It’s the time of year deer hunters around the country wait for. In most locales, bow season is mere weeks away (if not open already). We’ve put in our work securing land to hunt, scouting, hanging stands, and in many cases, spent hours working food plots to attract and nourish our deer herd.
For those of us that plot, this is can be an exciting time. All that hard work shows in the lush green forage and bustling trail camera activity.
However, it can also be a time of disappointment, when we realize that hard work isn’t paying off like we hoped. Did we fail in our soil prep? Was a lack of moisture to blame? Did we choose the wrong seed?
These are all common problems when food plots fail. But they aren’t the only cause. Perfectly prepared plots with optimal growing conditions can also fall flat. Why? Simply, we failed to realize that food plots are simply meant to supplement natural food. They cannot be a herd’s only source of nutrition.
Over-browsing can destroy a plot before it ever gets a chance to produce optimum forage. If your food plot is failing for no apparent reason, take a hard look at your herd and your property. If deer are abundant, natural forage must also be.
In these cases, quick fixes won’t cut it. Sure you can plant an emergency fall plot, such as winter wheat, peas or quick-growing rape, to help your fall hunt. But that won’t solve your problem. Ethical hunters will take a two-prong approach.
First, examine your herd. Chances are you are going to need to harvest some does. Whether you want to do that early in the season to help protect your plots, or later, to protect your rut hunting, create an antlerless harvest plan and stick to it.
Next, take a hard look at the natural forage on the property. Hard and soft mast are great. But in areas with abundant herds, natural browse is the real key. Early succession forests are the best answer for creating natural browse. If you are short on this type of landscape it might be time to call your local forester and plan a cut.
Whether you are just getting into the fascinating world of wildlife food plots, or you’re a seasoned hand, keep this philosophy in mind when food plots don’t perform as expected. For more insights on food plotting for whitetails be sure to catch this week’s episode of Deer & Deer Hunting TV "Food Plot Payoff" at 9 a.m. Eastern Sept. 10 on Versus.
For even more in-depth information check out our Building Successful Food Plots Hunter’s Resource package.