When implementing food plots to attract deer and other wildlife to your property there are many facets to consider for optimum results. The following four tips will help you to improve your food plot success whether your property is small or large.
Did you know you can use your GPS to calculate the acreage of a food plot? This feature is also available for cell phones, though I haven't tried it on my phone. Acreage calculation via GPS might not be news to modern farmers, but most recreational landowners I have spoken with were not aware that GPS units feature this time-and-money-saving option.
I used my Garmin GPS to determine the exact acreage of each of the 13 food plots on my property. To accomplish the undertaking, I simply picked a starting location on the perimeter of a plot, pressed a few buttons on my GPS, then walked the outskirts of the opening. As I strolled along, I watched the screen on my GPS, and like magic, my track was plotted. When I completed the loop, I pushed another button on my GPS and presto, I had the precise acreage of the interior of my route.
It's important to know the correct acreage of a food plot because that knowledge will help determine the proper amount of lime, fertilizer and seed needed to produce a quality plot. Guessing at the plot size is not a good idea because overestimating the size will waste money on excess chemicals and seed, and underestimating the size will result in insufficient applications of the same, ultimately compromising the quality of the plot.
If you don't know whether or not your GPS is capable of area calculation, review your owner's manual or contact "Support" at the company's Web site.
Mow Those Food Plots
In the fight against weeds in perennial food plots a mower is a particularly useful tool. Periodic mowing not only discourages broadleaf leaves in, for instance, a clover food plot, but also improves forage quality. When plants like clover mature the fiber content increases and the nutritional value decreases. Occasional mowing will cause new growth which is more digestible and nourishing to deer.
However, mowing during a dry period can be damaging to clovers and other desirable food plot plants. Normally I would mow my perennial food plots at least three times during a summer. This summer, due to a dry May and June, I've skipped my June mowing because I was afraid of damaging the more delicate and desirable plants. Don't mow after early August. Allow the plants to mature to provide the most forage during late summer and fall.
Seclusion Is Paramount
Prior to implementing food plots on your acreage consider soil quality and moisture and then decide on the plot location. Keep in mind seclusion is important, especially if your ultimate goal is to attract mature bucks to the plot. If possible, locate the plot out of sight of any road and close to heavy bedding cover to encourage deer to visit your plots during daylight hours.
Better yet consider planting a sight barrier of trees and shrubs between the plot and a nearby road. I know the thought of waiting several years for the trees to grow can be a determent, but time flies, and the sooner you plant that sight barrier, the sooner you can enjoy the results. You can also plant a dozen or so rows of corn or sunflowers as a temporary sight barrier while you wait for your trees to reach an appropriate height.
I prefer to plant white spruce trees as sight barriers because deer tend not to browse on spruce. Plant at least two or three rows and space the trees just a few feet apart so you can attain your goal more quickly. The trees can always be thinned later if needed.
What To Plant
I've been experimenting with various food plots brands and mixtures for more than a decade. All have attracted deer. Some have worked better than others depending on rainfall amounts, soil type and competition from weeds. Some plant varieties attract deer only in the fall, while others supply high protein forage in spring, summer, fall and even winter to a certain degree.
In my years of experimentation, I've determined clover is the single best plant for deer food plots. If I had only one food plot, I would definitely plant it with clover. I've had good luck with Imperial Whitetail Clover which is available from the Whitetail Institute of North America.
My second choice for food plot planting is a brassicas mix. Brassicas are broadleaved plants that look and smell like cabbage. They are extremely high in protein and palatability. The downside to brassicas is that generally deer ignore the plants until after several hard frosts, and thus they do not provide nutrition for deer during spring and summer. But, starting in late October deer flock to my brassicas plots. The shift is timely since by then my clover plots are usually eaten to the ground or are starting to go dormant.
BILL MARCHEL is a wildlife and outdoors photographer and writer whose work appears in many regional and national publications as well as the Brainerd Dispatch. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can visit his website at BillMARCHEL.com.