Do Poor Man Food Plots Really Work?

By author of Brow Tines and Backstrap

Can you sow seed right into dead weeds and expect a food plot come fall? We asked two Pay Dirt co-hosts on Realtree365

You can grow lush, green food plots like this brassica patch by using the poor man plot method. (Josh Honeycutt photo)

Hunters and land managers have been using the term “poor man plots” for more than a decade, but they’ve been putting these in the ground for much longer. So, it begs the question, does this method meet the hype? Or, is it just a good play on words? Realtree 365 Pay Dirt co-hosts Bill Winke and Roger Culpepper answer that question, and then some.

“The poor man plot is possibly the best thing a hunter can create to improve his hunting area,” Winke said. “Many [hunters] are even making them on farms where they only have permission.”

Winke has heavy, farm-grade equipment to create food plots. Still, he puts in at least one of these plots every year or so. “I have equipment on the farm, but I still make a poor man’s plot every year or two,” Winke said. “I have had some good action on these plots. Most of my small staging area plots started out as poor man plots. Over time, I started using equipment to maintain them just because I had so many of them.”

Poor man plots are perfect for hard-to-reach places that are often close to good bedding cover. (Josh Honeycutt photo)

Poor Man Plots Defined

But what are these, exactly? “I define it as a plot that you can make on a small budget using only hand tools,” Winke said. “Some people include four-wheelers in the mix, but that is not the true poor man plot in my mind.”

Culpepper’s definition is a little different. “I consider a poor man plot one that you don’t use a tractor on,” he said. “Using this method can be productive in areas where you can’t get [big gear] into.”

Managing Expectations

Poor man’s plots are simpler, and won’t look like a plowed Iowa cornfield, but the logistics of planting remain the same. You can’t just sow some seed right into dead weeds and expect a food plot come fall, right? Sometimes, you actually can.

“You can spread the seed on the dead weeds,” Winke said. “Or, spread them shortly after spraying the weeds and the weeds crumble down over the seeds as they die. It seems to work pretty well as long as the seeds are small — such as clover — so they can work their way to the ground. You still need seed-to-soil contact for this to work. But I’ve had my best success killing the plot, waiting for it to dry down, burning it and then spreading the seed. This almost guarantees seed-to-soil contact.”

Most states require a license to conduct prescribed burns, though. There are many rules (and laws) to follow, too. Check local regulations.

Frost seeding clover in winter is another option for these poor man plots. You don’t have to disc the plot. However, seed needs to make contact with the soil for this method to work. If plenty of bare ground is showing, no further action is needed. That said, if there is a lot of forest duff or dead thatch present, use a hand rake to remove as much as possible.

Then, wait for it to snow. Then, sow the seed. As it warms up and the soil thaws, melting snow helps pull the seed down into the soil, increasing the odds of germination with adequate moisture to boot. Also, the repetitive action of the soil freezing and thawing further helps ensure good seed-to-soil contact.

While these are budget food plots, you still need certain tools. Learn more about it by watching Pay Dirt on Realtree 365. (Realtree photo)

Important Tools and Best Seed Types

While the necessary tools for installing poor man plots are fewer, you’ll still need a few items. Winke’s gear list includes a chainsaw (to remove brush), hand spreader (for fertilizer and seed), lighter/torch (to burn off residue), backpack sprayer (to kill unwanted vegetation with glyphosate), and a rake (to work seeds into the ground).

Not just any type of food plot seed will thrive in these plots. Certain types of plants produce better results. “My best choices are clover and brassica blends,” Winke said. “Because the plots are small, you need something that will hold up to browsing pressure without disappearing. These two options are the best. If I had to pick just one, it would be clover.”

Culpepper adds wheat and rye to the list, too.

Unlike the seed blend pictured here, it's best to choose a smaller seed type when planting poor man plots. It increases the likelihood of good seed-to-soil contact. (Josh Honeycutt photo)

Putting Seed to Dirt

Once you have the gear and seeds, it’s time to plant. Despite the corner-cutting feeling that perpetually accompanies poor man plots, there are still processes to follow. Wintertime frost-seeding works for establishing a good clover plot. Spring is your second-best bet. But late-summer and early fall planting is much more common for brassica blends.

Exact timing varies based on location, though. For example, Winke is located in Iowa. “For brassicas, you plant in late July, meaning you have to spray in mid-July,” he said. “If you start with a brassica plot, you can broadcast clover into the plot in early spring to get a jump start on the next growing season.

Culpepper is in Georgia. “Here in the Southeast, the best time to plant is around the second week of September,” he said. “I usually try to plant right before expected rainfall. I go in and spray weed or grass killer herbicide. Rake or blow away leaves if present. Then, broadcast a mixture of small seeds, such as turnips, rape, clover, wheat and rye. If possible, rake in seeds for soil contact. Or, in grassy areas, the sprayed vegetation will fall over, covering your seed.”

Poor man plots are extremely productive at drawing deer into secluded, hard-to-reach spots. Placed along travel routes between bedding areas and major food sources, these serve as the perfect staging area. Get one of these in before next deer season and it might just help you bag a buck come fall.

Don't Miss: How to Plant a Deer Orchard

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