We always see tons of deer on our property in the summer months, but once September rolls around, it always seems like most of the deer vacate the property. We wanted a way to try and hold some of those deer there during the hunting season so we had a better chance of getting one. Our solution was to plant some food plots!
We thought a food plot would be a good option because our property has plenty of food in summer and early fall (fresh shoots, leaves, and other young green growth), but once that dies off in late September, we run out of food for the deer. This causes many of them to leave the property in search of greener pastures, literally. Hence, our decision to plant food plots.
So, let’s start this off with a big disclaimer… I am far from an expert on the subject of planting food plots and farming in general, but I wanted to share my experience planting food plots this year. Hopefully you can learn something, or at least be entertained by the story.
Now that we have decided to plant some food plots, the real work begins. So, step 1 is deciding where we wanted to plant these food plots. Our goal was to make a handful of smaller food plots instead of one large one.
We decided on 4 locations: #1 at the end of the field in the center of our property, #2 tucked into a clearing in the swampy portion of our property, #3 perched on top of the ridge above the swamp, and #4 in a densely vegetated area that was logged about 15 years ago. The idea is that the larger plot in the field would be a destination plot. This means that the deer will congregate and feed here. We assumed they would do this predominantly during the nighttime hours because the field has relatively little cover. The main purpose of this field is to hold the deer on our property by giving them a large food source.
The other, smaller plots were all located adjacent to deer bedding areas with dense vegetation and plenty of cover. These are the plots that we actually plan on hunting over because the deer are more likely to use them during daylight hours due to their adjacency to cover.
Prepping the Food Plots
Before we start doing any planting, we wanted to know what the soil conditions were; what the pH was, nutrient levels, etc. We collected soil samples from each of the food plot locations and dropped them off at the local agronomy office for analysis. We got the results back in about a week. The soil report told us what the pH and nutrient content of the soil was. It even had some helpful suggestions like how much lime and fertilizer to add to bring the soil to optimum levels for food plots.
In all of our plots, the soil was too acidic for the food to grow well, so we needed to bring the pH up by adding lime (the mineral, not the fruit). We followed the soil report’s recommendations on how much lime to add to each field, which worked out to be about 2500 lbs of lime for all 4 plots. They are sold in 50lb bags, so we went to Fleet Farm and picked up a whole bunch of bags, then headed up north to get working.
We had a lot of work ahead of us if we wanted these food plots in this year. We still needed to break ground, lime it to raise the pH, and then seed and fertilize the plots. Up until now, most of the work was just deciding how and where we wanted to do everything and gathering all the supplies, but now the real work begins. Stay tuned for Food Plots Part II to read about the next phase of making our food plot dreams a reality!