Improve your food plots with these tricks of the trade, and have them ready for next fall with some of this winter's help.
Let's not mince words here: winter sucks. Not only is it cold enough to freeze your pipes, wreck your car battery, dry your skin, and make you feel all around miserable, it also leaves us career whitetail hunters biding our time with little to be done.
If you get a sunny day, you might be able to go prune some fruit trees on your hunting property or something, and you can always curl up next to the fireplace with that hunting-related book you've been reading, but for the most part, you're playing a waiting game until the spring when you can start making more concrete hunting season preparations.
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However, with some resourceful work, you can use winter's chill to your advantage this year. The key is in frost seeding.
For the uninitiated, no, "frost seeding" is not part of some process that involves genetically modified organisms or seeds that have been scientifically altered to provide frost-proof crops. On the contrary, frost seeding is merely the process of scattering clover or similarly hard-shelled seeds around the grounds of a pre-determined food plot area.
Usually, hunters who wish to get a jump on planting crops will frost seed clover in either February or March. Instead of having to till the field and cultivate the soil, all you need to do is scatter the seeds. Their hard shell will keep moisture out until it is warm enough for the seeds to actually germinate and grow.
In the meantime, the rapidly shifting temperatures and freeze-thaw periods that generally mark the transition from winter to spring will gently and naturally pull the seeds into the soil. When springtime showers and early summer suns hit the seeds, the area will turn into a lovely clover food plot.
In other words, you get the deer bait you want from any other food plot without having to provide the same care and maintenance that most crops require. (Though some intermittent watering of the ground in a dry spring or summer might not be a bad idea.)
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If you do decide to frost seed your property this winter, keep a few things in mind. First of all, while the frost seeding process is largely attractive because it naturally draws the seeds into the soil for germination, that doesn't mean that the process happens overnight.
In an unpredictable winter like this one, you can never be quite sure when the cold spots and moments of thaw are coming. You could scatter your seeds and have a freeze/thaw trend over the very next few days, absorbing your seeds into the ground right away. You could also go through a long, concentrated period of cold, leaving your seeds sitting on the surface of the snow for weeks. And you can bet that hungry birds will take advantage of any seed they see on the ground.
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So how do you beat the birds? You might consider watching the weather forecast and only heading out to do frost seeding when you know a temperature change is coming. However, forecasts can be wrong, and you might be better off simply scattering a denser coating of seeds than you normally would for a food plot. That way, the birds can have their feast but still leave enough seeds to germinate your crop.
What other tricks do you use to improve your food plots? Share your ideas below.