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5 Keys for Kill PlotsWords by Craig Dougherty
When we think of food plots, we typically think of two types: feeding plots and killing plots. Feeding plots are designed to attract and hold deer on your property by supplying them with plenty of food. Kill plots are designed to kill deer on or near.
Feeding plots are designed to grow as much food as possible in the space allotted. They are large in size (three or more acres) and generally planted in an agricultural crop such as corn, beans, or alfalfa.
Feeding plots are designed to be worked with large agricultural equipment and typically located somewhere near the center of the property to draw and hold deer. Large feeding plots are usually left for feeding and not hunted. A good deer property will generally have a few large destination plots that deer will frequent on a regular basis (often at night).
Kill plots are designed to hunt on or near. They are small in size, typically a quarter- to a half-acre, and are designed to work in conjunction with the larger feeding plots. They are best located between a bedding area and the feeding plots.
Kill plots are often irregular in shape and typically are planted in highly attractive deer forages. The trick is to have your deer stop by the kill plot for a few minutes on their way to the large, centrally located feeding plots. Kill plots are generally built closer to bedding areas than a feeding plot would be. Big bucks will generally wait until dark to enter a feeding plot but will work a killing plot during shooting hours.
Well, that’s the theory behind kill plots. Now, here are five keys to make kill plots really work for you:
1. Don’t Over Hunt
Over hunting a kill plot is the kiss of death (yours, not Mr. Big’s). Kill plots are just too small to take much pressure.
Hunting a plot repeatedly is a sure-fire way to send any wall hangers elsewhere. He will avoid it like the plague. The first sit is generally your best chance to kill a big buck. After that, he will know he is being hunted. Hunt the same plot three nights in a row and he will know you are after him and be gone. To really run a successful kill plot program, you will need to jump from plot to plot so the deer using them never begin to associate them with danger.
2. Watch the Wind
Wind matters when building kill plots. Swirling air will reveal your location every time; smart hunters build their kill plots in areas that feature “clean air.”
Stay away from turbulent areas under ridges, against conifer backstops or places where the thermals will give you away. If possible, build your kill plots where your scent will be carried harmlessly away (out and over a valley or pond, up, up and away, across the four lane).
Before breaking ground, blow some bubbles or set off some smoke bombs to see how the winds you are likely to encounter will impact the plot. If the wind constantly shifts and swirls, go elsewhere.
3. Make Your Plot Deer & Hunter Friendly
A “deer-friendly” plot will generally be rimmed by brush or other cover where deer feel secure. Smart, old deer typically will visit kill plots for a few minutes during the middle of the day or on their way to an evening feeding plot.
Mature bucks don’t want to be seen; they just want to grab a few mouthfuls of clover or brassicas or chicory before moving on. You can’t expect a good buck to be out in the clear feeding two hours before dark, but you can expect him to be back in the thick stuff well before the sun goes down.
The plot should also be irregularly shaped. We like boomerang, hourglass and serpentine shaped plots. The trick is to design it so bucks can feed in one section of the plot without being in your face all the time.
Make sure you are going to be very well hidden, as you will be hunting in close quarters. When he does feed within range, make sure you are ready for him. And be sure to make it easy to get in and out of without alerting every deer in the place that the hunt is on.
4. Plant it Right
Good plots don’t just happen; they are planted that way! A kill plot might be small, but it has to be planted with good agricultural practices in mind. You can’t expect your “Big Boy Wonder Mix” to grow if you toss it out in some weedy corner of an old, abandoned field. You need good soil (soil test is mandatory) with a pH of around 6-7, six hours a day of sun and a weed-free medium to grow most deer forages.
You will probably need some fertilizer as well. Use quality seed mixes from quality companies, such as ProVide Clover with Chicory or Driven-Core Blend by Evolved Harvest. The old standby clover/chicory and brassicas mixes are hard to beat. Be sure to plant forages that will take plenty of use. Forget the brown bag seed mixes sold by local experts or local farm supply stores.
Killing plots should be timed to “peak” when you are going to hunt them. No point in planting a plot that is all “used up” by the time hunting season rolls around. Get the advice of a professional deer manager or seed company professional if you are unsure.
5. Back Off, Buddy!
Truth be told, most really smart bucks are not killed on food plots. They are killed just off them.
Savvy hunters make sure they have multiple stands or blinds set back from the plots. Thirty-five to 50 yards might be about right for the first “back off stand,” with another set 100 yards or so away from the plot.
Old bucks generally “visit” plots from afar before getting close enough to be seen. They play the wind for locations where they can “see” without being seen. Plots are a good place to interact with does, but they generally “nose check” them first from a safe distance away.
Depending on the wind and terrain, an experienced buck can check and “watch” from a few hundred yards away. You want to find these locations and set up near them.
Kill Plot Seed Selections
Regardless of whether you are an experienced food plot hunter or a newbie considering a first attempt at creating a kill plot, the folks at Evolved Harvest have you covered with a complete line of seed blends for all types of applications and all areas of the country. Here are a few of our top picks:
If you think you can’t install a kill plot in hard-to-reach areas, think again! Evolved’s Throw & Gro No-Till Forage ($16.99) was created especially for areas where using heavy farm equipment simply isn’t an option. Throw & Gro requires no tilling or disking — simply prepare your seed bed with hand tools, throw the seed on and watch the blend of ryegrass, clover and brassica attract deer. One 5-pound bag plants a quarter-acre.
Evolved AlphaPlot ($24.99) is a premium blend of perennial and annual forages that are very palatable and offer a high protein content. AlphaPlot contains hybrid alfalfa, clover, chicory and T-Raptor. Hybrid alfalfa and chicory are heat and drought tolerant, which makes the blend very adaptable, even in the Deep South. T-Raptor — a rape/turnip hybrid — makes the product just as versatile as it is appealing. Each 3.5-pound bag plants a third of an acre.
Finally, attract deer to your property with Evolved’s 7 Card Stud ($19.99). One of the most adaptive seed blends on the market, 7 Card Stud can be an early-, mid- or late-season seed that not only gets deer to enter your field but keeps them there throughout the year. Contents include forage oats, forage triticale, winter peas, crimson clover, forage turnip, forage chicory and daikon radish for an irresistible blend that deer just won’t be able to resist. Each 10-pound bag plants a quarter-acre.