4 of the Best Fall Food Plots for Deer Hunting
As most hunters figure out, hunting mature Whitetails is a game of chess. Hunters are constantly strategizing, analyzing, and scheming to be one step ahead of these sly creatures. One of the best ways to gain that upper hand is to learn how to be a better hunter; i.e. become a better chess player. But what if you took it one step further? What if you could actually create your own chess board? Essentially, you could then predict their next move and know where that buck is going to be at certain times of the season. Some of the very best fall food plots for deer can do just that…provide a chess board that nearly guarantee’s a win!
Food plots do a lot more than just providing a healthy source of food for your deer herd. They also shape travel patterns, create hubs for social activity, and recruit neighboring deer. These are all great benefits of planting food plots, but what most hunters overlook is how to effectively hunt those plots and maximize the output of that resource.
How many times have you sat in your tree stand with a proud grin on your face as you’re overlooking the plush green vegetation that you’ve worked endlessly to create during those summer months? It’s a rewarding feeling, no doubt. Now imagine seeing your target buck walk out into your plot 15 minutes before dark. You’ve only seen nighttime trail camera photos of him and thought he was virtually unhuntable. Now he is broadside at 20 yards and has no idea you are there. That proud grin just turned into a full ear-to-ear smile. Give yourself this ultimate advantage by following these top 4 food plot setups to bring in mature bucks.
Food Plot #1 – Early Bird Buffet
This is an early season plot that can be a dependable location for that first sit of the year. It’s purposely designed so that it’s not too invasive and you should try to use the taller grasses and foliage as a screen when accessing your stand in these warmer months. Play your cards right and you could be first in line at the taxidermist.
Where: Ideally you would like to hug tight to a water source such as a creek or pond, but not too far from bedding areas in order to draw in mature bucks from their bed in daylight.
Seed: Soybeans and sorghum are rich in protein, green during this time of year, and the deer can’t stay off it.
Shape: Wrap this plot around the water source so the deer can’t skirt around when traveling through. If you can, design a pinch point as the entry into the plot from the nearest bedding area.
Trail Camera: Set the Pro-Cam 20 on time-lapse mode to capture those entry and exit points.
Stand: Avoid working too hard and getting hot and sweaty when climbing into your early season stand. The Odyssey XTL ladder stand is reliable, comfortable, and easy to access with minimal effort on big plots like this.
Food Plot #2 – Temptation Island
The Temptation Island plot is a staging kill plot that needs to be planted early to minimize intrusion in the months approaching hunting season. The goal of this food plot is to position this island plot in a way that bucks do not have far to travel when getting up from their beds to satisfy their famished bellies. Hunting this close to bedded bucks will result in a higher number of daytime sightings and shooting opportunities.
Where: Placed in between buck bedding and communal food sources.
Seed: Clover is your best choice since its reliable, browse tolerant for small plots, and low maintenance.
Shape: This plot doesn’t have to be large in size. Just big enough to entice mature bucks to stop for an appetizer on their way to the main course.
Trail Camera: Make sure your Pro-Cam 14 or 20 is setup close to your tree stand. You don’t want to be dropping your scent when pulling cards on the opposite side of the food plot. Try placing a mock scrape in front of the camera on the edge of the plot, which adds something a buck will have to check if working through the area.
Stand: Shifting winds on a small plot can ruin your hunt real fast. Use a Muddy Vantage Point stand with Aerolite climbing sticks to allow for ample mobility.
Food Plot #3 – The Show Time Plot
This is where all the magic happens. The purpose of the Show Time plot is to create a stage for rutting activity. You want to focus on attracting does to this food source, which will lead to bucks cruising through with their noses on the ground looking for a girlfriend. Love is in the air, so take advantage of those testosterone filled bucks who let their guard down.
Where: Best locations are pinch points, funnels, and downwind of doe bedding areas.
Seed: Oats and peas, even combined with winter wheat and rye work really well here since they are highly resistant to early season grazing, ensuring your plot won’t be picked clean before the rut begins.
Shape: Shapes can vary depending on the landscape, however, you want to create a wide view for yourself so you don’t get surprised by bucks chasing at high speeds. Multiple fingers like a turkey foot food plot design could work wonders if you’re hunting with a rifle.
Trail Camera: Pro-Cams are best placed in front of scrap trees and rub lines where you will typically see a lot of activity in and out of the plot. If the plot is not designed with multiple fingers like a turkey foot, you can simply set the Pro-Cam high and on time-lapse to gather general daytime feeding intel.
Stand: The Nexus XTL provides the height and the large platform to maneuver around for a better position when that rutted up hit list buck comes within range.
Food Plot #4 – The Binger Plot
As the late season begins, bucks are worn out from the rut and have shed a lot of weight. In order to survive the winter, they need to pack the pounds back on and indulge on as many sugars and carbs as possible. This is where you can really take advantage of shooter bucks that typically spend their home range on neighboring properties. If those surrounding areas do not have a late season option to help sustain those deer populations, you can bet they will travel to your Binger plot to bulk back up. Bottom line…. If you have food, they will come.
Where: Plant this plot in the interior sections of your property. You will find bucks adjusting their core areas and a main food source will allow you to inhale neighboring deer.
Seed: Brassica’s, such as turnips, generate an elevated level of glucose when hit by a cold frost. This can be combined with a strategy earlier in the year for standing grain, buy planting early maturing soybeans (turn faster for brassica planting). You can also mix brassicas with winter wheat, rye, and even oats to provide more tonnage and draw deer in before the brassicas become attractive. Bucks will hammer this type of fall food plot to get energy for recovery, as well as scent check remaining does and fawns feeding in the plot.
Shape: Planting in long rows to create shooting lanes for firearms, muzzleloaders, and crossbows can be extremely effective during this time period.
Trail Camera: Positioning Pro-Cams on field edges overlooking the food plot will fill up your SD cards with quality intel. Don’t be surprised if you have a few bucks show up that you have not seen before. The Muddy Pro-Cam features the hybrid mode, allowing time lapse cameras to also catch any movement, so set the camera up overlooking the field and a potential funnel to tighten your hunting setup.
Stand: Investing in a Muddy Bull or Penthouse blind provides different window options depending on your weapon of choice and keeps you nice and warm during these frigid winter months.
Food plots aren’t just a means of generating food on your property. Besides helping to sustain a balanced and healthy deer herd, food plots can (and should) be used as a tool when planning out your hunting strategies. Invest your time and energy in the offseason and you will capitalize on your sweat equity if you utilize these food plot setups. Procrastination only leads to excuses and frustration during the season. Well procrastination ends now. Take that next step. Creating environments that make mature bucks more predictable, placing yourself in those areas during the right time of the year, and investing in quality equipment will ultimately produce consistent opportunities at trophy bucks year over year.