Tips for Developing Your Bow Hunting Plot

Bow Hunting Food Plot Tips

Feature Flatline Whitetails

Bow hunting food plots can be, and most likely are, essential to your bow hunting strategy. However, knowing where to develop them, how to develop them, and how to maintain them can be very overwhelming. That’s why it’s important for you to clearly define the purpose of your food plot, set a goal, and set realistic expectations for the plot. Questions to ask yourself are:

  • Do you want to grow larger deer?
  • Do you want a larger population?
  • Are you simply looking for a spot that will help you harvest more deer?
  • When do you want to hunt the plot?
  • What species is best for your goals?
  • What resources do you have to plant the plot?
  • What food plot or design best aligns with your expectations?

Knowing the answers to these questions will help you create a successful food plot. However, only you can answer these questions. A magazine, video, or blog will not tell you the magic equation for your specific situation. There are too many variables involved. You can however receive some valuable knowledge to steer your strategy. Defining your goals and expectations, and combine that with helpful food plot knowledge will help you select the right locations, seed choices, and strategies to implement with food plots. This blog will provide you with the knowledge and considerations to help you steer towards that ideal bow hunting food plot.

Picture: Flatline Whitetails

Pick a Strategic Location and Species

Once goals and resources are considered, you can begin the process of establishing the food plot by selecting the right location and species. There are normally two types of plots to plan for that influence location and seed selection:

  1. Kill plots
  2. Feeding plots

Kill plots exist to help you harvest more deer. Feeding plots allow you to monitor, grow, and protect your herd. It is important to differentiate the two, and how each are considered to be bow hunting food plots, as they both play pivotal roles in the overall strategy.

Kill Plots

Perennial plot species like clover, easily one of the best food plot species, tends to do well for both kill plots and feeding plots. Clover specifically does not require much in the way of planting, and maintenance, but it also tends to be browse tolerant and shade tolerant…ideal for small bow hunting food plots.

Clover plots are among the most popular bow hunting plots because the species make great staging area food plots. These are small areas that deer, and more importantly bucks stage in before progressing into larger food source or destination feeding plots. The idea behind staging plots is that it presents the opportunity to shoot a deer before legal light fades, as deer typically appear in staging areas before waiting for the cover of darkness to enter an intimidating larger plot. For the most part, staging areas are kill plots, a plot location, design, and shape for harvesting deer.

Entry and exit routes are the most critical factor that influences location of kill plots besides deer behavior and movement. Utilize features like creeks, terrain, rising or sinking thermals, thick brush, food plot screens, logging roads, or anything else that can give you an edge to be quiet and scent free on your entry. Shift access around or away from where deer are bedding or traveling. Your entry and exit should be on the downwind side of the stand or blind you plan on bow hunting in. Looking out for these features should steer your decision of plot placement.

Picture: Flatline Whitetails

Feeding Plots

While perennial species like clover can easily take the roll of feeding plots, annuals like corn and soybeans tend to be the species of choice for feeding plots. These, mostly large-scale food plots (3+ acres) are destination food sources that can provide enough food for continual feeding through most if not the entire year. Soybean, particularly varieties that mature early and provide high yields of grain provide summer nutrition and late season food sources. If species like winter rye and winter wheat are planted with the beans (in the fall when beans start turning) a green food source can be provided in the same plot that will provide forage through winter and spring. The location of these destination food sources are just as, if not more important than the placement of your kill plots. A feeding plot determines the direction of deer travel on a property, influence bedding areas, and determine the location of your kill plots.

Picture: Flatline Whitetails

Typically destination food sources are untouched, leaving deer unpressured so movement across a property is not hindered. This movement is in turn targeted for hunting between the destination food source and the bedding areas. This area of transitional movement is the perfect spot for a bow hunting kill plot. Whether you hunt that plot or not is determined by trail camera and scouting Intel, wind direction, and the level of pressure you want to put on the plot.

Tips for Better Bow Hunting Food Plots

Knowing the location and type of species is the biggest decision when developing bow hunting plots. Here are some helpful tips when it comes time to actually turn over the dirt!

Know the Soil

The first thing you need to do once you pick out your ideal location and choice of species to plant is to get your soil tested. The results will help you determine what you should and should not plant, how much lime and fertilizer (particularly nitrogen) may be needed, and what quality of a plot you can expect.

The best part? Soil tests are easy to get. Simply bring a sample into your local feed store, conservations district, local extension service, or if you have to, order one to take yourself. This will not only help you grow a better yield, but also save you money on unnecessary lime and fertilizer costs.

Picture: Flatline Whitetails

Plant Wisely

When it comes to the actual planting, there are numerous things that need to be considered. However, the details of each are dependent on your location, choice of seed, size of plot, and ultimate goals. In summary, these are the things every hunter should be aware of when planning their plot:

  • Kill existing vegetation
  • Try to plant before a rain
  • Use lime and fertilizer to prime the soil
  • Plant towards the sun (for maximum exposure in short fall days)
  • Know the correct planting depth (depending on the seeds you have chosen)
  • Keep up with weeds
  • Add subsequent fertilizer as necessary
  • Don’t babysit the plot to avoid unneeded pressure

Maintain the Plot

Depending on what you chose to grow, you will need to selectively keep up with the changing conditions of the plot. Soybeans and corn will need to be sprayed for weeds. This is easiest with a roundup ready soybean or corn variety. Clover and alfalfa require more selective herbicides such as a broadleaf selective herbicide (2-4D B (butryac)) and a grass selective herbicide (clethodim or sethoxydim). You can also mow these species, but mowing can take valuable food and soil moisture away from these food plots which can hurt the plot in the long run. Depending on your crop of choice, it may also be necessary to supplement with more fertilizer shortly after planting.

Avoid Too Much Pressure

Pressure on both feeding plots and kill plots has been a reoccurring point for this blog, but that stresses the importance. After putting all of the work and resources into a food plot, one of the biggest mistakes people make is spending too much time in it. This leaves your scent and presence throughout the entire area. Pushing the deer out of the food plot defeats the purpose of putting it there in the first place and the consequences could be drastic come hunting season. Therefore, once it’s planted, limit your time there. Outside of checking your trail cameras and keeping an eye on your crop, stay out! Try to stay on vehicle as much as possible, and avoid visiting it during peak activity.

Picture: Flatline Whitetails

Evaluate the Plot

Once the season is over, it’s critical that you evaluate the plot, the deer movement within the plot, and its success rate. Some evaluation points to think about and track are:

  • Are deer feeding throughout the peak activity times in your destination food sources?
  • Are deer working through your staging area kill plots?
  • Are their patterns being developed by particular bucks on the kill or feeding plots?
  • What plots are deer avoiding and why?
  • What other tactics could you employ in the plot to make it more attractive (waterholes, mock scrapes, food plot screens)?

This will help you determine its viability for future use, and possible changes you could make, whether it be location, choice of seed, stand placement, or more advanced bow hunting plot tactics that you could have engaged in.

Picture: Flatline Whitetails

Finding Success with Bow Hunting Plots

Creating and managing successful bow hunting food plots is hard work. It requires self-education, dedication, time, and labor. However, the key to success is consistency and observation. Make small changes and improvements where necessary, keep an eye out for opportunities, and keep your plots active for years to see trends and patterns develop.

Over time, you’ll see the effort pays off. Not only will you see more deer, but you’ll create better bow hunting opportunities. Bow hunting food plots eventually may be your biggest success in your overall bow hunting strategy.

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