Deer Food Plots | Strategies Locating and Creating Small Hunting Food Plots
When you look at a map of the property you hunt, there are probably locations on that map that you think would make good places for food plots. Maybe they are decent sized clearings in the cover or are close to areas you know to be good. Whatever the reason, the spot looks good. You put your boots on and trek out to the food plot location you’ve selected using your maps. The spot is better than you imagined. Not much clearing is needed, the size is right, and you can just envision the buck of your dreams working his way under your stand in this very spot. You’ve just found what you believe to be the perfect food plot location…or so you thought. The right location soon turns into the question of when, how, and what and pretty soon you will find yourself asking the question of where again.
Small Food Plots | Where and What To Plant in Small Food Plots
(Video) – Small food plots and deer food plots in the woods are extremely effective kill plots, but only if you plant them with the right species. Find out what species are great for drawing in bucks to small deer food plots.
Last year, this was exactly our situation. We had found a square of open ground about an acre and a half or less in size in an area we knew to be littered with signs. There were lots of pines in the area providing excellent thermal cover, making it the ideal late-season deer food plot location. We thought the entry and exit routes were solid and we would have no problem getting our equipment to it. We usually go with white clover in this scenario, but seeing as it was almost august we went with a brassica blend in late August.
With this small food plot being less than an acre and a half in size the brassicas would need all the help they could get. For this, and the lack of access or pressure we wanted on the area we chose DeerGro to replace the lime we needed in the plot and increase soil health in our food plot with much more ease. We treated the plot with PlotStart at the time of seeding and PlotBoost once our plot was off and growing. It was the most beautiful brassica plot we had ever seen. With forage well over our knees and turnips somewhere between the size of softballs and small volleyballs, this food plot had truly exceeded our expectations, and the deer loved it.
On this property, we primarily get southwest winds. With that in mind, we expected a majority of the deer to enter from the northeast corners of the food plot. We positioned a tree stand in a big white oak on the northwestern perimeter of the plot to accommodate for these winds. While it is not the best possible scenario, it seemed that we would have a good chance at pulling it off. We got pictures of deer using the food plot all season, but they really started crushing it once we got some snow on the ground in mid-January once the rut had come to an end. When a shooter we call Maverick showed his face in the plot during daylight, it was time to make a move.
The first time we hunted that stand we had cold temperatures and a steady wind from the south. Our trail cams showed at least ten to fifteen deer using the plot during daylight each evening. We were going to see deer, it was just a matter of whether Maverick would show up or not. We saw a few deer that night, but no mature bucks, and no Maverick. We hunted it a few more times in the following weeks with the same result each time. Maverick would show up on the trail cams regularly, just not while we were in the stand. Was it bad luck? Bad timing? We kept coming up empty despite perfect conditions. If you’ve had the opportunity to hunt a mature deer, you know what this can be like.
We got pictures of Maverick the rest of the season all the way till he shed his antlers and even after. He had gotten the best of us and we couldn’t figure out why. When the season ended, we started breaking down what we had learned during the season. What worked well, what didn’t work well, and most importantly, how could we improve for next year? The brassica plot where Maverick had evaded us was at the focal point in our minds at this time. It seemed so perfect on paper and even felt right sitting in the stand. There was plenty of food, the wind was right, and we had proof he was using it during daylight hours. It didn’t make sense, unless; he was approaching the field from a different direction than the rest of the deer.
We are making some changes this year. While the food plot location seemed so perfect in the beginning, it didn’t work. There is another location that might work just as well. The access is slightly less intrusive and the wind is easier to hunt. The problem is that it’s further from the area we believe Maverick is bedding. But, something has got to change. The current food plot location is shown in red in the picture below. The area in blue is the new proposed food plot location.
By moving this deer food plot to this new location, we will be totally safe with any kind of south wind and will have no problem accessing the stand, shown just north of the plot in a small cluster of white oaks. We will not know the result of this move until later in the 2016 season but we are optimistic. In addition to the location change, we will be planting the small food plot in white clover to get him accustomed to feeding throughout spring and summer. A great lesson we have learned from this experience is that food plot location, like stand location, is rarely perfect the first time around. It is an evolution that takes some trial and error to get it right, and we have just made our first error.
As we continue to grow our management practices on this piece of property, specifically with small food plot locations, a majority of the planning process will revolve around incorporating those small food plots into the existing hunting strategy. Every deer food plot location and the species in them will evolve as we observe deer behavior in that area year after year to give us the best chance at success when the time comes.