7 Killer Bowhunting Tactics: Small Internal Food Plots

Pat and his buck that is one of the top 20 typical whitetails ever taken with a bow.

Pat and his buck that is one of the top 20 typical whitetails ever taken with a bow.

Every time my wife, Nicole, and I set up a stand in a tree or on the ground, we look for ways to make that location the best it can be. We try to enhance each stand location by making sure there are one or more calling cards available to deer.

By Pat Reeve

What is a calling card? It’s some type of object or contrivance that will entice a deer to come close to your stand and offer you a shot. Because we bowhunt so much, we have to get close. A calling card can be natural or man-made, visual or airborne — such as scent. Sometimes, one calling card is all you need. Other times, it might be smart to have several.

There are many examples of calling cards: waterholes, rubs, scrapes, licking branches, small interior food plots, minerals, apple trees and other fruit bearing trees, and decoys. Nicole and I use most of these throughout the season, and we’ve had enough success to know they work.

Small Internal Food Plots
The small internal food plots that we sometimes plant in the timber are de- signed more for hunting than nutrition. Internal plots are great calling cards be- cause deer feel safe coming into these isolated openings in the woods. They’re usually located close to bedding areas and are surrounded by good cover.

Our average hunting plots are small; anywhere from 1⁄4 acre to 11⁄2 acres. Nutritional plots are always much larger. Internal plots can be difficult to hunt. When you start penetrating the timber, you run the risk of giving away your presence to deer, especially mature bucks. Getting in and out without being detected is crucial. The biggest mistake most hunters make is tipping off the bucks they are hunting. A quiet approach to your stand is vital. Also, the wind must be in your favor at all times.

Pat dreamed about being outdoors in some kind of career, and he chased that dream while working for a state wildlife agency, filming hunts and doing other things to keep him busy.

Pat dreamed about being outdoors in some kind of career, and he chased that dream while working for a state wildlife agency, filming hunts and doing other things to keep him busy.

Sometimes we use the brush and other debris from clearing a small internal plot to funnel the deer into specific areas. We’ll push the trees and brush into a pile and arrange it so it creates a barrier deer have to walk around. By doing that, you can actually funnel deer to the spot where you want them to enter your food plot.

Stringing barbed wire through the woods also works well to funnel deer into certain spots. I’ll usually put up three strands of wire at least 5 feet tall. Then I’ll run parallel strands 5 to 8 feet away. With two separate fences that close together, the deer are reluctant to jump either fence because they don’t want to cross two barriers. So instead they walk the fence line until they reach the open- ing you have made for them. Either one of these barriers can be very effective.

We try to offer a variety of calling cards in our internal plots by planting several food choices including corn, beans, clover and wheat.

Several years ago, I built a 11⁄2-acre internal food plot on my 35 acres in southeastern Minnesota. On one edge of the plot, I also built a small pond.

WATCH: See Some of the Best Tips for Growing Great Food Plots

This past year, I initially planted three food sources in that small plot: corn in the open, several varieties of clover, and alfalfa in shaded areas close to the trees and pond. In fall, I re-tilled several spots where the corn was not growing well and overseeded those areas with rape and turnips. They grow well together. I’ve sometimes combined corn and beans. I plant the corn first then I go back and broadcast beans. They also grow well together. But I don’t plant corn every year. I usually rotate corn and beans each year so the soil doesn’t get depleted.

In addition, I planted two rows of white cedars around my small food plot on the side closest to the bedding area. When these trees are fully grown, they’ll serve two purposes. They’ll pro- vide thick cover for a staging area as the deer approach from their bedding area. Deer feel a lot more comfortable if they can stage in an area with good protective cover before they step into the open to feed. Then during the coldest days of winter, those cedars will provide good thermal cover for the deer to bed in.

Because of their thick foliage, the snow doesn’t tend to accumulate as much under cedars as it does under other types of trees, but when it works its way to the ground, it tends to melt faster because the temperature is usually a little warmer under those trees. Plus, the cedars will eventually offer protection for my food plot by sheltering it from the wind, and they’ll serve as a good winter food source for deer.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is an excerpt from “Trophy Whitetails with Pat and Nicole Reeve: Tips and Tactics From the Driven Team,” which is available at www.shopdeerhunting.com.

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