plants, like the oats, germinate quickly and are easy to establish.  Fortunately, these plots are coming along great as well!

A close up shot of the young oats.  This food plot, which is also seeded with clover, will provide a reliable food source for the deer all season long.

    The past two seasons have made for difficult hunting for me primarily because of a lack of food reliable, consistent food source.  This fall is shaping up to be much, much different.  While the principal purpose of the food plots is to attract and hold deer while providing first-rate nutrition, they have the potential to make for exciting hunting opportunities this fall.  The topographical layout of 5 of the 7 food plots allow me to hunt downwind of the food plots with undetectable entry and exit routes.  The early season relationship between whitetails and acorns is undeniable as well.

When it comes to early season whitetails, it's hard to beat white oak acorns.  This particular tree is loaded with them!

    Bow season begins for the majority of us in just over a month and I’m eager to get in a tree with a bow.  However, I am equally excited about my new job opportunity.  From mid September through mid January I’ll be helping Todd and Justin out at the bowhunting.com office!  I’m excited about making the move to Northern Illinois.  Hopefully, I’ll make some new friends, enjoy a different culture, and help bring home some awesome footage of Todd and Justin throughout the season.  It’s going to be an exciting fall!

 

 

 

Food Plot Architecture 101

by John Mueller 21. June 2009 13:47
John Mueller

            Hunting deer around food plots has been going on for a long time. But planting the food plots specifically to make hunting them easier is fairly new to the bowhunting world. I think the Drury’s are one of the leaders when it comes to designing food plots specifically with bowhunting in mind. By planting certain crops next to one another they can somewhat predict where the deer will use the plots the most.

 

I plan on taking a few pages from the Drury’s book this year and see if I can make it work on my property.  I have constructed what I hope will be a 5 acre food plot that I can use to control the deer movement and set up in the right spot to bag  a couple of the big bucks that call my farm home. My field is located on top of ridge with many smaller ridges and ditches leading up to it with a lot of timber surrounding it. Last year I just had a couple of small plots in it, but this year I have the whole 5 acres planted and will be planting some fall plots later. The deer were very hard to pattern last year, they came from any direction. If I set up on one ridge where I saw them enter the field last time, they would enter the field 50 yards away the next time. So I really need to try and get them to be more predictable where they enter the field or be able to predict where they will end up once in the field. 

 

Here is a pic of my food plot with what I hope will be a killer design.

 

 

I marked up a picture of my food plot to show what I planted where.

 

1. The light green area in the very Northern corner and kind of in the middle of the plot is planted in Biologic Hot Spot. The deer really   

hammered this last fall.

2. The area outlined in dark green is planted in corn.

3. The area outlined in orange is a clover chickory mix.

4. The white areas are just clover.

5. The yellow is wheat.

6. The red is Antler King Red Zone.

7. The black is sunflowers and climbing beans.

8. The purple to the South is milo and millet.

9. The pink is where I plan on planting turnips this fall.

10. The red dots are either stands already there or spots cleared for climbers.

 

You notice I have my corn planted right next to my clover and have created some corners/funnels by doing this. The deer like to travel next to the security of the taller corn while feeding on the clover which will be one of the last green food sources in the fall. By creating these corners as ambush points I hope to up my odds of getting a bruiser in bow range.

If that strategy hasn't worked by late season I will have turnips planted where the red zone is and also in the Eastern end of the plot. Since I didn't have much luck intercepting the bucks back in the woods before they entered the field last season, I plan on setting up where the end up feeding in the field. By setting up with the wind coming off of the field and blowing my scent back into the woods(hopefully not where the deer enter from) I can let them come to me. Last year the deer really loved the turnips once the weather turned cold. First they ate the tops and then they finished off the bulbs.

 

I also plan to mow the wheat off and disc over it lightly. This should reseed the wheat and I'll have another green food source for the winter months. The deer really love something green to eat in the winter, and wheat will stay green right thru the coldest of winters.

I have also dug a small waterhole in a narrow point of the field. Late in the summer the small creek on my place dries up and I have no water supply to keep the deer there. So I dug 2 small water holes for the early season that may be the best spot to sit during the warm evenings in the early bow season.

