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Bring More Deer to Your Tree Stand With a Poor-Man's Food Plot

The idea of making big, elaborate food plots that require heavy equipment and hours of labor tends to intimidate landowners. But there's a much simpler and cheaper way to join the food plot craze. Grant Woods, one of America's top whitetail biologists and head of a deer management consulting firm, creates and hunts over what he calls hidey holes. "They're just small woods openings where I sweeten the deal in a place where deer already like to go--like putting ketchup and mustard on a hot dog."

These micro food plots require few tools: a small sprayer with Roundup herbicide, one bag each of lime and fertilizer, a rake or a leaf blower, and some seed. Building the plot is simple, and you can backpack in everything you need in a trip or two.

THE PERFECT SPOT Think small. A quarter acre is as big as you'll want to go. "An excellent place is around the trunk of a big, old tree that's been lightning-struck or killed by gypsy moths," Woods says. "Suddenly there's an opening in the canopy where sun hits the ground for a good part of the day." Log landings (cleared areas where loggers have piled timber), woods roads, and natural openings also work.

Woods preps the seedbed by spraying grass or weeds with Roundup. "Woody brush will have to be girdled [the bark scarred with a knife or hatchet] first," he says. "But don't go through the headache of clearing out dead trees--just work around them. You're not creating a field here."

If leaf litter is all that covers the ground, Woods uses a gas-powered blower to remove leaves and sticks for maximum soil-to-seed contact. "A leaf blower is one of the handiest tools a food-plotter can have. Not only does it do a beautiful job of clearing out the plot itself, but it's also great for creating an entry and exit trail to your stand." If you don't have one, use a steel-tined garden rake instead.

With the debris gone, Woods applies pelletized lime and fertilizer (which breaks down more quickly than the powdered variety) with a handheld spreader. "This is an essential step," he stresses. "Nearly all woodland soils are so acidic that even if plants grow, they'll taste bitter to deer. So I spread as much lime and fertilizer as I can haul in a couple of trips."

TASTY TREATS Finally, broadcast the seed on top of the lime and fertilizer. Deciding what--and when--to plant is critical. "You have a very specific mission: having that plot at peak palatability to deer when conditions are right for you," Woods says. "Seed it too early, and deer can wipe out a plot before you hunt it."

In most areas you'll be planting about three weeks before the opening of bow season, then hunting the site a limited number of times, depending on the crop. You need to consider both its attractiveness and its durability. Deer love peas, for example, but can eat an entire plot in about a week. Clover also draws whitetails and will buy you several more days, depending on the population density. Brassica blends are another favorite, but they mature at different times and give you maybe a month to six weeks.

It takes about four hours to establish a micro plot, according to Woods. "Some folks say that given the little time you can hunt one, you'd be better off just scouting more. That's true if you have exclusive access to a large tract. But if you're hunting only a small acreage or sharing land with other hunters, hidey holes provide an edge that's worth the time."

IMPROVING FORAGE

To improve whitetail food without planting a thing, all you need to do is spray existing forage with liquid fertilizer. You can test the effectiveness of this technique by marking a patch of native vegetation with ribbons staked 20 feet apart, then fertilizing between the ribbons. "I'll guarantee that in a few days the fertilized vegetation will receive more use by whitetails than the area outside it," says Grant Woods.

Fertilizers, which you can buy at most hardware stores, help release nutrients in plants--such as witch hazel, honeysuckle, and catbrier, all foods that whitetails already prefer--and make them even more attractive. Woods recommends pHFertilizer by BioLogic (866-677-9625; www.mossyoakbiologic.com). --S.B.

Comments (27)

Top Rated
All Comments
from Bruce E. Matthews wrote 5 years 13 weeks ago

What I need is a recommendation for what to plant in a sandy environment with such excellent drainage its hard to keep anything watered. Everything I've tried in this spot either doesn't germinate, or doesn't grow without copious irrigation.

