In the last 50 years or so, deer hunting has changed a lot. And one can make a good argument that the greatest change is the advent of the food plot.
You won’t hear any guns in this war.
Well, that’s not exactly true.
In fact, like in other wars, the winner is where the shootin’ is.
In the last 50 years or so, deer hunting has changed a lot.
And one can make a good argument that the greatest change is the advent of the food plot.
Bigger than the shift of the shotgun to the center-fire rifle, a larger leap than the jump from the recurve and long bow to the compound bow, and even a greater change than hanging up for good the red and green plaids deer hunting outfit for the modern camouflages, with more patterns than there are trees to put them in.
And it appears that the headlong rush to “grow your deer,” is even going to supplant the old timeworn notion of “hunt your deer.”
And it sounds modern, doesn’t it?
Growing is green.
Green is good.
Grow your own deer.
Growing your deer is a very fashionable way to relate with nature.
As more and more hunters put in ever-larger and more complex plots of clover, brassicas, and oats, it follows and becomes truer each year that whomever has the biggest food plot wins the deer war.
That battle of the food plots is the real Deer Wars of the 21st Century, all across the country.
Some of us are fortunate and have a lot of territory to hunt in one place.
Others have a number of places to hunt and that also boosts the odds in filling a tag.
But there are many of us who only have one place to deer hunt and lack the wherewithal to invest in land, soil amendments, seed, and time to fuss so that our hunting spot looks like a photo on a seed packet ad.
This year was an eye-opener because there was a lot of tracking snow up on our hills during deer season.
And the story written in the snow was as plain as the nose on your face. Even in bow season, and then later through the gun and muzzleloader seasons, snow on the ground told us where the deer were coming from and going to.
So it became evident where the whitetails were “holing up” and where they lined up for chow time.
And in other, adjacent tracts or woods, or woodlots, we couldn’t cut a track, except for a wandering yearling buck.
In the past these excellent deer hunting spots produced. But now, as their timber has gotten bigger and their understory of herbaceous plants, ferns, and preferred browse has gotten scarce, so have Mr. and Mrs. Whitetail.
And we hear after the season, seasoned hunters say, “Where are the deer? Had one of the poorest hunting seasons. …” “Never saw a buck.”
Times have changed.
There was a time that deer hunting contained for a large part, egalitarianism, and equality.
Back in the day a young man walking out in the back forty had just as good a chance of getting a crack at a decent buck as the next guy. All he had to do was be a good shot, play the wind, and learn the woods.
But now that more innocent hunter, armed with woodsmanship, knowledge and understanding of the wild movement of the whitetail has been to some degree, trumped by the guy who has the tractor, time and lime, and land to use it all on.
Does a food plot guarantee a filled tag?
Can a guy walk out his back door and fill his tag with the buck of his dreams? Sure. It happens.
But overall, whitetails are moving en masse to areas with the best food plots to a surprising degree as bow season turns into gun season.
Evidently whitetails have enough natural wild foods such as apples, beechnuts and acorns to hold them in their traditional cover in the early season before the leaves fall.
But soon as their food in the woods disappears, not only do the deer tend to congregate from all over in the best food plots, but also for the social interaction. More deer draws more deer.
Do you know who has the largest food plots in the areas you hunt?
The larger food plot will skew the pattern of your deer once the natural foods are gone … and that’s usually hunting season.
Ironic, but in this world of Machiavellian justification, large food plots can be trumped by an even larger food plot, just over the hill.
And the best laid plans of mice … can be washed away when a farmer puts a 150 acres of corn in where only a fallow field supported thousands of field mice and song birds just over the ridge.
Next year the owners of the smaller food plot vow to plow up more ground, plant their own corn, amongst other new designer forbs and clovers that are sold as “irresistible, a sure thing that deer love.”
And the sound of shooting, is the background music in the newest of the Deer Wars, coming to a hill near you, if it already hasn’t.
E-mail Oak Duke at email@example.com.