It’s mid August now and the cold front that just passed through sent morning temperatures into the high 40’s. Cooler temps accompanied by a northwest breeze have me dreaming about October and forgetting that the opener of bow season is still six weeks away. You can’t do much but love how the feelings of autumn creeping in spark memories of an outdoorsman’s favorite time of year.
Before I let myself get carried away, I have to come back to the reality that it is in fact mid August and there is still work to be done. Although preseason habitat improvements have been on cue this spring and summer for me, I need to finish strong. August is the month to get the last food plots in, tree stands hung, shooting lanes trimmed, trail cameras checked, and your bow dialed in. We haven’t approached the “last minute” time frame yet, but it’s in the foreseeable future.
If food plots are your thing, you need to be putting an emphasis on getting them in like, right now. Brassica blends are popular to plant in fall food plots and need to be planted 60-90 days before your area’s first frost. Last year I planted brassicas in mid August and although I saw good germination, I had poor growth which I believe is due to the later planting date. This year, I planted brassicas on July 20th here in Central New York. I figure with the colder summer and predictions for snow in late October, an early planting will ensure full growth this year. This past weekend, I beefed up my brassica blend with a broadcasting of winter rye. I got the idea from one of Jeff Sturgis’ blog post (you can read it here). The idea is that winter rye will provide whitetails with a food attractant when they are no longer interested in the brassica blend. If you cannot get any planting done in the next few weeks don’t sweat it. You can get away with planting winter rye all the way into mid September.
I like to have multiple small fall food plots as opposed to just one or two large food plots. Although having multiple food plots will make it harder to pinpoint a mature buck’s early season feeding pattern because of his many choices, when it comes time for the rut you should see it pay dividends. During the rut and even leading up to it, mature bucks will be on their feet doing a lot of scent checking for does looking to tango. Some of the hottest spots you will find a mature buck scent checking will be on the down-wind side of feeding areas where does are hanging out, getting their grub on. So, more food plots equals more areas for does to feed, which equals more places mature bucks have to scent check for hot does, which equals a mature buck being on his feet for a longer period of time. Obviously, this means the greater the opportunity you will have at seeing him. After that, you’re on your own!
Smaller food plots can also offer more cover and concealment, giving mature bucks the sense of safety they prefer. The area you choose for a food plot may offer this cover naturally. If it doesn’t, creating your own cover will be much easier with a small food plot versus a large one. If you’re choosing a new area for a fall food plot right now, I’d recommend going with one that offers natural cover. Egyptian wheat grass or sorghum are great ways to create cover, as both these plants grow extremely tall and will create a wall of concealment, but at this point in the year it’s too late in the game to use either of these plants to create cover. They require a spring planting and need a good amount of sun in order to reach a desired height.
If you like to hunt over food plots, I’d recommend not doing so during the rut. Does tend to shift away from social areas like food plots when the rut is in full swing. By November, they have had about as much harassment from wound up bucks during the pre-rut as they can take. It can be very common to find food plots that once were full of activity during October turn into a ghost town in November.
The stands I have up are strategically placed near or on four different food plots and will be part of a purposeful plan of attack come hunting season. More to come on my plan of attack in a few weeks. Right now, it’s time to get the last part of my to-do list checked off!