How to plan, plant, and hunt a 30-yard strip of green that’s off the beaten path
Two to 5 acres or more of shimmering green food plot is pretty to look at, and it no doubt will attract a good number of whitetails. But how many times have you sat in a tree on the edge of a large plot, glassed deer coming, going, and feeding 100 yards away and farther and wondered: How the heck do I arrow a good buck here?
You can keep sitting on those big fields, watching and hoping for a 10-pointer to drift close enough past you. Or you can downsize and double your odds of getting a 30-yard shot at a big deer when bow season opens in a few weeks. Micro food plots work wonders for bowhunting, and here’s what to know about them.
My friend Grant Woods, one of the top whitetail biologists in America and a hard-core bowhunter to boot, has designed, built, and planted every size and shape of food plot that you could imagine. One of his favorite tricks for the early bow season is to scout a property and find three or four out-of-the-way spots where he can plant and hunt micro greens.
Think little. A 20- to 40-yard strip of old road bed, an open, moist strip near a creek where you’ve seen deer crossing, the flat end of a hogback bench, or maybe a 30 x 30-foot opening in a staging thicket near an ag field are all ideal. You’re looking for any hidden, remote spot where other people would never dream of planting, but where your gut says you might entice a big deer. There are hundreds of spots for micro plots on just about any piece of land.
“A small spot needs to be relatively flat and open, with enough soil moisture to germinate seeds,” says Woods. “And it needs to get several hours of sunlight each day to grow plants.”
To create a micro plot, you might have to weed-eat some grass and brush; in areas with mostly duff and leaf litter, you can clear it with a blower or rake. Eliminate unwanted vegetation with a backpack sprayer and an all-purpose herbicide like glyphosate (Roundup). Broadcast or toss some 10-10-10 fertilizer and lime on your spots for good measure.
Do your scouting and ground clearing in the coming weeks, but don’t plant until 14 days or so before your bow season opens in September or early October. If you plant your spot any earlier than that, deer are likely to find it and mow it clean before you get the chance to hunt there. Good plants for micro plots are wheat, clover, chicory, or your choice of a fall-attractant blend. These seeds germinate easily when broadcast (either with a handheld or flicked by hand), even in the sometimes sketchy soil conditions of a plot that’s off the beaten path. Don’t worry about over-seeding, as lots of deer will find and thin the plants quickly. Watching the weather and planting just before a rain greatly improves seed germination and the success of a tiny plot.
Wait a week to 10 days after that first planting, and then go back and plant a few more micro plots in other hidden, strategic areas across your land. That way you’ll have sweet greens to hunt over coming up at various intervals for a month or two.
There are two times to hang a tree stand on a small plot: the day you clear the dirt, or during a subsequent trip back in to plant it. Pick a good tree for a 30-yard shot across the plot, and an easy and quiet access path into it. Set up where the prevailing September wind will be in your favor.
About 14 days later, once archery season is open, slip back in, climb up, and hunt. Morning and evening hunts can both work. On that first sit, there’s a dang good chance you’ll bust a doe for the freezer. But if you care to be patient and selective, a buck with a macro rack might stick his nose into your micro plot and give you a gimme shot.
Our deer blog is one of the longest-running and most popular ones out there. This is where we cover all things deer hunting, from experts and whitetail trivia to news, gear, and hardcore hunting advice. Whether you need to know how to test the soil in your food plot, tighten the groups from your crossbow, or scope out the latest on that big buck you saw online, you've landed around the right campfire. Pull up a seat and join us.