FOOD PLOT STRATEGIES
For More Deer hunting Success

JJ TAXIDERMY
Ardmore, OK
jjtaxidermy@gmail.com
580-222-1080

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Aside
from being a taxidermist and rancid deer hunter, i also have a 9 to 5 as a research scientist. In order to give my words a little "street cred', here are my professional credentials: M.S./B.S./P.hD OSU (that would be the Oklahoma OSU) in Soil Science/Environmental Science/Soil Science, with emphasis in soil chemistry. Since 2010 I have been running a non-advertised consulting service (Feed to Hunt Consulting) where I visit your property and write you a plan to implement some of the strategies included on this page as well as lot more very specific information and a map to help you manage your efforts. I have worked as an ecologist for the EPA, Soil Scientist for the NRCS, and Now as a Research Scientist specializing in forages and technology. Since around 2003 I have put quite a bit of time and effort into developing food plot systems that will work and can be financially as well as logistically viable for most folks like myself with limited time, land, money and equipment resources. What follows are some informative compositions I have put together as a series of articles pieces of which have been published in various venues. I wont try to lie and tell you "if you do what i say, giant bucks will climb in the tree with you", but if you implement the strategies in one way or another chances are you will see more deer, and that improves your odds for encountering a mature buck. If you like or dont like what you read and you would like to email me please do so at jjtaxidermy@gmail.com. Also if you might be interested in the consulting service you can contact me via email or phone.

3 Considerations For Food Plot Strategies

If your hunting property is stricken with food plots, exploding every year with endless supplies of high quality deer attracting forage and then being overrun with hoards of mature bucks that regularly pose broadside at 20 yards, don’t worry about reading the rest of this…..But, if you have ever had to try and make jerky from and unfilled tag because you never had an opportunity while hunting over a “food plot” that resembled a moonscape…read on.

Investing in quality forages and quality information can be the difference between a moonscape and browse manicured food source. Many of us chasing the big boys in the fall are limited by spatial constraints and time. Your whole hunting season may consist only of a few hours of a few weekends and be confined to relatively small properties. The likely hood of crossing paths with that buck you have trailcam pics of, when left to chance probably isn’t great. Conventional knowledge says you can provide a food source to attract him or his girlfriend into a zone where you might get a shot. None of this is really new logic, deer are slaves to their stomachs, and if you make the right kind of food available at the right time in the right place your chances get better.

The question then becomes “What is the right food, the right time and the right place?”.  The right food is probably not the same for me in southern Oklahoma as it is for someone in Minnesota, or someone in southwest Texas. Considering types of forages, growing seasons, plot size, as well as some additional factors can assist in creating a strategy or a system that can keep you in the green.

Of the twenty two or so years I have chased whitetail deer in Oklahoma and north Texas, the past seven have yielded more opportunities for harvest and more opportunities for learning than those prior. The past seven years of my life just so happened to have been those years with which I have had the chance to apply to deer hunting, some of the concepts I picked up through the research and experience of my professional life. Initially the thought of providing a food source seemed fairly straight forward as I had hunted property in past years with large expanses of wheat pasture and subsequently hunted the wheat as a point of attraction. The problems I now faced were that not only was I unable to plant and maintain a couple hundred acres of wheat, but most of the places I had available to hunt were less than a couple hundred acres, and had marginal deer populations and habitat.  Despite the obvious obstacles I was intent on creating an environment which would deliver the opportunity to observe and harvest. The first attempts employed small grains (oats, wheat, rye) for fall “hunting plot” situations. The origin, quality, and potential of the forage were all distant second thoughts to that of just simply the presence of something green and hopefully something brown within bow range of my tree stand. The frustration that ensued was a direct result of those things I hadn’t given a second thought to… origin, quality, and potential of the forage. Previously I mentioned that using the right stuff is important, and after several frustrating years I began to develop an understanding that led me to that conclusion. I found small grains, i.e. wheat, oats, rye, are all great choices for a food plot component, but they are just that a component, not the entire picture as is the case with most forages. The small grains will give you a great flush of early fall growth, and some quick green. For example, small grains coupled with some brassica for late season, and a multi-year highly nutritious forage crop such as chicory will make for a season long successful food plot. The combinations of various forage types, and systems that can be created seemed almost endless when I really began an earnest attempt at putting something together that would work for my situation. In the end I discovered there were three considerations which made the decisions much less confusing and really quite straight forward.

