Whitetail Oats Plus Adds New Dimension to Food Plot Program

By Charles J. Alsheimer

Nov. 17, opening day of New York’s firearms season: Dawn arrived cold, frosty and very foggy. My plan was to hunt the morning in one of our farm’s acorn flats, perched in a stand I’ve used for 38 consecutive opening days. Though it’s not the most productive stand on our farm, it has been very good to me through the years. So the memories keep me going back year after year.

As darkness gave way to the gray shades of dawn, I quietly climbed the ladder and situated myself in the stand for the morning’s hunt. Although there was no cloud cover, dense fog made it hard to see more than 50 yards in the woods. Soon after daybreak, a lone deer made its way through the stand of mature oak trees, 50 yards away. Because of the deer’s body size, I was certain it was a buck. Unfortunately, the fog was so thick I couldn’t see antlers. By the time I was able to determine that he was a shooter, the buck was out of range.

Throughout the morning, several yearling bucks and does made their way past my stand as they fed on acorns. With noon approaching, I climbed down and headed to where my son, Aaron, was hunting. It was time to check in with him and have lunch. Aaron had hunted the morning in our farm’s best stand, in what we call “the mother of all funnels.” It is situated in a thick spruce plantation that connects two prime bedding areas. What makes this stand so good is that we border the funnel with food plots, and this past year, the plots contained Imperial Clover and Whitetail Oats Plus.

When Aaron told me he was going to hunt another stand in the afternoon, I decided to take over for him and hunt his stand in the afternoon. I had hunted a big 8-pointer in this area throughout our archery season and was certain I’d see deer there before day’s end.

By 2:30 p.m., I was in the stand and ready for action. Within minutes, several does, fawns and a 2-1/2-year-old 8-pointer began feeding in the Whitetail Oats Plus food plot, 100 yards from my stand. I looked each deer over closely with binoculars. Things got interesting when two button bucks paused from munching on the oats to engage in their version of sparring. I chuckled to myself as I watched them push each other back and forth.

After they broke up and returned to feeding, I scanned the plot to see if any other deer had shown up. I noticed that a big doe had stopped eating and was looking intently into the spruce. Sensing something was about to happen, I let go of my binoculars, reached for my rifle and got ready. Seconds later, a big 8- point bolted out of the spruce toward the doe. The chase was on!

Luckily, the doe didn’t leave the food plot. I clicked off the safety and waited for the buck to move through one of the two shooting lanes I could shoot through. The doe trotted around the plots before walking through both shooting lanes with the buck in tow. When the buck cleared the brush and stepped into the open lane, I pulled the trigger. Before the .270’s roar finished echoing down the valley, the buck was dead at the edge of the Whitetail Oats Plus plot. When the gun went off and the buck hit the ground, there was mass exodus from the food plot. Deer ran in every direction. A doe, two fawns and a yearling buck bounded toward my stand and stopped less than 10 yards away. They stood motionless looking back toward the food plot. The four moved very little for the next 10 minutes before walking off and out of sight. Talk about excitement!

I knew the buck was dead, so I decided to just sit in the stand for a few more minutes. Everything had happened so fast that I wanted to take time to relive the moment and think about what had taken place. I’ve had a lot of great moments in the deer woods, but this was one of the best from more than 50 years of hunting. I couldn’t believe how everything had come together. Thanks to the setup, the Imperial Clover and Whitetail Oats Plus food plots, and the preparation that went into the day, it had turned out to be an opening day to remember.

Little did I know at the time that another great memory would occur in less than a week from the same tree stand. Six days later, Aaron killed the biggest buck of his life as it dogged a doe in the same plot where I had killed my buck. Ironically, he shot his buck within a few yards of where I shot mine on opening day.

After Aaron’s buck was loaded on the back of our Gator, we decided to take a few minutes to see how the deer were using the Oats Plus and nearby Imperial Clover plots. It was obvious that the clover and oat plots were being heavily grazed. But what was amazing to me was the sign we found in and around the Oats Plus plot. Though the clover was being used heavily, there appeared to be twice as many fresh deer droppings in the oats as in the clover. Also, there were several fresh rubs on saplings along the edge of the oat plot. Throughout fall, I spent considerable time photographing the location and knew it was a whitetail magnet. In October, our farm’s deer were hammering the Imperial Clover plots that flanked the spruce funnel. When November arrived, the clover was still being heavily used, but it was clear from the sign that the Oats Plus plot was becoming more preferred with each day. It had been several years since I had planted wheat or oats in our food plot program, so I was pleasantly surprised to see how well the Imperial Clover and Oats Plus complemented each other.

