Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Creating food Plots

Planting and maintaining food plots is a good way to improve your hunting property.
As we know, deer need 3 things in order to survive: food, water and cover. If we increase the quantity and quality of any, or all, of these, than our property will hold more and bigger deer.

Clover Food Plot

1. Select a location. Ideally you will end up with one big feeding plot, with maybe corn or soybeans, and several smaller hunting plots, with clovers, brassicas, legumes, etc.

Before you start any work have a plan for all of your property. Look at an aerial photo of your property, or Google Maps. And plan where you would eventually like everything.

One thing to look for is what plants are growing where you are looking. A spot with lots of big weeds probably has good soil and will grow good food for deer. Spots that are barren, or have few small weeds, probably have poor soil which will be harder, and more expensive, to improve.

2. Soil test. You need to have a soil test in order to tell you how to improve your soil. This is not just about the soil pH, but also about may of the nutrients plants need to grow.

In order to test you should follow the instructions of whoever you will be sending the instructions to. You could find the agriculture department at your local university, or try BioLogic.

In order to test your soil:
-take a trowel, ideally plastic so as not to affect the test results, and scoop about 4" of soil and put it in a clearly labeled seal-able bag; for example I had a zip-lock bag each labeled 10 point food plot or green bucket or etc...
-take a soil sample from each place you would like to have a food plot
-mail the bags to your soil tester, with their form for the test of each sample; the form will ask you what you hope to grow in your deer plots
Your results will tell you what your soil pH is, how much lime (if any) you need to add, and what type of fertilizer you need to add.
Don't be discouraged at the amounts of additives you may need to add in order to grow food in your deer plots. This year the soil test showed that some of my small plots need 500 or 600 pounds of fertilizer per acre, but because the plots are 1/8 or a 1/4 acre that only means a handful of 50 pound bags.
Soil testing should be done yearly until the soil is about where it needs to be. After that you need only to test every 2-3 years per plot.

3. Clear the area, of trees, stumps, logs, brush, etc. Your goal will be to have a small field. Preferably this means a, somewhat flat, clear piece of ground. Shapes that are not circles or rectangles are best.

Clearing your deer plots may be a multi-year task. Cut down the trees, remove the brush, and add some lime the first year or two, then hire an excavator to remove the stumps. I currently have several plots in varying degrees of clearness; some are in great shape, some need to have stumps removed, and some potential ones still need some trees removed.

4. Kill the current plants. Round-up is the brand name herbicide that everyone knows. Its active ingredient is 41% glyphosate. Round-up can be expensive. Look for a big jug (I use 2 1/2 gal.) of concentrate such as Pronto: Big 'n Tuf. Look for the 41% glyphosate on your off brand Round-up.

5. Spread the chemicals and nutrients. Lay out whatever the soil test recommends for lime, fertilizer, and whatever other things the soil test recommends.
Make sure you use the correct fertilizer. Fertilizer will have a number on it like 10-10-10, or 0-0-60. Your soil test should recommend one in particular and you do not want too much of one and not enough of the other parts.

6. Till, disc, or drag the plot. Once the weeds are dead they should fall apart when disced or rototilled. Don't go more than 4 inches deep.

7. Spread the seed. You may have a spring and fall planting, or only one planting period. Some plants need a full growing season, like corn, and some will sprout up rather fast like clover and turnips.

8. Mow. Most deer food tastes better when it is fresh growth. Clovers in particular, are much better when they are mowed occasionally.

9. Grass kill. Some plots will become overgrown with grass, and you can buy grass specific herbicides like Poast to spray over your deer plots and kill the grass.

For more information read Ultimate Deer Food Plots by Ed Spinazzola.

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