Deadly food plot strategy
November 01, 2008
If you have ever watched our A-Way Outdoors television program, or read any of our articles in Woods-N-Waters News, you would know that we invent our own hunting tactics. If you own any of our A-Way Hunting products, you would also know that we invent our own products as well. The reason for that is very simple; there are problems with every hunting aid out there that eventually is going to cost a hunter their quarry. There are problems that ultimately surface during every type of hunt that will need to be solved.
However, we believe, "There is a solution to every problem." The first thing we attempt to do is to recognize exactly the "what and why" of the problem. If it is a hunting aid, we isolate then remove the weaknesses and build on its strengths. Our products are mistake proof, and that's by design.
For those of you fortunate enough to own or lease land for deer and turkey hunting, the greatest benefit to your continued success is without a doubt, food plots. Food plots anywhere in the country can never be outlawed, and hunting near a food plot is a legitimate legal tactic. Rest assured it is only a matter of time or politics before baiting in Michigan and elsewhere will be eliminated. (Note: this was authored before the discovery of CWD in Michigan and hence the baiting ban in Michigan's Lower Peninsula). Food plots placed strategically are designed to draw deer and turkey onto your property and with the proper choice of plantings are designed to hold deer and turkey on your property.
We use a wide variety of Whitetail Institute products that have that powerful drawing power, along with giving deer the high protein needed to enhance antler growth and does benefit by giving birth to healthier fawns. You've heard the old saying "variety is the spice of life"? Truer words were never spoken when it applies to planting food plots. Deer love a variety of tasty food and if found in or near one location they have no reason to venture elsewhere. But there are problems that are in need of a solution when hunting over food plots. The problem isn't the food plot itself, the problem is the way most mature bucks approach, or leave a food plot, and the way most hunters actually hunt the food plots. The more I thought about the problems the easier they were to identify. Here are the problems starting with the hunters.
Many hunters place permanent blinds over looking their food plots and hunt over the plot with a rifle, shotgun and such, eventually the smarter more mature deer will figure it out and soon after it will render the plot counter- productive by driving the deer nocturnal, if they don't leave altogether. Remember the whole idea of a food plot was to draw and hold deer on your land. You could bowhunt over the plot with no repercussions though.
Most bucks, especially mature bucks entering a food plot in the evening usually stage in the nearby woods waiting for dark, or enter the food plot in very low light conditions.
For the most part mature bucks leave the plot before morning light.
Searching For The Solution
The remedy for the hunter was easy, move the blind or stand to an interception point unrelated to the food plot, or so we thought. Exactly where it should be relocated created a further problem. Then we needed to know what time the deer were reaching the staging point, and where that point was located. We also wanted to know if a deer left the plot before first light, did he go straight to his bedding area, or did he linger somewhere, where, and for how long? The only possible way that we could find the answers was by using trail cameras.
We started out in May at one of our most productive food plots, then on different farms using eight cameras set out near intersecting deer runs from 500 yards, down to 100 yards from the food plot. It took us nearly five months to compile enough data to give us the information that answered all of our questions.
Before getting into specifics it is worth mentioning that the deadest location for a food plot was below a north-south running ridge. Bucks loved the idea that they could simply peer down and see what was happening in the food plot from such a safe distance. They also were well aware that they had the advantage of using the thermals in the morning without ever exposing themselves.
The oblong square in the picture is a two acre food plot planted with both Chicory Plus, and Alfa-Rack which has mixtures of alfalfa, chicory, clover, and other delectable foods. The inverted L shaped lines found on opposite corners of the food plots are subtle shooting lanes (lanes where we removed a tree or shrub here and there to be able to weave a shot through without a deer even knowing that it is there.) The L shaped lines nearest the food plot is on average 100 yards from the plot, and the lines furthest from the plot is on average 300 yards away. The shooting lanes extend out about 150 yards in each direction. The reason for duplicate shooting lanes on the opposite corners is for wind direction changes. Hunters who hunt from blinds don't have to worry about wind and can simply choose their corner for set up.
Here is what we found when gun hunting these locations, when the guns were fired, deer in the food plot were at first startled by the noise, but feeling no immediate threat soon returned to feeding. They never made the connection. Further, the cameras told us that deer staging in the evening would cross the 100 yard line almost an hour before dark and stage between 50 and 75 yards from the food plot while waiting for dusk.
We were astounded to learn that in the morning before daylight the deer would leave the food plots a good one to two hours before dawn. More astonishing was the fact that once deer traveled beyond the 100 yard line they had a tendency to linger over two hours after day light before they crossed the 300 yard line. Some just stood around, and others would temporarily bed down. It figures, deer have no conception of time as we do, nor can they reason as we do. They have no thoughts of a tomorrow. Truthfully speaking, deer are only motivated by their own immediate needs, which are food, water, safety, and reproduction, along with curiosity.
We have added curiosity to that list because we had discovered a way to heighten a deer's level of curiosity as we were inventing a new type of scent product. The idea came about from our many road trips watching how road rage took control of some foolish drivers. For example, one guy was riding close to the bumper of another. The front car hit his brakes to back off the second car. The second car passed the first and hit his brakes, on and on it went. Each act escalating in more and more rage. We never waited around to see the final outcome. It had served a purpose in our minds because we were able to turn that lesson into part of a new product. Instead of anger we turned it into a new type curiosity.
We had a series of eight stands surrounding the targeted food plot. Each set-up had an extra stand just in case I took a cameraman with me. As it turned out I elected to hunt and film by myself. Believe me, each year I do that it usually costs me something or another. This hunt would be no exception. Our Michigan muzzle loading hunt is my favorite, and I will be using my favorite gun, an Ultimate Firearm's 50 caliber, topped off with a Nikon Tactical scope. Also, the biggest bucks of all are more active than they have been all season. Plus a lot of new bucks have worked their way onto some of our farms. It is these new bucks that are targeted simply because they are much more vulnerable to our scents because they haven't had time to identify any of the local deer. So they must spend considerable time trying to decipher each scent that they come across, and that's exactly what we want them to do in our subtle shooting lanes.
Since I would start this hunt in the evening I would sit overlooking the 100 yard line. We wear Scent Lok clothes and rubber boots to minimize our presence; this would allow me to walk up and down both shooting lanes and spray "She Heat" over each deer run that crosses the shooting lanes. ("She Heat" is made out of real doe in estrus urine and synthetics. With syntheses you can duplicate the scent of anything on earth, only you could amplify the scent much stronger than any original scent; thus the heightened curiosity level. So by doing this type mixture you have the best of both worlds, and a powerful attractant.)
Sure enough, one hour before dusk the very first deer I see walking into the shooting lane is a huge buck, I easily locked him in the view finder of the camera. Then I ranged him at 167 yards. He was doing everything I wanted him to do on camera, even lip curling with his nose almost touching the "She Heat." I remember thinking to myself; he must have read the script. Ka-boom, the big buck went right down, caught on camera for millions of viewers of A-Way Outdoors to witness. But as it turned out, I would be the only witness. In the heat of battle I forgot to do one little thing… I forgot to press record.
Questions or comments, or for a free A-Way Hunting products catalog call, (989) 435-3879 or visit us on the web for times, dates, and television channels to view a segment of this hunt. www.awayhunting.com
Whitetail Institute of North America, (334) 281-3006
Scent-Lok Technologies, 800 315-5799
Nikon, 1 800 247-346
Ultimate Firearms Inc., (517) 349-2976