Dave Answers His Mail: Defense and Disgust

Food plots are (a) a perfectly legitimate tool or (b) not real hunting.

Field & Stream Online Editors

LAST WEEK, I TOLD YOU that a high school student working on a research report sent me a list of questions about deer hunting, which included this teaser: "How do you feel about planting food plots specifically for deer hunting? Is this or is this not the same as baiting?" It was a good question, so I asked for your opinions on the subject. Here they are, in part:

* Like you, I've hunted over plenty of farmers' cornfields, and I can honestly say I don't see much difference between that and hunting over a food plot because the strategies are basically identical. There are areas of the country where agriculture is basically nonexistent due to terrain, soil quality, or other factors. Food plots in these places would help deer develop larger body size and antlers. Now, I have never taken a deer over a food plot or over bait, but it seems to me the difference between the two is this: By baiting, you are altering the patterns of the deer, which would be fairly simple to detect in the first place. Bait also concentrates deer to one specific location; food plots leave more area to be scouted and hunted. That said, I'll concede that each individual situation is unique and presents its own dilemmas. I don't use either, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't consider the use of food plots to attract deer if the situation arose.

--Gale, Ohio

* Specifically hunting over food plots falls under the definition of baiting to me, and it's better classified as killing deer rather than hunting deer. But you would have to be pretty foolish to hunt the food plot directly, which would only serve to drive deer away or make them feed under the cover of darkness. A hunter would be better served, and probably be viewed as more of a sportsman, if he used food plots indirectly by hunting the deer as they travel to and from the plots.

--Joseph

* First off, the question assumes that there's something wrong with baiting. I don't buy that. We use all sorts of things to lure deer within shooting range. We use grunt calls, rattling horns, scents, and decoys. Why not food? Second, even if you accept the premise that there's something wrong with baiting, food plots do not fall under that category. They are simply meant to improve the habitat and to draw and keep deer on your property.

--Roland

* It seems to me that it would depend a great deal on the size and number of the food plots. If you just have one small plot on a piece of land that doesn't offer any other highly desired foods, well sorry, I think that's baiting plain and simple. But a large food plot, or even a decent number of small plots, still requires a hunter to do his homework if he wants to tag a buck, and that seems fine to me.

--Dan, New York

* Food plots are a load of &*%$. Why not just raise some bucks in a fenced-off pasture? Why not just put them in the barn for the night to keep them safe from predators and shoot them when they reach trophy size? Man, that ain't hunting!

--Anonymous

* I wouldn't say food plots are the same as baiting, per se. But I think they may be leading hunters, and the sport of hunting, down a slippery slope. If we put out crops to feed deer and keep them on our properties; if we plant special supplements that help grow trophy antlers; if we cull the spikehorns or other "low-potential" bucks, at what point are we raising trophies instead of hunting wild animals?

--Paul, Pennsylvania

* I'm not ashamed to say I've hunted over plenty of food plots, and I can tell you it is definitely not the same as baiting. Sure, the deer may come to those plots, but like any natural food source, you have to scout to find out exactly how the deer are behaving. You have to pattern those deer and pick the right stand site. Plus, there's no guarantee the deer won't leave the plot for a favorite natural food source like acorns or apples. I've seen that happen moore than once. It's no different from hunting a farmer's field -- whether it's alfalfa or corn -- and just about every deer hunter has done that.

--Anonymous

IT'S NOT TOO LATE TO WEIGH IN on this topic. Please send your e-mails to davesplace1@aol.com. Remember to tell me your home town or state.