3 Food Plot Profiles Food plot success often lies in the details. Here are the stories of three folks who did it right.

By Mark Kenyon

 Flip on a random hunting television channel at some point today for an hour and I can almost guarantee you’ll see this scenario play out: A deer hunter climbs into a tree, settles in for a highly anticipated sit and moments later sees a giant buck walking into his pristine green food plot. The hunter gets set, music crescendos and then stops, an arrow or bullet flies, and the happy hunter celebrates. It looks so simple, right?

But anyone who actually plants food plots and uses them as a hunting tool knows this isn’t the case. In reality, you face a plethora of details and decisions along the way — never seen on TV or mentioned in stories — that are crucial to reaching that magical moment. Recently, I dove into several successful food plot stories to peel back the layers on each and see what factors and variables along the way made the difference. Here are three stories about food plots that worked and the nitty-gritty details that led to success.

Kale Kitterman

Kale Kitterman, of southeastern Kansas, has enjoyed the benefits of his favorite food plot for many years and in many ways. He and his father have killed several mature bucks from this plot, but one story — in which no trigger was pulled — stands above the rest. Kale’s wife had just taken up hunting that year, and on a special night, the couple sat together in a blind overlooking their plot and watched a wildlife extravaganza. Twenty-five does and 15 bucks worked through during the evening. Bucks sparred and chased does back and forth. It was an experience Kale and his wife would never forget. And it was thanks to a 2.5-acre field and lots of hard work. But what made this plot so special? The story began years ago, when Kale and his family used an ATV and an old implement to carve out a circular opening for a plot on their property. An early decision made at that point, regarding the shape and placement of the plot, turned out to be incredibly important. Near the center of the 130-acre parcel was a timbered draw, roughly in the shape of a backwards C, and to the north and south of that timber were large tracts of grasses and wetlands enrolled in a wetlands reserve program. With hopes of creating a hub for deer activity in the center of the property, they decided to tuck their food plot between the two grassy bedding areas. The finished food plot would be in the shape of an oval, filling the inside of that half-circle timbered draw. After they had chosen that perfect location, they planted a mix of Imperial Whitetail Clover and Chicory Plus (now Fusion). That and subsequent annual frost-seeding has continued to produce nearly year-round attraction. To use the plot as a hunting tool, Kale and his family situated three hunting locations along the perimeter to allow use during various wind directions. A ground blind — the one where Kale and his wife’s magical hunt occurred — and a tree stand were set up on one end of the opening in the timbered C. Another stand was located along the outer curve of the draw on the opposite end. Mowed trails and roads were maintained to create silent and stealthy access to any of the locations. With that plot design and the carefully chosen stand sites, Kale and his family could easily access a stand to hunt while never spooking bedded deer in the adjacent bedding areas. That well thought-out food plot placement led to a season-long hub for deer activity, several deer on the wall and uncountable lifelong memories.

Aubrey Parker

Aubrey Parker was the mastermind behind a memorable food plot as well — but his beginnings were a bit more modest. He was new to deer hunting just three years ago, and early on, he knew a food plot was in his future. So after buying a 29-acre property in mid-Tennessee and taking a year to get to know the area, Aubrey got to work. It paid off a few months later. With a parcel containing 29 acres of thick timbered hillside, the best location for Aubrey to try a food plot turned out to be a logging deck at the top of the slope. Thanks to help from a neighbor with a tractor, Aubrey quickly got to work clearing out a one-acre opening shaped like a long, squished rectangle. Imagine a squeezed tube of tooth paste, running north to south. Being new to the food plot game, Aubrey was careful to do everything right, and details were critical. He recorded every step of the process, with hopes of learning from this first plotting experience and making adjustments in the future — a practice all food-plotters could benefit from as well. On Aug. 1, Aubrey’s neighbor brush-hogged the opening, and two weeks later, Aubrey applied glyphosate with a backpack sprayer, followed by another application a few more weeks down the road. On Sept. 13, Aubrey sent a soil sample to the Whitetail Institute labs, and in three days, he had the results and fertilizer and lime recommendations in his email. It was time to get back to work. The lime and fertilizer were spread by hand Sept. 19 and then disked into the ground. And on Sept. 20, Aubrey broadcast an acre’s worth of Pure Attraction atop the rocky, well-drained soil and lightly dragged the surface. Then, all he needed was good luck and a little rain. Fortunately, he got that for almost two weeks, resulting in a lush, green plot even more beautiful than he could have imagined. Which brings us to Nov. 24. With deer almost always nearby or feeding in his plot, Aubrey took nearly 45 minutes that morning carefully sneaking into his stand overlooking the field. It was a prickly 30 degrees as he settled in at 5:30 a.m., and within moments, he saw deer in the food plot through his binoculars. His stand was on the northwestern edge of the plot, with a light southerly wind blowing his scent over his left shoulder and away from almost any deer that might feed into range. Not long after daylight, several does fed into the plot to his south, and a buck soon followed. At the time, it looked to be a nice 8-pointer that Aubrey had been seeing on trail cameras. It was an almost surreal moment — his first food plot and the top buck he was after, stretching forth in front of him. Aubrey cleared his mind, stood, centered the buck in his scope and put the finishing touches on a terrific first food plot experience. The buck he’d shot was not the one he had seen on camera, but that one detail didn’t matter to Aubrey. It was a wildly successful first food plot experience, no matter what was at the end of the blood trail. Despite limited resources and experience, Aubrey’s attention to detail and a focus on following the proper steps had led to a successful plot. And finally, his smart placement of the plot in an area of good cover and his careful access led to a dynamite hunt.

Rick Stahl

On the opposite side of the food plotting spectrum from Aubrey is Rick Stahl, a 14-year food plot veteran. And three years ago, one of Rick’s food plots would play a critical role in his hunt for a Pennsylvania buck he’d captured in hundreds of photos that summer. Using a small ATV and disc, Rick had created a half-acre opening for the plot several years earlier. He planted Imperial Whitetail Clover. It soon came in green and lush and, with a regular schedule of two to three mowings per year, would stay that way for years to come. It became a reliable deer destination. The plot was roughly rectangular in shape and was located west of a thick timbered bedding area, with a larger crop field to the east on an adjacent property. That placement would prove crucial to success, as the plot’s location lent itself to becoming a natural transition area for deer traveling between the bedding area and corn or bean fields on the neighbor’s land. Rick was careful about his activity around the plot, too, never going into those nearby bedding areas unless he was tracking a deer, and instead focusing his hunting efforts primarily on the edges of his plots, such as the clover field. When Pennsylvania’s gun season arrived that year, he settled in a ladder stand 25 yards off the edge of the opening. The tree he sat in was at the southeastern corner of the emerald-green clover plot, with the wind drifting from the bedding area back toward him. Almost any deer leaving the cover would pass north and upwind of him while traveling from left to right. It was perfect. His hopes for the plot and stand location were that the big 10- pointer he’d watched that summer would come out of the timber to his west and cross into the clover ahead of him for a quick snack. And the big boy did just that. Proper plot placement and careful hunting again led to success, this time in the form of a beautiful 4.5-year-old Pennsylvania buck on the ground.