It is spring time across this wonderful country. It seems that deer hunting is so far away. But I got a way to make it feel that much closer. A lot of people I have met over the years, only deer hunt during hunting seasons. Not me! I deer hunt 365 days a year! But they only let me carry a weapon during the fall months.
For me I never let my season end. There are many things you can do during your off season to improve your chances of bagging the buck of a life time. I run trail cameras all year long and not just during hunting season. I start with getting a gun and buy 9mm ammo online for easy access. In January I get to see what bucks made it through the year, and I can better learn the deer on my property as to what areas they inhabit during any given time of year.
Clearing your shooting lanes is a great thing to do in the spring. It gives a really long time for the deer to get used to the new look and ease the stress of them knowing a person was there by the time deer hunting rolls around.
But there is one thing I look forward to the most in my spring portion of my year round whitetail insanity.
Now I know what you are saying. “I do not have enough land to do food plots”, or “It costs too much money” or “I tried it and it never worked”. I’ve even heard “It is too much work”. I think the worst I have heard is “It will ruin my land”. I am here to say that all these statements are completely false.
I can completely understand if you are a public land hunter. I do not think it is legal anywhere to plant a food plot on public land. So I guess that is a legit excuse for not doing it. But the rest of you deer hunters out there have no excuse. I am going to run a break down on these myths.
“I Do Not Have Enough Land”
Let me tell you, it does not take much. If you have 10 acres, then make it the most desirable 10 acres a deer could dream of. I hunt a lot of deep woods; small acreage parcels. You don’t need a big field like you see on TV. I love what we call micro plots or “kill plots”. Micro plots are very small food plots made at a stand location. If you have 10 acres of woods to hunt, clear out a little area in the area of your stand location and plant it. Even if it is only a 20 foot by 20 foot circle it will be enough to bring the deer in. They might not pile in there, but it will increase your odds that a deer will take the trail that runs by your stand. I little bit can go a long way
No, it is not a free venture. I understand that. But there are ways to help keep it more affordable. First way is not to buy those expensive seed blends from the sporting goods store. Research the blend you want. Then take that blend recipe to a grain mill, to the place the farmers get there seeds. Most of the seeds that are in those expensive whitetail food plot seeds, are readily available from co-ops and seed mills. Now the advantage to using some of the premium food plot seed blends are they have been bred for food plot applications rather than commercial sized farm fields so the species may vary. But it will still draw them in just as good and they will grow. Buying in these places could cut the price of your seeds in half over the major whitetail food plots brands.
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“I Have Tried It And It Never Worked So I Do Not Want To”
Well my question is “Why?” What happened to it? And are you absolutely sure it did not? One of the biggest tips I can give you for installing a food plot is, always test your soil. Take up a few samples of dirt, the bigger the plot the more random samples that should be taken. There are places you can take it to that will test everything about your soil. But there are easier and cheaper ways to find out everything you need to know about the dirt below your deer stand. Some of these tools in my arsenal are a ph tester, an NPK test kit (nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium), and a soil thermometer. These items will tell you why it did not work.
All plants like a certain ph. If the seed you want to plant likes a higher ph, like a 7.1, and your soil comes out acidic, or a lower ph, your seeds will not grow well, and you will need to add something to raise the ph of your soil like lime. But maybe your ph is slightly higher than what your seeds need you may need to add something like horticultural sulfur to your soil. An NPK test kit will tell you how much nutrients are in your soil. Plants can not live with out food. I carry a thermometer during the spring to judge the right time to plant my spring seeds. Some things will not grow before the soil temperature reaches a certain level. Cold soil may reduce the success rate of your plot.
And going back, I also asked “Are you sure it did not?” Here is a trick to see just how productive you food plot is. I have set up many small plots and noticed it seems like it starts to grow but then it dies. I was frustrated to see all my hard work and money go to waste on a food plot that did nothing. After a few years I learned a new trick. I use deer exclusion cages. Take enough 4ft chicken wire to coil it into a 4 ft circle and stake it in the middle of the plot. You will be surprised of the answer it will give you. I did this. By early summer the inside of the chicken wire was lush and green with clovers and rye grass. Outside of it was bare dirt with sparse plants and looks like it did not really grow. This tells me the deer found it and loved what you gave them to offer and ate it all. If I’d not made the enclosure, I would never have know the deer were hitting it. Put a trail camera on it and you will know for sure.
“It’s Too Much Work”
Yes, it can be a lot of work to make a food plot. But no one ever said you had to plow yourself a huge spot. If you have a sunny spot in the woods clear it out and plant it. Our micro plot system we use is easy. We find an area in the woods that has a canopy that opens. Like a tall mature hardwood tree that has fallen over and now the sunlight pours into that spot, or a small opening that lets in enough light to let some grasses and raspberries take over. Normally these spots were we hunt are about 20 feet by 20 feet. Early in the spring before the under growth starts growing, I go through and clear the spot of leaves, sticks and branches and clear out the dead under growth and get down to bare dirt. After it starts warming up and the under growth is growing, I spray it all down with kill on contact weed and brush killer. Two weeks after spraying I go back to clean out the dead vegetation and re-treat if necessary. If I have successfully removed all the vegetation, and my soil temperature is high enough to plant, I sow a shade tolerant food plot mix. We then replant with late season blends in late summer. Yes it is a lot of work, but you only get out of it what you put in to it.
“It Will Ruin My Land”
You are kidding me right?
Yes I guess people out there lives under rocks and like to plug there ears and scream “LALALALALA” over and over until people are done explaining this concept. If you have a 40 acre parcel and manage to make a 1 acre food plot you will see a remarkable difference in the hunting. Your food plot may not be a deer’s primary destination, but he may want to take the trail that go to your stand instead of the one that goes around it so he can stop and nibble on his way through. It gives him that stopping point in range where you can take a more selective shot. It will benefit your heard by giving them much need nutrition during needed times of the year.
Did you know it is BAD to feed deer corn? Deer do not digest corn. Just like people, goes in corn, comes out corn. We do not digest it either. Deer in the winter will die of starvation with full bellies if feed corn. So why bait and feed with it? Grow easily digestible, highly nutritious plants for your precious vegetarians and in return, grow more back straps.
Another reason that food plots will improve your land has nothing to do with the actual hunt. Hunting now days is a big selling point to wilderness land. There are a lot of hunters that search for new hunting land every year. If you have hunting land and you want to sell it, I bet that you could get a better price for it if it came with a food plot already established.
I love running food plots. I have always considered myself a plant nerd and love working with plants. So seeing as how I never want my deer season to end, food plots are one of those things that make the off season seem not so long. It is fun. It is easy. And the pay off could be huge! So grab your steel tined rake and your machete and get out there and start you 2014 deer season today! Good luck everyone!