Origin: This is a reference to the source of a product you might employ as a food plot component. A reputable seed company that markets high quality products is generally the best decision. You can plant the most well thought out combination of forage for a solid producing scenario, but if the seed doesn’t germinate you are just feeding the grasshoppers. Check the germination percentages, and dates on the products you might purchase. Look to see if you’re buying a premium product with a seed coating that will aid in germination and kick start the soil biology that some plants need and thrive on. Some plants like clover intentionally produce a fraction of seed that doesn’t readily germinate, but eventually will, giving your plot some additional longevity from “HARD SEED”. The germination may be a little lower, but in the long run your better off, so do a few google searches and find out what you should be able to expect from a product. Also, and this is kind of a big deal, read the suggested planting rates and dates, as well as the fertility information concerning the types of plants you are considering using.  For instance, legumes, i.e. clover and alfalfa, don’t need any nitrogen, but will consume more phosphorous than what their minimum requirements are. Conversely, small grains and some forbs such as chicory are nitrogen hogs, the more you give them the more they grow. A quality product will have some detailed information and management strategies included. And be careful about ingesting too much anecdotal information from your buddys or internet forums. Trust your trail cam pics and the evidence of browse pressure you see with your own eyes.

Quality: This is in reference to the quality of the forage which can be expected from a plant species. Initially, if you purchase a product that is inferior in seed quality chances are you will experience diminished forage quality from a slow start. Also, you can have great success with establishing a plant species ultimately to find out the quality of the forage is lower than many of the options deer naturally have in your area and your plot subsequently gets underused.  Deer in Oklahoma will step on just about anything you can grow to get to the last poison ivy leaf, or the last stitch of waxy greenbriar you didn’t mow down…just about anything, but not everything. You can think of it in terms of rice cakes versus burgers versus steaks. Given the choice you would probably take the steak dinner, deer are no different; there are forages they “like” better than others. What they “like” to eat has almost nothing to do with the way it tastes, but everything to do with their nutrient requirements in relation to the nutrition levels of a forage. I maintain a food source on one farm I hunt that has included chicory as a base for several years. Upon my creating the type of environment I had previously referenced, my neighbor decided he could do the same….within view of my food source. He petitioned my advice, and as someone who appreciates the benefits of more nutrition available= more deer in the woods, I delivered my best ideas to him and even showed him around my side of the five strands. Despite my advice he went for the old faithful, and typically very inexpensive choice of a monoculture (one plant species) rye food source. He got to watch deer in my smaller chicory mixture plots all season long. Now don’t get me wrong, anything is better than nothing, but given the choice deer will choose the steak AKA higher quality forage. Incidentally, the year this happened was particularly mild as far as weather goes, so the deer had plenty of choices and a relatively low amount of physical stress due to the lack of inclimate weather and they still preferred the chicory plot to pretty much everything except acorns. The bottom line is that all variables held constant, a deer will use the food source that most efficiently achieves its nutrition requirements, and being aware of the quality of a forage will help you make a better decision when considering plot size , necessary costs involved, and ultimately what type of forage to plant.

