Field Guide

Three hunting strategies for farms and CRP land.

Field & Stream Online Editors

You don't have to be a farmer to view a field as a place of harvest. Though important to whitetails year-round, fields become big buck magnets during the rut. Because they are the primary food sources for deer in many regions, they are also among the first spots where bucks look for does. Depending on the amount of cover they provide, fields can also supply deer with prime places to bed, stage, or hide.

The key to a good harvest is first to understand how deer use different types of fields. Here's a rundown.

**Short Crops and Stubble **Soybean and alfalfa fields, as well as post-harvest corn or milo stubble, are primarily used as evening food sources by doe family groups. Though rutting bucks rarely stop to dine, they are well aware of feeding does, and they'll show up regularly to check for willing mates.

Harvest Plan: Glass at dusk to determine which fields does prefer and where they are entering those fields. The ideal setup is often just inside the wooded edge of a field corner. Look for a stand location that lets you cover multiple doe entry trails as well as the perimeter trails bucks use to travel parallel to the field edge.

**CRP Fields **Conservation Reserve Program fields are overlooked havens for big bucks. Most contain long grass that's ideal for bedding. The best fields also have scattered trees and brush, water sources, and food in the form of soft mast, browse, and forbs. If there's no CRP in your area, any fields of long grass or grain, especially abandoned fields, can be just as productive.

**Harvest Plan: **Whereas short-crop fields are typically best hunted in the evening, CRP fields are top places to intercept bucks following does back to their beds in the morning. And they remain good through midday as bucks cruise these doe bedding areas. Set a stand or blind where the tall grass meets prime feeding areas, such as cropfields or oak flats. Or set up along a line of brush or a grassy swale that forms a travel route through the terrain. Try to sit on the highest point available, to better spot cruising bucks. Then lure them closer by calling or decoying (where it's legal).

**Standing Corn **Besides being an obvious food source, unpicked corn provides excellent cover. Many a mature buck has learned that standing corn-especially a field with weed-filled rows-is an ideal spot to sequester an estrous doe or to hide from approaching hunters.

Harvest Plan: Standing corn is a hotspot from dawn till dusk, but some cornfields are better than others. Deer tend to prefer small fields adjacent to other cover types-whether it's timber, CRP land, or a creekbottom. A stand placed at the edge of the corn and the cover can produce at any time of day throughout the rut. On windy days, still-hunting across the rows is an excellent tactic, as the rattling stalks temporarily rob deer of their hearing and it's possible to sneak within yards of a trophy.