Deer have a certain comfort level; understanding what they are willing to put up with is an important factor in shooting big bucks. As I have improved the habitat at Fairchase Outfitters over the years I have learned what works for me and what doesn’t through trial and error. When I first started designing interior food plots I began with small plots and I would pile the timber from clearing around the plot so the deer had to enter from only two or three areas. I thought bottleneck entries and small plots would ensure the hunter would be able to shoot any deer that entered the plot. I was right, the deer did enter through those spots like clock work, the problem was that only a few does and fawns would feed in the plots during daylight hours, never any big bucks.
Hunting my new interior food plots, that I had spent so much time creating, was disappointing to say the least. I ran into the same issues with my exterior bow plots, they were too small and didn’t have enough drawing power to support the kind of hunting I was dreaming of, the kind of hunting I knew we had the potential of producing. The problem I learned was that I was hedging the odds too greatly in my favor. Each time I put in a small plot, I thought we really got em now, and the bucks would serve up yet another batch of humble pie. After 10 years of trial and error my approach is very different, and we are getting more shots at the biggest bucks on the property.
In 2011 we had our best year yet and the reasons are now very clear to me; there are a few strategies I now use when I am bow plotting inside or outside the woods. The first strategy is to keep interior plots easy for deer to access, don’t block any entrance. The second strategy is to make your plots big enough so you can’t shoot across them; if you can shoot across them they are too small. In order to get bucks within shooting range on a large plot, I will put a water hole in. Even if water is prevalent in the area deer will use the water hole, it’s a matter of convenience.
Big bucks feel much safer in a large plot because they have enough room to use their defenses. Think about this, if deer feed in a plot the size of your garage, they don’t have time to react to an attack. Small plots also leave deer competing for a limited amount of food; this keeps most of them out of the plot looking elsewhere for food. As I made my plots bigger, more does and bigger bucks began using them on a daily basis. More food, more deer, and more shot opportunities at the biggest bucks on the property! It has taken years but we have been able to change the habitat at Fairchase, mostly through trial and error, so much that we have increased the properties ability to hold monster bucks while increasing our shot opportunities on those big bucks simultaneously!