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This reminds me of a Steve Martin comedy gag my brothers and I used to listen to on a record when we were kids. The title of the bit was something like, “How to Make a Million Dollars and Never Pay Taxes,” and it started with: “First, get a million dollars.”
Well, I’m assuming you already have an ATV, so I’m not counting that in the $1,000 mentioned in the title. I’m talking about attachments only. Compared to using hand tools, an ATV makes things infinitely easier and allows you to take your plotting to another level—but only if you have the right implements. And if you’re plotting on a relatively small scale, like most hunters, you really only need a few things. Just as important, they are not terribly expensive. Here’s what I recommend:
1. Filmco ATV-Mounted or Pull-Behind Sprayer
If you’re on a really tight budget and you’re still young and full of beans, you can get away with just a $75 backpack sprayer. My hunting buddies and I did that for a while, but it takes a lot of time and energy. For around $400, or a little less, a 25- or 30-gallon ATV sprayer like this Flimco is totally worth it if you’ll be spraying large areas. A farmer friend of mine sprays over 100 acres of food plots every spring with a 25-gallon ATV-mounted sprayer much like this one. We don’t do nearly that much, but our pull-behind 30-gallon Filmco has allowed us to double or triple the size and number of plots we can prepare and maintain in our limited free time each year. There are cheaper models out there, and they may work fine, but we went with Filmco because it’s such a trusted brand.
A pull-behind model is easy to attach and remove, doesn’t take up space on your machine, and it gets you a little farther away from the chemicals. But—and this is very important—you will only be happy with a pull-behind if you are plotting on relatively flat ground. Otherwise, this type of sprayer is likely to tip over, repeatedly. If you’ve got a lot of uneven or sloped ground, go with a ATV-mounted sprayer, which also tends to cost a little less.
2. Bad Dawg Accessories GroundHog Max ATV/UTV Disc Plow
You don’t need to turn over dirt to plant food plots, of course. Brassicas and cereal grains make for no-brainer no-till plots, and you can even do beans and peas with the right no-till system and cover crop. But I still highly recommend this disc plow.
Read Next: How to Plant the Ultimate No-Till Food Plot
First, it really works. The big complaint about many pull-behind ATV discs is that they don’t weigh enough to really cut into the ground. The Ground Hog Max uses the weight of your machine to solve that problem. The small size of this implement means you can take it anywhere your ATV will go, including those small, hidden kill plots, and yet it can handle a decent-sized plot, too. We used it to till a 1/2-acre plot the other day, and it ate it up. You do have to be patient; you need to make many passes with this disc before you have bare, churned up soil. But look at it this way: Most people with ATVs enjoy riding them, and that’s all you have to do: ride around a bunch with the GroundHog Max attached until you have a nicely tilled plot.
But there’s a lot more that you can do with this disc plow. Early in the spring, the farmer we lease from told us he didn’t mind if we added some clover to part of an existing hayfield. We used the GroundHog Max to simply expose a little more soil before over-seeding, and it worked great. As a result, a corner of a field that was mostly hay is now mostly clover, and I have no doubt the deer will notice.
We will also be putting in a number of no-till brassica plots, and a few passes with this disc will definitely increase the soil exposure while maintaining plenty of mulch to help retain moisture. Also, if you’re going to plant beans by broadcasting and you don’t have a drag or cultipacker (see below), you can set this disc a little higher then till lightly while making a bunch of passes; the disc combined with the tires of your machine will allow you to get the proper soil coverage over the seeds. Finally, if, like us, you want to do less spraying and more burning going forward, the GroundHog Max is about perfect for making fire breaks.
Bottom line: You can get a ton of use out of this thing, for about $350. Just be sure to look closely at the hitch requirements. If you already have a good, sturdy 2-inch hitch receiver, you’re good to go. If not, you can buy the model with an included hitch kit for only an extra $50, which fits most Honda and Polaris machines, plus a few others. Otherwise, look online for an aftermarket option for your specific machine. Another good thing about the GroundHog max is that you can plow fast enough with it that smaller CC air-cooled machines wont overheat, and that means you don’t need a big, powerful, expensive machine to run this plow.
3. Homemade Drag Harrow
You can buy a basic drag harrow for a couple hundred bucks, or you can make one for next to nothing. A pull-behind drag harrow is nice for making a smoother seedbed and for ensuring proper soil coverage after broadcasting lager seeds, like beans and peas, that need to be an inch or more deep. To make your own, simply bolt a few pressure-treated 1x4s over the top some old chain-link fence, then weigh it down with old lumber and ratchet straps. I like to add long nails to the 1x4s so they poke through the bottom by a couple of inches, to help smooth the dirt. (You can blunt the nails a little if you’re worried.) Then just pull it via a yoke of chain or sturdy rope. It’s ugly, but it works, and it’s almost free.
That’s it. Add a good hand seeder or wheeled push model for say $30 to $50, and you can get a whole lot done, from simple no-till brassica and cereal-grain plots to beans and peas. And so far, the price tag is about $750, which leaves money left over for chemicals, lime, seed, etc. You might want to add a cultipacker down the road, see below, but for now, you have everything you need to take your ATV plotting game to the next level.
Bonus Implement: Packer Maxx PMX4STND Cultipacker
If you have an ATV, you don’t desperately need a cultipacker, as the machine itself sort of acts like one. But it’s nice to have the real thing, as it works better and faster. This 4-foot roto-molded ATV/UTV pull-behind model from Packer Maxx is durable, affordable, and lightweight to transport. (You fill it with water on site when you’re ready to use it). It’s perfect for finishing seeded tilled plots and for knocking down cover crops, such as buckwheat, when used as mulch in no-till plots.