Hunting is More than Greenfields and Shooting Houses
By Chris Cook, Wildlife Biologist
Planting cool-season food plots is a common management practice used on practically all properties managed for deer hunting in Alabama. These greenfields are very effective at attracting deer for hunting and viewing. Greenfields may be even better at attracting deer hunters. These areas are convenient sites to sit and wait for deer. Unfortunately, more and more deer hunters spend the majority of their hunting time inside enclosed shooting houses watching grass grow.
What happens to these hunters when daytime deer activity around food plots slows down? Most become disgruntled and complain about the lack of deer, even when deer sign (e.g., tracks droppings, evidence of browsing) in the food plots is plentiful. They place blame on their inability to see and harvest deer on everything and everyone except themselves. In some instances the blame may lie somewhere else, but in most, the problem is with the deer hunter.
The underlying causes of this dilemma are numerous, with the primary reason being the very thing that makes food plots and shooting houses so appealing to hunters – convenience. Most food plot hunting occurs in the afternoon, so hunters do not have to wake up early to make it to their stand. They can slip into their shooting houses without much effort and sit in relative comfort waiting for deer. They can read the newspaper, listen to the radio, or even watch a football game on a portable television. These stands quickly become crutches many deer hunters rely on, even when conditions are not the best for the stand. They hunt food plots with the wrong wind direction, disturb deer already on the field, and hunt the stands way too often. Deer quickly adapt to this behavior and avoid the food plots or only use them at night. Unfortunately, many hunters are willing to sacrifice deer sightings and harvests for the convenience of a shooting house and food plot.
A lack of hunting skills is another factor that drives hunters toward shooting houses and food plots. Many new deer hunters have never hunted deer using any other tactic. Their first deer hunting experiences involved sitting in a shooting house in the afternoon overlooking a lush, green food plot. If they were lucky enough to see or even harvest deer during these first few hunts, they were hooked on food plot hunting. They never felt the need or took the time to try new ways of deer hunting, unless it was blowing a grunt tube or pouring a bottle of doe-in-heat scent out the window of their shooting house. They just conclude all they have to do is continue hunting the way they have always hunted and the deer will eventually show up. Often this is the case, but the deer’s return may be after hunting season ends or the deer hunter loses interest in hunting.
So how can deer hunters kick their addiction to greenfields and shooting houses? The simplest thing to do is make it a point to hunt other places this season. There is a place and time for greenfield hunting, but it should not be a hunter’s only option. Greenfields typically cover only one to two percent of the total acreage of most hunting clubs and deer spend only a small percentage of their time in these limited areas. Hunters should take advantage of all these untouched hunting areas and spend their time doing something other than watching grass grow. Who knows, they may discover what it means to actually hunt deer.