Want a better chance at harvesting an animal this fall? Turn your shooting lanes into food plots.
Though the traditional purpose of a shooting lane is to give you a clear shot through thick growth, there’s nothing in the rule book that says you can’t make them into micro food plots while you’re at it! It will increase the attraction of your shooting lanes, and maybe give you a few more minutes to make a shot on a nice mature buck.
Whether you have existing shooting lanes that just need some trimming or you want to create completely new ones for this fall, this article will show you the step-by-step process to turn them into productive food plot lanes.
We’re undergoing the same process in real-time so you can get out right now and do the same on your own property. We’re also utilizing simple tools that most people have in their garage or shed to show you how simple a food plot can be. You don’t need expensive equipment – just some dedication. And since this is the hardest part of the process, your food plot shooting lanes will only require some small amount of maintenance down the road to keep it going.
Our shooting lanes are located in northern Minnesota. The surrounding habitat is mostly aspen forest, mixed conifer-hardwood forests, and willow/alder swamp. These lanes have been cleared the last several years and therefore consist mostly of herbaceous growth.
Clearing Your Shooting Lanes
For any existing shooting lanes you have, most of the work should already be done. All you’ll need to do is mow or brush hog them first to get rid of the herbaceous vegetation.
We used a weed whipper with a brush blade, which worked remarkably well and quickly on the ferns, grasses, and occasional stump sprouts or seedlings.
If you’ll be tackling new shooting lanes, the process will take a little more elbow grease. You’ll need to fire up the land manager’s not-so-secret weapon: the chainsaw.
Pick a line outward from your stand location and start clearing just a few trees at a time. Work your way outward and away from your stand until your maximum shooting distance. Then work your way back, clearing more trees on each side until it is roughly five yards wide.
This is about the minimum width to let adequate sunlight in for growth. If you’re surrounded by dense conifer or mature hardwood trees, you may need to cut some of the overshadowing trees as well.
After two weeks of re-growth, we sprayed the shooting lanes with a generic 41% glyphosate herbicide mixed with water (at two ounces herbicide to one gallon water).
We waited another two weeks to allow the herbicide to kill the plants. Once the shooting lane vegetation died and turned brown, we went back out with a garden rake and chainsaw to remove a couple remaining logs and rough up the soil surface a bit.
If you could get an ATV with a drag or chain link fence in your shooting lanes, by all means, do so! Ours had far too many rocks and stumps to try it. However, two people can easily rake a shooting lane clear in very little time.
Now we’re ready for planting! Look for Phase 2 – Planting in early August.
All photos via Ryan Lisson
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