Regular visitors to this site may remember back in July I talked about the different types of plots, and how the principle objective of feeding plots is to better meet the deer’s year-round nutritional needs. In most cases that means warm-season plots intended to fulfill the high protein demands of spring, summer and early fall. I mentioned products like Heartland Wildlife Rack Maker and Rack Maker Plus as examples high-protein blend designed for feeding plots.
I also mentioned using blends like Hi Pro Forage, which contains both annual brassicas and perennial clovers and birdsfoot trefoil; because while nutrition is the main purpose, feeding plots can also be used as hunting plots. And that’s especially true early in the season while deer are still transitioning from proteins to carbs. However, because feeding plots are typically designed more for agricultural efficiency, you sometimes have to use a slightly different approach to hunting them than you would on a hunting plot.
For starters, their large size and regular shape don’t lend themselves as well to bowhunting, which is largely what we’re talking about this time of year. You can’t just set up on the edge and expect a deer to walk within range.
Scouting is particularly important in determining where to hunt. Glassing at peak movement periods is one way to get an idea where deer will be entering and exiting larger plots. Another is simply walking the edges and looking for trails. You can also save a lot of time and effort with cameras. They’ll not only tell you where, but when deer come and go. Cameras with a time-lapse feature are especially helpful as they can capture images of deer outside the camera sensor’s range.
Early season is hot, and more often than not deer will follow the shadows out into a plot. You’ll be better off hunting the western side. If wind direction or access require stands on the east side, you may hold them in reserve for cooler, overcast days.
You can also apply much of what you learned about feeding plots to your dedicated hunting plots. These, you’ll recall from the July installment, are intended primarily to attract deer during the hunting season, and designed with “huntability” as a priority. The nutritional objective is to meet the growing demand for carbohydrates that deer need to lay on fat for the winter. And this is best accomplished with quick-growing annuals that reaching maximum nutrition and palatability in a very short time, and during hunting season – things like Heartland’s Rack Maker Brassicas and Rack Maker Extreme.
Because these plots are smaller and irregularly shaped, stand placement is less of a mystery. In fact, the plots may have been built with one or more specific stand sites in mind. You need only to pick which one best suits the wind or weather conditions for that particular day.
Scouting is also important here, but if these plots are remote, you may want to limit your intrusion. One way is with scouting cameras, and the same advice for feeding plots applies here as well. Food is the whitetail’s primary motivation for being on their feet this time of year. For the most part you’ll want to be hunting right on the edge of your plots; at least for now.
Another way is working off your feeding plots. If you planned well, you probably have a few hunting plots located between bedding areas and larger feeding plots. Deer will be more inclined to visit the former earlier in the day before venturing out into the larger plots. The reverse is also true in the morning. Large plots are virtually unhuntable in the morning as you’ll only scare deer away on your way in. But if you can get into a hunting plot, you may be able to intercept deer moving from the feeding plot back to bedding.
Obviously, all the other rules of stand hunting apply here as well. Be ever mindful of the wind and never hunt a stand when the wind is wrong. Plan your approach carefully, and to create the least amount of disturbance and don’t over-hunt.
And be patient. Food plots offer greater visibility and a chance to watch and pattern deer over several days. Bucks will usually be the last ones out in the open, and may still be in bachelor groups. And the biggest bucks will usually be the last ones out.