Think Spring and Food Plots

Spring is a time of renewal.

Grass starts greening up, trees are budding with new leaves, farmers are getting in the fields planting their crops and the days grow longer and warmer. Turkeys, pheasants, waterfowl and songbirds begin their nesting season. Deer are having fawns and bucks are starting to regrow new antlers and hunters begin thinking about planting food plots.

Food plots are a very beneficial tool that help hunters find success in the fall. They offer the deer a nutritional food source that will help lactating does produce milk and bucks the necessary nutrients to grow those trophy antlers. Food plots will also help to keep wildlife on your property and offer a food source for those harsh Minnesota winters. They will also add equity into your hunting ground, however, a few things need to be considered.

  1. Locations of the food plots. Before you begin digging up the ground, consider the location of the food plot. Entrance and exit from your tree stands should be considered. Are you going to bump wildlife off the plot as you are walking to your tree stand in the morning? How about leaving at night? Is it in an area where wildlife will feel comfortable feeding? Aerial photos are a great asset when planning these potential new food plots.

  2. Once you have the food plot area defined, next you will need to determine what you will need to get the soil to the point of being able to be turned over. Will you need to remove some trees, brush or grass? What kind of herbicide will you need to get rid of unwanted vegetation? How about the soil type? Soil samples are an easy way to find what fertilizers you may need to add to get the most out of your food plot as well. Once you have the location determined and the vegetation cleared, take several samples of the soil several inches down in the dirt in the area where the roots will be growing. You can then take the samples to your local agronomy company and have them run the samples for you. This is usually inexpensive and will make sure the plots grow to their potential. Now it’s time to get dirty. There are many options available for hunters to get the soil turned over. Small plots can simply be done with a garden tiller, while bigger plots may need an atv or tractor and disc.

  3. Now that you’ve determined the location of the plot and have the seed bed prepared, what is the best crop to plant? Annual grains such as corn, soybeans and rye grain are a favorite of deer, turkey and pheasants, however they will need to be planted every year. Perennials are another option. Plants such as clover and chicory can be planted in the spring, and if well maintained, can last for several years. Clovers will green up early in the spring, giving the deer herd much needed nutrition after a long winter, whereas corn will provide wildlife with forage needed in the fall and winter. Soybeans are a great option that provide wildlife with a food source throughout the summer, fall and winter months as well. If you’re in an area with high deer numbers, you may need to fence off your soybeans, ensuring that they will have a food source from fall into winter, as the deer will likely graze the soybeans down, hence they will not produce much for soybean pods. Another option that would be planted later in the summer (mid july-mid august), would be brassicas. Deer will utilize the green leaves after a frost, and later in the winter will dig the frozen bulbs out of the ground.

  4. Once the seed is in the ground, keeping a check on the weeds and grasses in the plot is important to ensure a healthy plot that will benefit the wildlife. Roundup ready corn and soybeans may be available through your local wildlife clubs at a reduced rate. Having access to round up ready seed makes weed and grass control in your plots fairly easy. Clover is a little more difficult, as you will not be able to spray roundup to control weeds and grasses. Herbicides are available that target grass and mowing clover 3-4 times throughout the summer will keep weeds down in the plot as well.

Hopefully, this will give you some insight on establishing a food plot on your hunting land. Food plots are a great asset that may increase success on your hunting land and will add equity into the property and benefit wildlife as well.

Written by JCR Land Expert, Mike Brown | Image: Advanced Hunter

Dirk Ockhardt