Potential: This is probably the most poorly communicated/understood aspect of the food plot puzzle. Each different species of forage be it oats, chicory, clover, turnips, soybeans or something else all have different potentials for producing forage. Some of the potential is due to the characteristics of the plant, for instance; annuals typically produce more forage faster than perennials do in the same time period, but annuals have to be replanted every year and over a twelve month period amounts produced by each are generally comparable. Also affecting potential are factors such as the natural fertility of the soil, and of course environmental factors such as rain fall, and the climate in which you are looking to grow your food plot.  Initially I went into the food plotting endeavor with the mindset that regardless of what I chose to plant, if I could get a stand it was a success. This is the idea I am presented by frustrated hunters who have invested in food plots that successfully germinated and produced forage but were quickly decimated by hungry deer and were devoid of viable forage when a chance to hunt presented its self. The first question I ask is “what is the main food source for the animals you are hunting?”. This usually gets met with a blank stare. When you provide an attractive high quality food source, deer generally hammer it in the dead of night as a primary food source and leave you with good trail cam pics and bare ground…unless you understand the potential of what you are planting and plan accordingly. Planning accordingly means making sure what you are planting will either serve as a highly nutritious deer attracting compliment to a main food source or produce enough to be the main food source for more than a couple of days or weeks. An illustration of this occurred on place I have been collaborating in management strategies for several years. The piece of ground is a little over a hundred acres and has poor soil fertility at best. The first couple of years the property had food plots were borderline failures. Small monoculture food plots of small grains were planted, fairly dry conditions prevailed and the food plots were ravaged as soon as they showed signs of life, the place ran out of food, end of story. When we looked a little more closely, the owner and I identified favorable food source locations in relation to the general travel patterns through the property. We devised a plan of early maturing resilient forages (small grains/clover) near bedding for early fall hunting and progressively later maturing forages along the general line of travel through the property in order to provide forage throughout the season . We also soil sampled to understand to natural fertility potential and he fertilized accordingly. The next fall he shot his biggest bow buck (150 class main frame 10 pt) on the 2nd day of season as it was headed to the early season plot. Not only was he successful in filling his tag for that season, the strategy of ensuring forage availability throughout the season by understanding forage potential kept plenty of animals using the property throughout the fall and winter, and then into the spring which set him up really well for having successful spring food plot utilization. Every year since then this property has provided oppurtunities for mature buck harvest as a result of the strategies employed.

A great deal of emphasis is placed on fall and winter attraction plot utilization, but as in the previous illustration, the food plotting idea can be viewed as a twelve month cyclic system. Plot components and size can be used to “Train” the deer in your area.  If you provide the a quality food source year round, not only will those deer you are hunting this season utilize it, but so do their descendants, and probably some of their friends and so on. The key though is the quality, in the case you are offering only low quality forage, or insufficient quantities, nutritional requirements will force deer to find higher quality or higher volumes of forage. A comment I sometimes hear concerning spring food plots is “I don’t hunt in the spring why should I have spring food plots?”. From a management view point, spring food plots provide nutrition to maintain herd health as well as allowing bucks to realize maximum antler growth potential. From a hunter perspective who is looking at a smaller piece of ground, spring/summer food plots offer an opportunity to get the edge on deer months before the season starts. This “edge” can be obtained through the observational opportunities presented to create a trail cam “inventory” of what animals are using the place, and the general movement patterns through or within the property. This can aid in knowing what you’re hunting and where they move, long before the season rolls around, making the limited time you might have more effective and ultimately more enjoyable. Although some of the animals will come and go, and the feeding movement patterns tend to become a little more direct in the late summer, late fall and winter, this spring window can provide opportunities for stand placement and fall plot location planning which otherwise might not be as obvious. Quality products and forward planning to ensure ample volume of high quality forage is especially important in the spring as in most regions of the country a flush of spring growth provides ample forage accessibility for wildlife. In the event you have a system which can transfer the feeding activity directly from cool season forages to spring and summer forages, the animals won’t have much reason to roam, and you have a better chance at seeing that 3 ½  year old when he is 4 ½  the next season from a stand.

In closure, the underlying key to providing successfully producing food sources that will attract deer is implementing quality products and quality information. It costs much more in time and resources to attempt renovation of a failed food plot than it does to go with quality from the beginning. In the end quality really does pay.

The Total food Plot Picture

 

In the first two compositions 3 consideration, and How to train your deer, I covered some points about how to select the right food plot components and why, and how to most effectively utilize the opportunities these food sources can grant you. In this installment ill try and sort of tie it all together in an applied scenario that I use and have assisted several others in implementing. Ultimately it has lead to the presence of mature deer on a property which was previously devoid of such activity, heightened activity, and eventually assisted in successful harvest of mature bucks.

