Food plots are a constant favorite subject for White Tail Traders. Before you get your hopes up for a groundbreaking, groundbreaking seed mix or soil amendment strategy, I must provide a disclaimer: I’m far from an expert in food plots. But with some trial and error, lots of reading, and some quality advice from experienced friends, I managed to create some effective food plot strategies. I have developed a fundamental belief that choosing the right location and shape has far more impact than plot size or plant type.
The right mix
I won’t start the debate about the best feed mixes. Preferred types and mixes are relative to climate, available forage, and ultimately the grower’s personal preference. When planning forage plots of an acre or less, it’s essential to plant something that can withstand heavy feeding and still retain its appeal throughout fall and winter. My go-tos are a variety of clover mixes, grains, or a combination of both. These provide a good complement to larger destination agricultural fields and last well into winter.
Plant at the tree
Like the right choice of seeds, the right location is relative to the layout of a specific property and your personal preferences. For me the good area is a secluded spot in a blanket that will encourage daylight activity. But getting into security coverage can be tricky. Your entry and exit routes should be carefully planned and executed so as not to put too much pressure on the staging area.
Your standing position is just as important. Consider how the location of the food patch sits with prevailing wind directions, thermals, how terrain affects wind currents, and the most likely direction of travel for groups of does and bucks. Understanding these factors will likely narrow your booth location down to one or two options. Once you’ve identified the best locations for the area, it’s time to start designing your land to put that cash in your lap in the light of day.
Think about the moment of truth with a dollar at your fingertips, totally unaware that you are in his world. Start by unpacking the scenario and everything that goes into making it a reality. When considering what form of planting will best suit the situation, be sure of where a buck is likely to enter the plot based on wind and litter location.
Next, think about how you can use intrigue to get the deer past your ideal location. The goal is to encourage daylight movement without lingering too long. Of course, it’s not a perfect science. You are dealing with wild animals after all. Now that you’ve chosen the right tree, it’s time to consult on Xmaps.
Digital mapping apps and software like onX are great assets for building food plots. The distance measuring tool and the ability to draw shapes allow you to be creative with the planning process. With these tools, you can control your plot size without getting carried away or overplanting. Keep the plot within range of your booth to reduce the chances of a dollar slipping out of reach.
A few years ago I took up the advice not to plant at the edge of the hedge. A 5 meter buffer around the plot seems to give the deer a little more incentive to start feeding rather than standing back and feeding on the edge.
Now let’s move on to some of my favorite little food plot shapes for bringing deer within reach. No doubt they work, but it’s always about being there on the right day when he decides to make an appearance in the light of day.
This plot is shaped like an hourglass with two wider ends and a bottleneck in the middle. This is a good strategy around larger litter areas where entry points are more difficult to identify. The wider ends give a buck a wider view of the entrance, which he seems to like. As they move through the plot, the shape naturally channels them into the narrow center section. Ideally, your stand placement would be either at the mouth of the thin section, or in the middle to put a deer well within range as it passes through the pinch point, opening up at the other end of the plot.
The Field Goal
The field goal plot offers dollar options. The goal here is to lay out the plot so that the stags enter from the top on each side of the uprights or “U”, and your setup would be at the bottom of the “U” along the crossbar.
This allows the deer to separate from each other. In areas with high deer density, placing a pad of taller foliage or brush between the two uprights can provide a sense of security where they are not clustered in a small area. When a buck filters either side of a post, he ends up at the crossbar within reach of your support. Whether they choose to walk straight or lean and travel across in front of you, try to set it up so that you can shoot either end from the middle of the crossbar section of the plot.
The hallway is a great choice if you need options. For the rut, it provides isolated feeding to harassed does, and the bucks can grab a quick bite as they cross. You can adjust the position of your bracket based on travel patterns, entry and exit, and side-to-side wind direction.
This works well on new property where there is little knowledge of preferred travel routes. The flexibility to mount anywhere on longer sides or corners provides welcome versatility. Make it wide enough for a buck to feel comfortable working from either side, while still allowing you to pull the width of the plot.
_Feature image via Captured Creative. _