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Food plots can be the piece of the puzzle that takes hunting properties to next level. Food plots make up only a small percentage of the total acreage of a property but it is important that we get the most out of these designated areas. In recent years it seems we as hunters have drifted away from the core and primary benefits of food plots. Many hunters are now planting their plots in a cheap “throw and grow variety” instead of growing a food plot that is highly nutritious, attractive to the deer, and ultimately benefits the deer herd on that property. If we are going to set aside acreage as a “food plot” it is our responsibility to manage it in the best way possible. We must make our plots a “preferred” feeding area for our deer herd. It is imperative that we make what is growing in our plots more nutritious and more attractive than any other food source available on the landscape. If not, then why would deer want to feed in the food plots when they can get that level of nutrition anywhere else within their home range. One of the best ways to pull big bucks off your neighbor’s property is to have high quality food plots. This is especially important for smaller properties because it allows the property to hunt larger because the food plots are drawing deer from surrounding properties. The success of a food plot is directly determined by the attractiveness and productivity of that plot.

The two main food plot problems I see on most of my client properties are improper soil conditioning and planting generic seed blends that are high in poor quality cereal grains. For a food plot to reach its maximum productivity, the soil pH must be in the mid 6’s up to 7. If a soil has a substantially low or high pH the plant will not take up the amount nutrients needed to produce a lush, healthy plant that is nutritionally and tastefully attractive to deer. A simple soil test can be done and analyzed by a soil lab to give you the right fertilizer and lime regime for each specific food plot. Applying the right amount of fertilizer is also a key part in any successful food plot program. If I had to pick between seed and fertilizer in a plot, I would personally plant less seed and use more fertilizer. That’s how important fertilizer is. The next problem I see in 75% of client food plots is planting generic, low quality seed blends that are high in poor cereal grains such as rye. Even the generic “3 way blend” of rye, wheat, and oats is low on the deer preference scale for fall and winter food plots.  You must plant high quality varieties that are suited for your soil types and deer herd. Clovers, winter peas, forage oats, chicory and radishes are all solid choices for any food plot program. Experiment and plant different seeds in different plots to better narrow down what food plots species the deer on your property prefer.

Food plots are a great way to attract and hold deer on your property year around but they must be managed and maintained correctly. Just because a plot is green and pretty does not mean it is attracting deer and giving them the nutrition they need, when they need it. There is a direct connection between increasing the productivity of your food plots and hunter success. The better your food plot program is the better hunting success you will have. Good deer and habitat management involves constant monitoring and evaluation and a food plot program is no different. Don’t let food plots be the weak link in the management of your hunting property.