Precision Habitat AlignmentMay 7, 2014 - Jeff Sturgis
Food plot and whitetails have never before been so intertwined within the fabric of our hunting pursuits.
From books to magazines to TV, it is hard to ignore the next great seed blend or planting implement. As I travel around the country for a large portion of the year designing my client’s whitetail parcels, the most commonly growing food plot question is not necessarily how or what to plant, but where to plant and why! The complexities of every parcel shape and size, population numbers, landowner goals and resources, as well as the variety of soil types are just some of the pieces of the puzzle that need to be explored to create a logical recommendation for not only what to plant, but more importantly where to plant. From installing food plots to hanging a bow stand “location” is everything. I am excited to share with you the 5 steps of using precision habitat alignment to simplify the puzzle of creating your next great bowhunting opportunity.
1. Food for Does
The various doe family groups on the lands you hunt attempt to carry out a safe and secure life that is consistently boring the entire year. I like to use the word, “boring”, because you should be able to set your watch to the lazy movements of various does and fawns showing up on a food source each evening at approximately the same time. Doe family groups are extremely predictable, often feeding within the same food source adjacent to the same bedding area for many months at a time as long as both the food and cover remain adequate. By establishing a quality food source, you will establish adjacent doe family group bedding.
*Consistent, unpressured food sources can attract, hold and even build a deer herd if desired.
2. Doe Family Group Bedding
Doe family groups have a much smaller home range compared to a mature buck. I have often experienced a doe family group living within a small island of cover in the middle of a food plot and you may have found yourself that they will often bed as close to the food source as possible. By locating your food plot in an area that is adjacent to current or potential adequate bedding cover then you can effectively define where the majority of the does will choose to bed during the daytime hours on your property. The longer that you allow doe family groups to bed by a consistent food source with little to no hunting pressure, the more boring and predictable a pattern that you can create.
*By using food plots you can effectively dictate where doe family groups bed.
3. Buck Bedding Opportunity
Mature bucks seem to rarely bed within doe family groups, or within the middle of consistent doe family group movements. A pattern that I have witness over many habitats on both private and public lands is that regardless of the direction, a mature buck will often predictably choose his daytime bedding habitat behind and away from traditional doe bedding areas. A very precise alignment of habitat often could be described as something like this: 1. Food plot of a 1/2 acre in size or more 2. Thick, doe family group bedding within 50 yards of the edge of the plot 3. High quality buck bedding opportunity 100-150 yards behind the doe bedding area, located on a small knoll, bench, or other natural vantage point surrounded by thick security cover.
*When you have developed the buck bedding to doe bedding to food plot habitat alignment, installing a waterhole along the way can end up being an oustanding stand location!
4. Stand Location
Once the food to doe bedding to buck bedding line of deer movement has been defined, you can then define you hunter access and stand locations. Many times, doe bedding areas and “staging areas” are one in the same! Does vacate their bedding areas to feed often 2 hours prior to dark or more, while the bucks take their time to rise from their bedding areas and travel safely through the thick security cover of the doe bedding area and onto the food source. Hunting a staging area can be extremely risky because once you spook the does that often were bedding in the location, they most likely won’t be back for a while and the entire deer movement has been disrupted. For evening hunts I have a high degree of success hunting between the edge-area doe family group bedding areas, and the more secluded buck bedding locations. If you can access the location without spooking the 3 components of the movement (food source, doe bedding, buck bedding) than you have chosen the right location to hang a stand. In areas adjacent to bedding areas that lack water, adding a small waterhole within bow-range and on the upwind side of your stand location you can offer a very high level of precision in your hunting approach! For morning hunts I like to take a “back-door” approach and enter the woods early to hunt the downwind side of the buck bedding area with the scent blowing away from the entire line of movement while I wait for a mature buck to come back to his daytime bedding area.
*Precision alignment for deer, equals precision alignment for stand placement and stand access. The above example shows how you can take advantage defined deer movements to locate your stand, to determine an effective access, and to keep the wind patterns in your favor.
5. Hidden Access
By making sure that the access to your stand location does not travel near/through the food source during the hours of darkness, or near/through the bedding areas during the hours of daylight you are ready to choose a wind pattern that blows outside of the line of movement that you have created to have a great bowhunt!
Is the best tree in the woods the best spot to hang a treestand, and while you are considering that question is the best soil on your property the best spot to plant a food plot? In my experience the answer to both questions follows the same concept; find the best location and then pick the best tree or soil that you can work with to fit the location. When it comes to choosing your next food plot location, consider the 5 steps to finding Precision Habitat Alignment so that while creating your next great plot, you are also creating a variety of precision bowhunting opportunities.
*This awesome 5 year old was taken over the waterhole picture above during an October 22nd cold front in 2011, while hunting the precision alignment of buck bedding, waterhole, doe bedding and food plot food.
Jeff Sturgis has been hunting whitetail deer without guides or outfitters in several states, on public and private lands, since 1985. In 1996 Jeff planted his first food plot and began making habitat improvements in pursuit of quality herds that included mature bucks. In 2004 Jeff received the Al Brothers Deer Manager of the Year Award from the Quality Deer Management Association, and in 2005 he founded Whitetail Habitat Solutions, LLC. Jeff is a full-time whitetail habitat and hunting designer, writer, and enjoys the challenge of teaching dozens of clients each year throughout the country how to experience their optimum level of whitetail success. Learn more at http://www.whitetailhabitatsolutions.com/books/