How to Plant a Food Plot

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It's Not as Hard as People Try to Make It

I’m a deer hunter. Deer hunting is my greatest priority behind God, family, and friends. And it’s because of that undeniable truth that I plant food plots. I want to do everything in my power to help the whitetails I hunt. And I want to do everything I can to increase my chances of success.

That’s why I plant food plots.

Here’s how you can plant one, too.

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Choose Wisely

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1 | Choose Wisely

There are several decisions that must be made before beginning the process. The first is where you’ll put the food plot. That seems simple enough, but that’s not always the case. Keep in mind that you’re trying to feed and kill deer with this food plot. Locate it in a place where deer naturally travel. Even better, put it between a bedding area and major food source.

The next decision is, what will you plant? Choose the right seed for the area you live in. What seed you plant should match the growing conditions you plant in. Contact local resources and authorities for more information on that.

Beyond that, choose something deer don’t have access to elsewhere. This will attract more deer from your neighbors. You’ll have a better hunting experience, too.

Preliminary Duties

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2 | Preliminary Duties

Once you have your seed and have picked a location, take a soil sample. This will tell you what components are abundant — and those that are lacking — in your soil. You’re looking for that perfect pH of around seven. That’ll do in most cases.

Once you have the test results, it will reveal what fertilize combination is needed to balance the pH in your soil. Then get the appropriate fertilizer. If you do not get a soil test, standard 10-10-10 or 13-13-13 will work in many cases.

Now it’s time to think about the ground. Spray the area your plot will cover. Allow approximately seven days for all vegetation to die off. Then mow the area.

Different people fertilize the ground in different ways. But after spraying and mowing, I prefer to spread fertilize prior to breaking ground. Once the fertilizer is out, then I work the ground until all soil is turned and the fertilizer is concealed. 

Wait for the Right Conditions

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3 | Wait for the Right Conditions

Once that’s done, it’s almost time to plant. But don’t rush it. You need to wait for rain in the forecast if at all possible. But don’t wait too long. Leaving worked ground unseeded allows other plants and weeds to take off. Furthermore, waiting too long can potentially knock you out of the planting window. This could mean your plot will not grow to maturity before the first frost

Seed to Soil

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4 | Seed to Soil

Now it’s time to plant. Keep in mind that you don’t want to spread seed too thin, and you don’t want to leave it too thick, either. Read the planting instructions on the seed’s bag for proper application.

Cover the Seed

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5 | Cover the Seed

Different seeds need to be planted at different depths. Some seeds require ¼ inch. Some should be planted closer to ½ inch. It just depends on the seed you choose. Others just need to lay on top of the soil. Do it wrong and you'll waste the seed and your time. Because of that, I range in my methods of covering the seed. Sometimes I run truck or four-wheeler tires over it to ensure good seed-to-soil contact. Sometimes I run a cultipacker over the area. Sometimes I even disc the seed into the soil. It all depends on the seed. Again, read the planting instructions on the bag.

Pray for Rain

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6 | Pray for Rain

Take your hat off, bend down, and pray to the good Lord for rain. It’s hard to grow a lush, green food plot without moisture.

Protect the Seedlings

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7 | Protect the Seedlings

Overgrazing can be a serious problem for early sprouts. Deer and other wildlife really like those tender shoots as they pop out of the ground. One way to limit this is to put an electric fence around the plot. Another way: Spread human hair. Deer won’t go near it. Then, in a couple months, the smell of it should be long gone in time for hunting season. It works. I promise.

Spray Again for Weeds

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8 | Spray Again for Weeds

Once the plants are out of the ground, see if there are any other weeds popping up that are competing for soil nutrients. If they are, spray the food plot for weeds. Just make sure you choose the right spray for the plant you planted in the food plot.

Editor's note: This was originally published in May 2016.

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