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Food Plot Strategies by Larry Weishuhn

Food Plot Strategies

by Larry Weishuhn

It’s time! With October comes not only cooling temperatures but a time to start taking venison. Bucks are in great condition as they start heading toward the rut. Does have repaired after weaning their fawns. Whitetail venison is “prime”!

Throughout the summer you spent time preparing and planting food plots hoping to entice deer to a specific area, while also providing essential nutrition. You’ve invested considerable time and money. Finally, it is time to start hunting those food plots.

Question…Do you hunt on the edge of the food plot, set up a stand in the center of it, or hunt back in the woods a bit on the trails coming into the feeding area.”.

Answer…”It depends!” Seems that is, or should be, a standard answer for just about any deer hunting question. In hunting whitetails, there are very few set in stone answers, how to hunt is not generally one of them, other than simply “Go Hunt!

Whitetail bucks are individuals with many different likes and dislikes. True there are “followers” but most of those are younger deer. Once a buck lives beyond his fourth summer they change dramatically. As youngsters, many are simply a “dufus”. Survival is important but seldom the most important thing in their lives. Having attained and passed the grand old age of four, most bucks’ personalities change. Mature bucks change how they do things compared to when they were younger. Very seldom do they make life threatening mistakes.

Back to the question. This fall, on my place, I am going to be able hunt opening morning for the archery season, using a crossbow. But then I will be gone on other hunts until the opening of the rifle season in November, thankfully hunting pronghorn antelope in New Mexico as well as a couple of whitetail hunts in the western part of Texas, where I will not have the opportunity to do any pre-scouting. These hunts will be filmed for “Trijicon’s World of Sports Afield” and “A Sportsman’s Life”.

On my home place I planted triticale and Austrian winter pea, this on an open strip between tall grass, weeds, underbrush and a dense thicket. The food plot is set up for rifle hunting. The food plot proper is bordered on two sides by knee-high grass at the tallest for quite some distance; on the east side by ten-acres grown up in chest-high tall weeds, recently planted shrubs and trees. That pasture is traversed by a seasonal creek and is home to twenty centuries old live oak trees. The area is set aside as a sanctuary. I will not hunt that pasture until the last days of the season but only if by then I have not taken a buck, in that one-buck limit county. The west side is a nearly impenetrable green briar (which I fertilize each year, because of the high quality browse the briar produces and the fact it responds really well to fertilization) patch, along with grapevines growing on a variety of oaks, bois-d-arc (a fabulous deer browse). The deer stand overlooking this food plots is 200 yards from the edge of the plot. This field was planted the second week of September. It will hopefully get some fall precipitation and grow so that it starts producing serious forage in November, December and into the winter.

That three-acre food plot is for hunting, but, it is primarily to produce forage. Where it lays I know it will likely be fed upon primarily after dark, or extremely early or late. It is set up for late season hunting, when green forage is at a premium.

With opening day approaching I plan on hunting another food plot. This one is only about 25-yards by 50-yards in size, established in a natural opening in dense woods and thicket.  I found this area on the property I lease for hunting, which adjoins my place. I had hunted this place many years ago before I was in my teens. Obviously many things have changed since I last hunted there. In late summer, I planted cow peas and oats, with a king’s mixture of legumes. The seeds were selected so some came up a few days after being planted to those not coming up until well into the hunting season. This way there is something coming up and growing over a longer period of time. I buy seeds at local feed/seed dealers and make my own mixtures. Doing so is considerably cheaper and I have more control over what is planted.

I have a pop-up blind set up on the north side of the little opening. This way I am never looking directly into either morning or evening sun. Our prevailing winds during the hunting season are southeasterly and northeasterly. To be frank, I am not concerned about deer scenting me because of using TRHP Outdoors’ Scent Guardian (TRHPoutdoors.com). My experience with this product tells me when I apply it to my clothes, equipment and self, to a deer’s nose, I do not exist.

Because this is a small food plot, surrounded by woods and brush for quite some distance in every direction, deer have a tendency to feed not only early and late, but throughout the day. The proximity of escape cover makes them feel more comfortable than feeding in a wide open area. Late summer I started putting out TRHP Outdoors’ Curiosity scent, which has drawn quite a few deer to the area. Starting the last week of September, I will establish mock scrapes using a variety of other TRHP Outdoors scents and lures. Past experience tells me that is when bucks in the area start making scrapes. Should I see an active scrapes, I will set up a mock scrape near them.

On this particular food plot I will sit on the edge. If I do not see a buck I want to shoot opening morning of archery season, I will not again get to hunt that food plot until the last days of October, if then.  

But with the opening of the rifle season the first weekend of November, I will be there hunting with my Taurus Raging Hunter .44 Mag revolver which is topped with a Trijicon RMR sight and shooting 240-grain Hornady’s XTP ammo.

The Texas county where my place is, has been under an antler restriction program now for many years. And, it is paying off nicely with bigger antlered bucks, although in no way huge antlers. A legal buck is one with four or more points on one side with at least a 13-inch or more inside spread.

On one of my upcoming hunts for whitetail I will be hunting during the tail end of the Texas whitetail rut. The property has a couple of fair sized food plots, again aimed more at providing quality forage than hunting. When the hunt will occur, there will no doubt be young bucks and particularly does feeding on the feed areas. Bucks will still be interested in does, but hunting season will have “smartened” wary bucks. I doubt seriously they will feed in these open area during daylight. Although there will likely be some older bucks that feed there during the middle part of the day, when they know most hunters are not in the deer woods.

My plan on this hunt, as I have often done, is to find a major trail coming into the food plot, then following it back into the woods to find where two or more minor trails converge into the one. There I will set up because it is here mature bucks tend to stage waiting for dark to feed in the food plot. But, this is also where they will check every doe that comes down any of the trails headed to the food plot. Such areas are excellent ambush spots for a big mature buck.

Are you hunting a food plot this fall? If so what are your hunting strategies?

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