May 16, 2023
Food plots are all the rage in the whitetail world today, but are you actually getting out of them what you're intending to? As more and more companies begin to create better blends with higher yields, better growth rates and less maintenance and equipment required, the excuse to not plant some food for your deer and turkeys is almost obsolete! But will these food plots, given the time and hard-earned money required, give you the desired results? Simply put, you need to have a plan to get the most from your food plot strategies. Let’s first break down the two types of food plots and the “why” behind each one.
The Two Types of Food Plots
In the minds of many seasoned whitetail hunters, there are two types of food plots and each one has a specific job. The two types are the feeding plot and the kill plot. Before we dive into the dynamics of each one, I want to take a second to explain that not all properties can efficiently have both of these. What I mean by that is that just because there are two types doesn't mean your property has the resources, or right locations, for both types. I want to be very clear on that. Now, if you're lucky and can have both types on your property, that’s a blessing in itself! But not all properties, especially smaller tracts of ground, can have both.
We’re going to cover the ins and outs of both food plot types — why they are needed, what makes a good spot for each type of food plot, and why you need to create these on your chunk of hunting ground. In today's world, I often see people putting in foodplots with no plan of attack and then scratching their heads as to why they're not seeing the results they thought they would see. Let's fix that right now.
The Feeding Plot
This type of food plot is ultra important for various reasons. A feeding plot is one where the primary focus is to attract, hold and keep the deer herd healthy and fed. This plot's soul purpose is to provide deer with an ample amount of feed, typically during a specific season or two. These food plots typically are much larger than kill plots, which we will cover in a bit. One example of creating a feeding plot would beto plant soybeans. The soybeans will provide food for the deer during the growing stages, as they eat the leaves off the tops and also during the fall when the beans have hardened.
This is a great example of a feeding plot that will attract, but more importantly hold and feed a lot of deer, especially if the size is relevant to the amount of deer living there. The focus of this type of plot is to provide a safe, reliable, food source for your deer with no or very low pressure. Now, this is where things start to get tricky. Why in the world would we want to plant a food source and NOT hunt over it? Two main reasons come to mind, so let’s dive into them.
The first is because we want this food source to provide deer with a sense of safety when it comes to a feeding area. Basically, the more safe deer feel, the more that they will frequent this food plot and be more apt to bed and stay on your property. We want to think of this plot as a safe zone that’s helping us hold deer and not necessarily a spot where we will actually hunt deer on. I’m certainly not telling you to never use this type of food plot as part of your plan for killing a mature buck, but I’d recommend not associating a ton of hunting right on on around the area. View these plots as their reason for being on your property. It’s really hard to kill a mature buck that doesn’t live on your property, so by allowing him to have feeding food plots where he feels safe enough to bed around gives him — and us — the best of both worlds.
The second reason why I like to keep these areas as fresh and unpressured as possible is because they are hard to hunt and are a magnet for educating deer. Once a feeding plot is established and the deer feel comfortable bedding and feeding in this area, it now creates a large number of deer to work in and around while trying to hunt it. These scenarios create a very, very big challenge for a bowhunter. Let’s say 10 local does have decided to not only feed in this plot often, but they like it so much that they bed close by as well. This is great for our overall herd and property, but makes hunting this spot extremely difficult. Not only are we trying to outwit a buck, but we now have to contend with a pile of does. Once these does get wind of what’s going on, they'll be quick to let the rest of the herd know it. Our chances of success have now drastically dropped and we’ve taken a safe zone for our deer and made it a pressured area of concern.
The Kill Plot
Now that we’ve covered our feeding plots and what they entail, let’s dive into food plots designed to punch our coveted deer tags. These plots have the soul purpose of helping us kill deer. Whether it be a big doe or a mature buck, kill plots are designed to aid us in putting deer within our effective shooting range. With that being said, this is a very strategic food plot design — and for good reason! There are two ways we can use these kill plots to our advantage — hunt right over them, or hunt the nearby trails and funnels that lead to the plot.
For this plot to work efficiently, we need it to provide a few things. For starters, it needs to be in a good area for hunters to get in and out of their hunting location undetected. We also need this plot to be in an area where deer feel safe and want to be. And last, but certainly not least, we need this plot to have an attractive source of food for the deer during the specific time of the season that we are planning on hunting. So if we want to hunt this spot hard in October, we need it to be full of food that deer will want in October.
Two things come to my mind immediately when I’m setting up a kill plot — wind direction and bedding locations. I like to put these food plots in areas that have a predominant wind that makes the area accessible to hunt. Simply put, if the wind in a certain area is almost always out of the west — and that particular wind isn't right for hunting that area based on where the deer bed — then this area is not a good choice for a plot. By doing some homework beforehand we can determine where good spots on our properties would be for these types of food plots. Again, pay close attention to the dominant winds and where deer like to bed. Naturally, today's innovative trail cameras play a vital role in my success when it comes to designing food plots and choosing where to point them.
Another key factor on these plots is the design. I purposely like to keep my plots long and skinny, featuring an hourglass shape if at all possible. This design creates a pinch point, or a funnel in the actual food plot, so most deer will always pass certain points of the plot. These high-traffic areas are great spots for stands and cameras. Also, pay close attention to the topography around the area, as sometimes it may be easier and more effective to hunt a nearby ridge, funnel or creek crossing that leads to the food plot rather than to just hunt directly over it.
When it’s all said and done, both types of food plots have special meaning and purpose for our deer herd health and our hunting strategies. Give these a try this year — I’ll be certain you’ll be happy you did!