Tips & Tactics

Follow the Food

Follow the Food

By Ken Piper

The key to every whitetail’s heart is its stomach.

Did you know whitetails eat between 6% and 8% of their body weight in vegetation every day? For an average buck, that’s about 10-14 pounds of greenery! It’s also why deer always seem to be eating, even when they’re on the move.

Many times we sit in stands overlooking a food plot wondering why so few deer show up. There are dozens of factors that influence how much whitetails use a given food plot, but one of the most important to keep in mind is even the best food plot provides only a very small percentage of a deer’s diet.

Whitetails like variety, and they always gravitate to the highest quality foods available at a given time of year. High-quality food for a deer means something that is easily digested and is rich in nutrients.

Where is all this food information headed? If you’re not seeing shooter bucks on your food plots before dark, it’s probably because they’re visiting other food sources during the daylight hours they’re on their feet.

Persimmons and acorns are two of the more obvious culprits, and when they’re hot, they’re really hot. But mast makes up only a small percentage of a whitetail’s overall diet.

Scout and be ready for the brief windows of opportunity provided by mast drops, but also learn what other types of browse whitetails prefer in your neck of the woods. Trail cameras can help you find bucks off the food plots, but don’t forget to think about why those bucks are where they are. If you know what plants draw deer at a given time of year, you’ll always be in the game for filling your tags; you just have to hunt off the food plots to take advantage of this knowledge.

The bad news is the appeal and quality of vegetation is constantly changing throughout summer and fall, so the thicket of blackberries that is so popular in September might suddenly go cold in October. The good news is once you learn the general cycle of what plants deer like in your area, you can bet it will be very similar next year, and the year after. Yes, habitat is ever-changing, but learning which plants to watch for solves that problem.

If you want to take this to a whole other level, you can encourage the growth of natural favorite deer foods with habitat work that can be as simple as trimming, mowing, thinning trees or fertilizing.

What about the rut, you might ask?

Your chances of seeing a shooter buck on a food plot go up a good bit during the rut, but that’s because the bucks are looking for hot does. Any food source that attracts does will also attract bucks.

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Copyright 2023 by Buckmasters, Ltd.

Copyright 2020 by Buckmasters, Ltd