Thoughts on destination or recruitment plots...

Triple C

Well-Known Member
I previously referred to our bean field as a destination plot. I read a post recently where a guy called his primary interior plot as a recruitment plot. I like the term "recruitment plot" - Big enough to attract multiple doe groups to the field on a daily basis and keep them using it year round. In 2011, when I purchased this land, this plot was 2.5 acres in size. It's now 5.7 acres. Next thinning of pines we will take out several rows on the left side of this pic to get it closer to 7 acres. Pic below is from late September last year just after we finished clearing all the stumps from the section we had all trees removed. Basically, everything in side the red lines was pine trees prior to thinning in 2015 / 2016. It has 2 water holes on it and ample cover around it. It's located in the north quadrant of the property. Pear trees that were planted in 2011 were transplanted this past February to the lower right corner of the pic below. With all the rain we've had this year, they are doing well. 10 apple trees were grafted and planted back in April and are doing well.

Here's the game plan for this fall's planting...Ladino clover planted all around the perimeter of this plot with WW as a nurse crop. The interior will be planted in strips of daikon radishes and Buck Forage Oats.

Interesting enough, this plot gets hunted the least of our 3 primary plots. It's by far the biggest and produces the most food. And, it has the most deer use. At dusk, there will be multiple doe groups using this plot. We think of it as the primary draw to bring and keep deer on our property. Kind of a happy place for momma and her fawns.

What's your thoughts on creating a large central plot to attract and keep deer on your place? I got the idea from Paul Knox when I first started this whole habitat thing back in 2011. Each passing year I witness the benefits of having a plot like this to attract and keep deer on one's property.
Bean Field Expanded.jpg

With expansion of field, it's now 345 yds from one end to the other.
Bean Field Length.png

Measurement is 5.7 acres.
Screen Shot 2017-08-12 at 11.25.02 AM.png

Dustin harvested this buck from this plot in 2014 when it was planted in brassicas, oats and clover around the perimeter.
Dustin's Buck II.jpg
You shouldn't be asking questions, you should be writing a book on how to food plot. You are doing everything all the rest of us want to do. A few random thoughts, large plots can be a double edged sword. The deer now have plenty of food and a lot of edge to get it, which can make them more nocturnal if hunted wrong, and just in general harder to hunt if you don't do the stand setups just right, like you said, often you don't do much of your actual hunting at your biggest fields. Concentrated food sources make easier hunting, but the advantages of a big field greatly outweigh the downsides. One thing to consider, in our region if you had a large plot like that you would definitely want to consider beans as a large part of the planting. Soybeans are the number one draw for bucks, a great planting if you have a field like that, practically gives year round food if you spin brassica and\or small grain in them just before the leaves turn yellow. But you should have a drill for those, then they become an easy plot to do. Again, you have a good setup going on there.
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Mennoniteman - With the expansion of this plot I think it may be big enough to plant soybeans without them getting wiped out. We've tried them in the past when the field was smaller but they never made it past lip high. Intended to try Eagle beans for the 1st time this year but didn't get the field prepped in time after cleaning it up from logging. Definitely on the list to do. We have planted I/C peas with good success other than weed infestation but want to try soybeans and will. Even though this is our largest field and at dusk, will have the most deer in it, it get's the least hunting pressure of any plot on the farm. Has a Redneck blind on it and deer get watched a lot but other than the buck Dustin took, mostly dominated by doe groups. We have stands in the hardwood draws on either side of the plot. If I wanted to guarantee someone a doe harvest I'd put them on this field.

As far as writing a book...I feel like I've just graduated grammar school on the habitat / plotting learning curve! I know one thing for sure...the amount of deer we have on our farm today compared to 2011 is significantly more and I credit this field as well as other larger plots for attracting and keeping more deer on our place in addition to trigger control.
After trying eagle forage beans last year, I planted RR ag beans this year kind of as a comparison test, because they are half price of eagle forage beans and guys said they are just as good. I planted 4 acres, surrounded by 8 acres of clover and other stuff. They've been hit hard by the deer from the minute they popped out of the ground, every bush in the field has a mowed top on all summer, but they have really been holding their own and I have a nice crop of green pods now. The results of my testing is that I've decided eagle forage beans are a waste of money.
As far as trigger control, once you start planting and qdm on a large scale like that the deer population explodes to the point where junior hunters can shoot a few does and small bucks and the population will still be almost out of control.
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IMG_1984.PNG IMG_1663.JPG I always want to have a large area of multiple food sources somewhat centrally located. I believe that deer are attracted to the easy living. The bachelor groups of bucks live there in summer, the does visit with their fawns. And since the fawns grew up in the plots, it is natural for them to return as they age.

