It’s official. We’re in a drought. Everyone in whitetail country is experiencing reduced rains in one degree or another, and for now there’s no relief in sight. This is nothing new. Every few years the man upstairs shuts off the spigot. There’s not much you can do unless you’re lucky enough to own water rights for irrigation, but even those are monitored and being shut down as fast as a government whistleblower.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) rates only 24 percent of the nation’s corn crop in good to excellent condition, with a similar rating for soybeans. That means nearly 75 percent of the nation’s corn crop is withering and soybeans are close behind.
Whitetails are adaptable, thus the reason for their expansion into the North Country and throughout urban backyards. Before the European invasion and the introduction of modern farming, whitetails were strictly browsers, not dinner guests to manicured farm fields.
If your food plot or favorite farmland buffet is drying up, try these tips.
1. Irrigate a plot. A small food plot doesn’t take much water. An old well, a tap in a rural water system or even flood irrigation via a portable water tank can keep a small food plot green and attracting deer. Be creative and keep a small plot flourishing.
2. Water your buck. Even if your food attraction site might be dying, you can still lure deer in with water. Art Helin, a Hunter’s Specialties pro staffer from southwest Wisconsin, has been struggling with food plots all summer, but his manmade waterholes are attracting bucks daily. He fills them via a water tank on a trailer.
3. Think autumn. As the seasons change, so does the increased chance of precipitation. Plan for a fall food plot. Prepare your area and keep it weed-free. Watch the forecast. Plant when a rain event, especially an extended front, is about to hit. A little bit of green can pull bucks in that are tired of dry browse.
4. Move your stand. If food plots fail, move your stands to greener riparian zones where deer might increasingly be found browsing. Also, scout for mast crops and fruit trees. The deer have been pounding the chokecherries near my home, and the plums are about ready for the taking as well. Acorn trees can also be early season hotspots.
5. Check your laws. If you can bait, set up a bait station. It’s events like these that can actually make baiting successful. A top-end food attraction like Buck Natural, a hand-pollinated cross of special strains of corn, can lure-in bucks tired of nipping crispy leaves.
There’s no great escape from drought conditions, but you can still find whitetail success with forward-thinking strategies.