The best food plots for deer hunting need more than adequate vegetation. Think location and shape.
Ask a group of hunters for tips on a perfect food plot and, chances are, you’ll get plenty of answers. While some prefer perennial grasses, others incorporate corn and soybeans. To the deer, it doesn’t really matter as they’ll consume whatever is available.
It’s the location and shape of the plot that does make a difference. The best food plots for deer are those with nearby bedding cover and travel corridors. Once you’ve found an area conducive for a plot, the shape is just as important to funnel deer close enough for a shot and encourage daytime use. Here are a few of our favorites that have proven to consistently draw in whitetails.
The best spots are lush fields that were once farmland, or areas with dense, thick vegetation – a sign of healthy soil. Steer clear of patches of mature forests with towering trees. Planting here will require too much labor, between felling and hauling off the trees. Sparse blocks of woods can be an indicator of poor soil or an area that stays consistently wet or dry. You’ll want to ensure the plot will receive at least four hours of direct sunlight each day. Construct it close to heavily used trails and bedding areas, but far enough away so that you won’t spook deer when accessing your stand.
You’ll want to test the pH level of the soil before laying down a seed bed. Sending off soil to your local ag store or using a DIY test kit will provide answers about the acidity or alkalinity. Nutrients are typically more soluble in slightly acidic and neutral dirt, and plants can then easily dissolve them. With a poor pH level, your plants won’t grow to their full potential.
When you think food plot, your mind may picture a rectangle. And for good reason. It’s one of the most widely used and effective shapes out there to regularly harvest deer. It’s best to keep the width under 50 yards and at least double that distance along its length. This allows bowhunters to easily fling an arrow across, and the longer length is a perfect rifle shooting lane. The skinnier the plot, the safer deer will feel feeding since cover won’t ever be far away.
This shape has quickly grown as a favorite among hunters for one reason: it’s deadly. What makes it so effective is that deer are funneled from both ends to the pinch point in the middle. That’s where you are patiently waiting in your blind. Near the middle, pile brush in the adjacent woods, which will force the deer to walk through the opening and not skirt through the cover. It’s best to keep a stand on each side of the pinch point to account for varying wind conditions. Using a Banks blind will eliminate the need to do so, as all of our blinds retain your scent and dampen noise.
A V-shaped plot incorporates the same principle as the hourglass shape: the curve in the plot works as a pinch point to funnel deer. Bowhunters will want the width to be under 50 yards to ensure a good shot. Typically, deer will browse along the field edge, following it to the curve, which is where you should set up a blind. While it’s best to have a stand on the inside of the V, hang one on either side to account for wind direction.
Deer density and your property’s acreage will dictate how many plots you need. It’s a matter of preference when deciding which shape is best for you. In many cases, the terrain and tree cover will dictate the size and shape of your plots. It’s best to work in concert with Mother Nature, using the lay of the land to your advantage.