My main set of plots I call the kitchen. That is where everyone congregates in the house and so it is with deer. I have a four acre plot that wraps around the pond that receives eagle seed beans. Just to the east is another four acres that receives sunflowers. I swap the plants every year so that I dont plant the same thing twice. Just to the north of the pond is winter wheat and durana clover. Almost ten acres of planting, surrounded by NWSG. There is something in the "kitchen" for the deer to eat year round. And they know it.
SwampCat...That's where we're headed in terms of size of this central kitchen as you call it. Here's an excerpt from Paul Knox's "Getting Started" thread that caused the light to go on for me in 2013 when I ran across it..

by dbltree » Fri Sep 16, 2011 6:11 am

Evaluating Your Habitat

Habitat isn't just about planting food plots, it's about everything a whitetail requires to live and deer spend a huge amount of time bedding and loafing in areas that provide them cover. Those areas may be timber or NWSG but they should be the cornerstone of our habitat program where we create abundant natural browse and both hard and soft mast, along with dense thick safe bedding cover. Timber Stand Improvement and hinging cull trees can dramatically improve your habitat often for little more then sweat equity and chain saw gas and quite literally provide 100% of a whitetail's needs.

From there we need to provide roughly one feeding area per 80-120 acres that is well hidden, adjacent to bedding via funneled travel corridors and screened from outside activity. The more remote and protected the more comfortable whitetails will be in feeding there in day light hours and within a few years they will adapt to feeding there. Those feeding areas should include fast growing sources of hard mast, usually native hybrid white oak species along with hybrid chestnut trees and fruit tree orchards that provide fruit from July through December. The combination of trees is our insurance during disastrous growing seasons when planted crops may fail due to weather conditions, a diversified tree planting can be our ace in the hole!

The "one feeding area per 80-120 acres" statement just jumped out at me and it made sense. On 287 acres, we have 3 major plots that we continue to improve and expand and these are our feeding station plots.
My thoughts are that it works great at my place. I have the same setup as you except mine is not as large as yours. But, it is big enough for the deer numbers here. Every single deer we have killed were either in it, just left it or going to it.

Keep up the good work TC.
We very rarely hunt the "kitchen" on our place. We have multiple, smaller food plots set back more in the woods. We dont gun hunt a lot - mostly bowhunt and set up on trails just off the food plots. Deer will still use the big food plot area during season - but less so in the day time. Oftentimes, in the summer, even the local bachelor herd (13 this year) - will bed in the grass between the beans and the pond. They dont have to walk fifty feet for food, water, and cover.
image.jpeg I have a food plot sorta like that, but it's only a little over 1.5 acres. It's right beside my main road and we stopped hunting it several years ago. Most deer will stop feeding and watch as you pass, but some will simply jump off into the trees and be back in the plot minutes later. Last fall I didn't plant the upper and lower sides, just had the clover in the center. Probably won't plant it this fall either as I feel it makes for more deer coming to the plots we hunt. I have several more plots on this 217 acre place that will have wheat, oats, and AWP in them.
Land like yours Triple is one of the reasons I started my property thread on the old forum.;) Yea central plot could be nice but some of us have to plot in every nook and cranny we can manipulate. I simply have no large central area to make a destination plot.
So my observations... My bucks and does do not like congregate. I pulled cards today and as usual does were in. couple plots and just when I was getting depressed as no bucks, all my buck pics showed up in their 2 fav plots. My mature bucks are simply loners for the most part until fall kicks.
Funny about Lickcreek, I reread much of his stuff last few days. He hates my clover combo plot for sure, but his ideas were just amazing and most what any of us to is based on his thinking. And on top of that, he did so in a very soft spoken way even if he was insistent on his ideas. But I do hope he can see my alfalfa combo plot. from his vantage.:)
We've got 2 6 acre plot complexes. One is near a swamp, and one closer to our 23 acres of hinge cuts. They both have corn/beans, various brassicas mixes, grains and clover. Early in the season, they hunt equally, later in the season, we see greater daylight action in the plot closer to the majority of cover. At present, I'm not a fan of monoculture and appreciate watching the deer enter the plots sampling all of the buffet items. We have two other plots that see a lot of movement early in the season, but when pressure comes from the surrounding properties (and trespassers on me), the centrally located big plots become gold.
I need to rotate my corn plots next fall and will probably put in 6 acres of beans (but still offer grains/clover and brassicas) for variety and to feed the deer come January/February.
I have a smaller property of 40 acres. I do have a 1.5 acre plot relatively central in the property. Last year was my first year setting it up and my deer sightings tripled. But i dont hunt the plot. Just where i can slip in and hunt edges.
Even on a smaller property like mine it has made a huge difference.
dogghr mentioned he had been recently reading Paul's material recently. Pretty sure most on here have followed Paul's stuff when he was with us but if you haven't, google Paul Knox Getting Started and his stuff should pop up. Here's another excerpt from page 1 of his "getting started" thread regarding plot locations.

Plot Location

The location of plots in relation to bedding areas is extremely important although location of open field areas may dictate where food sources are planted. Where possible it is usually best to plant food sources in the center of the property in a hidden area where deer will feel safe and feed in daylight hours.

