By Todd Bohm
As the smells, sights and sounds of spring begin to signal the end of a long and cold winter, outdoor enthusiasts envision northward flights of waterfowl, gobbling tom turkeys and the spring walleye run. For serious deer hunters, spring signals food plot season. Successful deer hunters know that planning and preparing food plots now will likely equal big buck success in the fall. By following a few basic tips, anyone can plant and grow successful food plots that will attract and hold deer throughout the summer and fall.
PLOTTING A PLAN
Planning your food plots is the first important step to growing and attracting big bucks to your property. Hunters need to ask themselves what they want their food plots to accomplish and how the land is suited to meet those needs.
Hunters with smaller acreages will probably focus on planting smaller hunting plots, whereas hunters who have larger spans of land might want to design a plan that utilizes both hunting plots and plots that are specifically planted to improve and provide nutrition for deer.
Another part of the planning process with food plots is deciding where to put them. Obvious choices include natural clearings, logging roads, log decking areas, utility right-of-ways or newly created openings. When planning the location of your food plots, you should keep a number of key thoughts in mind. These include wind direction for stand placement, north/south orientation for sunlight, well-drained soil and access for equipment to do the planting.
Deciding what to plant in your food plots is the final component of the planning phase. There are many reputable seed dealers on the market, so hunters sometimes face a daunting process when deciding what to plant. Some of the favorites used in Wisconsin for hunting plots include brassicas, sugar beets, rye and winter oats. Food plots grown for deer nutrition often consist of corn, soybeans and clover. Working with a local agricultural specialist will help you decide what crops grow best in your area.
MAKE YOUR BED
Once the planning stage of food plot construction is finished, the fun part—and hard work—can begin. This is the preparation phase. Proper preparation of the soil and seedbed is crucial to food plot success.
Before you break any ground, you should have your soil tested. Most local feed stores offer testing services and the money—usually about $20—is well spent. The soil test will give you an idea of how much lime and fertilizer should be added to get the best growth and production from your crops. Proper liming and fertilizing, while seemingly expensive, is critical to your food plot’s growth. I can speak from experience that this is a step on which you don’t want to skimp.
Once the soil is tested, you might need to add lime to your food plot areas. Hand spreaders, ATV-mounted spreaders, PTO-driven spreaders or hiring local Co-op companies to spread the lime are all options. With 7.0 being the ideal PH level, hunters should realize that it might take a few years for the soil to reach optimal PH consistencies. I’ve found that working the lime into the soil immediately after spreading is the best way to go.
Once your soil is limed (if necessary), you can begin working the ground. One of my favorite smells in the spring is the smell of fresh-turned earth. There are a number of tools available to the hunter to till their food plots, depending on location and size of the plots. Hunters might use hand equipment, small tillers, ATV-powered tillage equipment or tractors equipped with plows, discs, or PTO-driven tillers.
While some of the larger equipment might not fit into a hunter’s budget, local farmers or independent contractors might be hired to do the actual tilling. After tilling, hunters can plant their seeds. Hand spreaders, broadcast spreaders or planters can be used to do this—again, depending on the size of the plots.
THE BIG THREE
There are three crucial points to keep in mind when spreading the seed. First, timing is everything—I try to spread my seed just before rain. This helps to set the seed and to help start the growing process. And secondly, set theseed using some sort of tool, such as a rake, length of chain-link fence or cultipacker to ensure good contact and proper coverage with the soil.
Paying attention to proper fertilization once the seed is planted is the final crucial step. Some crops might need to be fertilized immediately upon planting, while others require waiting a few weeks until the crop has emerged. Regardless of when you fertilize, you must pay attention to this crucial step and fertilize at the indicated rate of your soil test’s and crop recommendations.
Even though spring is months away from the fall hunting season, time invested now will not only create a sense of accomplishment, but it will enhance the habitat quality of your property for attracting and holding big bucks. Besides, getting a little dirt under your fingernails now is a small price to pay when that big, homegrown buck walks under your treestand this fall.
Posted By Todd Bohm- Avid Hunter and Fishing Guide With www.wisconsinanglingadventures.com