Planting food plots have become just as popular of a hobby for many hunters as hunting itself. And, for good reason! It is an enjoyable sensation to prepare land and grow forage, not to mention it is good practice that aids in conservation, it offers nutritional benefits to our deer population, as well as helps us establish patterns within our land so that we can harvest deer! To the first-time landowner or lessee, it can become a daunting task. Here are some quick tips to help you get started establishing flourishing food plots on your hunting land!
The Main Ingredient
First, let us decide where exactly our food plot is going to be located. Sure, if you have access to large construction and forestry equipment, you can decide to break ground wherever you would like; but I’m going to guess that the majority of us do not have this luxury. The number one ingredient we will need to find is going to be sunshine. Whatever forage you decide to plant is going to need sunshine in order to grow. Any platform that can give you a satellite picture of the land you have access to can be helpful in finding hollows in the forest or the area could simply be the outside tree line or field edge. It does not have to be a large area to be considered useful, in fact, I tend to prefer the smaller areas deep in the woods just so long as sunlight can reach the area you will be preparing.
If the area you have decided on is riddled with stumps, roots, and existing grass and weeds, these will need to be cleared to the best of your ability in order to prepare a good seedbed. One of the first steps that I recommend is the use an herbicide to kill any undesirable grass and weeds or else they will only return to choke out the forage. You can refer to your local farmer’s coop or farm supply store for recommended herbicides that will work on the types of vegetation you have in your area. At this stage, it is also good practice to take a soil sample with the help of your local coop or extension office to determine the appropriate fertilizer mixtures to use.
Once the area is cleared of obstacles, you can begin to prepare your seedbed for planting. With the surge of interest in preparing and maintaining food plots, there are endless options in equipment to be used to prepare the ground to be planted. Depending on your budget, you may have small handheld tools, an ATV, a skid steer, or a compact/utility tractor. Whatever the means you use, the fundamental goal is to soften the ground to allow for good moisture and air for your seeds to germinate. A small tiller can be an excellent choice for those on a budget, or if available, a small tractor with a disc harrow or rotary tiller are also excellent options.
Next, it is time to sow your seeds. Depending on what you decide to plant, most seeds like oats or clover can simply be broadcast by hand, a broadcast spreader tool, or an attachment that can be used behind your ATV or tractor. When planting larger seeds such as corn or legumes, you will typically need a planter of some sort to get the most out of your plot by allowing proper depth and row spacing.
The type of forage you decide to plant can vary depending on soil type, location of the food plot, your growing zone, and many other factors. Yet, there are some staples among hunters that have been effective for many years for a reason. For your best options, be sure to ask more experienced hunters and food plot hobbyists in your area.
My Ideal Food Plot
If you were to ask me to imagine my ideal food plot, it would look something like this. I would like to find a small sunlit hollow deep in the woods close to a water source, maybe 1/8th of an acre in size, surrounded by thick undergrowth on the outer edges. I would plant a variety of low maintenance foliage like oats, clover, and maybe some greens, like turnips. In the middle of the plot, I would keep a mineral block accessible year-round. Finally, I would utilize a game camera to pattern and keep a record of the health of my deer.
Whether you’re new to the world of food plots or you’re a seasoned pro, I hope that some of these tips can help you bag the trophy of a lifetime this year and in the years to come! Happy hunting!
Be sure to enter our Bruin Photo Contest this year for a chance to win some Bruin Swag. Click the picture below for more details.