One item I had not previously mentioned is feeders, wither this be supplemental protein in the spring, or corn in the fall and winter, these are extremely effective for creating a point of attraction by consistent feed availability. I will say that I have never harvested a mature deer while munchin under a feeder…not for lack of trying….it just has never worked out like that for me. I have encountered several folks who regularly are able to do this, but I would say this is an exception as opposed to the rule when compared to the installment of high quality forage in food plots. The feeders are though absolutely unrivaled for trail cam inventory of what you have in the area, and the frequency with which those animals use the area. A feeder in conjunction with a good food plot can help to really open a window through which to view the actual times of activity on certain areas you hunt. If you are unsure as to the general direction of movement through the place, several cameras set up on feeders on various food plots throughout the property will generally help to resolve this question. This is also really a great tool for delineating core bedding areas…which you want to stay out of for the most part.

I have found that on any 1 piece of ground (size depending upon the carrying capacity of that general area) there will be a core deer “HERD”. Consisting of a single or multiple groups of bachelor bucks, loner bucks (4 to 5 yr old and older), and depending on the time of year (spring) doe/ faun pairs (late summer/fall/winter) Doe/faun groups. Those general social structures are important to identify as these groups will generally use the feeding areas differently. Of course the identification of these groups can easily be done with well placed cameras on feeders oriented preferably out in the wide open middle of a food plot. Most pics will come at night but if you are expecting deer movement to be more weighted towards daylight times you will generally  be disappointed. Many people mistakenly diagnose nocturnal movement entirely as a symptom of too much pressure. Although more human intrusion can certainly push the deer to move more at night, deer are bi-modal as far as feeding goes as are most wild critters. This means they pursue an activity schedule that lays out something like this:

Near nightfall- Get up and head toward the feed. Fill rumen (stomach) with green and grain then lay down and let it digest a bit, rinse and repeat to near sun up.

Near sunup- Begin to move off of main feeding area back to main bedding area.

Late morning- Possibly slip out of the bedding cover to grab a quick bite if conditions dictate more energy is needed.

Early Afternoon- Same as late morning

Bi-modal simply means 2 modes, or exhibition of the behavior in this case 2 times. Those 2 main times will coincide with the safety of darkness. There are slight exceptions to this rule (late morning and early afternoon), but generally these periods of movement are much more subdued.

This does not apply exactly to bucks during the rut when they may run willy nilly chasing every possibly hot doe they can smell, but the does tend to get run down and really concentrate movement around the good food. Subsequently this is where you will find the bucks.

So, having provided a little back story on some of the potential reasons and time frames for activity it can become a little easier to understand how deer will relate to a food plot and why. Most importantly though is how you can use these behaviors to your advantage. In order to really use the information you gain from the trail cams or what you see from a stand, it helps to adopt a mindset whereas you attempt to insert yourself into what is going on in relation to the food sources as opposed to trying to make a deer do something it might not normally do. The total amount of influence you can generally exert into the system will be manipulating the level of activity in certain areas as a by-product of food source placement. More or less adjust your methods to coincide with what is naturally going to happen.

Ok enough with the theoreticals, and on to the food plot scenario. Initially, the most important thing for anybody to do before trying to put in a food plot is select site and climate appropriate components. The scenario I am about to lay out has been effective in southern Oklahoma although some of the components are used much more widely than that. This means that there is some flexibility and versatility associated with these components for a variety of sites and climates. The first part of the picture will be planning what you are going to put in the ground and where. Lets look at what first. The cycle referred to in the other two articles breaks down like this:

Early spring and summer-Early april- Plant soybeans as your largest central food plot. This will act to channelize the activity flow from bedding to feed and give you a good idea of what is coming from where, with the aid of cameras.

Late april/early may- Sunflowers- plant as secondary food sources along the travel routes. Never Plant sunflowers in the same spot more than 2 yrs in a row as they tend to spoil the soil (they are allelopathic-google it).

Early fall Late Summer- disc or till the bean and sunflower areas. Plant the bean areas (Main Feeding areas) in chicory, alfalfa, oat, turnip mixture. The beans will have accumulated nutrients and when tilled will release them back into the soil for the fall crops to use. Also, the alfalfa and chicory will be perennial so they wont have to be re-planted for several years. Plant the Sunflower areas to oat turnip mixture, these areas will be used for beans the next spring.

Now you have a fall hunting scenario set up with several months of deer training already underway. Incidentally, if you have run several feeders through the spring and summer, now is the time to cut back. I generally run 1 to about 100 acres. More than that and the deer have too many options. The only remaining feeder I continue to run year round is that on the main food source which was rotated from beans to the alf/chic/oat/turn mix.

Second spring:

Fertilize what will now be a chicory alfalfa plot as the turnips and oats will die out. Some turnips may persist and re-seed…this is a good thing.

Spray out the remaining forages in the oat/turnip plots and work ground, plant to soybeans. The soybeans can be mixed with sunflowers to extend the beans as the sunflowers will be much less expensive.

Second Fall:

Convert soybean or soybean/sunflower areas back to oat turnip mix.

For the next couple of years you can stick with this system until the chicory alfalfa plot starts to die out. This could be as long as 5 years or as little as 2, so you will just have to monitor it. The chicory alfalfa plot will provide forage pretty much all year long in my part of the world so it tends to cover the summer slump months and winter spring transition months. Also the addition of premium clovers or other forages might be included, or overseeded into the chic/alf plot. Once the chicory alfalfa plots plays out you can start the cycle over or maybe add some new components and see what happens.

So next, Where? The best way for me to do this is with an illustration of a property I have hunted for several years.

Click this Link to see Fig. 1

You can see by the illustration the movement runs toward the main plot while going through or near the secondary plots. The intersection or near intersection with the secondary plots is generally your best bet at stand placement.

Secondly, you need some fertilizer unless your food plot site happens to be in an old lagoon bed or something similarly bizzare. Generally speaking as a soil scientist, unless you are in Florida with extremely sandy soil and wet conditions don’t worry about Potassium, that would be the last number on the bag (18-46-0) the 0 part of the 18-46-0 is potassium. The other two in order of appearance are Nitrogen and Phosphorous. 18-46-0 for example is 18% nitrogen (N), 46% phosphorous (P), and 0% Potassium (K). For anything other than grasses you are probably only worried about P (phosphorous). With the exception of sunflowers and chicory almost all non-grass food plot plant species are legumes. Legumes generally come with some innoculant. If the innoculant is used at planting the plant will create a relationship with the microbes in the innoculant and subsequqntly “make it’s own N (Nitrogen)”. A little starter N isn’t a bad thing, and that’s why I generally suggest using 18-46-0. The nitrogen will help the plant put on some height early on while the microbe N factory is coming online. Number 3: weeds are bad, the agricultural definition for weed is “a plant out of place” so anything you are not intentionally growing is a weed. If you have the means get a sprayer and whack the weeds before your prep the ground and the day you plant with some roundup.

After you have done what you can from the above operations its time to plant. The “rough in” way I plant beans without a drill (planter behind a tractor) is to till the site as deep as possible. I then get my broadcaster bag and evenly spread the beans out. I then come back with the tiller and till shallow so the beans are covered with about an inch to 2 inches of soil. All other plants discussed can be broadcast and and dragged in with a harrow or in my case a gate chained to the hitch ball of the truck.

In closure, I will not claim to be a the most proficient big buck expert in the area, nor the most knowledgeable wildlife biologist. But I can tell you that the information included above has worked to help me get close to deer I never would have otherwise had the chance.

How to train your Deer…and maybe yourself a little

 At first glance this may sound a little ridiculous, but it really is possible to train the deer which utilize the properties you hunt. If you think about it, the only reason a wild animal survives is due to learned behavior based on the instinctual drive to survive and reproduce. The animals that can learn will survive and reproduce, and those that aren’t quite as bright manage to evolve themselves out of the food chain.

From the hunter point of view, training the deer would imply manipulating the end point in movement patterns such that an opportunity to harvest would present itself. This is sort of right, but really training the deer is more “big picture” than that. “Training” a wild animal consists of creating a system or manipulating current or future circumstances so that the critter in mind instinctually i.e. naturally reacts in a way that makes them more accessible. KEY HERE IS THE WORD MORE!! You can almost never guarantee the utilization of a certain area by a certain animal at a certain time, but you can stack the probabilities in your favor.

So now that we have characterized the goal, i.e. big picture manipulation, the first step starts with a doe. Although we as hunters fixate on the antlers, and subsequently center all our focus on the bucks, the deer world revolves around a doe. Not just any doe will do, but the doe we are, or should be concerned with is the matriarch, the old doe, the one that will bust you 25ft off the ground from a 100 yards away with the wind blowing in your face not hers. Now depending on the number of deer in your area, there may be multiple “matriarch” does, but the principles will apply the same. We will call the matriarch doe from here on Doe M as to simplify a bit. Doe M teaches her offspring by example for several years of her life, behaviors taught to her by her predecessor, which were taught by the predecessor’s predecessor, and so on. Doe M will more than likely be the mother at some point of a buck you might want to shoot. So if you can convince Doe M to regularly utilize an area you can hunt EFFECTIVELY you will be ahead of the game. Keep in mind Doe M will eventually run off any buck faun she throws, so it will be necessary to remove her from the system after her teaching is complete if you intend on growing bucks and developing a group of deer that consistently utilize a certain area. And dont worry about losing your trainer, another Doe M will step up. Additionally, Doe M is generally the “leader” of a small group of 1 ½ and 2 ½ year old does as well as buck and doe fauns. This group will at some point during late October/ November become a central focal point for buck activity.

Ultimately if you can teach Doe M to use a certain area, you will also be teaching several generations of future Doe Ms to use the area, as well as the bucks in the area to pivot their movement in relation to Doe M and her posse.

How do you teach Doe M? Doe M is more or less unteachable for most of the year, but there is a time frame during which she can be reached. This time frame is during late winter/early spring through early summer, and sometimes a small window in late summer. The reason these few months allow access to Doe M has everything to do that whole instinctual survival/reproductive point I made earlier. During the late winter/early spring months she is trying to recover core body weight prior to faunning, and then late spring maintaining it during that period the faun is nursing. In late summer most food sources are beginning to deteriorate so movement tends to trend toward any food source that still has some viability. These periods of time are extremely physically demanding and require either high volumes of moderate quality food or moderate volumes of high quality food. Given the choice Doe M will pick the second option. So as you may or may not have heard before, deer being slaves to their stomachs can most effectively be manipulated by food sources.

Not just any food source will do though, and not in just any location. The type of food can and will be different for any one situation as compared to another, but there are a few mainstays that will generally serve you well. Here let me say, I am not being paid by any seed company to push their products, my recommendations come strictly from experience and research findings. An effective food source situation can only be defined as a cycle, meaning one type (warm season crop i.e soybeans) leading into another (summer slump i.e chicory crop) leading into another (cool season crop i.e oats ). Generally speaking the best way to view or understand the cycle will be to start with those forages that will be planted in the spring. As far as I have found there is really only 1 that can be planted in the spring as an annual addition to the system and lead into the late summer early fall crop. This would be soybeans, not cowpeas, not lablab, not a whole host of other things, but just soybeans. And not just any soybeans, eagle seed brand gamekeeper blend. They need to be planted as early as you can stand to do it. A light frost on them will generally only burn the leaves a little, but not kill the plant. They are roundup ready and generally need a treatment 2 or 3 weeks after planting if possible so as to allow them to get up above the weeds. The reason I recommend these beans is two-fold. 1. They get HUGE, and when I say huge I mean six feet tall with stems an inch or more in diameter. This potential will only be realized though if some 18-46-0 fertilizer is added to the system, and they are planted early enough that other natural forages are available until they are about a month old. After this point, the will get hammered, but tend to be extremely resilient to browse pressure. 2. They are late late late maturing, meaning they will provide high quality forage all the way through the middle of October, at least they last that long in southern Oklahoma. Obviously further north this season will be shortened. Once these beans get established they will out compete all the weeds around them, and because they develop an extensive root system they tend to be very drought tolerant. This soybean has been the most effective tool I have ever used in training deer movement. The quality of the forage is high enough and they generate so much of it, deer will in some instances begin to “LIVE” in the beans. Cool Season Crops: Cool season crops generally consist of food plots you as a hunter will intend to hunt over. Because of this they need to provide 3 things. 1. Time, i.e. have a long enough growing season to hunt over them before they quit producing forage. 2. Quality, i.e. a deer will not waste its time in your food plot if it can find something better in the safety of the  “woods”. 3. Volume, i.e. the forage can be tastey and present, but if it isn’t produced in high enough quantities it wont be around ato hunt on, and your deer training vice will disappear. There does not exist one single forage crop that delivers all of these, so it is necessary create a combination of forages that compliment one anothers growth habits, growth seasons, and nutritional values. The best combination I have found for the area in southern Oklahoma where I hunt consists of the following: Oats, chicory, alfalfa, purple top turnips. The oats give you some early season green that will be higher quality than most of what is available from mother nature, and they are pretty drought tolerant. The will also keep the pressure off of your other components without choking out the seedling turnips, chicory and alfalfa until mature enough to be browsed without being killed. The chicory and alfalfa are highly nutritious and highly  attractive from mid fall into early winter, and tend serve as a point of attraction . They are also perennial and offer high quality (high protein-milk and horn production) forage pretty much year round. Purple top turnips are absolutely unrivaled for mid to late season bulk forage production, and will be preferred over most of the smooth leafed exotic brassicas that come in antler covered packages. Another big advantage of the purple top turnips, is thay dont seem to be preferred by the food plot killing bugs like army worms or grasshoppers.
 

