The Art of the Kill Plot
If you caught episode 12 of The Affiliated Outdoors Podcast featuring Dr. Grand Woods of Growing Deer TV, you heard a lot about "hidey-hole" or "kill-plot" food plots. Undoubtedly one of the most beneficial and simple ways to improve your whitetail hunting results. Kill plots require nothing more than light equipment, the will to work, and a significant amount of know-how.
We wanted to share a little bit of the know-how with you as the summer rolls along. It won't be long until those late-summer food plot plans will need to be finalized, so let's get after it.
Why "Kill Plots" or "Hidey-Hole" Plots?
A lot of people overlook the true purpose of their food plots, and they inevitably get stuck in the middle. Before any food plotting endeavor, it's important to ask yourself what the end-goal is. Am I looking to actually feed my local deer herd, or am I looking to attract deer during the hunting season so I can simply see more action from the stand?
That may be the most important question in food plotting. Far too many folks get themselves lost by planting small food plots and thinking they're feeding an entire herd, and other folks get lost by planting massive plots or even entire fields and thinking they are going to easily position themselves for a successful shot during the season.
Whether you call them hidey-hole food plots or kill plots, the purpose and specifications are the same. These are small food plots, generally an acre or under, that are designed to pull deer in front of your stand during the season. Small plots that can be established with anything from an ATV to a herbicide sprayer and a rake. Typically located within the timber or closer to bedding areas to catch deer in staging or travel zones.
Where to Plant Kill Plots
The beauty of kill plots lies within the ability we have to tailor them exactly to our hunting situation. The Drury brothers of Drury Outdoors constantly talk about planting to your position, and it's probably the best advice when it comes to planting kill plots. If you go to all of the bother of planting a 1/2-acre plot and you cannot harvest a deer off of it, what is the purpose?
Kill plots are designed to give you that element of attraction just a bit earlier than if you were hunting over a giant agricultural field where deer feed all night long. It's all about the kill shot. As a very general rule of thumb, the best spot for a kill plot is directly in front of a known productive stand or blind location. Plant to that position and you probably won't go wrong. With enough hard work, you can establish some kind of plot just about anywhere. However, it's not all that simple and straightforward.
Carve It Out- Keep Shape in Mind
Keep an eye out for natural openings and clearings within those deeper zones of your hunting area. It may seem like they aren't there, but you would be surprised how a small opening can turn into a 1/4-acre or larger kill plot. You definitely want some natural openings, but having a blank slate to work with can be a blessing in disguise. If planting to your position is so crucial, it can't be a bad thing to design the plot to your specs.
You will certainly have to factor in things like access to and from the plot without bumping deer, travel patterns, and wind directions. Don't think that you can simply slap an L-shaped plot into the deep timber and call it a day. At the same time, shape will be key. Certain shapes will work when it comes to planting to your position. Some guys believe in the L-shaped food plot, others love oblong or O-shaped plots, and others prefer a skinny and long shaped kill plot. Whichever shape you are able to carve out, make sure that you have shot opportunities across the entire plot. A properly shaped plot can funnel deer directly in front of your stand for seasons to come.
Find the Right Planting Variety
You have the ideal location and your plot is carved out in an ideal shape. Let's just throw the cheapest seed with the big, farm-grown monster buck on the bag, right? Well, that might work out for you. Again, it just depends on your goals. That cheap bag of seed may draw deer like crazy in the early bow season, but you may be planning on hunting that kill plot during the rut. Keep that end-goal in mind. You will also want to keep browse pressure in mind.
Things like soybeans will need significant acreage to be successful, because deer will hit them insanely hard. Other planting varieties like brassicas, turnips, or radishes have a very defined sweet spot. Meaning that deer will generally hit them hard during a specific portion of the hunting season. Certain things work during specific phases, so it's important to recognize that before you drop one seed on the ground.
Things like clover and chicory can be fantastic for those early season hunts with a stick and string. Those brassicas, turnips, radishes, oats, and other hardy plants are going to do their work later in the season. Brassicas are the green and leafy plants most of us envision when we think of food plots, but realize that they are most attractive once frosty temps roll in. Every planting variety has a defined sweet spot, so get familiar with that before you do anything.
Encourage Sunlight-to-Ground Contact
If you disagree with every other point in this post, you have to heed this advice. It's simple reality on the planet that we inhabit. You absolutely have to foster sunlight-to-soil contact if you have any hope of planting successful food plots. It's 5th grade science, but very important nonetheless. Nothing grows without adequate sunlight and moisture.
If you simply cannot find a single area in the timber or near a bedding area where sunlight hits the ground, get out the chainsaw and make it happen. Sunlight is a not only a good thing when it comes to deer and habitat management, but it's a must when it comes to growing any kind of crop. Even the smallest food plot needs some amount of sunlight. Always be safe and know that you are not destroying valuable habitat, but don't be afraid to get busy during the early summer and move some trees, brush, or grass.
While we could go over endless tactics and intricacies to kill plot success, this list should serve as a good starting point for those of you looking to get the ball rolling.
You will find that small steps are key when getting into food plotting. Kill plots make it possible for all of us to get our hands dirty and do something good without breaking the bank or having insane equipment.
They also serve as a reminder that food plotting can be for everyone. No need to own 1,000 acres, 3 tractors, and a barn full of equipment.