 

 

One problem with hunting this field is entering and exiting the stand. I used to have to walk around the whole field to hunt the East side which spooked some deer getting there and especially leaving in the dark. You could hear deer blowing all around you walking out at night. So I created the red trail to get to the back side of the field without having to scare the deer out of the plot every time I hunted it.

Another thing I did along the Northwest edge of the field to funnel deer movement was to cut down a bunch of small trees and push them into piles along the field edge. I left a 10 yard opening at the end of a ridge to allow the deer access to the plot. If not hunted too ofen and with the right wind it could be a killer spot. You can see where this is by the white hash marks.

This is what some of the crops look like now. Most of this was planted on April 25 after I killed my turkey. It has really taken off since the weather heated up in the last couple of weeks. That combined with all of the rain lately is making for some good growing weather. Hopefully I can find the time to sit out there a few evenings soon and see what comes out for a bite.

 

Biologic Hot Spot.

 

Clover Chickory mix.

Clover planted next to taller corn, leading to one of my pinch point stands.

Milo and millet.

 

The corn is really putting on the growth right now.

Sunflowers and climbing beans should make good food and bedding cover.

Antler King Red Zone between the wheat and corn.

Hopefully I'll be making some posts this fall about how well my food plot architecture worked for me.

For more foodplot information check out www.foodplots.com

Plant in the Spring and Harvest in the Fall

by John Mueller 3. June 2009 13:55
John Mueller

That’s the plan anyway. This is my first year of serious food plotting in the spring and summer months. I planted a couple of plots last fall and saw just how effective they can be. Now I am trying to model my plots after what Mark and Terry Drury do, trying to position the deer where I want them in hunting circumstances.

The theory is that you can make the deer use your plots in a manner than allows you to position stands in areas where the deer will funnel thru and give you close range shots. This can be achieved by planting taller crops in the middle of the plot and shorter crops around the outside. The deer will like to move along the outside edge of the taller crop closer to the edge of the field and your stand.

Positioning of stands is critical when hunting around food plots. There will likely be many deer in the field at one time in different locations. What I like to do is pick a spot where I don’t think deer will enter the field and hang a stand there with food out in front of me. Then I hunt that stand with the wind blowing from the field into the woods behind me. Hopefully the deer will enter the field from another location and feed my direction and end up in front of me never having gotten downwind of my stand. By setting up opposite of where the deer enter the field, you can let the does walk by and wait for the buck to enter. If he is watching from back in the woods a ways and sees the does feeding unalarmed he just might come out a little earlier.

I feel by having year round food plots planted the deer will be used to feeding on my property and I won’t have to try and draw them away from farm fields once the season starts. If I can keep the bedded and feeding on my property during daylight hours there is a good chance that I will see them during hunting hours and the neighbors will be headed home by the time the deer make it to their property.

Right now I have a mixture of crops planted to give them a real variety that way there will always be something growing that the deer will be looking for. I have clover and a clover chickory mix planted in one section of my field.


Clover looking good.


Clover chickory mix getting tall.

In the middle of the clover I planted some corn, using the taller and shorter plan to push the deer to the outside edge of the field.

 
Some of the corn.

I also have a few seed mixes planted, Biologic Hot Spot is a mix of Wheat, Peas, and Buckwheat. If you haven’t planted Buckwheat before, you need to give it a try. My deer love it and it grows very fast and it grows very well in just about any soil.

 
Biologic: Hot Spot mostly Buckwheat.

Antler King: Red Zone is a mix of Peas, Soybeans, Buckwheat and sunflowers.


Antler King: Red Zone has been nipped.

Evolved Harvest: Maximize is a mix of Soybeans, Sorgum, Peas and Sunflowers. This stuff is all growing well in my plots and the deer have certainly found it.

 
Evolved Harvest: Mazimize, lots of Sunflowers.

Fresh shoots are nipped off everywhere in the field. So if all goes as planned I will be harvesting a few deer from the seeds I planted this spring.




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