Create a Successful Hunting Property: Food Plots, Water & Minerals
Posted on June 2, 2013
This exclusive special brings you several informative installments on the many things one must consider before creating your hunting property. In the first section, you learned about controlling pressure and maintaining a habitat. Now learn about the proper food plots, water and minerals necessary to maintain a successful hunting property.
I planted my first food plot in 1997. My property is bordered by a fairly large farm with crops rotated between corn, wheat, alfalfa and beans—all very much preferred whitetail foods. That farm is subjected to intense hunting pressure. The deer would bed on my property and then head for the neighbor’s fields in the evening, vacating my land until they returned to bed down. The deer, especially antlered bucks, were getting annihilated by the army of hunters guarding those crop fields. I estimated that more than 90 percent of the yearling bucks were being whacked every year.
My main goal was to create habitat and food sources to hold the deer on my property longer so they would lessen their fatal attraction to the neighboring lands. I needed to provide them with the ultimate in food sources. Thanks to lots of TLC, my apple trees grew like crazy and produced a bounty of fruit most years. I fertilized and pruned them regularly and kept other competing trees and vegetation at bay, allowing them to flourish. I also cleared three food plots. Two are smaller in size, but one is a larger destination plot located in the center of my property where deer are not likely to encounter much human disturbance. The two smaller plots are located on the front of my property where I can access them easily with minimal disturbance to deer while entering and exiting on hunts.
Since I’m competing for the deers’ appetite with established farm goodies, I don’t cut any corners with my food plots. The pH is maintained at close to 7.0 for optimal forage growth. I also won’t skimp on seed choices. I try to offer the deer something they don’t have next door. Imperial Whitetail Clover is my overall favorite food-plot forage. My experience has demonstrated that deer much prefer it to anything else I’ve seen. Parts of my plots though are prone to flooding during the late winter and spring, and on those spots I plant annuals like Imperial Now Plow and Secret Spot. I also seed rye along the edges, which deer love as well. My plots are fertilized to the max, and the results are usually some of the most powerful deer magnets imaginable.
Many landowners forget that deer need to drink water on a daily basis. During warm spells, their water needs escalate even more. I’ve discovered that deer really prefer to drink from water holes that are located right in heavy cover. The closer to the bedding area a water source is, the more it gets used, and if food sources are also at hand, then all the better. I have a stream running through my property, yet deer will pass up that clean water source to drink at the muddy water holes that I’ve dug.
I like to excavate a water hole in or near each of my food plots. The water table is so high on my property that all I need to do is dig a hole a few feet down to tap into ground water. At other sites, I’ve dug holes in natural depressions where water is funneled into the hole. Lining the hole with plastic will help to hold the water. I know of one person who digs a depression and then buries a small, plastic, kid’s swimming pool to collect water for deer. I usually just dig waterholes by hand with a shovel, however, at one site I used a mini-excavator to dig down about 8 feet to create an awesome water hole.
Deer get most of their minerals and vitamins from the forage they consume. Unfortunately, most of the whitetails’ range lacks certain vital minerals and vitamins. I use The Whitetail Institute’s 30-06 and 30-06 Plus Protein mineral and vitamin supplements to fill that gap. 30-06 contains trace minerals: manganese, iron, copper, zinc, selenium, iodine and cobalt. It also incorporates macro minerals: calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, sodium and potassium. Vitamins A, D and E are also included in the formula, which are antioxidants that whitetails typically lack in nature. The 30-06-Plus Protein product adds an additional 10 percent boost of protein.
My mineral sites make awesome ambush locations for bow stands, so I carefully plan them locating the minerals in bottlenecks where cover, prevailing winds and thermals create ideal hunting locations. The deer will hit those minerals with a vengeance all spring and summer creating deeply worn trails to and from the sites. I tweak the areas by dropping unwanted trees at strategic points to help create funnels to and from the locations. As fall nears, the deer will have consumed all or most of the minerals, but out of social habit, they still visit the 30-06 sites regularly. Any saplings in the vicinity are typically the first to get rubbed by rutting bucks and it seems like every deer that passes nearby sniffs around to find out what other deer have been around. Bucks seem to be drawn to those sites during the rut like crazy as they actively check any high deer traffic areas for estrus does.
Stay tuned for the next installment on the access and stand sites needed for a successful hunting property!
By Michael Veine