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What Makes a Successful Hunting Food Plot?

When it comes to food plots, we are just like most of you. First off, we made lots of mistakes when we started. Didn’t check the ph level of our soil and wouldn’t have known how to correct the ph if we did check it. Planted to early, planted to late, and thought if one bag is good two will be even better. Heck, even when stuff started growing, we didn’t know what is was.

What’s the Best Product for Deer Food Plots?

It wasn’t until we grew a quarter acre plot of velvet leaf (A WEED!!!) and posted it on social media with the tag “check out our soybean plot coming in awesome”, only to have several folks ask “where is there a bean in that picture” did we realize we really sucked at this planting food plots stuff.

However, most people that know our family, know we don’t give up very easily, which meant we just had to learn some more and keep trying, and we have done that.

Now we won’t kid anyone and say our plots are picture perfect, but we will say for the last five or six years we have planted plots that have grown what they were supposed to, and we have harvested our share of dandy deer in and around those plots.

We don’t own or lease several thousand acres our largest farm we have a food plot on is a hundred and fifty acres. No big tracks of ground which means no big machinery and no huge food plots either. Our largest plot is just under 3 acres and our smallest is right at a quarter of an acre.

Are there Recommended Placements for Deer Food Plots?           

We do this intentionally so that we can generally hunt an entire food plot from two stand locations, each located for a different wind.

One of, if not the best tip I can give someone looking to start planting food plots is find a seed company you like, that has everything you think you will want, and most importantly that will answer questions, because you are going to have some.

When you find a company that does that, you are on your way. We have worked with several seed companies over the last several years and all of them were helpful, however I must say the folks at Antler King seem to go to another level.

Things you will need to know before you start. What do you want your plot to do? Feed and attract deer all year, at a certain time of the year, or a combination of the two. Next you will need to know where the plot is going, how big it will be, how accessible is it and what tools and equipment will you need, to not only put it in, but maintain the plot as well.

Several factors will contribute to the success of your plot. Soil type and water amounts in your area will more than likely be your two largest variables. Nothing will grow without any water or on top of a rock, just like it won’t grow at the bottom of a pond or in straight sand. Some of this can be tweaked, but some is out of your control, God gave you what he gave you.

We can say this from experience, shooting a deer is always rewarding, but shooting deer standing in a food plot you planted is even more special.

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Tree Stand Placement for Early Season Bow Hunting

Early Season Hunting Tree Stand Placement

Deciding where to hang tree stand early in the bow season can be difficult. Deer seem to be everywhere eating as much as they can from the grain fields and food plots. But, sometimes all this food can cause a hunter to second-guess the best location for a tree stand. Add to this the fact that fall home ranges and acorns can cause even more problems by the time season rolls around. There are several things to take into consideration as the season approaches, but generally knowing where and what the deer are eating, and where the available water sources are located should be your biggest concern. These can be found through summer scouting and trail camera tactics. Once you have these two things considered out, it is then time to start hanging your stands.

Think About Concealment

Early in the season when the trees are still full of leaves, hunters can get away with not climbing high just to find cover. Concealment ranks high on the priority list of most hunters when choosing a tree to hang a stand in. Hunters don’t want to pick a tree that is bare, but also don’t want a tree that will prove difficult to climb. Most trees in the whitetail’s range offer 12 – 20 ft high hanging opportunities, but most hunters want to be less than 23-25 ft. high. A hunter might get lucky from time to time if they hang on the low end of the spectrum (12-15ft), but more times than not they will get busted before a deer ever presents a shot opportunity.

Another way to stay concealed is to pick a tree with multiple trunks. Not only will this provide that all-important cover, but it will also give you the hunter plenty of places to hang your gear.

If you cannot find a tree with cover, or multiple trunks, and you would rather not climb to 22ft + all is not lost. Consider hanging your stand on the backside of the tree that is along the trail you want to hunt. Stand in your tree stand facing the tree keeping an eye on the trails in front of you. This will allow you to hide behind the tree above the deer while still giving you shot opportunities.

