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Bowhunting Your Food Sources at the Right Time

by John Mueller 12. October 2011 11:45
John Mueller

Bowhunting over a food source for Whitetail Deer sounds like the easiest way to kill one there is, after all they have to eat. Well, I’m here to tell you it can work, but it’s not always that easy. You can have the best looking food plots in the county and it doesn’t guarantee you will kill deer there. There is a lot that goes into picking the right food source to hunt over. The time of year, the availability of food on the neighbors, the maturity of your crops, the weather, how long the food source has been there, and I believe the deer’s mood also plays a role in what they eat.

I typically plant 5 acres of food plots on my property in IL. During the bow season I usually have a variety of crops growing to attract the deer to my property. I feel it is necessary to have this variety because no one food source will attract the deer throughout the entire bow season as it runs from Oct. 1 through Jan. 15 in IL. I try to have some clover growing all year, weather permitting. Deer love the tender shoots of fresh clover as long as it stays green. But clover will go dormant in the heat of the summer and the cold of winter.

Hunt the clover when it's green and growing.

For early bow season it’s hard to beat green soy beans. I plant some of them later to ensure some are still green and growing for the first few weeks of the season. The soy beans leaves are a really hot draw for the deer during the summer months and early fall before the corn ripens and the acorns start to fall. But once they start to turn yellow the deer all but abandon them for a while. However they will return to the beans in the late season once the weather turns nasty. Especially if there is snow on the ground and they can get to the beans in those pods without having to dig through the snow. A standing bean field is hard to beat on those last few sits of the year when there is a blanket of snow covering the ground.

Soy Beans are best early and late season.

Corn is another great choice to sit over. The deer will eat the corn from the time it sprouts until all of the kernels are gone. If the deer leave any for the season I like to hunt around it any time it has ripened. The deer seem to like corn all season partly because it also offers them a good deal of cover as they feed. If you’re lucky enough to be hunting the day the corn is harvested head for your stand in the corner of the field. I have seen more deer in a newly picked corn field than in almost anyplace else on one farm I hunt.

Corn is great all season while wheat shines early. Notice how much taller the wheat inside the cage is from browsing outside the cage.

Winter Wheat is one of my favorite early bow season hot spots. I try to plant it about a month before the season opens so it has a chance to put some growth on before the season begins. The deer love the tender new green shoots of the wheat at this time of the year as most plants are dying or turning brown about now. I have seen deer walk right by corn and acorns to get to the end of the field my wheat is growing in.

Turnips are another crop planted in the late summer which matures during the colder months. Deer usually don’t prefer turnips until after they have been hit by a few frosts. But I have seen them nibble on them any time they are growing. The best time to hunt over turnips however is during cold weather when there isn’t a lot of snow on the ground. The deer eat both the leaves and the bulbs of the turnips, favoring the leaves early and the bulbs when the weather turns really cold and nasty.

Turnips are favored after a few hard frosts.

So far I’ve covered planted crops, now I’ll dig into the natural deer food growing in our woods. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen deer walk right through my food plots to eat “weeds” growing alongside the manicured food plots. Deer require a certain percentage of natural browse in order to keep their stomachs working properly. After all deer were around and surviving just fine before we started planting food plots for them.

What I consider to be the deer’s most preferred food when they are available is the almighty acorn. When the acorns start dropping the deer will abandon other food sources to feast on the new morsels falling from the trees. That is why we see the deer in the fields during the weeks leading up to bow season and then once the season opens the deer aren’t visiting the crop fields any longer. The added bonus to this is the acorns are one of the best foods for the whitetails. Very high in protein and fat which they will need to survive the rut and the brutally cold winter ahead. If you can locate the first few trees to drop their prized nuts, you have a honey hole until the other tree start to drop their fruits.

Locate that first tree to drop acorns and watch the deer pile in.

I’m lucky enough to have a persimmon grove on my property. These sweet morsels are favored by almost every animal in the woods. They don’t last long after they hit the ground. Keep a close eye on your persimmon trees; they don’t all drop at the same times. Mine typically drop around the end of October, but I have seen others hang on well into November. For a few short weeks you will find me sitting near my persimmon trees. The deer will head there first to see how many the squirrels and raccoons have knocked to the ground. By the way, if you decide to try a persimmon to see how they taste, make sure it is soft and mushy. The hard ones will leave a bad taste in your mouth.

Persimmons are a Hot but short lived food source.

Apple trees, whether wild or planted definitely deserve a few sits during the season also. Like many other food sources, the best time to hunt over them is when the first ones start to drop. The new food source seems to draw the deer in to check it out. Apple trees vary greatly when they drop their fruits. Some will be completely gone by the start of bow season while other trees hang on to theirs until they freeze and fall off. So know the trees you hunt and plan your sits accordingly.

Know when your apple trees drop and plan accordingly.

