By: CJ Rena Johnson
Setting up a Hunting
Plot to Bring Home the Big Buck
Sportsman Phil's Hunting Plot
There is some controversy about this
practice, but a majority of hunters use this
technique in areas where it is legal. Planting a
food plot is a great way to attract deer to your
favorite hunting area. It also helps to ensure a
healthier herd. Depending on how and what you
plant, you also can encourage antler growth to
get that trophy set of horns.
A Hunting Plot vs. a Food Plot
A hunting plot is a food plot placed
strategically in an area where you want to place
a stand and hunt directly over it. This is where
the most controversy seems to come in, but most
seem to liken it to baiting fishhooks or
trapping game. