Problem Solving Creates “Deadly” Food Plot Strategy

By Fred Abbas

If you've ever watched our A-Way Outdoors television program or read any of our articles in Woods-N-Waters News, you know we invent our own hunting tactics. If you own any of our A-Way Hunting products, you would also know we invent our own products. The reason is very simple: There are problems with every hunting aid that will eventually cost a hunter their quarry, and there are problems that ultimately surface during every type of hunt.
 We believe there is a solution to every problem, and we first attempt to recognize exactly what the problem is and why it’s a problem. If this involves a hunting aid, we isolate and then remove the weaknesses and build on its strengths. By the time we are finished, the product looks much different from its counterparts and is patentable.

If you own or lease land for deer and turkey hunting, you know the greatest component to continued success is food plots. Food plots can never be outlawed because hunting near them is a legitimate, legal tactic. It's only a matter of time before baiting in Michigan and elsewhere will be eliminated. This is now especially true now that farmers have ethanol to enhance their income. (Note: This article was authored before chronic wasting disease was discovered in Michigan and prompted the baiting ban in Michigan’s lower peninsula.)     

Strategically placed food plots are designed to attract deer and turkeys to your property, and proper plantings are designed to hold animals on your land. We use a variety of Whitetail Institute products with outstanding attraction power and they give deer the high protein needed to enhance antler growth. Does also benefit by having healthier fawns.  You've heard that variety is the spice of life, and truer words were never spoken when it applies to planting food plots — especially for deer. However, when hunting food plots, you must solve some problems. The problem isn’t the food plot, but the way most mature bucks approach or leave a food plot, and the way most hunters hunt the plots. The more I thought about the problems, the easier they were to identify.  

Problem No. 1: Many hunters place permanent blinds overlooking food plots and hunt the plot with a rifle or shotgun. Eventually, smarter, more mature deer will figure it out and become nocturnal, making the plot much less effective. That's if the big bucks don’t leave altogether. Remember, the idea of a food plot is to attract and hold deer on your land.  

Problem No. 2: Most bucks, especially mature bucks entering a food plot in the evening, usually stage in nearby woods before dark or enter the food plot during low light.  

Problem No. 3: Usually, mature bucks leave the plot before daylight. 

Searching for the Solution

The remedy is easy. Move the blind or stand to an interception point unrelated to the food plot. At least that's what we thought. Where it should be relocated created a further problem. Then, we needed to know what time deer were reaching the staging point and where that point was located. We also wanted to know if deer that left the plot before light went directly to bedding areas or lingered somewhere. If they lingered, where did they linger, and for how long?  

The only way that we could find the answers was by using trail cameras. We started in May at one of our most productive food plots, and then extended that to other farms, using eight cameras set near intersecting deer runs 500 to 100 yards from the food plots. It took us nearly five months to compile enough data to reveal the information.

Before getting into specifics, it's worth mentioning that the deadliest location for a food plot is below a north-south ridge. Bucks loved the idea that they could peer down and see what was happening in a food plot from such a safe distance. They were also aware they had the advantage of using thermals in the morning without exposing themselves.  The aerial photograph of that situation is shown in this article. The oblong square in the picture is a two-acre food plot planted with Chicory Plus and Alfa-Rack Plus, which has mixtures of alfalfa, chicory, clover and other foods. The inverted L-shaped lines on opposite corners of the food plots are subtle shooting lanes, where we removed a tree or shrub here and there to weave a shot through without a deer knowing it's there.  The L-shaped lines nearest the food plot is an average of 100 yards from the plot, and the lines farthest from the plot average 300 yards away. The shooting lanes extend about 150 yards in each direction. Duplicate shooting lanes on the opposite corners allow for wind-direction changes.

Here is what we found when gun-hunting these locations. When the guns were fired, deer in the food plot were at first startled by the noise but felt no immediate threat and soon returned to feeding. They never made the connection. Further, the cameras told us that deer staging in the evening would cross the 100-yard line almost an hour before dark and stage 50 to 75 yards from the food plot while waiting for dusk. We were astounded to learn that before daylight, deer would leave the food plots one to two hours before dawn. More astonishing was that after deer traveled beyond the 100-yard line, they lingered more than two hours after daylight before they crossed the 300-yard line. Some just stood around, and others would temporally bed down. It figures. Deer have no concept of time, nor can they reason. They have no thoughts of a tomorrow. Truthfully, deer are only motivated by their immediate needs: food, water, safety and reproduction, along with curiosity.  

We added curiosity to that list because we discovered a way to heighten a deer’s curiosity as we were inventing a new scent product. The idea came about from our many road trips, watching how road rage took control of some foolish drivers. For example, one guy was riding close to the bumper of another. The front car hit his brakes to back off the second car. The second car passed the first and hit his brakes, on and on it went. Each act escalated in more rage.  

We never waited around to see the final outcome but turned that lesson into part of a new product. We had a series of eight stands surrounding a targeted food plot. Each setup had an extra stand in case I took a cameraman with me. I elected to hunt and film by myself. Believe me, each year I do that, it usually costs me something, and this hunt would be no exception.  

Our Michigan muzzleloading hunt is my favorite. The biggest bucks are more active than they have been all season. Plus, many new bucks will have worked their way onto some of our farms. These new bucks are much more vulnerable to our scent products because they haven’t had time to identify the local deer. So they must spend considerable time trying to decipher each scent they encounter, and that’s what we want them to do in our subtle shooting lanes.  

I sat overlooking the 100-yard line after spraying She Heat over each deer run that crosses the shooting lanes. She Heat is made of real doe-in-estrus urine and synthetics. With syntheses, you can duplicate the scent of anything but can amplify the scent. Thus, deer have heightened curiosity. By doing this, you have the best of both worlds (and a powerful attractant).  

Sure enough, one hour before dusk, I saw a huge buck walk into the shooting lane. I easily locked him in the viewfinder of the camera. Then, I ranged him at 167 yards. He was doing everything I wanted him to do on camera, even lip curling with his nose while almost touching the She Heat. I remember thinking that he must have read the script. Ka-boom. The buck went right down, caught on camera for thousands of viewers of A-Way Outdoors. But as it turned out, I would be the only witness. In the heat of battle I forgot to do one little thing: press record.