You might be hearing a common theme here. It’s best to hunt many of the food sources when they are new and just start producing or dropping their fruits. Another rule I like to follow for hunting crop fields is, hunt the green foods early and during milder weather and the grains late and during really nasty cold weather. I hope I cleared up a few things about hunting over food sources, either man made or natural. Good hunting everyone.

My Summer Food Plots are Making Progress

by John Mueller 30. June 2011 13:36
John Mueller

Six weeks after putting seeds in the ground, my food plots are doing very well. I'm very pleased with the progress and the growth the plants have put on so far. The weather has been a little crazy for growing good food plots this year. We have had more than enough rain, cold weather, and extremely hot weather for this early in the season. I was actually lucky to get them in when I did. I know a few guys that are still hoping to get something planted because of the weather and time constraints.

My corn is looking really strong this summer. I planted it a little thinner this year because last year it was too thick and a lot of stalks didn't produce ears. The corn is well past knee high before the end of June. This should give it plenty of time to make ears before the bow season starts. That is if I can get the deer to stop nipping the tops off the corn stalks. The hot weather in the next few weeks should really help the corn put on a growth spurt. Once it's a little taller, the corn will be a source of food as well as good cover for the deer to bed in.

Here is a small part of the 2+ acres of corn I have planted.

I believe my soybeans are a little behind right now. We got a very heavy downpour right after I planted them which made them work extra hard to poke through the crusted over soil. Now that they have exposed themselves the plants have really taken off. We've had good moisture the last couple of weeks and the soybeans have been putting on plenty of new leaves. Hopefully there will be lots of beans left in the pods for the late bow season. Last year my standing beans were the food of choice after the snow blanketed the ground.

After a slow start my soy beans are adding new growth.

I am also trying an experiment this year. I planted a mix of corn and soy beans in part of the field. This will give the deer a little bit of both in the same location instead of having to travel all over the food plot for corn and beans. You never know which one they might be in the mood for when picking a stand to sit that evening. This way I have both bases covered.

My experiment. A mix of corn and soy beans with the milo and millet in the background.

The milo is probably showing the most growth right now. It is putting on the leaves in preparation for producing seed heads. The millet is already producing seed heads. One nice thing about these two crops is the deer only eat the seeds and not the foliage. This allows the plants to mature undamaged unlike the corn and soybeans, which the deer eat as soon as they emerge. My quail and turkeys will surely appreciate these tiny seeds too.

Mix of milo and millet.

The millet is already heading out.

Even if my food plots don't produce a ton of food this year, my deer will have plenty to eat. If the White Oak Trees inside the woods are anything like the ones along the edge of my food plot, there is a bumper crop of acorns this year. Just check out this cluster of baby acorns. And the whole tree is like this. That means the deer will be spending a lot of time in the woods this season. I think I'll be hanging a few stands near the White Oaks this summer.

Looks like there is no shortage of White Oak Acorns this year.

Now if I can just keep the hail storms away from my food plots I think I will have a good draw to keep the deer on my property this season. A neighbor just down the road had to start over after hail destroyed his food plots after 4 weeks of growth.

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! 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 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 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 Success! Corn, Beans, Brassicas & Buck Forage Oats

by Todd Graf 10. September 2009 14:57
Todd Graf

I have to give my friend Jim Carlson a ton of credit for my food plot success this fall. He has coached me the entire way and I can't believe how great all of my plots are looking. I have already been dreaming of sitting over these plots when the time is right. I am totally convinced that it is going to attract more deer to my properties then ever. Here are some photos of how the plots look. Jim, thanks again for the help and letting me borrow your Great Plains no-till drill. What a great piece of equipment!

Key Points to remember for foodplot success!

1. You hear it time and time again - test the soil!  Having the proper pH level in your soil is critical for maximizing your plots.

2. Control the weeds to get the best tonage.  Round-Up ready corn and beans are great for this.

3. Timing , Timing, Timing - watch the weather and try to plant before it rains.

4. Plant different sources of food for different times of the year.  This provides you with different options to hunt over at different times of the season.

5. Buy good quality seed.  Don't spend all of your time working on food plots and put in low quality seed.  If you're going to do it, do it right!

6. Get yourself a copy of Farming for Wildlife, this magazine will get you pointed in the right direction as well.

Here I am preparing the no-till drill for planting my buck forage oats. I decided to do this last minute so the field that I am converting over to native grasses next spring would have some sort of food source for the deer this fall.

My corn is looking great as well. Thanks to Dave R. for the tips!


Here you can see my Brassicas are really starting to come in good.  I planted them the last week of August and with the recent rain and cool weather to retain soil moisture they shot up out of the ground in no time.


Back at home I've changed up a few things with my bow/arrow setup and I'm shooting dead on.  My new NAP BloodRunners are flying perfect.

Wisconsin opener is this weekend and you can bet I will be hanging from a tree somewhere with Justin! I have about 3 more loads of laundry to do so it's time to go.

Good Luck to all my Wisconsin friends!

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