Hunters need to take into consideration the angle in which the stand is going to be placed. For right-handed shooters, place the stand so the prevailing wind hits the left side of your body, and vice-versa for left-handed shooters. This will make it easier to draw your bow on any animal upwind of your stand.

Find Water

If the ground you are hunting has a water supply do not ignore it. While the weather is warm whitetails will get thirsty throughout the day. They will not only visit it at midday to quench their thirst, but also in the mornings as they return to their beds and again in the afternoon before they start to feed. Place your stand downwind of the trail leading to the water supply. It doesn’t take a lot of water to pull a deer in. If there is a small stream running through your property, find where the deer are crossing it. The white-tailed deer is an animal that likes to do things the easy way. Rather than cross where it is steep they will walk out of their way to find an easy crossing. Often, before they cross the creek they will usually pause for a few seconds giving you time to get a shot off.

Find Mast

You might notice that the deer are not going to the fields and food plots as early as they once were. You can probably blame acorns on that. The deer are still visiting the fields, but only after an appetizer of acorns. Deer prefer the sweet tasting white oak acorns over the bitter red oak acorns. But, if the reds are dropping fruit and the whites are not, the deer will go to the red oaks. When both the white and red oaks are dropping fruit, the deer will devour the nuts from the white oaks before moving to the red oaks.

The best advice a hunter can get is to set up close to a hot oak that puts you within shooting range. Deer will mill around as they feed on the nuts. Always make sure the wind takes your scent away from the oaks. And as soon as oaks start dropping in good numbers, be ready. It might only last a couple of days, or it could last for weeks.

Don’t forget about the soft mass either. Apple and persimmon trees produce fruit that is well-liked by deer. If you have either tree on your property, hang a stand downwind. Once the trees start dropping their fruit, deer will walk long distances for the sweet treat.

Morning and Evening Considerations For morning hunts, hang a stand on a trail between the food source and a known bedding area like a swamp or thick ravine. It is a good idea to stay within 50 yards from a food source. Any further and you run the risk of bumping the deer from the beds. This is a great tactic to sneak in without spooking deer off the food if any happen to be feeding.

On an afternoon hunt you can often get away with hunting on the edge of a food plot. Try to position your stand about 15 yards downwind from the entry trail or funnel into the food source. Unpressured whitetails will feel safe enough to enter to enter a food source with plenty of shooting light left. Pressured deer may feel the need to stage in thick cover or feathered edges if entering large open Ag fields or food plots.

Conclusion

Early season bow hunting means targeting food and water, yet also playing it safe to ensure you keep the deer herd unpressured. Watch your wind, concealment, entry and exit routes, and shot opportunities. Tree stand placement in the early season is critical for success for those particular hunts and even keeping the deer unpressured for later hunts in October and November.

Spring Food Plots | Planning and Planting Guide

Start Planning Your Spring Food Plots Now

Along with turkey hunting, which we know you’re looking forward to as much as we are, you’re probably starting to get spring on the brain. Sure, there’s still shed hunting to be done, but it is hard to think about whitetails and not think about getting your food plots rolling again. What will you plant? Will you start any new food plots this year? What has worked best on your property in the past? These are all questions you should think about before you start your spring food plots. Here are some tips to get you started as you count down the days toward spring green-up, even though you’re really waiting until you can get another view like this.

Planning Spring Food Plots

Luckily, you can get started on planning your spring food plots for whitetail deer right now, even if there is still several feet of snow out your front window. The biggest thing to consider is obviously what your goals and objectives are for your property. Wouldn’t you rather have a deer factory over the summer to support many new fawns and watch the development of bucks with your Nikon– optics? If so, spring food plots are probably the way to go. Or would you prefer your property to really attract deer during the fall hunting season? If that is your primary focus, fall food plots are where you should spend your time. The best of both worlds, if you have enough property and resources to support them, is to keep a good mix of both food plots for deer so you have all-season nutrition. You can do that either by rotating spring and fall crops in the same plot or keeping completely separate plots.