A centralized feeding area allows the landowner to create or enhance narrow bottlenecks leading from bedding to feed not unlike the spokes of a wheel. Having plots scattered all over a farm usually tends to serve no useful purpose and makes patterning and hunting deer frustrating at best.
Another quote emphasizing multiple year round food sources in the same plot.

Re: Getting Started

Post by dbltree » Mon Jul 11, 2011 7:44 pm

I read an article recently in which the author talked about "spring plots and fall plots"....really?? You really want deer to go to one field in the spring and a different field in the fall??

I want them to come to the same centralized feeding area YEAR AROUND and I want them to do that for generations until they are so adapted to doing so they ignore all other food sources around them. To do that one has to provide a myriad of food sources in that one field to keep deer fed all year long and that place should be as hidden as possible.
Good stuff Triple C. Your minimal hunting pressure is key. I am trying to get area deer to quit partying at night and central plot near cover and water is a must. Also this year I am easing finger portions of plots into the adjacent woods. Just hoping those grandkids see some deer easing out just before dusk
Center of our place is a huge hollow on on side and a drop off creek bottom on the other and it funnels deer right though the center higher ground. Probably only 50 yards of ground that is not sloped and the only road through our place runs right through the center of it. We have killed every deer but 1 in this funnel area.

Imagine an hourglass. Wide on north end and wide on south and compressed center with the center being the kill zone.

I tried a plot to the north side but my neighbors like to camp out there now (thanks Google earth) so I am no longer plotting that area and am simply plotting the south "fat" part of the hourglass. My goal is to draw deer completely through the property with my access being south. We can either hunt the south plot directly or I can still get to the funnel to catch deer on the way before dark...

When you have lemons you just make lemonade...
I know a lot of the serious deer hunters are adament about not disturbing their deer - year round - if they can. I understand that and have no doubt that the less disturbance that a property owner subjects his deer to, the more likely they are to exhibit natural movements - whatever that might be.

However, for those of us who dont own large acreages, those of us who live on our property, and those of us who manage our property year round - not disturbing the deer is all but impossible.

I am doing something on my land almost daily. It seems like there is always something to bush hog. Always fences to check. Always needing to clear something out of the trail. Feed the catfish. Check on my son's hunting camp. Blind and stand maintenance. Planting food plots. Spraying food plots and invasives. Checking and moving cameras. Lets not forget hunting. On my place, my hunting season starts with doves the first weekend of september, teal the next two weeks, then bow season opens and a month later its muzzle loader season, the firearm season, then regular duck season. Lets not forget winter squirrel and coon hunting with my mountain cur. Then in Mar, we start pig hunting, April is turkeys, June is spring squirrels, and we wrap up hog hunting in Aug - just in time for dove season. I bought my land to use. If I am not hunting it or managing, we go out and ride around on it just to look at it. I have owned my land for 14 years now and it still excites me to ride out and see what I can see. I think my deer get used to me. I see at least part of the bachelor herd every other day. They dont hardly run when I am on the tractor or my side by side. If I am on my son's side by side - they run much quicker.

Personally - I would not care to own land if I thought I needed to stay off of it.

Now, to the point of this post. These larger centralized feeding areas on my ground are also the centralized area for human activity on my property. My pond is the center of my wildlife "kitchen". We fish the pond, in the warmer months we feed the catfish every other day, we check it for ducks - the pond draws us like it does all wildlife. My sunflowers are also here - which means lots of planting, cultivating, spraying, and September hunting. We shoot teal off the pond. My son's four hundred yard rifle range is across my beans and sunflowers. More than once, we have had 125" and larger bucks feed out into the beans while we were shooting the three hundred yard target in the beans. At least on my place, I believe the deer have become so dependant on the large smorgasboard of year round food that they eventually come to accept - and even ignore - all the human activity. Like deer you see feeding along the interstate with hundreds of cars driving by fifteen feet away. I think these centralized feeding areas become centralized areas of activities for your deer. The bucks know anytime of the year they can visit and find food and anytime during the fall they have the potential of finding does. For those of us who cant, or wont, stay off of our property so as not to disturb the deer - I believe these areas also help temper the manmade disturbance.
I'm with swamp cat on using property. In addition to the typical uses mentioned, we have a perimeter trail that provides a much looked forward to 3.5 mile walk on the mountain the wife and I enjoy a great deal. Our consultant pleaded with us to cut off all unnecessary forays after Labor day grain plantings and to minimize checking cameras. We have cut back.....but will never cease. Its my version of multiple use land management.
I and many others are on the farm every day. All day. The property is there to enjoy. We use the property in much the way as swamp cat above. Deer become accustomed to movement patterns. The does especially become more tolerant of people and that accrues value during the rut. The bucks aren't very tolerant of vehicles but have also learned how to stay close but out of sight.

We have had does come into the sunflower fields while dove hunting or mowing . It seems that each field we have has a group of deer that live around it. They may shift a little here or there as food sources shift a bit but that is a value of keeping food sources available year round with a property viewed in 100 acre blocks. Give them everything they need and thats where they will stay. I understand the problems with excess pressure but question excepting in extreme circumstances if it drives deer very far.