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Hunter’s Handbook is the official student “how-to” information pipeline of the International Hunter Education Association. As the experts in teaching safe, ethical and successful hunting, we are here to provide tips, tools, and great video content as well as offer you a place that you can learn more about your love and favorite past-time—hunting.  Spend some time with us.  New content is added monthly, and we are excited to share our expertise with you.  We wish you a lifetime of safe and memorable experiences in the outdoors.

Food Plots for Productive Hunting

Food plots can be productive hunting areas, but before you plant a plot, you should plot how you plan to hunt it.

“Understanding the area and the place you plan to hunt is essential to putting in a food plot,” said Keith Grunig, associate category manager of big game hunting for Cabela’s. “There’s some scouting required for food-plot placement.”

Before even thinking about planting the first seed, you should have a clear understanding of the wildlife in the area and their movements and habits. “Where’s my deer traffic, where are their holding areas, their bedding areas?” he said. “You want to make sure you are putting the food plot in the right place. You don’t want it right in their bedding area, if that’s where you plan to hunt.”

Essentially, there are two approaches to planting food plots: make them big or make them small.

If you are working with a large acreage, you can put in large food plots to hold deer on or near the property; maybe three- or four-acre plots that are not going to get cleaned out throughout the season. “That will get deer coming into the area, especially does, and keep them in the area,” Grunig said. “Then bucks will come in.” As the rut—and hunting seasons—nears in the fall, bucks will follow does, he said. “Generally, big bucks will not come out to the larger food plot, but they’ll be chasing does.” So, he said, hunt accordingly, placing your treestand or blind to cover travel routes in and out.

Food Plots for Productive Hunting

 

Food Plots for Productive Hunting

By Joe Arterburn

 

Food plots can be productive hunting areas, but before you plant a plot, you should plot how you plan to hunt it.

“Understanding the area and the place you plan to hunt is essential to putting in a food plot,” said Keith Grunig, associate category manager of big game hunting for Cabela’s. “There’s some scouting required for food-plot placement.”

Before even thinking about planting the first seed, you should have a clear understanding of the wildlife in the area and their movements and habits. “Where’s my deer traffic, where are their holding areas, their bedding areas?” he said. “You want to make sure you are putting the food plot in the right place. You don’t want it right in their bedding area, if that’s where you plan to hunt.”

Essentially, there are two approaches to planting food plots: make them big or make them small.

If you are working with a large acreage, you can put in large food plots to hold deer on or near the property; maybe three- or four-acre plots that are not going to get cleaned out throughout the season. “That will get deer coming into the area, especially does, and keep them in the area,” Grunig said. “Then bucks will come in.” As the rut—and hunting seasons—nears in the fall, bucks will follow does, he said. “Generally, big bucks will not come out to the larger food plot, but they’ll be chasing does.” So, he said, hunt accordingly, placing your treestand or blind to cover travel routes in and out.

On smaller acreages—or even some large ones—you may want to consider small food plots, called kill plots, Grunig said.

“This is where I’m going to put in a very small plot and I’m going to put my stand right over this food plot and kill a big deer on it,” he said. Smaller plots can be situated in secluded areas or transition zones where deer move through.

“It has to do with your hunting strategy and the size of land you have available to hunt,” he said. “Most hunters are planting several smaller food plots than acres and acres of food plot. Deer are secretive, so I’d rather have several smaller plots versus a large plot. That way, depending on the wind or weather I can go different places, different situations when I hunt.”

Consider prevailing wind patterns and how that will affect stand placement, and think about access, how you will approach your stand undetected.

Cabela’s research shows the average food plot is about a quarter of an acre. “So, I would say a one- to two-acre food plot is a really big food plot,” he said.

Grunig recommends plants that provide forage for deer throughout the summer and fall. “In the early season, they like sweet, young, tender plants, so they’re going after greens, palatable plants that stay green, like chicory and brassica, a wide range of plants that fall into that category,” he said. Chicory and clover also stay green and contain good protein content. Alfalfa too. “Then when we get later in the season, we want sugar beets, turnips—root crops with high sugar content and good protein content,” he said.

Grunig said you can spread out the different plants within the plot or plant seed mixes that contain it all, so deer have early-season greens to munch on while other plants are growing and maturing to provide fall fodder, throughout the same plot.

Cabela’s offers food plot accessories and a line of their own carefully researched seeds. “We have one called Hammer mix that does that,” he said. “It’s a mix of different things (alfalfa, grass, chicory and clover) that start out nice and green with other plants developing and maturing later.”

Two cautions though: First, check regulations in your state about hunting over or near food plots. Some states don’t allow it.

And second, sometimes food plots can be too effective. Grunig said in one of their test plots, deer “ate every sugar beet out of the ground before we could hunt over them. It was very successful, a little too successful because they ate it all before hunting season.”

Visit Cabelas.com to see their complete line of food-plot seeds and accessories.