Food plots are all the rage for hunting deer these days. There's no better way to draw deer to your property and hold them there, giving you a better chance at connecting with one during the season. With many states implementing baiting bans, plots are often the only legal way to go if you're hoping to attract the deer to your property with a food source. It used to be you needed hundreds of acres and lots of fancy equipment to build one. Fortunately, strategies have changed, and it's easier than ever to get started building and maintaining them, even if you've never planted one before. It's easy to go with the old stand-by clover plots that everyone uses. However, you can increase your odds if you get a bit more creative and make your offerings stand out from the crowd and your neighbors.
Oftentimes I like to find ways to get creative with my food plots, in hopes to maximize the food on the farm which will attract and hold big bucks. That isn't always look like your standard one-acre clover plot in the perfect spot. And before we go any further, we're not saying a simple clover plot is a bad one to consider. But you may also be missing out on other opportunities, ones that you need to search for. Plots that may be more effective if you simply make them stand out to the deer through a more varied offering of tasty morsels like a buffet in a restaurant.
Middle of the woods foodplot
This type goes by many names, often varying by region. I've heard people refer to them as "poor man food plots." I've heard people call them "hidey-hole food plots." No matter what you call them, they can be extremely effective if done the right way. If you can find a small opening surrounded by thick woods, this can be the perfect spot for one of these kill plots. These plots take a little extra work, usually because there's no way to get a tractor or ATV in to work the soil. All effort will need to be by hand. But all that work is worth it once the deer herd discovers it and starts frequenting it.
Pick a spot that allows enough sunlight to come in and look for good drainage. You can use a chainsaw or garden rake to clear small trees and brush, exposing the soil for planting. I always recommend using weed killer especially in these types of plots so that your plants don't have to compete too much with weeds. In these types of plots, I like to pick seed varieties that will germinate quickly. Consider things such as radishes, turnips, or winter wheat. Some seed companies offer special blends specifically for this type of plot.
Brassics and soybeans
Soybeans make a killer early season plot. Scouting bucks from several hundred yards out, watching them lift their velvet racks out of the beans in late summer is something I love to do. But come late season, that land can go to waste in attracting deer, and by the time the beans get cut, it's way too late to plant something new.
A few years ago I figured I would try to extend that field attraction further into hunting season by adding brassicas directly into the standing beans, and it was a game changer. The idea that seeds will germinate with a canopy of beans over it doesn't seem possible, but believe me, it works great. I like to broadcast about 3 pounds per acre in early August just before a good rain. I prefer to plant daikon radishes, purple top turnips and some variety of rape. After the beans are cut, there will still be an attractive green food source for the bucks to visit.
This one may seem a little odd to talk about with deer hunting food plots, but it has been extremely effective for me. Everyone knows how much deer love apples, persimmons, pears, etc. So, why not plant trees that will produce this deer candy for you year round?
Make sure to use some type of tree guard to protect them from wildlife, especially at their early stages. Plant them in a row to achieve cross pollination. I like to add several fruit trees to my hunting plots just for the added attraction. Whitetail deer will notice the little things like that, and it will bring them back again and again.
Trees that produce desirable nuts are also something to consider, although you're playing a long game there. They typically take several years before they produce high-quality deer food. However, it's usually worth the wait and effort. I have hunted several properties with chestnut trees and I can tell you first hand, they act as a deer magnet.
Oak trees are also a great option to consider, as acorns are a great food source for deer, especially in early season. The white oak acorn is the most desirable for deer, which can be identified by their oblong leaf edges and a more narrow oval nut. One thing to keep in mind with oak trees is that it can take up to 50 years before they produce acorns. However, there are several options for hybrid oaks that produce much earlier, such as the sawtooth oak, which can drop acorns in as little as six years. That's going to be the better option for most of us. Unless you have some serious long-term plans for your children and grandchildren's future hunting exploits!
Regardless of what type of plots you put in, it's always a good idea to add some form of food source that is relatively secluded, in order to hold deer on your property. This will attract does, supply nutrients essential for antler growth for the bucks and add a great food source for young fawns. It's a key part of deer management and will make your hunting better and the herd healthier as a result.
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