Food Plot Basics For Deer Hunters

by Chris Larsen

Planting food plots accomplishes a variety of objectives for deer hunters. It attracts deer to a given area, improves deer nutrition leading to bigger deer and antlers, and helps deer survive the winter. Planting food plots increases hunter success and allows them to be more in touch with the land and the wildlife that live on it. Food plots aren’t rocket science but there are some basic guidelines that will help you create better food plots.

Get a soil test

Food plots attract deer all year longA soil test is probably the best thing you can do to grow a successful food plot. The soil test will tell you what nutrients are needed in the soil and what is abundant. This information can help you decide if fertilizer or lime is needed to improve the performance of your food plot. The soil test can also provide insight on what crops will grow best on your food plot. This can save you big dollars on seed. Why plant something that you know will not grow well?

Prepare The Soil

After you know the components of the soil, it’s time to prepare for planting. Rye, winter wheat, and oats will grow if the seeds are simply spread over the soil. But each will grow better if they are under the soil. Alfalfa, clover, corn, and just about everything else needs soil coverage to germinate. Not everyone can afford to purchase equipment for properly planting crops. You can often rent planting equipment or even trade a local farmer a day of equipment use for a few days of labor. Farmers always need help putting up hay or spreading manure in the spring and summer months. Having a good relationship with area farmers can only help as a hunter.


Most food plot crops require at least four hours of direct sunlight per day. Smaller plots are great. In fact, I think several small plots are better than one big one. However, be sure the soil is getting enough sun to effectively germinate seeds and grow strong, healthy plants.

Plant For The Seasons

Planting only for the spring and summer will have deer literally looking for greener pastures come autumn. Planting only for fall and winter won’t provide deer with nutrition during the summer and may cause deer to favor neighboring properties. A good mix will keep deer healthy and frequenting your property. Depending on your climate, differing varieties are used but there are a few general staples. Alfalfa and soybeans are popular summer choices. Clover, corn, oats, and turnips are good late season crops. Winter wheat is another good late season crop choice for food plots.

Location, Location, Location

Food plot location is as important as all of the above points. Planting a food plot near a road or highway could put deer and motorists in a precarious position. It’s also beneficial to plant food plots in areas that are not easily spotted from the road. You don’t want other hunters to glass the deer in your plot and you don’t want the deer to feel pressured when they are using it. Plant food plots in and around cover so deer feel safe. Planting in long strips is also more beneficial than planting one big square. Deer will be closer to cover and closer to stand locations during the hunting season. Deer also like to graze while eating. Strips give them natural alleys to move along as they browse.

Planting food plots takes planning and work. But taking the time and effort to create a successful food plot can keep deer on your property or lease during the season and beyond.

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