I once thought that a food plot or kill plot anywhere was better than nothing at all. That may hold some truth, but why spend the money and do all the work if it won’t increase your chances of harvesting whitetails? Today I am going to go over the questions encountered and rationale behind choosing a certain location for the new kill plot I recently put in with the help of my fellow Outdoorsmen. We were able to gather these questions from a great video posted by Wired To Hunt a couple weeks ago, Four Questions To Ask Yourself Before Planting A Food Plot. It’s a pretty quick video that ensures you’re covering the goals, conditions of existing food sources, soil, and access for your new food plot. Simple and easy.
First, some quick background information. We are working with 200 acres of land in northern Michigan which we like to call ButterBall Acres (or BBA). We already have four food plots established and wanted to create one more for this fall. Read below to understand how we came to our conclusion for each topic.
The first thing we needed to do is take a step back and really consider what we wanted to accomplish: food plot location or kill plot. On the south side of BBA, the neighbor has a large food plot that’s been established for years. We have harvested a few deer coming off or traveling to that plot. On the west side there is a new neighbor that has discussed creating food plots of his own with his much larger farm equipment. Knowing that #1. a larger plot already exists, #2. another large plot was in the works by our new neighbor, and #3. we already had four plots established, our need to create a large food source felt less critical. We decided with our limited equipment, lack of time, and poor soil conditions that a smaller kill plot made the most sense.
As mentioned before, there are already four food plots established. All of these plots have a general northern location situated near what we call the North 40. Other than natural browse, these four plots provide the biggest source of food for whitetails in that area. If we venture over to the south east side of the property, BBA transitions from popples and conifers to a large area of white and red oaks. Most years, these oaks produce decent mast and serve as the primary food source on the east side. Last fall we started seeing a lot of activity on the east side of BBA and we successfully took a 3.5 year old buck off that side during rifle season. Adding an additional food source that will attract whitetails later in the fall after most of the mast crop has been consumed should increase activity on the east side.
Knowing the condition of the soil is the most important part of this whole project. You’ll hear this from everyone and I don’t think it can be stressed enough. Soil test kits are cheap ($15) and you can get results back within a week. The soil tests we used were from Whitetail Institute, you can find them here. Luckily, David and Austin were at BBA the week before this project took place so they were able to gather a soil composite then. Our soil test results are pictured below. You can see how Whitetail Institute does a great job of providing you with the exact information you need to know.
Access and location really go hand in hand with each other. Location is an extremely important factor. We want our food plots to improve our chances of harvesting whitetails so it is important to understand where deer travel, what trees are available for tree stands, and how you can hunt near that kill plot with the wind in your favor. Regarding access, you want low impact entry/exit routes, entry routes with the wind in your face, and good cover along these routes so deer cannot see you walk by from a distance.
Below is a map outlining ButterBall Acres, existing food plots (green), neighbor’s food plot (also green), our new plot location (orange), potential entry/exit routes (blue), and starting location points (red x). Regarding the east side, there is a big~80 acre swamp that sits to the west of the new plot location. The swamp is a giant bedding area and deer come and go from here to feed or will continue traveling to a larger swamp further east. We treat the swamp as a sanctuary, only hunting certain edges of it. There is a creek bottom that cuts through the middle of BBA, flowing east to west, which is a major travel route. Southeast of where the new plot location is, there are fingers of dense poplar saplings which deer prefer to travel through. Incorporating a food source adjacent to this travel route will give the deer a reason to stop and eat. This will encourage bucks to travel nearby to scent check for hot does during the rut.
Another point that I feel is worth mentioning is that we have hunted over on the east side of BBA for many years and there are years when oaks produce large quantities of mast. When this happens it becomes harder to pinpoint where deer are going to browse feed, which can lead to deer traveling downwind of where you are set up. Normally this doesn’t end well for the hunter. Our hope is that a food or kill plot will help solve this problem by creating a known feeding location which we can count on deer frequenting and around which a stand can be strategically placed. I will make sure to do a follow up on this towards the end of hunting season.
In summary, there is a lot to consider when planting food or kill plots. Some of it will always consist of trial and error. I hope this overview offered some useful insight towards what other hunters look at when deciding on new plot location.
Check back with Hybrid-Outdoors soon to see video and an account of the actual work done last week to get this kill plot into place. We will be focusing on using small equipment and hard work to get the job done.