As you identify your property goals, consider your neighbors too. For example, it would not make much of a difference to plant a small corn plot if you live in Iowa’s corn country. Focus on planting something that deer can’t easily find in your neighborhood. In that same scenario, try focusing on clover plots for spring nutrition (before corn is available) or brassicas and turnips for late season attraction (after corn has been harvested).

You should also consider the size of the food plots you want to plant. As the size increases so does the cost and time investment. It takes longer to till, prepare, plant, and maintain larger plots, and you will have to buy more seed, herbicide, lime, and fertilizer as well. So if you are feeling a little cash or time-strapped this year, you might want to downsize your spring food plots a little. Of course, the downside to planting small or micro food plots is that they can quickly get overbrowsed. This is especially true if you would like to keep deer on your property over the summer. There are many mouths to feed that time of year for small food plots for deer to keep up.

Best Spring Food Plot Mix

Alright, you have made your plans and now you need to buy some deer food plot seeds to plant. There are probably hundreds of choices when it comes to food plot seeds, most are just different varieties of the same dozen or so plants. But you can’t talk about planning food plots without mentioning perennials versus annuals. Perennial species include long-lived species that come back year after year, which cuts back on planting costs, as long as you properly maintain them. Common perennial food plot species include clover, alfalfa, or chicory. Annual food plot species only grow for that growing season and are highly attractive. Common annuals include corn, soybeans, turnips, radishes, cereal grains, or peas. In some seed mixes, you’ll find a blend of perennial and annual seeds to get the best of both scenarios. The annuals act as a nurse crop because they grow fast and are highly attractive to draw deer attention away from the slower growing perennials, which will grow back in the following years.

Whether you decide on planting fall or spring food plots for deer and turkey, Arrow Seed has you covered. While they have a few spring food plot blends that would work great for you, two stand out.

Arrow Seed’s Deer Delight blend contains turnips, forage peas, forage soybeans, and two varieties of grain sorghum. This is an annual blend of seeds, and the sorghum acts as a scaffold for the forage peas and soybeans to climb on, while the turnips cover the ground surface.

Their Trophy Banquet mix is another good option, it contains orchardgrass, red clover, white clover, chicory, and two forage alfalfas. This perennial mix is high in protein and it will come back strong in the following years.

Planting Spring Food Plots

The planting process is where the hard work begins and it is a great way to get your kids involved. Of course, it is much more involved than simply planting. First, you need to prepare the soil, which can take some time. If it is a new plot and you are breaking new ground, it might be a better idea to use the first summer to spray it with herbicide and loosen the sod. If you have access to heavy farm equipment, you could also just till it under and have access to good soil relatively quickly.

Before planting, be sure to do a soil test, which will tell you how much fertilizer and lime to add to your plot. Without a soil test, you are just guessing (and you will probably guess wrong). Also, make sure you know the best planting method for the seeds you choose. Most large grains and seeds (e.g., corn, soybeans, etc.) need to be planted using a drill or by broadcasting and disking it into the soil. Meanwhile, small seeds (e.g., clover, brassicas, etc.) should usually just be broadcasted over the soil surface and lightly cultipacked in. It is always a good idea to plant right before a steady rain, so watch the forecasts. As far as when to plant food plots for deer, the seed you buy will have recommended planting dates based on your geography.

As long as you plant the seeds using the steps above and get enough rainfall, your spring food plots should do great. If weeds start to show up in your plots, don’t worry too much about it. Most forbs (flowering broadleaf plants like goldenrod) are preferred deer food too. If they start to take over or you notice really invasive ones (thistles, milkweed, etc.), you can mow the perennials to a height of 6 to 8 inches or spot spray the invasive ones. Don’t forget to hang a trail camera on your spring food plots to monitor the deer herd when you’re not there. Soon enough, you will be staring at a lush spring food plot and counting down the days toward autumn.