Spring food plot tips are essential if you want it to pay off in the fall.
The deer hunting season may be well behind us by the time spring rolls around, but that doesn't mean our work is done.
A deer food plot is a long-term investment, and the nutrition it provides can mean bigger, healthier bucks and better deer hunting for years to come.
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Not all food plots are created equal, and you can save a lot of time and money by skipping the trial and error and getting your food plot right the first time. Consider the following tips to get your spring planting just right.
1. Choose Your Location
Before you start worrying about what to plant in your food plot, you need to know where to put it. Selecting the best site will make your food plot infinitely more effective, and there are two major factors to consider.
Is the location suitable for growing? Factors like heavy clay soil, too much shade and a tendency for flooding can doom a food plot to failure before you even begin.
Is there suitable deer habitat nearby? Deer don't just need a place to eat, they need a place to live. Look for a diversity of cover, including mature trees, thickets and undergrowth.
2. Assess The Soil
You need to have your soil tested before you put a single seed in the ground. Factors like pH level and soil nutrients can mean the difference between success and failure for deer food plots.
Home soil test kits are available at most garden stores, and you can also take a sample to your nearest university extension office for a professional test. The test results will reveal details about the soil and include recommendations for amendments. Lime, phosphorus and potassium fertilizers are common recommendations, but you won't know for sure until you have the test done.
3. Choose Your Menu Wisely
The best food plots include a variety of plants that provide food year-round. They also include a combination of high-nutrient forage and tasty plants that deer can't pass up. In other words, you want a nutritious main course as well as a tempting dessert.
Seed blends are better than individual plant species for the simple reasons of balance and variety. You can also choose more than one blend. If you have a 1/4-acre food plot (which is more than enough in most areas) consider planting 1/8-acre of one blend and 1/8-acre of another.
Select a balance between cool-season and warm-season plants. Cowpeas, alfalfa, soybeans, oats and ladino clover are among the best and most frequently planted forage plants in deer food plots, providing deer with a well-rounded buffet of protein and nutrients when they need it most, and ensuring quality deer hunting in the future.
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4. Steer Clear of Problem Plants
Some plants are born troublemakers. In particular, stay away from cool-season perennial grasses like orchardgrass, blue grass and tall fescue. They provide minimal nutrition, are hard to digest (deer will avoid them if any other forage is available) and they spread like wildfire. If you plant half clover and half fescue, within a few years you'll have nothing but fescue, and it's nearly impossible to get rid of.
5. Don't Forget Maintenance
There's no doubt that adding a food plot can significantly boost the deer hunting potential of your land, but your job isn't done when the seeds are in the ground. Be prepared to reseed your plot as necessary, add new plants if the old ones don't thrive, and have your soil tested again every few years. Be wary of weeds, and be ready to deal with them through mowing and herbicides if necessary.
That should get you off to a good food plot growing season start. Do you have any other tips to include?