Not So Easy

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Aldo Leopold defined game management as the act of making land produce sustained annual crops of wild game for recreational use.

Sounds simple enough right?

As with everything that pertains to our daily lives, we tend to be happy, upbeat, and even a little boastful when things go our way. But, when things go the complete opposite as planned, we get upset, distant or frustrated, blame things on others, and even sometimes panic. Read more

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Hunting Plot-Checking Bucks

Hunting Plot

Given the choice of any two days, and two days only, on which to hunt whitetails, neither of my selections would be in November. At one time I would have scoffed at the notion of the best days not falling within the eleventh month. But we have tweaked our hunting style a bit in recent years and now kill a majority of our best bucks before and after the traditional rut hunting days.

What brought about this change is our experiences with the small hunting plot. We plant a number of small plots around the farm, a bit off the primary food source and set up with a solid wind advantage, along with good access. We often supplement the plot with a spin feeder to feed a little corn. But the goal is not to attract the bucks to food. It is to attract the bucks to the does who have been attracted to the food. Most of the bucks we kill in these small plots show little or no interest in feeding. They are checking out the does.

The prime days to catch them doing this is Halloween, and then again the thirteenth of December, give or take a day in either direction. We will get very few pictures of big bucks in our plots after the first few days of the season. They go completely underground for about three weeks. Then, on the thirtieth or thirty first of October it is as if someone flips a switch, and there they are.

After the first of November, daytime big buck sightings in the plots fall off as abruptly as they began due to the does avoiding them because of constant harassment by the bucks. Also, by this time there are probably some does ready to breed, and the bucks will be concentrated around them. When that happens it is time to quit hunting the plots and switch to the more traditional method of hunting funnels along travel routes and doe bedding areas.

We have observed the same behavior on or about the thirteenth of December. This would be about the right time for the does that did not get bred on the first go-around to be cycling again, and the bucks are once more patrolling the food sources to seek them out.

What always amazes me about these days is the precise timing. We have never noticed a variation of more than a single day in either October or December. The activity during these two short periods of time are the closest thing to predictable we have found in hunting mature bucks. We have taken advantage of this predictability over the years. We have been successful on a number of good bucks on these days, beginning with a 165 inch 9 point I killed on December 13, 2006 and including, among others, the 180 inch 11 point I shot in 2013 and a 160 inch 10 point my brother killed in 2008.

My 2013 buck was killed on November 1, David’s on Halloween, with  both bucks displaying classic plot-checking behavior. Neither showed the least interest in feeding and kept close to the edge of the plot. At the time of the shot, both showed every indication of being about to leave.

The plots certainly have some value as a spot to waylay a buck during the month of January, as the bucks get hungry and have to eat. But, as is often necessary to kill a feeding buck, it is hard to keep hunting a spot again and again in the hopes of catching one out early and not have him become wise to what you are doing. If he is feeding in the plot every night the odds are good that sooner or later he will catch on.

Small hunting plots have become our most effective tool for hunting mature bucks, and late October and mid-December are by far the best times to utilize them.

Henry Hershberger
Hillcrest Lumber

Fall Food Plots

Planting Fall Food Plots

Fall Food Plots

So you just got the piece of property of your life and I’m sure your mind is running in a thousand different directions of what you need to do to prep for the upcoming season.  You have tree stands or ground blinds that need ordered and placed, then you have cameras that need put up, and then, maybe fall food plots, or do you?

Prioritize

You have enough on your plate with your new piece of paradise; you may not have to fool Planting Fall Food Plotswith fall food plots at all the first year.  Let me explain, to produce forages that will produce tons of forage per acre and the protein or carbs that you have envisioned that will occur when you planted that magic bean, it takes knowledge and unfortunately, money to get it right.  You have to ask yourself, is it the right thing to do until you have the time and money to do it correctly so your expectations can be met.

My advice to you is maybe to wait until you learn what the property can do for you.  First things first, learn the property by paying attention to travel routes and deer patterns.  After that is somewhat understandable to you, then fall food plots may be a consideration.  Don’t shoot from the hip though and just place these forage areas just anywhere.  Think of topography, soil conditions and ph. levels, and more importantly when it comes to the hunting aspect of things is access in and out without spooking the deer you’re trying to harvest.

Fall Food PlotsPlanting Fall Food Plots

Then the next step is what to plant, pretty important question as well.  The answer all depends on what you’re trying to accomplish on the property or better yet, what the surrounding area is lacking.  Remember, you’re trying to attract and hold deer on the property.  For example, don’t plant corn if your property is surrounded by corn.  Start off with simple forages like winter wheat or buckwheat until you feel that you have a grasp on food plot placement and fertility.  These seeds are inexpensive and extremely easy to plant.  Then, the following year you can plant the good stuff such as brassica varities like Turnips, (depending on location).  The goal here is to simplify your time because if you plant a clover variety, you may be spending more time and money than you should be.

No one could blame you for wanting to plant a fall food plot.  They can be very effective in helping you hold and harvest the buck of your dreams.  What this article is about is to have you to take a breath and don’t get wrapped up in the nostalgia of it all.  There is a lot to think about when it comes to the ever popular food plot and you owe it to yourself to do it correctly!

Erich D. Long
Drumming Log Wildlife Management
“Deer Management Consultants”