Designing and building a food plot can be challenging. Especially when factoring in uncontrollable factors like seasonal weather, browse management, and the elements. However, we can build food plots that lead to success.
Choosing the Right Location
When designing your food plot, the right location can make or break your ultimate goal of harvesting the animal you're after. Always be sure to keep in mind your access, sunlight to the plot, and the location.
Access to your plot is the most important hunting strategy we can create. If we have to walk through bedding, across your property, or even across the plot to get to your stand location, then it can ultimately push deer off the plot and off of your property. We have to create these high attraction, high risk plots, with the least intrusive access as possible to hunt them. Having an easy, relatively shielded path to get in and out of your stand or blind is imperative to applying as little pressure as possible.
Sunlight to your plot will have a direct effect on how well your plot will grow. There are a couple of strategic spots to plant your food plots.
Fields: When planting a plot on the edges of fields, consider the slope and tree cover. If there is little to no slope or a southern facing slope and very little tree cover, your plot will get more than enough sunlight.
Timber: A plot in the woods must have an open canopy to get sunlight. Often times, we find open areas in the timber with little to no vegetation on the ground, but this doesn't mean we can throw some shade tolerant mix in there. We still need to get sunlight to the area, an oftentimes, shade mixes still need a few hours of direct sunlight or a lot of filtered sunlight throughout the day. A little bit of TSI work to open up the canopy can go a long way.
Location becomes the focal point of planning your hunts for the fall. Finding the best possible pinch points, edges of bedding, and travel corridors is key to success. So is with your food plots. Planting food plots in the middle of fields, away from nearby water and bedding sources, will lead to destination or nocturnal food plots. We want to place food plots along the edges of bedding, near water sources, and away from your neighbor's property line. This increases your chances of having daytime visitors in your food plot going to and from bedding. To learn more about buck travel patterns, check out this article.
Taking the prep time before planting is very important to give your plot the best potential for fall success. The best way to suppress weeds is to apply a nurse or smother crop in the spring, but can be time consuming and costly. The easiest way is to mow the site in early summer and one more time towards the middle of July. Apply a herbicide to the weeds about a week later to kill any weed growth. You can then plant a week later into a weed-free plot and pack down the seed into the soil with a cultipacker to create good seed to soil contact.
Tilling is another way to prepare the soil but does have disadvantages. It does kill existing weeds, but can bring up new weed seeds that can often outcompete your desired food plot species without spraying them. Tilling will reduce organic matter and dries up the soil, making it very hard to grow water dependent plants. It can be effective when used with mowing, followed by tilling, and an herbicide application 2-3 weeks later. Then planting and applying fertilizer and a lime or a lime supplement will greatly enhance the success of the plot.
To learn more about building successful food plots and maximizing your hunt, check out our consulting process and begin building your dream property now!