When it comes to food plots, it’s not particularly hard to grow something green that a whitetail deer will eat, but that doesn’t mean it will do squat to help your deer hunting. Spring is the time of year when hunters are clearing ground and planning new food plots for the coming deer season. Whether that forage will pay off big in October comes down to a lot of small decisions—such as whether you should bother planting soy beans, if it’s ok to walk through your plot, how many trees you should leave planted, and whether or now you should sow your wild oats. Make the right call on those small decisions now can pay off big time this fall.
Don’t Skimp on Size
In the real world, most hunters don’t have the acreage to plant small “kill plots” and big “destination plots.” A 11⁄2- to 2-acre plot is often feasible, though, and will reliably produce more forage—and attract more deer—than several 1⁄4-acre plots.
If you have to walk through a food plot to access your treestand, deer are going to bust you (whether you see them or not). If you’re clearing a new plot, above all else, plan its shape and location around an undetected approach and exit.
Don’t Spill the Beans
Unless you have the equipment necessary to drill 3-plus acres of soybeans or corn into the ground, plant something else. Small bean plots frequently fail because of overbrowsing, and keeping the weeds out of a young corn crop can be a huge challenge.
Don’t Clean the Edges
If you’re clearing a new plot with a dozer or skid steer, you’re going to wind up with a bunch of brushpiles. Don’t burn them or push them off into a ditch. Instead, use them around the perimeter of your plot to steer bucks to the trails of your choosing.
Do Get Skinny
Deer are browsers, and they walk as they feed. Put them on one end of a long, narrow plot, and they’ll usually end up at the other. Creating a skinny plot in a loose horseshoe shape and putting a stand at the bend is a great way to get a close shot.
Building food plots along or near perimeter roads and trails makes for easy access and maintenance. Just as important, it allows you to hunt the fringes of your ground while keeping the interior unpressured until the prime of the deer season.
Do Sow Your Oats
If you plant clover in spring, blend it with a heavy dose of oats to crowd out weeds. Once the cereal grain heads out, spray it with a grass-selective herbicide, and by bow season, the clover underneath will look like a thick green carpet.
Do Leave Some Trees
You can buy a fake tree and put it in the middle of your food plot to encourage bucks to scrape underneath it. Or you can save both time and money by leaving an oak sapling or two standing in strategic locations as you’re clearing your plot in the first place.