The numbers prove it. Realtree fans north, south, east and west live and breathe deer hunting. These guys do, too. Hansen’s from Michigan, Brantley’s from Kentucky, and chances are their version of hunting whitetails is a lot like yours.
Food Plots: It's Decision Time
I have never claimed to be a farmer. Or a gardener. Or really much of a food plotter. But I do put in a few plots each year, and the learning curve has started to become less steep.
This year, however, I've prepared more plots than I ever have. It's not that I've had a sudden windfall of new hunting areas; it's just that I've spent more time locating areas to plant on the places I do have to hunt. And I've also learned a few things about how and where to establish small food plots that can be productive during key times of the hunting season.
I do not plant food plots in an effort to enhance the nutrition of resident deer. I live in big-time farm country where the landscape is dominated by fields of corn, soybeans, winter wheat and alfalfa. The woodlots are comprised of oaks, all manner of edible bushes and browse. Winters in my area of southern Michigan aren't exactly easy but they are not of the variety that kill deer. In other words, if I didn't plant a single scrap of food, the deer would survive just fine.
But not all food is the same. And the name of the game where I live is secrecy and control. At the risk of sounding like a deer snob, the simple fact of the matter is the only way to consistently see and kill bucks that have lived past their first birthday is by tightly controlling the hunting pressure on the areas you hunt and by providing a place for deer to escape the 30-day bullet barrage that is Michigan's gun season. There are more than 750,000 hunters afield during the state's gun season -- a season that occurs during the peak of the rut and in areas that are fairly flat and void of substantial heavy cover. If a buck walks in daylight during this timeframe, he will die. It's that simple.
Thus my food plot system is one designed to provide food in areas that bucks will be safe and keep them home. The benefits are two-fold: First, I'll be able to hunt them in October as they visit those plots in daylight and second, those plots may prevent those bucks from traveling during the gun season.
This year I intend to plant a total of about six acres in 10 different plots. No, they aren't big and I'm sure that may seem like a very small number compared to what others do. But it's a pretty big undertaking for a guy who will plant using nothing more than a hand sprayer, an ATV sprayer, some rakes and a lighter.
The plots are sprayed and ready to be cleared. But I'm not sure that I'm going to plant them just yet. The intention was to plant a clover and alfalfa blend with a small amount of brassica as a nurse crop. Clovers take time to establish. The nurse crops provide browse for deer this year, allowing the clovers to establish and flourish in the coming years. It's an ideal way to establish a perennial plot that will last for years while still getting the benefits of a food plot the first season.
The weather, however, has me second-guessing. It's been quite dry for the past month and there is no rain in the 10-day forecast. I'm tempted to simply hold off and plant later in the summer instead. I've had good success planting oats, brassicas and even peas and beans later in the summer. But, of course, those are annual plants that must be replanted each year. My hope was to establish some perennial plots to cut down a bit on labor and expense.
I figure my window of opportunity for a spring/early summer planting will remain open for another 10 days or so. Then it's closed.
So what would you do? Plant now and hope for rain? Or wait until conditions are better and go with a fall planting?