Approaching the Food Plot
For many hunters, tagging a mature buck is the result of coincidence. For others it is lots of steps performed correctly. So – what are those steps? In this blog I’ll share the steps I practice and follow that have allowed me to tag a mature buck year after year rather than occasionally happening to tag a buck. My gear, etc., may change with locations and/or portion of season, but the fundamentals of my hunting approach are almost always the same. I take the obvious steps such as locating properties to hunt where mature bucks live, reducing the odor on my gear, etc.. However, one of the most important elements in the plan is how I approach stands.
I mentioned in a previous blog that the strongest motivation for a mature buck is fear. Bucks will feed at the best food source that they don’t associate with fear within their home range. This is why Hidey Hole food plots work so well! Hidey Hole plots are small (approximately ¼ acre) food plots created in areas that haven’t been previously hunted. Bucks will find these plots and usually feed at them during daylight hours as they are only a step or two away from cover and have no association with danger at that location.
Hidey Hole plots are usually planted just before or during the early season with a forage that will be palatable during the time frame it is to be hunted. For example, soybeans work great during the early season, wheat during the mid season, and/or brassicas during the late season.
Many hunters think that after the plot is planted and the stand/blind placed all that is left is to hunt the plot. However, hunting the plot successfully depends on approaching the plot without alerting the deer to be hunted. This means considering where the bucks you hope to see are bedded or active during the time the hunter will approach and/or leave the plot.
Therefore it’s just as important to consider where the bucks in the area are bedded and how they will approach the plot as the actual plot location itself. I often use Google Earth, information from local farmers, information from trail cameras, etc., to at least estimate where mature bucks are likely to be bedded before selecting a location to create a Hidey Hole plot and how I plan to approach and leave the plot. This level of planning and execution may seem like overkill, buts it’s a proven formula for harvesting mature bucks year after year in different habitats.
Alerted mature bucks are extremely difficult to tag. By having an attractive food source in an area they don’t associate with fear, even a few hundred yards from areas that have been heavily hunted is a great tool to tag a mature buck. Just as important is planning a route to that stand which can be approached without alerting deer in the area. I think this step is just as, if not more important than what forage is planted in the plot!
Growing and hunting deer together,
Dr. Grant Woods was raised and began his love of white-tailed deer as a bow hunter in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri.