Food-Plot Rx: Keep Deer Happy, Fed, and On Your Land

Photograph by Charles Alsheimer

It’s frustrating: You ­invested a lot of time, effort, and money into creating food plots on your property, but you’re not getting a lot of production. Worse, what grows on those plots gets eaten up so quickly that deer don’t stick around—which is the whole point of putting in food plots.

Diagnosis
Deer are moving to nearby property where there's more acreage in plots, with crops that offer better nutrition and palatability. So you need to improve existing plots and break ground for future sites.

Rx
To improve your output per acre, buy a plow such as the CountyLine Middle Buster ($150; tractorsupply.com) and plow plots 8 to 16 inches deep where you've only been shallow-tilling or disking the top by 4 to 8 inches. Your plants need softer, uncompacted soil so roots can dig deep and grow stronger by utilizing phosphorus, potassium, micronutrients, and moisture they couldn't reach before. After deep plowing, let the plot sit for a few weeks, then till to a smooth bed. Now test the soil to determine lime and fertilizer needs, and disk those into the soil.

Preventive
Clear fresh sites for new plots in areas that you're not hunting now; in areas that you are hunting, plan to make plots after the season closes. Existing forest trails are good potential sites; you can increase light on them by cutting back shading trees on the sides. Natural clearings in woods, log landings, and abandoned fields are other possibilities. If you have none of these, hire a bulldozer operator to create openings in your woods. Clear debris, kill existing vegetation, mow, and then disk or plow the organic residue into the soil. Also consider planting perennials such as clover or chicory, which are rarely destroyed by overbrowsing and will keep whitetails on your land even if they eat annuals down to the ground.