Our beginning years of attempted foodplotting was not based on sound knowledge or legal in the court’s eyes. It was not that we were trying to break the law. We just wanted to try it out. Back in our early hunting days you would throw some beets, carrots, and apples around. Sometimes your Halloween pumpkins or some old cabbage based on some generational folklore. As our hunting became more refined - somewhere around the late 90s/early 2000s - we started noticing that deer actually have patterns and at times, where you put those bags of food was actually in a clearly marked pathway.
The times were also changing. Chronic Wasting Disease was being found in deer and findings were showing that deer were passing it through bait piles. In 2008, Michigan passed bans in numerous Counties. Lucky for us, we were already moving in this direction anyway. The way of baitless hunting. However, in Northern Michigan deer do have rough winters and finding viable food sources to sustain the herd can be tough. Hence, food plots seemed like the logical conclusion. I mean, they are eating our farmer’s crops anyway.
Our initial trial of food plotting was on public land. Not really what you should be doing but where we started. We drove out there in the old man’s blue Chevrolet pick up and decided to till some soil up and lay down some seed. Never once did we take notice of the million ferns growing that were telling us ‘your soil is too acidic’. Nope, we were on a naive mission to grow something. As we toiled in that field, really a cutting that we should not have been tiling in at all, we were stopped in our tracks.
Two grown men ride by on a mountain bike. Yes, “a bike,” not two, but a single mountain bike. We freeze, transfixed on something our eyes have never seen before. Could this be? They were also surprised to find three flannel clad, orange hat wearing folks (i.e. Us) tilling and seeding a random field within the National Forest. After a frozen moment our eyes lock. Unsure of what we just saw we burst out laughing at the fact that they too must have been frozen in disbelief.
Fast forward 20 years, I am having lunch in the lounge and share this story with a mountain bike enthusiast. Come to find out, tandem riding and tandem mountain biking competitions are serious things. So much so that there is a corner on a widely used trail nicknamed “TanDamn” corner based on an older duo that made the corner at top speed on a tandem bike that is near impossible to make on a single bike. I can say, I have never once seen another tandem bike in the National Forest again but I am also no longer illegally food plotting rye grass in oak thickets any longer ;).
Cheers to Deer Camp stories,
Dr. Jennifer Hiller