+6 Good Comment? | | Report
from whitetail1 wrote 5 years 12 weeks ago

Planting garden plants (pumpkins, melons, squash, tomatoes...) works well too. Just be sure that there is enough sun light to support the plants. Those little cherry tomatoes work really well. They are loaded with seeds and birds will help you plant more.

+9 Good Comment? | | Report
from whitetail1 wrote 5 years 12 weeks ago

When you plant the squash and melons it helps if you bust them up when they are mature so the deer can eat the insides easier.

+7 Good Comment? | | Report
from bowhunter352 wrote 5 years 10 weeks ago

I'm with bayboater, My little area would be ideal for a "honeyhole" but its sandy but with a cool/neat little spot of sun hitting it. Perfect for something if it could ever grow.

+6 Good Comment? | | Report
from BBD19 wrote 5 years 6 weeks ago

I have done this in the past with limited success but that was my own fault for not applying any lime or fertilizer, hopefully after learning from my mistakes I will have better luck this time around.

+6 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mark w wrote 5 years 5 weeks ago

My place has sandy soil and nothing will grow without at least adding lime to the soil...if we add fertilizer also we get a real nice stand of oats or winter wheat. I haven't had much luck with the brassica/legume mixes but if we get some rain we usually get the oats growing real well. One thing i never do is plant too early...if you don't get a rain shortly after planting the seed won't germinate. I wait until around September 15th here in east Texas before I plant.

+5 Good Comment? | | Report
from auburn_hunter wrote 5 years 4 weeks ago

Anyone have a recommendation for maximum effectiveness in Alabama? I am not sure that we have near as much soil as red clay. We have to use lime just to break down the clay. What crops do best in this area?

+6 Good Comment? | | Report
from Outdoorchic wrote 4 years 49 weeks ago

While making a simple food plot is good advice, I have one tip for everyone to use. Find you some acorns, Rake them up, put them on a screen say chicken wire, sift out the acorns and use the acorns. It works on sandy ground any kind of ground. The deer love them!!! My uncle doesn't even use food plots or bags of corn as long as he keeps them plenty of acorns. Plus its cheap! U don't have to really buy anything!

+5 Good Comment? | | Report
from samdizengremel wrote 4 years 49 weeks ago

i planted a small food plot (15 by 25') with clover, (from cabella's) you can probably do alfalfa too, they can grow in almost anything and anywheres, and they last all spring too fall, you can even plant a couple of smal corn rows in between so you have something in the winter too.

+6 Good Comment? | | Report
from libertyfirst wrote 4 years 48 weeks ago

I have nothing but marine clay on my land and very little grows in this stuff. We haul in 1" screen gravel and a lot of lime and as old of a batch of cow manure as we can find and till the heck out of the entire batch. Just about everything that we've planted has grown exceptionally well with this mixture. The clover mix is the deers favorite and they hit it constantly.

+6 Good Comment? | | Report
from mikel wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

Thank you for putting this in the magazine. I havent been having much with the bait i put out for them. But this fall i'll try this food plot. I hope that this food plot works. I've heard from others that use food plots they say they work. I've asked them what is the best they said clover so thats what i'll use.

+5 Good Comment? | | Report
from Big C wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

Food plots are a great alternative to baiting (where legal) and they can sometimes last more than one year.

+5 Good Comment? | | Report
from Fishman5 wrote 4 years 42 weeks ago

One way to get kids to do chores would be to take them hunting with you.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sportsman21 wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

My dad and I planted a food plot similair to this one we didnt use round up so the weeds are taking over , we used throw and grow seed, in a mix with some clover

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Cgull wrote 4 years 36 weeks ago

Lol after plowing my food plots, I take the kids out to have a (Rock Throwing Party), I'm sure pretty soon they will wise up though. When I'm unable to plan food plots, I hand spread some 13-13-13 on the area honey suckle, muskadines and even have had great luck with a jan dosing of my oak flats with 1 cup to 1/2 cup fertilzer every 5-7 feet around the drip line of each oaks canopy. I just spade a 5-7 in hole, then pour in the fertilzer, stomp it down and go to the next. This is supposed to make the acorns bigger and sweeter

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from NorisR wrote 4 years 20 weeks ago

This works. It is the same priciple being used by land managers to do whole stands of hardwood. They use the "hack and squirt" method to allow sunlight into the area and create browse. Many areas in Mississippi are overbrowsed and need help. Doing one small plot in an overbrowsed area won't last long. Some research points to plants that handle the heavy browsing and bounce back. Mississippi's MSUcares.com site has been a lot of help to me.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from NortheastOutdoo... wrote 4 years 15 weeks ago

Unlike large commercial 'hunting' ranches, which often double as cattle ranches in other regions, many of us "nor'easters" are beginning to sway toward micro-systems including substantial food-plots where available, supplemented by smaller plts interspersed where possible ~ including manipulation of habitat content (hide-holes, funnels, 'safe-areas', etc.). With minimal cooperation, small tracts can be turned into larger ecosystems providing abundance which impacts all species.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from DLC3 wrote 4 years 3 weeks ago

Winter wheat is good

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from scott powers wrote 4 years 1 week ago

if you use salt early in the season the deer will come all year round because they know that it is there but you have to go out 3 to 4 times a week to put some out if you notice that you are getting a pile of salt stop and wate because the deer might not be in that area yet useing salt will help any one out because if the deer know that it is there they will go there every day to get more.also if you notice that it gos down at anicretible pace you might want to put a trail can on it to see if you are getting visted by more then gust deer i find that if you use sofener salt it gos into the grownd when it rains. there for it will stay for longer.if you put it on a well used trail the deer will come to it more often. also if there is a game trail near your stand put some ground garlic power in it they will smell it and will stay long enough for you to shoot. i suggest that you start puting salt out about a mounth befor deer secason starts.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Treestand wrote 3 years 47 weeks ago

We have tried it all and found Corn and cowlick work well, and Stand-plot in a shaker bag is great neer your T-stand. This is in north Florida! our Rutt starts in Black power season.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jimmy Vickers wrote 3 years 42 weeks ago

Food plots are fun but seem to be a work in progress for me. I appreciate reading everyone elses comments in hopes of info that will help me

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Nolan wrote 3 years 41 weeks ago

Im trying throw and grow out this year

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Trappperman9 wrote 3 years 18 weeks ago

Ver good thinking!

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from antlercrazy wrote 3 years 8 weeks ago

This article was very helpful because I have been looking to put in a small food plot to attract more deer.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Billythekid wrote 3 years 1 week ago

I was surprised to read how little time they recommend seeding before you hunt. Realizing all climates are a little different, I would take a biological perennial seed mix and plant in spring so that it takes root and returns. I have gotten some great food plot tips and maybe more importantly food plot photographs and videos from other hunters who have uploaded their own pics to a site I use called www.shareyourhunt.com and it is really cool to see other hunters actual pictures to go along with their descriptions. Trail cameras over the plots really are cool to see as the plot matures....

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from turkeycreek91 wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

im gonna have to try this this yr putting out corn and other attractants arent bringing in the bucks durin the day and the does not enough

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from deadeyejedi wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

i planted biologic no plow in a small area beside my house the deer hit it occasionally but not enough to say so. i need something to plant in swamp land .any suggestions?

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from irakzhao wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

While making a simple food plot is good advice, I have one tip for everyone to use. Find you some acorns, Rake them up, put them on a screen say chicken wire, sift out the acorns and use the acorns. It works on sandy ground any kind of ground. The deer love them!!! My uncle doesn't even use food plots or bags of corn as long as he keeps them plenty of acorns. Plus its cheap! U don't have to really buy anything! http://www.cancer-c.com/mesothelioma/asbestos-attorney.html

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from whitetail1 wrote 5 years 12 weeks ago

Planting garden plants (pumpkins, melons, squash, tomatoes...) works well too. Just be sure that there is enough sun light to support the plants. Those little cherry tomatoes work really well. They are loaded with seeds and birds will help you plant more.

+9 Good Comment? | | Report
from whitetail1 wrote 5 years 12 weeks ago

When you plant the squash and melons it helps if you bust them up when they are mature so the deer can eat the insides easier.

+7 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bruce E. Matthews wrote 5 years 13 weeks ago

What I need is a recommendation for what to plant in a sandy environment with such excellent drainage its hard to keep anything watered. Everything I've tried in this spot either doesn't germinate, or doesn't grow without copious irrigation.

+6 Good Comment? | | Report
from bowhunter352 wrote 5 years 10 weeks ago

I'm with bayboater, My little area would be ideal for a "honeyhole" but its sandy but with a cool/neat little spot of sun hitting it. Perfect for something if it could ever grow.

+6 Good Comment? | | Report
from BBD19 wrote 5 years 6 weeks ago

I have done this in the past with limited success but that was my own fault for not applying any lime or fertilizer, hopefully after learning from my mistakes I will have better luck this time around.

+6 Good Comment? | | Report
from auburn_hunter wrote 5 years 4 weeks ago

Anyone have a recommendation for maximum effectiveness in Alabama? I am not sure that we have near as much soil as red clay. We have to use lime just to break down the clay. What crops do best in this area?

+6 Good Comment? | | Report
from samdizengremel wrote 4 years 49 weeks ago

i planted a small food plot (15 by 25') with clover, (from cabella's) you can probably do alfalfa too, they can grow in almost anything and anywheres, and they last all spring too fall, you can even plant a couple of smal corn rows in between so you have something in the winter too.

+6 Good Comment? | | Report
from libertyfirst wrote 4 years 48 weeks ago

I have nothing but marine clay on my land and very little grows in this stuff. We haul in 1" screen gravel and a lot of lime and as old of a batch of cow manure as we can find and till the heck out of the entire batch. Just about everything that we've planted has grown exceptionally well with this mixture. The clover mix is the deers favorite and they hit it constantly.

+6 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mark w wrote 5 years 5 weeks ago

My place has sandy soil and nothing will grow without at least adding lime to the soil...if we add fertilizer also we get a real nice stand of oats or winter wheat. I haven't had much luck with the brassica/legume mixes but if we get some rain we usually get the oats growing real well. One thing i never do is plant too early...if you don't get a rain shortly after planting the seed won't germinate. I wait until around September 15th here in east Texas before I plant.

+5 Good Comment? | | Report
from Outdoorchic wrote 4 years 49 weeks ago

While making a simple food plot is good advice, I have one tip for everyone to use. Find you some acorns, Rake them up, put them on a screen say chicken wire, sift out the acorns and use the acorns. It works on sandy ground any kind of ground. The deer love them!!! My uncle doesn't even use food plots or bags of corn as long as he keeps them plenty of acorns. Plus its cheap! U don't have to really buy anything!

+5 Good Comment? | | Report
from mikel wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

Thank you for putting this in the magazine. I havent been having much with the bait i put out for them. But this fall i'll try this food plot. I hope that this food plot works. I've heard from others that use food plots they say they work. I've asked them what is the best they said clover so thats what i'll use.

+5 Good Comment? | | Report
from Big C wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

Food plots are a great alternative to baiting (where legal) and they can sometimes last more than one year.

+5 Good Comment? | | Report
from Fishman5 wrote 4 years 42 weeks ago

One way to get kids to do chores would be to take them hunting with you.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sportsman21 wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

My dad and I planted a food plot similair to this one we didnt use round up so the weeds are taking over , we used throw and grow seed, in a mix with some clover

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Cgull wrote 4 years 36 weeks ago

Lol after plowing my food plots, I take the kids out to have a (Rock Throwing Party), I'm sure pretty soon they will wise up though. When I'm unable to plan food plots, I hand spread some 13-13-13 on the area honey suckle, muskadines and even have had great luck with a jan dosing of my oak flats with 1 cup to 1/2 cup fertilzer every 5-7 feet around the drip line of each oaks canopy. I just spade a 5-7 in hole, then pour in the fertilzer, stomp it down and go to the next. This is supposed to make the acorns bigger and sweeter

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from NorisR wrote 4 years 20 weeks ago

This works. It is the same priciple being used by land managers to do whole stands of hardwood. They use the "hack and squirt" method to allow sunlight into the area and create browse. Many areas in Mississippi are overbrowsed and need help. Doing one small plot in an overbrowsed area won't last long. Some research points to plants that handle the heavy browsing and bounce back. Mississippi's MSUcares.com site has been a lot of help to me.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from NortheastOutdoo... wrote 4 years 15 weeks ago

Unlike large commercial 'hunting' ranches, which often double as cattle ranches in other regions, many of us "nor'easters" are beginning to sway toward micro-systems including substantial food-plots where available, supplemented by smaller plts interspersed where possible ~ including manipulation of habitat content (hide-holes, funnels, 'safe-areas', etc.). With minimal cooperation, small tracts can be turned into larger ecosystems providing abundance which impacts all species.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from DLC3 wrote 4 years 3 weeks ago

Winter wheat is good

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from scott powers wrote 4 years 1 week ago

if you use salt early in the season the deer will come all year round because they know that it is there but you have to go out 3 to 4 times a week to put some out if you notice that you are getting a pile of salt stop and wate because the deer might not be in that area yet useing salt will help any one out because if the deer know that it is there they will go there every day to get more.also if you notice that it gos down at anicretible pace you might want to put a trail can on it to see if you are getting visted by more then gust deer i find that if you use sofener salt it gos into the grownd when it rains. there for it will stay for longer.if you put it on a well used trail the deer will come to it more often. also if there is a game trail near your stand put some ground garlic power in it they will smell it and will stay long enough for you to shoot. i suggest that you start puting salt out about a mounth befor deer secason starts.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Treestand wrote 3 years 47 weeks ago

We have tried it all and found Corn and cowlick work well, and Stand-plot in a shaker bag is great neer your T-stand. This is in north Florida! our Rutt starts in Black power season.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jimmy Vickers wrote 3 years 42 weeks ago

Food plots are fun but seem to be a work in progress for me. I appreciate reading everyone elses comments in hopes of info that will help me

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Nolan wrote 3 years 41 weeks ago

Im trying throw and grow out this year

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Trappperman9 wrote 3 years 18 weeks ago

Ver good thinking!

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Billythekid wrote 3 years 1 week ago

I was surprised to read how little time they recommend seeding before you hunt. Realizing all climates are a little different, I would take a biological perennial seed mix and plant in spring so that it takes root and returns. I have gotten some great food plot tips and maybe more importantly food plot photographs and videos from other hunters who have uploaded their own pics to a site I use called www.shareyourhunt.com and it is really cool to see other hunters actual pictures to go along with their descriptions. Trail cameras over the plots really are cool to see as the plot matures....

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from antlercrazy wrote 3 years 8 weeks ago

This article was very helpful because I have been looking to put in a small food plot to attract more deer.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from deadeyejedi wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

i planted biologic no plow in a small area beside my house the deer hit it occasionally but not enough to say so. i need something to plant in swamp land .any suggestions?

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from turkeycreek91 wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

im gonna have to try this this yr putting out corn and other attractants arent bringing in the bucks durin the day and the does not enough

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from irakzhao wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

While making a simple food plot is good advice, I have one tip for everyone to use. Find you some acorns, Rake them up, put them on a screen say chicken wire, sift out the acorns and use the acorns. It works on sandy ground any kind of ground. The deer love them!!! My uncle doesn't even use food plots or bags of corn as long as he keeps them plenty of acorns. Plus its cheap! U don't have to really buy anything! http://www.cancer-c.com/mesothelioma/asbestos-attorney.html

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment