How Many Food Plots Do You Plant Each Year?
Food plots are a big part of quality deer management. It’s also a big part of land management. And if you plan to plant food plots this year, there are several things you need to be doing to prepare for planting season. Here are seven of them.
Bonus Read: 5 Food Plots for Procrastinators
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1 | Decide What You Hope to Gain from Your Plots
Food plots can serve different purposes. You can feed a deer herd with a food plot. You can attempt to lure them to a particular location on a property. You can even use a food plot to put a deer in a position to where you can kill it. That’s why it’s very important to decide what you hope to gain from a food plot before you ever start planting it.
Understand that it takes a very large food plot to serve as a primary food source. And in most places, such as agricultural areas, it doesn’t make sense to try to provide a very large food plot source. Also, not that it can’t be done, but it isn’t realistic for the average deer hunter to plant an area that large. As it’ll take at least five to 10 acres to feed a population for any length of time, depending on population densities. In most cases, the primary goal is going to be to supplement the deer with an alternative food source, and to hunt over it as well.
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2 | Take a Soil Sample
Soil is very important when it comes to growing stuff. Not taking a soil sample can mean the difference between success and failure. Trust me, I’ve planted a few that didn’t grow. But I’ve also planted those that grew to be luscious, green plots that were a great source of food for the deer and that were effective for my hunting tactics and plans.
Always take soil samples well in advance (weeks or months) before you break ground. That allows you plenty of time to make needed adjustments to the soil to acquire the correct pH. You certainly want to make sure you know the type of soil you’re dealing with and the potassium and phosphorous levels in that area. If planting a sizeable area, make sure you take samples from different locations in the field. It’s common that different areas will have different fertilizer requirements.
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3 | Determine the Right Seed
Deciding what to plant can seem like a very daunting task, but it shouldn’t be. Start by researching what you can grow in the region you’re planting. For example, most varieties of corn aren’t going to bode well in the really sandy soil on the Eastern Seaboard. Also, think about the soil type, too. Is it really loamy? Is it clay-like? Is it really wet for extended periods? These are all questions you must ask before spending your hard-earned dollars on seed.
Location and soil types aren’t the only things to consider. Once you’ve ruled out certain seed options based on climate and soil type, you must ask yourself when you want deer to feed on this the most. Do you want peak consumption to fall during the summer, early fall, the rut or late season? If you plan to hunt over this food plot, when will you be doing most of your hunting? That’s when you want peak consumption to be, after all. So don’t just plant something that fits your climate and soil type. Plant something that will be most desirable to deer during the period you’ll be hunting the hardest.
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4 | Pre-Plan Food Plot Locations
Another important thing to consider before planting season arrives is where you’ll plant your food plots. Don’t decide the day of where you want to plant them. Personally, I like to scout in late winter after the seasons are closed, walk all of the trails and travel routes, and draw these on a map. I also mark bedding areas, food sources, etc. This helps me understand how deer use a particular property and gives me better insight on where to plant food plots for the deer’s benefit and to maximize my chances of seeing deer use them during daylight hours.
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5 | Decide What Shape Your Plot(s) Will Be
This is one of the most overlooked factors in all of food plot planting. Shape is everything. I promise. Why you ask? Because you can dictate how deer travel by utilizing certain shapes. Square and circular are the worst shaped food plots you could plant. But most fields are shaped square, rectangular or circular, though.
Why is this a problem? It’s simple. Deer can see most of the field when it’s in one of these shapes. They don’t have to travel far to observe what’s out there. Ever seen deer walk up a little rise so they could observe the rest of it a clearing, only to turn around and casually go the other way? I sure have. Deer are inquisitive creatures. They like to know what’s going on. That’s why food plots shaped like a U, V, T or any other shape that prevents deer from seeing the entire plot are so effective. In most cases, a deer will enter from one end and travel at least far enough to see the rest of the plot. Don’t ask me why. They just do. It directs and funnels traffic.
How do you overcome the square- or circular-field issue? By planting buffers and screens. Once you’ve worked up the entire area, sketch out on a map the best shape for your food plot based on the existing shape of the entire field, but make sure it’s an odd shape as mentioned above. Everything inside of that area will be planted as food and everything between the food plot border and the edges of the field should be planted in something that will shield a whitetail’s line of sight. There are several ways to do this. If you want to use the entire field as a food source, I suggest planting corn and have standing corn as an additional food source. If you don’t want that area as an additional food source, Egyptian wheat is the best plot screen/buffer on the market. This will create a separation between the food plot and field edge and will help you create the shape food plot you want, even in circular and square fields.
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6 | Maintain Farm Implements
Taking care of equipment is kind of a given. But we all fail to maintain our stuff from time to time. If you’re me, farm implements break easily and tear up often. So taking good care of them is important. Before planting season, check them for malfunctions and oil and grease contact points generously. You’ll be glad you did.
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7 | Run a Routine Tractor Check
It’s not only important to maintain farm implements but also to run a maintenance check on your tractor, too. Neglecting your most vital tool to planting is the last thing you want to do. Better to prevent than to repair. And check out the latest tractor models from our friends over at New Holland. Tell them we sent ya.