Many hunters enjoy hunting over food plots, but many do not own heavy equipment that they think is necessary to build a food plot. Many hunters use nothing more than an ATV and other small “implements” to make their food plot and have success making their food plot as well as have success hunting over it.
You do not have to be a farmer or even have a green thumb to make a productive food plot. This article will not focus on soil testing and Ph levels. Those things help give you more tonnage of available food but they do not really help you kill deer, and killing deer is what I want to do.
Food plots can be put into categories, 1: Plots used to provide nutritional food for the animals, and 2: To hunt and kill deer over.
I do not have a lot of ground available to build food plots on. Because of this I focus my attention on small plots with a specific purpose, to kill deer.
Chances are the biggest plot I plant will be about 1 ½ acres big. Many will be smaller. Food plots of this size are not intended to feed deer and give them the nutrients needed to grow big. All that I want these plots to accomplish for me is to have deer where I want them when I go hunting.
When I prepare these plots, I use a minimal amount of tools. A hand-held sprayer, herbicide, a small hand saw and a lighter. These four items will get about any ground ready for a plot. A rake and bug spray are sometimes needed as well.
I own an ATV but about the only time I use it is when I am transporting equipment to the food plot site. Manufacturers do make implements that can be mounted to an ATV and they would be nice but I have not made that purchase yet.
When choosing an area to make these plots I am looking for small natural opening in the woods where there is already good whitetail sign. If you are hunting woods that are shared by other hunters you might consider searching out an area that is somewhat hidden. Also, field edges that are not planted to crops are good locations as well.
My spring plots are usually planted with alfalfa, clover or soybeans. When I plant plots in the fall I stick with oats. When the beans start to turn yellow the deer will quickly change over to eating oats. When planted in August, oats will provide a nice green plot just in time for deer season.
A small plot will not take long for the deer to devour, but my plans are to kill a deer or two before they devour it completely.
When planting a spring plot, I spray my intended plot the previous fall with my hand-held sprayer. This does not take long to do if your plot is as small as what mine are. With the spraying done the weeds will be killed and not interfere in the spring.
If you were not able to spray in the fall it is not too late. Spray the area right when it begins to green up before the weeds start to get established. Wait two weeks and do it again. Now you should be set to go. All of my areas are no-till with the seeds broadcasted right on top of the ground.
I try to plant right before a good rain to help bury the seed. If that is not possible use a hand rake to incorporate the seed a little.
Because I am not looking to feed the deer all summer most of my plots will be planted in the summer.
Planting fall plots can prove to be a bit more difficult mainly because you have weeds to contend with. This is simply taken care of with some Roundup and a hand sprayer. Spray it once, wait two weeks and spray again. It might be necessary to spray a third time. It is important to get rid of anything that could choke out your plot.
Once the weeds are dead you will need to take out the hand rake and get rid of them. It is fine to leave some behind as this will protect the seeds from birds and will help hold in ground moisture.
If the area is very thick you might be able to burn off the dead weeds once it has been sprayed. Be very careful when making a controlled burn. A burn of this type will quickly get rid of unwanted weeds and put nitrogen into the soil.
With the plot site cleared it is time to plant. Spread the seed by hand right on top of the dirt and use a hand rake to cover it. The only thing left to do is watch it grow, put up trail cameras and wait for opening day.
Food plots of any size are beneficial for the hunter. If you do not have a large tractor and implements to plant a large plot do not worry. Small plots work just as well.