First you need to remember there are two types of food plots. As the name implies, feeding plots are primarily intended to feed deer, and are located and designed for agricultural efficiency. As a result, they’re usually larger and square or rectangular. Hunting plots are made for hunting. They can be smaller and may be more irregularly shaped. They can also be more remotely located, which means you can often do all your work with an ATV instead of heavier equipment. Which type you are building will influence where and how you build it.
There are several other factors that may influence your site selection, such as existing conditions. It’s considerably easier to build a food plot in a field than a forested area, the latter of which requires cutting, stumping and grading. Existing fields may not be the ideal location for a plot, but minimizing labor and costs often trumps that. As a compromise, you could build feeding plots in existing fields and build smaller hunting plots in “fresh” locations.
In fact, it’s often a good strategy to position hunting plots to take advantage of feeding plots. Deer will more often visit the larger plots after dark, when they feel safer in the large open space. However, they will stage up nearby. Put in a smaller hunting plot between bedding cover and a feeding plot and you’ll have more likelihood of seeing deer before dark.
Wind direction is just as important in placing plots as it is in placing treestands. You want to position plots, and approach routes, to take advantage of prevailing wind direction (perhaps leaving a few for aberrant wind days too). But don’t assume the wind blows straight across the landscape. Like water, it flows over and around obstacles. Look at a topo map or aerial photo (or both) and try to envision your land in three dimensions. Where will wind be redirected by hills or trees?
Other management activities such as timber harvesting can also influence where you put your plots, and vice versa. If you’re going to have an area cut anyway, consider having at least part of it stumped and graded. And if you want a plot in a forested area, consider having it cut first. In many cases the timber sale will pay for the extra ground work. And don’t forget those skid roads. They make great linear plots. Once the loggers are done, seed the roads and let nature take its course.
Don’t fret if you can’t do exactly what you want right now. Food plotting is a process. Having 10 to 15 percent of your land is a good objective, but one plot is better than none. And though it may not be in the best location, if you build it, they (deer) will come.