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Why do perfect food plots fail?
Whitetail Deer
Contributors to this thread:
Pat Lefemine 17-Sep-21
Bake 17-Sep-21
deerhunter72 17-Sep-21
Buckeye 17-Sep-21
Ok...Russ 17-Sep-21
t-roy 17-Sep-21
Shuteye 17-Sep-21
Pat Lefemine 18-Sep-21
goyt 22-Sep-21
Pat Lefemine 29-Sep-21
Pat Lefemine 29-Sep-21
APauls 29-Sep-21
Alaska at heart 29-Sep-21
Pat Lefemine 29-Sep-21
Pat Lefemine 29-Sep-21
goyt 29-Sep-21
wisconsinteacher 29-Sep-21
Treefarm 29-Sep-21
Pat Lefemine 29-Sep-21
XMan 29-Sep-21
Jack Whitmrie jr 30-Sep-21
APauls 30-Sep-21
JSW 01-Oct-21
txhunter58 10-Oct-21
From: Pat Lefemine
17-Sep-21

Pat Lefemine's embedded Photo
We analyze the problems with our 2020 Ohio plot and try a much different approach for 2021.
Pat Lefemine's embedded Photo
We analyze the problems with our 2020 Ohio plot and try a much different approach for 2021.

Pat Lefemine's Link
By anyone's description, my 2020 Ohio plots were magnificent, but they made the hunting harder - not easier. We discuss why, and show you how we are fixing it in 2021.

From: Bake
17-Sep-21
I know nothing about food plots, but I REALLY like that funnel concept on your kill plot. I'll be interested to see how your hunting is this fall. Good luck

From: deerhunter72
17-Sep-21
Thanks for taking the time to share all of that information.

From: Buckeye
17-Sep-21
Its always fun learning a new property. It comes with challenges for sure. What resonated with me was the part you mentioned the deer are hard to pattern here.

From: Ok...Russ
17-Sep-21
Great info Pat and your plots look exceptional. Learning our new property as well(2nd year) and I'm finding a bit more frustration than fun right now! Weed control in Oklahoma is going to be difficult, I believe, and will have to focus on choking/shading them out. Anxious to see the bucks on your plots and the one that doesn't make it out!

From: t-roy
17-Sep-21
Any thoughts into possibly breaking up the big plot into a 2-3 smaller ones, with some type of more permanent edge cover? Switchgrass, cedars, etc. Could possibly create some new travel corridors that way, and give you a few more stand location options?

From: Shuteye
17-Sep-21
Looks great to me. Good luck Pat.

From: Pat Lefemine
18-Sep-21
Troy, I’m considering dividing the big field but I kinda like having the big field there and want to see how this year goes before I try that.

From: goyt
22-Sep-21
I am certainly thinking the same way as t-roy about having more diversity in the large plot. IMO beans are great before the Ohio season opens and late in the season. During the Ohio rut the deer maybe be finding options that are much more to their liking. The Hancock fall blend has a lot of things that deer may prefer over beans at that time of the year and you have proven that they are a good draw. By planting several different varieties of plants in large quantities you should be able to provide a destination plot for deer all season long. You have not commented on bedding areas. Does will most likely bed in the closest acceptable bedding area to that plot. I have never used switchgrass for bedding areas but it maybe something to consider here. If you plant some switchgrass at places around the field in key locations and the does start bedding in it the down wind side can be hunted for cruising bucks scent checking the area. With good access to the stands it is possible to hunt those locations without much impact on deer movement. An option to switchgrass would be to create bedding areas around the plot be cutting timber and maybe doing some hinge cutting. It is extremely difficult some times to hunt large food plots but much easier to catch bucks cruising downwind of doe bedding areas.

The screening area to the west of the large plot may be used to bed with 30 rows of corn. It is rare for us to have an east wind but it does happen. Depending on access a stand in the tree line may provide a place to hunt during an east wind which could be effective. Your open plot should act as barrier to the east. Bucks could be scent checking for bedding does, doing a visual on the field or scent checking the field. You could knock down some corn in the area of the stand to provide an open shooting lane into the corn. Either way if you have access it allows you to hunt an east wind with your scent blowing off of your land so very little impact for you. It could be an all day sit.

