With hunting season peeking around the corner, it is high time to begin preparing your land for late autumn success. A well-planned, well-planted food plot can be the difference in a memorable hunting season or a dismal disappointment.
Seasoned whitetail hunters know that it is essential to brave the late summer heat to take care of necessary duties in food plot preparation and other work around their hunting property.
Food plots do not always have to be a vast swath of green fields to be productive. Simply following your land’s natural contours and even planting small strips of crops can pay off in a major way.
1. Locate the Best Site
If you don’t already have a food plot on your land, look for one that deer will be attracted to. Deer are naturally skittish creatures and a square or rectangular food plot isn’t always appealing to them as they seek the most cover possible while moving through the woods.
Rounded food plots that follow the contours of woodlines and other features will offer optimal cover for deer and make them feel more comfortable to explore. One other important note is to try, if possible, to create your food plot as far as possible away from roads or trails in order to avoid tempting trespassers to venture onto your property.
Many veteran hunters will attest to the fact that a long, narrow food plot being the most productive strategies as opposed to planting a wide-open field. Deer will be more likely to use the plot if they can quickly dart into the cover of the nearby woods.
2. Prepare the Soil
There are many steps to take to prepare the soil for planting, but some hunters only have the means to throw down some fertilizer, plant their seeds, and hope for the best. A soil test can indicate needed minerals and fertilizer amounts, which will produce the best results when those seeds start to sprout.
If you can’t run a soil test, then simply use a pre-mixed fertilizer and also apply heavy amounts of lime to the soil. Lime is a key ingredient to creating a productive food plot.
Proper soil prep also includes the removal of larger rocks and other debris from the dirt in order to ensure your seeds can sprout and grow with nothing hindering their progress. Also be sure to kill off existing grasses or weeds well before planting.
3. Ensure Your Plot Has Optimal Cover
It is tempting to clear out as much obstructions around the edges of your plot as possible in order to spot incoming bucks from your stand. However, clearing away too much undergrowth may make your plot too open and will cause a buck to shy away from stepping out into the plot to feed.
If the edges of your food plot do not offer enough cover, think about planting wheat, sun-hemp, or some type of native tall grasses that will grow tall enough to create plenty of cover for a buck to be encouraged to venture into the plot during daylight hours.
4. Don’t Take the Cheap Route
Using cheap fertilizer or seeds will risk yielding a plot low in nutritional value. Purchase quality seeds and other items to use on your food plot and seek the advice of other hunters in both planting and preparation to ensure yielding a vibrant, lush crop that deer will find irresistible.
5. Wait Until the Time is Right
This one is perhaps the most important tip we can provide, yet it may not be something most hunters will have the patience to do.
Do NOT hunt over the food plot until the rut begins.
By waiting and allowing the deer to become comfortable stepping out into your food plot, you will capitalize on the element of surprise when you finally do climb into that stand overlooking the plot. Giving deer a few months to get used to regularly using the food plot during daylight hours is key.
It is tempting to hunt over the plot early in the season as you’re very likely to see deer in or around the edges of the plot. However, if you exercise patience and wait until the rut, it will certainly pay off in the long-run.
Bucks are not likely to use a food plot at all until after dark. Does, on the other hand, will begin to step into the plot during daylight hours and grow accustomed to feeding during the day. Does will stay close to the food plot throughout the hunting season as it will continually provide a place for them to safely feed.
Once the rut kicks in, where will the bucks know to find the does on your property?
Use these tips to start planting a food plot that will maximize your hunting efforts and produce the best results from your land. Remember, it may take a few years and some trial and error to gain knowledge and insight on just how to prepare and plant your specific food plot, so be patient and happy hunting!