Whitetail Paradise by Mossy Oak BioLogic

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Providing the variety of nutrition necessary to cover a whitetail’s needs for the entire year is important. With all the changes happening in the whitetail’s world you need to provide a food that gives them what they need regardless of the time or conditions.

In addition to the above, I will plant some lablab and soybeans to help the perennials in their job of supplying nutrition from spring through early fall. As I mentioned, I will typically add soybeans to the corn, but I may also plant them separately. Some late planted Winter Peas also make a great additional source of attraction.

Food plot design is somewhat an art. Every property is unique. I tend to separatemy plots into two categories, “feeding plots” and “hunting plots”. There are exceptions to the rule, but for the most part I don’t hunt the feeding plots.My goal is to provide as much nutrition to as many deer as possible and I want themto feel comfortable about accessing this nutrition whenever they want.

In my “hunting plots” my goal is to draw them in so I can kill them, or to use it as a magnet so that I can intercept them on the way to the plot. If the plot is large enough I try to provide the variety necessary to keep them coming to the plot all season long. If you plant only one thing in a specific plot you are limiting the attraction time. I will probably divide a specific hunting plot into several sections, depending upon how large the plot is. You must obviously have adequate acreage to do this “variety tactic” justice. For instance, if you have only a ¼ acre plot, you are probably better off planting just one blend. Otherwise, when a specific cultivar becomes palatable there’s not going to be enough to keep them coming back, they’ll wipe you out too soon. With small plots you have to be very specific about the goals for the plot and what you will plant. You can get away with a bit more variety in smaller plots if you have numerous small plots, if you dedicate many total acres to food plots, or possibly in an agricultural area where you have cash-crops to back you up.

For plot placement and design I rely on aerial photos, topographical maps or satellite images. For those of you who are “computer friendly” you can get amazingly clear satellite images at http://maps.google.com or simply search “Google Maps.” It depends upon what you have to deal with for topography but most managers will be content to use swamp edges, meadows or natural openings for their food plots. If you are in the “big woods” and need to use a “dozer” to create an opening, I would examine things very carefully. Note what the prevailing winds are and pick your treestand trees before you choose your exact plot layout.

Scouting will tell you where to set up your ambush. As far as making the kill on a mature buck, scouting is the number one most important detail. If you are very careful about limiting pressure on an area, you may be able to set up right on a food plot’s edge and harvest a Pope & Young buck. More often than not, however, when talking about mature bucks, it’s best to set up several hundred yards off of the plot. The plot is still the “magnet” and the reason he’s in the area, but your chances for a shot during legal-light will typically be better the closer you get to his bedding area.

During the chase phase of the rut I like to set up in funnels or “pinch-points” between several food plots if possible. Bucks will cruise downwind of the plots scent-checking the plot for hot does. Typically in a funnel their movement is restricted to a smaller zone so it’s easier to position yourself to play different winds.

Food plots are going to decrease the home range size of every animal on your property, and in doing so will increase your property’s carrying capacity – if you do things right, possibly significantly increase your herd numbers. One of the main points to stress is, along with all that great food, if you don’t also supply them a “spot to live” your impact probably won’t be what you expect.

While standing on the ground in your hunting area, if you can see clearly for 75 yards or more in several directions, chances are your property is not holding many deer. A whitetails’ world exists from six feet high to the ground. If you want to increase your property’s carrying capacity I suggest getting busy with the chainsaw. Besides creating cover for “housing,” regardless of how much food you plant in your food plots, deer still must also have their natural browse.

I’m not saying that you want to go out and do a clear cut either. Whitetail like a balanced mix, they like edges and diversity. Quite honestly, unless a large tree is producing some type of mast crop or fruit it’s probably not doing your whitetail much good at all. Anywhere that you can let the sunlight hit the forest floor your deer herd will benefit from it, even if you aren’t planting food plots. Do your woods work in steps - having trees and plants in all stages of growth is healthy for your woods and for your whitetail.

If you have an abundance of mature trees, depending upon the variety, you may consider having it professionally logged. You will likely earn enough to pay for your other management goals.

One of the most important aspects in producing trophy bucks is leaving a sanctuary for them. Once all of this work is done, and you’ve got your property laid out how you’d like, make sure you leave a safe zone for them. This spot I do not enter unless I’m tracking a wounded animal, or possibly once a year to do work or to make sure everything is still on track. If you wish to hold mature bucks on your property this is especially important!

If you are serious about getting close to mature bucks, to go along with your sanctuaries, minimizing pressure on other parts of your property is also important. Older bucks will not tolerate much before they change something to avoid making contact with you. Some managers deem their entire property as a sanctuary and use a minimum impact hunting style.

Water is perhaps the most overlooked element but possibly the most significant. At certain times of the year or under drought conditions it is undoubtedly the most essential. Here is the first 4.5 acres of a 14 acre project on the author’s home property. Being 30 feet at max-depth this not only will make for a dependable, clean water source for the whitetail and other animals, but it will hold fish and when complete will also provide excellent waterfowl habitat. The project paid for itself by selling the excavated fill to local road construction.

Back to water - as I mentioned, if you have whitetail on your property now, there is a source of water somewhere nearby. Even if that is the case, make it easy for them. This is one of The most overlooked pieces of the puzzle but possibly the most important. What happens if the ol’ creek dries out during a drought? I would suggest having several back-up sources.

Livestock water troughs or cutting a large drum or tank in half and burying it can do the job. Fill the tank if it runs dry. In most parts of the country the natural rain water will keep them full enough. If you want something a little larger, it’s amazing what a person can accomplish in one weekend with a “front-end loader” and some pond fabric. Even with ample water sources on my home property we decided to put in 14 acres of ponds. We have finished with the first 5 acre portion of the project and are 75%complete on the last 8-9 acre piece. My daughter’s call it the “poke” since it’s too big for a pond and too small for a lake. With the fill being sold to local construction the project pays for itself. We also manage our property for waterfowl and this will be turned into optimum puddle duck habitat when we’re finished. The deepest portion is a little over 30 feet deep and we’ve also started to stock it with fish. So this “whitetail water source” serves many purposes.

I understand that with smaller parcels it’s impossible to hold whitetail at all times. But I am sure that even with smaller acreage if you provide them what they need in the food, water and cover departments, and you allow them to live as undisturbed as possible, you can create your own big buck paradise.

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Russell, MB
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