Formula for Success

In 1990, several local landowners and I decided to see if we could come up with a plan to have better deer and deer hunting. At the time, the concept of quality deer management was in its infancy in the Northeast. It has taken time, but what we’ve been able to accomplish in just more than 20 years has been impressive. For starters, before 1990, more than 90 percent of the antlered buck harvest in our area was made up of 1-½ year-old-bucks. In fact, if anyone killed a 100-inch buck, the hunter and deer got a lot of attention from locals. It wasn’t until after 1990, when participants began passing up yearling bucks, harvesting more does and planting food plots that things changed drastically. In the early going, I relied on annual clover and rye for food plots. However, it didn’t take me long to discover the Whitetail Institute. In 1996, I planted my first Imperial Clover food plot, and as they say, the rest is history — sort of. I say sort of because our farm’s program has grown as other Whitetail products have been introduced. Talk to any two food-plotters and you’ll find that their bread-and-butter plots are clover. In my case, more than half of the food plots on the free-ranging portion of our farm offer Imperial Whitetail Clover. We also operate a 35-acre high-fence enclosure that contains 10 whitetails for research (no hunting is permitted in the enclosure). Half of the enclosure’s food plots are Imperial Clover. The balance of enclosure and the free-ranging food plot areas get planted in a variety of other forages. Up until last year, most of our non-clover plots were planted in annuals such as Winter-Greens and Tall-Tine Tubers, both of which have been huge successes.

Awesome Oat Blend

Early last year, Steve Scott, vice president of the Whitetail Institute, and I were having a discussion about an upcoming article I was doing for this publication when he told me about the company's new product, Whitetail Oats Plus. He told me Whitetail Institute had been testing it for several years and was extremely excited about how well it was performing for their field testers. When I questioned him on it, he said, “Whitetail Oats Plus is made with a blend of annuals with its backbone being a winter hardy oat that is incredibly attractive to deer. Unlike our other seed blends, which we developed from the ground up, we discovered   this product through one of our agricultural contacts who told us about a university research project being conducted to find a grain that could produce high tonnage. Our contact shared that the oat seed in Oats Plus was dropped from the research because deer wouldn’t leave it alone. That obviously got our interest. “Over a six year period, we did extensive testing on Whitetail Oats Plus, all the while tweaking and blending it with different seeds to make it even better. During this time, we evaluated the blend’s attractiveness to deer and how well it grew in different regions of North America. It was the most attractive oat we’ve ever tested. Once we knew we got it right, we brought it to market." Our discussion was enough for me.

Amazing Results

In late August, I planted Whitetail Oats Plus in several food plots on our farm, for the free-ranging deer and our enclosure’s research deer. From September through the time of this writing, this past March, I monitored all the plots with cameras and on foot, to see how they appealed to our deer. To say I was impressed would be an understatement. Through the years, I have planted different varieties of oats in our food plots but have never had success with an oat product like I have with Whitetail Oats Plus. From late September through October, all of our Oats Plus plots were heavily grazed by various doe groups and various bucks, offering numerous photo opportunities. In early November, when the rut went hot-to-trot, deer activity in and around the oats plots ramped up even more, and I was able to photograph many rut behaviors, from bucks dogging does to all-out chasing and two fights. Throughout this past winter, our farm’s deer have pawed through the snow to get to our Imperial Clover and Oats Plus offerings. Because of the Oats Plus’ winter hardiness, those plots have been, for lack of another word, hammered. And when the snow cover melted off in early March, deer grazed the oats continuously. Not a day has passed that I’ve not seen or bumped multiple deer in and around the Oats Plus plots my son and I created for the farm’s wild deer. The photos I’ve been able to take the past seven months, with trail cameras and my professional cameras, have been amazing, as those that accompany this article can attest. In reflecting on the past year, I’m impressed by how Whitetail Oats Plus has added a new dimension to our food plot program, because of the way it supplements Imperial Clover and other Whitetail Institute products we use. From May through November (and even longer if deer can paw through the snow to get to it), Imperial Clover is the backbone of our food plot program. And Whitetail Oats Plus is another winner indeed.