Hunting a food plot incorrectly can make or break your entire season. If you are serious about keeping your land full of deer for the entire Fall, then these food plot hunting strategies are not an option, they are a necessity.
Over-hunting a food plot is likely the #1 reason that deer hunters experience an ever deminishing return of both the number of deer seen on the lands that they hunt, and the number of deer that visit their land during the daylight. Just because a landowner has a huge number of deer showing up during the middle of the night, that doesn't mean that all is "ok" in the hunting and habitat management departments. A quality parcel and hunting strategy will be reflected by increasing daylight deer numbers as the season progresses, where as a poorly managed parcel will reveal decreasing daylight deer numbers. Your personal food plot hunting habits carry a huge amount of influence over shrinking or expanding deer numbers, so practicing these 5 strategies can help you end up on the right side of the deer number scale.
*Hidden blinds greatly add to the chance that your efforts will reveal increasing daytime deer numbers as the season progresses, and not decreasing deer numbers. A great deer parcel will add deer numbers as the weeks of the hunting season tick by, which is why you need to take a deer censusin mid to late October, and not August or September. Poorly managed parcels will decrease in number after the season begins. Which does yours do?
5 Important Food Plot Hunting Strategies
What is the #1 rule of hunting a food plot? Never let the deer know that you are there. So it should be no surprise that these 5 tips revolve around making sure that you keep from spooking deer!
1. Defined Line of Deer Movement
Whether you are hunting on public land or private, a defined line of deer movement that connects daytime bedding to afternoon feeding opportunities, is critical. Once you have defined the line of movement, then it's time to hunt!
Line of Deer Movement Quick Tips: Mock scrapes and waterholes are a couple of great ways to strengthen a line of movement between bedding areas and food plots!
2. Hidden Deer Blinds
If it isn't hidden, I personally don't hunt it. How can you expect to keep from spooking deer (and destroying your parcel), if your blind isn't hidden alongside a food plot? In most cases I actually prefer a deer blind on the ground, for hunting adjacent to a food plot. Elevated positions are nice, but many hunts are ruined before they begin. Even though a hunter may access a location non-invasively, the actual climb into the blind or stand, often reveals their presence. While this may be less of a concern in extremely low hunting pressure locations, the majority of deer hunters in the country hunt in high pressure regions, and careful consideration needs to be addressed, when it comes to hiding their deer blinds.
Hidden Deer Blind Quick Tips: Egyptian wheat, switchgrass, ridgelines, berms, conifers and low hinge-cut timber cuttings are all great for hiding your deer blind, and making sure that deer never see you enter or exit your blinds.
3. Low Impact Hunting Access
Rarely is it a great idea to hunt a food plot during the morning hours, unless the food plot is a small harvest plot located hundreds of yards away from traditional night time feeding areas. However, whether you are attempting to access a food plot blind alongside a morning hidey-hole, or are hiking to an afternoon feeding pattern, it is critical that your scent, sound or site is not exposed to deer. If you continually have to spook deer (even the ones 150 yards downwind of your access), alert deer or leave scent that deer will discover later on the way to your stand location, make sure to change the route or change your hunting strategy.
Low Impact Hunting Quick Tips: By creating bedding areas a 1/2 acre in size instead of several acres, you can be much more certain where deer are bedding during the hours of daylight. Also, using low quality park-like mature timber for access and a downwind, deer less scent catcher, is often much better than including that portion of your timber within your deer habitat creation program.
4. Downwind Deer Use Potential
The more defined the deer movement that you are hunting combined with low impact hunting access that you can blow your scent back into, the less likely you will be to spook deer while you are in your blind.
Downwind Deer Potential Quick Tips: Heavily defining deer usage has more perks than just creating a movement to ambush deer from! Instead, the more you define deer usage in front of you, the more you define the lack of deer usage behind you.
5. Deerless Deer Blind Departure
I have experienced that while the deer that you spook while on stand and during your hunt are one level of potential impact to assess, the deer that you spook hours after your hunt, has just as much of a role to play in educating the local deer herd.
Deerless Food Plot Exit Quick Tips: Trail cams, evening scouting missions and observation stand locations can all let you know exactly where deer are piling into as darkness settles. Nearly every deer in the neighborhood should be on a quality food source by dark (hopefully yours!), so taking a wooded exit through bedding areas can often be a great way to sneak around large numbers of deer, aftern dark.
*Can you see the Redneck Ghillie Blind, in the picture above? I can't, and I know exactly where it is at (hint: it's in the middle of the picture). Those blinds are incredible for hunting in comfort, but even more importantly, for accessing and remaining hiden from deer on a food plot!
What Food Plot Hunting Strategies Are You Practicing?
I personally don't think that this topic can be talked about enough. If you are serious about your habitat, herd and hunting efforts, it pays to take a good hard look at if your food plot hunting practices are doing more harm or good. Food plots are probably the #1 habitat improvement of either risk or reward, that you can create on your land. While everyone dreams about the potential rewards of a great food plot program, I find that the amount of considerable risk that comes from hunting a food plot, isn't analyzed nearly enough. While hunting a food plot can be a great strategy at times, it rarely is, if those 5 strategies aren't being practices.