On the 6 acre plot I would guess that at least some does will bed on the 2 acres of corn if they are actively feed on the plot. With the brassicas planted in the corn that will provide day time feeding for them if the brassicas do well. A stand on the south east side of the 2 acre corn field may provide a place to hunt cruising bucks during a north west wind if you can get access. Again you can cut shooting lanes into the corn if appropriate. Also there maybe be better food choices at certain times of the season than beans and clover. It is not to late to broadcast some rye grain into the beans. You could even broadcast some rye into the clover field if there is any exposed soil.

Just a few thoughts that may or may not be of value in your situation.

From: Pat Lefemine
29-Sep-21
Thanks guys, really good insight and suggestions. I may just try something new in the big plot next year. I’m not opposed to planting trees there either. Just need to consider income and resale implications since that field is productive, even though I don’t harvest it.

From: Pat Lefemine
29-Sep-21

Pat Lefemine's embedded Photo
Pat Lefemine's embedded Photo
Pat Lefemine's embedded Photo
Pat Lefemine's embedded Photo
Pat Lefemine's embedded Photo
Pat Lefemine's embedded Photo
Pat Lefemine's embedded Photo
Pat Lefemine's embedded Photo
And my funnel design seems to be working. Getting lots of deer movement past my redneck blind.

From: APauls
29-Sep-21
I was going to say Army worms lol, but you're talking about the hunting.

Looks awesome! Only question I feel like is being begged to ask, is are you completely closed to hunting the big field this year? Sometimes I think we can overthink ourselves right out of the game, and being rigid on a strategy could cost us. Not saying you are, just saying it can happen. Depending what you see there, you may decide to strike and win big. On a private piece like yours I bet deer tolerate a couple or few mistakes before severely changing behavior. Looking at what you've done I am excited FOR you.

29-Sep-21
I was reading up on Egyptian wheat....primarily as an edge cover that could also be used as a means of sub-dividing the big field into smaller sections if so desired. Much less cost intensive than trees, plus a much quicker response to the efforts. If it works, plant some trees for the future....if not, then cut it down and try a different tact?

From: Pat Lefemine
29-Sep-21
APauls, nothing is off the table, but last year between my neighbor and me, we pressured the mature bucks so much they went nocturnal and eventually left. The 6-acre kill plot is more secluded and the opposite end from my neighbor. Access is far easier to pull off there. My neighbors will still create pressure, but the east side should be different. So far, given the bucks moving in my kill plot, it's working. Also, that plot was red hot last year but it was all beans, and they liked to travel right down the middle of the plot, that's why I put my redneck there to get me into the action. Plus the corn can influence the movement. Seems to be working - we'll see when I go down there to hunt.

From: Pat Lefemine
29-Sep-21

Pat Lefemine's embedded Photo
This is what I tried in 2021, came up perfect. We'll see how it hunts in the next week or so.
Pat Lefemine's embedded Photo
This is what I tried in 2021, came up perfect. We'll see how it hunts in the next week or so.
Alaska, that's a very doable option. I'll keep trying more temporary options before I commit to trees, which can be reversed - but not easily. We'll see how this new design goes this year. It's a lot of work but it's a lot of fun too.

From: goyt
29-Sep-21
Pat, I certainly agree with not planting trees in your large field. It appears like you have plenty of wooded property. If the large field is a feeding destination and you can establish enough bedding areas in your woods to at least hold some does you have a great situation. At a minimum you will have day time movement by mature bucks checking out the does which may never have a reason to leave if the food is varied enough to meet their desires throughout the season. Then it becomes a matter letting access and wind conditions determine hunting locations. The more deer the field can support the better. Bedding areas 400 yards from a destination food source can provide great hunting locations for the morning right up to mid afternoon. Having a good bedding area(s) south of the plot would allow you to access hunting locations from your house with a north wind in the dark with deer in the field unable to detect you.

29-Sep-21
Great idea on creating the funnel using the corn. I enjoy seeing what others are doing with their land. This is year one for me and have one 1.25 acre plot with winter rye. There are usually deer on it in the evening but no big bucks yet. Good luck.

From: Treefarm
29-Sep-21
I will probably get shot for my thoughts. I have been there, done that with food plots. I get the fact that wildlife benefits from food plots. However, I see many landowners spending exorbitant time and money on annual food plot production.

I think landowners lose sight of the big picture, that being a sustainable understory that supports all wildlife.

In Wisconsin, there is a chronic issue with deer browsing. I have given up trying to educate some who simply say that browsing, many times over browsing, is not an issue facing woodland diversity. Many people argue there is not an issue with over browsing. Over browsing is not always indicated by what looks like a herd of goats went through. Over browsing leads to lack of diversity in the forest species and this happens over time. When natural regeneration ceases, it is time to step in.

I have totally given up food plots and planted mast crop trees, mainly white oaks. The only way I can get seedlings to grow is by creating deer exclosures with solar energizers. The time, money, and effort I have saved by eliminating food plots has allowed me to focus more on forest management.

I believe food plots still have their place, but only if landowners spend proportional effort ensuring that the forest habitat is healthy. Without a healthy forest with ample habitat, a food plot is only dessert for deer. No matter how fancy a food plot, mature bucks will not be consistently killable without suitable adjacent habitat. Landowners need to be cognizant and not neglect the wooded portion of their property. Removal of exotics like buckthorn play a big role in regeneration, along with maintaining proper basal area.

Maintaining a healthy habitat is a catch 22 situation. Deer will congregate on the best habitat in an area. With that are a lot of hungry mouths. Once food plots are consumed, woody fiber is next. Deer preferentially browse their preferred species, which happens to be the valuable tree species. This browsing slowly depletes the woodlands into undesirable species and exotics take hold. Regeneration of the preferred species are first to succumb to browsing once sprouted from the ground.

So please, take a balanced approach to food plots. One needs to have forward thinking. Food plots are an annual occurrence while forest management is a decades project. Don’t get too excited with nocturnal pictures of monster bucks utilizing your food plots. If your habitat is not holding these bucks, you are being used. Those bucks are likely not killable by you. Your neighbor who has the habitat...they will be the ones killing those bucks, even without food plots.

From: Pat Lefemine
29-Sep-21
Good points, I agree.

In Ohio I have a very healthy woodlot. Previous owner had a logging company. We have fantastic undergrowth and lots of white and red oak, black walnut and beech saplings. Phenomenal bedding cover too. The only thing missing was a significant winter food source and that’s where my corn and beans come in. I don’t harvest my crops and it fed the herd through April.

My NY land is the complete opposite. Old growth maple, hemlock and ash woodlot. It’s mature enough to start logging it off. Deer hunting is generally awful for a variety of reasons but mostly terrible deer management and significant winter kill. Oaks and mast trees won’t grow there, too cold.

From: XMan
29-Sep-21
Great job Pat on explaining how you changed up your plot setup, really smart and I think your gonna have great success this year. I have a very similar scenario on my IL property, it has 34 acres of tillable on 90 acres, most of it with two large adjoining fields dead smack in the middle of the property. I decided early this year to stop farming and planted 28 acres of switchgrass with two new plots strategically placed for easy quiet entry and favorable winds. It took me 5 years to have the gumption to make the change, we shall see this and next year how it works out. The switch is still immature but I have weeds and grass 5 feet tall providing excellent cover and bedding. Good luck this season.

30-Sep-21
Treefarm it's funny I'm not as knowledgeable as you are about nutrition, But I am knowledgeable enough ( hard knocks) to know I'm wasting my time planting food plots on my 30 acres of oaks that are mature. The emerald ash borer has opened up my woods enough along with some hinge cutting to make a safe travel corridor for the deer to come feed on my acorns and other natural food but feel safe doing it. We also had a terrible ice storm last winter that has made for some interesting pinch points . Pat good design on food plot!

From: APauls
30-Sep-21
That's awesome Pat. I mean everything you're doing seems well thought out. Honestly, for a guy who looks at what you've got going on as "the dream" or "the goal" it is really enjoyable to follow along and learn as you learn. So thank you for all the effort you put in sharing what you are doing. It's really interesting to follow along. Hope you kill a whopper out of there this year! Sharing the thought process is really interesting. What happened, why you're doing what you're doing. The figuring out is the best part.

From: JSW
01-Oct-21
I always enjoy your observations and the following discussions. Maybe my situation is different but I seldom, almost never, hunt my food plots. They are there to keep the deer on the property and keep them fat and happy. I've had much more luck hunting the travel routes and scrape lines away from the plots.

My thoughts are to leave the deer alone in the interior of my property so they are less disturbed. That way, when the bucks start moving around looking for does, they are less wired. It seems to be working so I'll keep it up.

From: txhunter58
10-Oct-21
Good thread

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