How 3 Top Outfitters Grow Killer Food Plots

Illustration by Steve Sandford

If an outfitter’s food plots don’t produce, it can mean tough hunting for clients and lost business. We surveyed a panel of these pros to learn their best plot secrets. The two major takeaways? Food-plot advice isn’t one-size-fits-all. And food-plot seed doesn’t need a picture of a deer on the bag to work.

1) Carl Doron, Snipe Creek Lodge
Location: Southwest Kentucky
Acres Managed: About 20,000

“I use a blend of chicory and ladino clover. The tonnage that chicory provides allows a small plot to feed more deer than a pure clover plot of the same size. Most of my plots are less than an acre, and I start them in early spring or fall, tripling the recommended seeding rate so that it outcompetes the weeds. I also fertilize them a couple of times during summer.”

Secret Weapon: “I overseed new fall plots with annual ryegrass. Deer love it when it’s young and tender, and it germinates fast.”

2) Ted Marum, Tri-State Outfitting
Location: Northern Missouri, Iowa, and Wisconsin
Acres Managed: About 6,000

“In August, I plant a blend of oats, barley, wheat, and daikon radishes in plots ranging from 11⁄2 to 3 acres. Each plant becomes palatable at a different phase of the season. Deer start out eating the oats, then transition to the barley and wheat, and finally hit the radishes when they’re cigar-size, usually around the first of October.”

Secret Weapon: “I top-dress some of my plots with canola. When it grows to about a foot tall in late fall, deer can’t leave it alone.”

3) Robert Pitman III, White Oak Plantation
Location: Alabama Black Belt
Acres Formerly Managed: About 20,000

“In our wet soil, not much grows except ryegrass, but the deer love it. We planted in September, then top-dressed the plots in December, just prior to the January rut, with ammonium nitrate. That gave them a big jump just before the hunt. Small plots (1⁄2 or 1⁄4 acre) give deer the quickest access to dense cover, and deer seem to hit them best during shooting light.”

Secret Weapon: “Native browse beats any food plot. If you fertilize your honeysuckle, deer will annihilate it.”