So now that we have covered WHAT, we can examine the question WHERE?

One of the biggest mistakes I made when first starting out with the food plot thing was to locate the food plots very near historical bedding areas. I ended up with lots and lots of good trail cam pics on the plots, but unfortunantely they were almost all at night. Over the next couple of years I began moving the food plots further and further away from the beding areas. What this served to do was simply extend the travel route from bed to feed. It takes more time to cover more ground. So ultimately I bought myself a 15 min before dark to 15 min after sun up window of oppurtunity. I found the magic distance for that particular area was about 400 yards between bed and feed to get the window accomplished. on another farm I hunt that distance was around 200 yards. In some places where deer are accustomed to traveling large distances on a daily basis (wide open western Oklahoma) you may need to have the food plot 1/2 mile away from the bedding area. Conversely, in the thick tangled river bottums in central and eastern Oklahoma travel distances are much shorter so food plots can be much closer to bedding areas. This all depends on how far a deer is willing to travel. If it has to travel too far for comfort, it will just either re-locate or not use the food source more than occasionally.
Location of the types of food are also important for training the deer to move. I generally try and locate the most tastey green stuff (i.e, chicory/soybeans)the furthest from the bedding area with some moderately interesting food strategically located on the way. This will teach the youngsters to move toward the food on a schedule which could provide harvest oppurtunities. This will also enable you as the hunter to never hunt over the really good stuff so as not to alert Doe M of potentially alarming intrusion.
The picture I am putting together here hopefully is starting to become obvious. As opposed to getting some green going and hanging a stand at the edge of it. By using the strategies discussed above, you wont have to hunt over the main feeding area and chance blowing it out. You can hunt the trails and secondary food plots on the way to the main feeding area so as to spread out your activity and have more options for different weather conditions and seasonal changes. This can be a very productive strategy if you consider that most of the time a mature buck is on his feet happens after dark.
A good example of this can be illustrated by what happened to me 10-4-2009. I was fortunate enough to arrow my biggest bow buck to date, a 150 inch 200lb 8pt. I also arrowed his big brother but unfortunately the pigs got to him before I did. I had every inch of a particular food plot covered by 4 cameras, and never got a pic of either of these deer despite the deer activity by young bucks and does being intense. I new there were generally mature deer utilizing the adjacent bedding area from previous years experience, and that year the sign suggested the same with lots of rubs on the same old trails and such. I ended up staying away from the food plot and hung my stands no closer than 100 yds. The activity level never flinched , and I arrowed both of the bruisers 100yds from the plot following the same trail a number of deer had earlier in the evening on the way to that food plot.
The main reason this illustartion really bears the truth (and I have several more years worth of stories with pics to back them up) is that this food plot was established several years prior when the deer movement and presence in the area was about as random as you could have made it. The food source concentrated the movement direction, and the center of activity. Those bucks and another I missed with a bow that fall were not regular users of the food plot as far as I could tell, but they were a part of the activity that surrounded the food plot. The acitivity which was centered around a group of youger deer who were all trained by Doe M.