When it comes to land management for hunting whitetails, a well thought out food plot strategy is a critical factor for success. I could write an entire article about food plot seeds and what brands work better based on my experience, but I want to focus on what is the MOST impactful when it comes to food plots. Don’t get me wrong, what you plant is very important and it should not be ignored. But let’s take a step back and talk about something that is even more important than what you plant: Placement and food plot type. We will talk broadly about what should be planted, but this part of the overall food plot strategy requires a lot of thought and can often be overlooked by many hunters or land managers. I have planted food plots for large outfitters and small parcel hunters, and in my opinion, no matter how large or small the parcel is, the most important aspects of planting food plots are placement and food plot type. These two go hand-in-hand, so let’s explore the four main food plot types, how they can be placed and generally what to plant in them to improve the overall performance of your property.
#1- The Destination Food Plot
This type of food plot is often developed on a property to draw and hold deer. The destination field usually has a desirable array of food and vegetation for deer to eat year-round. A destination food plot is often large in size (typically 5+ acres). With destination fields it is good to have a mixture of annuals and perennials that will keep deer hanging around all year. It is especially beneficial to plant food that will feed and hold deer on YOUR property. Beans, corn and brassicas are great foods to have available for deer in a destination food plot. Having all of these will maximize the effectiveness of your destination food plot.
#2- The Killing Plot
The Killing plot does exactly what its name says, it is designed as an ambush food source. Killing plots are often planted at the end or on the outsides of funnels. Additionally, killing plots do really well on the outsides of destination fields. By planting a killing plot on the edge of a destination field it creates a staging area for deer to feed before they hit the main food source. The killing plot can often be connected to the destination field or even 10 to 50 yards away from the destination field. Either way, this type of food plot is intended to be an area of interest upon traveling to, or entering the destination field. Kill plots come in all shapes and sizes. Popular shapes for kill plots are the “L” shape, “V” shaped or peanut shape. Each provides its specific advantage in terms of killing deer. In my opinion, perennial plants would be the most logical type of food to establish for deer. By planting perennials on your kill plots you can focus all your re-planting attention on your destination field, which will ultimately save you time and money.
#3- The Linear Plot
The linear food plot is very unique in terms of utilization. These types of plots are great for field edges or narrow traveling areas. Creating an “inside edge” right next to a destination field can increase the amount of deer traffic that particular area gets. If you have thick cover between a linear plot and the destination field I can promise that you will find doe bedding areas here. Setting up on the edge of a linear food plot down-wind from the doe bedding that it created can be killer during the heat of the rut. Planting a linear plot on a two-track or logging road can persuade deer to use them as opposed to other roads or two tracks that do not have food planted on them. The linear plot is great for perennials that offer not only food for the deer, but also cover. Planting tall grasses with a mixture of clover generates the ideal bedding for whitetail and other species.
#4- The Island Plots
The islands are used for a specific purpose in certain locations. The main purpose for island plots is to create a barrier or to enforce segregation between the deer. Island plots are often made in tall grass fields near bedding areas, and they are small and circular in design. Island food plots allow for more than one group of deer to feed near each other without one deer invading another deer’s space. For instance, if a doe group is feeding in island plot and a buck is feeding in another island plot then the buck is less apt to bother the doe group. They are compartmentalized as they are feeding and deer actually understand this. If you have a few of these island plots plant in an area with tall grass the deer will take ownership of their own island while feeding. This can prevent deer from roaming or bumping other deer like we see often in large destination fields. You can have three to six island plots to keep deer isolated within their own food plot, which from a hunter’s perspective can be a great advantage. You won’t have deer moving around as much and they are restricted to a specific location. Additionally, if a deer does decide to jump an island plot and bump other the deer they are more likely to just simply move to a different island plot. In result, the island plots can keep a group of deer together in one place without bumping each other off a field entirely. This food plot method might just keep your shooter buck within shooting range next fall.
I hope that this article was helpful and hopefully brought some fresh ideas to the table in regards to food plots. Before purchasing your seeds and fertilizer, your food plot strategy should start with your food plot designs and location. Not all of these food plots can be applied to each hunting parcel, so it is important to decipher which food plot can be implemented on your property. Consider these ideas about the four main types of food plots and you will be in a great position to better your whitetail hunting property.