10/7/16 Klymit Static V
This is the time of year that you will really see whitetail hunters kick it into gear and start prepping for the upcoming archery opener. And then again, even if they aren't into archery hunting, they are still getting their farms or properties plowed up and ready to plant their fall food plots. From the midwest down to the deep south, food plots won't be planted until mid-August or early September. Down in the south where I live and hunt, Louisiana and Mississippi, we will wait until the last minute possible close to the start of September because we get afternoon rain showers that don't last too long and could start the germination too early and cause our green fields to burn up. Most often these plots are going to be small, secluded locations close to a bedding area. We also refer to these as "kill plots" as it is typically going to be a 1/2 acre to 1 acre in size depending on your property layout and access. What you will find is that these types of small plots are going to be hit more frequently by your mature bucks early as they are making their way to the larger fields, or "destination plots". Most managers will make these "kill plots" more narrow so that when hunted, any deer that makes its way to the field is within range for a comfortable shot. 25-30 yards wide is all that it should be and maybe 60-70 yards long if the area permits. What you are ultimately trying to do is find a place to hang a stand in the middle so that your range to then ends either way is also 30-35 yards.
Access, Access, Access! This is the biggest mistake and key to making these small "kill plots" effective. You have to be able to access these locations without walking through the middle of bedding areas or high travel areas. This is where a little extra effort on a machine such as a dozer can come into play with huge results. And once you get these plots into place, discipline to not hunt them on the wrong wind is crucial. Now, a "destination plot" is a touch different in its purpose. This is going to be a much larger field and will usually contain lots of green forage. Highly palatable, protein rich green plants that deer will come to and graze. These are designed to draw the deer toward them and get them moving through your transition and travel areas. Most hunters will very rarely if ever hunt on these fields. Deer are seeking these fields in most instances because they feel more comfortable and secure. Putting too much pressure or blowing them off these fields consistently can cause them to change their patterns or locations so this is where you must be disciplined and hold firm to not hunting these fields until at least the end of the season if you need to do some doe management. What to plant? Well, this is always a coin toss!
At my buddy's place in Mississippi, we already have several acres of sweet corn that is coming up nicely and is a huge attractant for lots of different wildlife. It will become a great spot to rest in my hunting chair and shoot some doves come Labor Day as well as the flocks of turkeys it holds from the fall to the spring. It will also be a tasty treat after a long day of hunting when we pluck a few ears and grill some fresh backstraps and enjoy some nighttime camp "wild life" with friends and family. Rye grass has long been a staple of food plots as it is easy to plant, is extremely tough and provides and inexpensive way to have green plots on your farm during the fall and winter to attract deer. But, as hunters have evolved and with the awareness being raised about growing healthier herds and bigger antlers, we have seen more of a change to growing plots with turnips, radishes, brassicas, alfalfa, and chicory. To be most effective in growing a lot of these, you really should get soil tests done and make sure you have the right lime/fertilizer mix on your ground to gain maximum results.
Not ready to invest that much time and effort into managing your plots just yet? Clover; a hearty, high protein plot that deer love! All you need is a well turned piece of dirt and simply spread the seed on top of the soil and let it rain! You don't want to bury the seeds too deep as they will smother but these plots will attract deer all fall, give them the nutrition they need and grow even better in the spring when they really need it. Of all things that make clover easy, get on the tractor and clip the field occasionally just like you do your yard. This is the best maintenance for a clover field is to keep it clipped. It also makes for a great strutting field in the spring for those bearded butterballs.