Wait, "Never Hunt a Food Plot"?!? But on TV it looks like the best way to kill a monster buck!
A food plot can offer an incredible level of attraction to a specifically created and defined location, with literally 1000's of pounds of high quality forage per acre. For a creature that feeds 5 times during a 24 hour period, any high quality food source will be highly focused on throughout the entire year, let alone during the hunting season. In fact, the most basic and predictable deer movement in the woods is when a whitetail exits its bedding area in the afternoon, and travels to its preferred evening destination food source. If that food source is on your land, "you win". If that evening food source is not on your land, than your success will typically be limited because deer prefer to feed heavily at least an hour or two before dark, leaving you with empty cover during prime time as deer exit your land for greener pastures.
*If you like learning all that you can about mature buck hunting strategies, make sure that you check out my"Whitetail Success By Design" series of books.
Quality timber cuttings, hinge cut browse or even most native food sources can not compete with a beautiful sea of green during the evening hours; afterall, that's what deer alread dined on all day, while hiding out in their bedding areas. Deer need high quality diversity, and it is safe to say that a quality food source wins the attraction battle every single time for capturing a whitetail's afternoon attention.
So you should place a stand on the best food plot you can find, and close your season out on the first sit as that monster you are after, predictably makes an appearance during daylight; right? Well probably not, and here are 10 good reasons why. Oh, and stay tuned to the end because after reading all of the reasons to never hunt a food plot, make sure to read 1 great reason to make sure that you do!
*There is certainly a time and a place to hunt a food plot, but if I personally do, I need to see a certain set of conditions take place. To find out how to create a high value hunting plot, check out "8 Effective Kill Plot Strategies".
Top 10 Reasons to Never Hunt A Food Plot
1. Deer Repellent
Along with a high level of attraction, comes an equal risk of repulsion. The attract/repel condition created by most food plots on whitetail parcels, is in many ways the #1 reason that a landowner, hunter or land manager never connects with the true potential of their quality herd or hunting experience. If you set a mouse trap, hide it and leave it alone you will catch a mouse. If you set a mouse trap in the open while sitting on your recliner to watch it, you probably won't catch a mouse, and the mice in the area will avoid the trap until after the lights have been turned off.
2. Unlrealistic Expectations
"Plant it and they will come"? They sure will, but if you pressure the deer that visit your lovely field of green, they will mostly visit after dark.
3. Mature Buck Harvest Consistency
You can fool a mature buck on a food plot, but not all of them. There are better locations to consistently harvest a mature buck. For my own personal stats I have harvested 2 bucks out of my top 25 on a food plot, even though I have had as many as over 30 food plots planted in one year, on the lands that I have hunted. On the other hand over 80% of my mature bucks (and many of the oldest/biggest) have been shot within 50 yards of high quality bedding areas.
4. Shattered Dreams
A food plot can and should be a part of just about every high quality whitetail management effort. However if you spook the deer off of the plot, you will never attain your herd, habitat, or hunting potential. In some cases you may not even come close. A perfectly planted plot is "not so perfect" when it increases the opportunity for deer/human encounters.
5. Decreased Daylight Sightings
The first year a plot is created is often the best. Have you ever experienced this? Then, as the years progress, fewer and fewer deer are seen during the daylight hours. This can even be extremely misleading! Often the number of mature buck pictures can easily skyrocket following the installation of a quality food plot program. The problem? If those pictures are largely during the night, then your food plot could quite possibly be doing more harm, than good.
6. Wasted Time
OK, while it may be never a waste of time to hunt a food plot, it could easily be a waste of opportunity and resources. "Opportunity" in that you may have been able to have a much better hunting season by never hunting a food plot, and a waste of resources by limiting the potential value that you realize in your investment. Hunting land is an expensive investment that many enter hoping to improve the herd, experience quality hunting opportunities and to increase their enjoyment of the hunt. By over hunting food plots you can easily experience a deminishing return on both your opportunities and resources.
7. Lack of Population Control
Do you need to reduce the deer herd in your area? A food plot can be an outstanding way to do so, if the deer herd has been "set up" with a general practice to never hunt a food plot. Think about it: When your food plot system is the only high quality food source that hasn't been pressured in the area, deer will gravitate to it! That effectively sets them up for quick, high volume harvests, when you decide to remove the "never" status.
8. Hunter Patterning
Often a food plot is such an attractively beautiful spot to sit, it is very hard to resist! Hunters sometimes sit alongside beautiful fields of green night after night, so consistently, that the local deer herd can set their hunting pressure survival watch to it. Does your food plot allow you to pattern deer, or for deer to pattern you?
*Placing my Moultrie Trail Camson many of my food plots, allows me to get an extremely non-invasive view of "food plot deer behavior". To make sure that you are creating hidden daylight attractions, check out "Precision Kill Plot Creations".
9. Hunting Inexperience
It probably isn't much of a stretch to suggest that we are raising a generation of green-thumb hunters who spend more time on their plots and habitat, and less time on increasing their hunting skill. It wasn't long ago that I heard a nationally known deer biologist state on TV, that when first planting a food plot you should get a soil map and find the best areas to grow a plot. What about:
1. How the habitat flows through the land?
2. Hunter access?
3. The food/bedding relationship?
4. Where deer would prefer to feed?
5. Natural funnels, constrictions, or pinch points?
6. How the potential food plot compliments that rest of the habitat, lay of the land and hunter access?
I have experienced that hunters can be lulled into a routine of creating habitat improvements, including food plots, to the extent that many of the traditional hunting skills are pushed to the side. By attempting to stick to a rule to never hunt a food plot, then the effort to find and more heavily rely on alternate stand locations, has the potential to significantly increase hunter skill levels.
10. Stand Variety Increases Success
I have already stated that the majority of my top bucks have been shot while I have not been sitting alongside a food plot. But when you have a goal to never sit on a food plot, you learn why to hunt your stand locations for their optimum times. It doesn't take long to scan the page of social media during various State archery openers to discover that the majority of morning stand locations were on a food plot. How many of those sits were spoiled before daylight after hunters accessed those stand locations with deer already in, or bedding around, the food plot during the morning darkness? A highly effective strategy is to hunt transition zones or near bedding areas during the morning hours, and closer to food during the evening. I also recommend that hunters avoid the same line of deer movement they will hunt during the evening, that they will hunt during the morning, so that hunter's can maximize the value of their sits.
Lower percentages of mature buck success and the potential for a quality deer herd, unrealistic expectations and wasted opportunities, as well as the likely increase of nocturnal buck movement; so why even bother to ever hunt a food plot? Because when you remove the hunting pressure while hunting a food plot, a food plot can offer one of the best places in the woods for quality harvest opportunities. The key is to set a hidden mousetrap, leave it alone, and when the time is right the conditions will have been effectively set to provide a calculated level of success.
If you can not remove the hunting pressure while hunting a food plot, you are better off adopting a strategy to never hunt a food plot. However, if you can manage to keep those beautiful fields of green from allowing deer to pattern you, more than you can pattern them; than hunting a food plot can be a powerful compliment to your arsenal of proven hunting strategies.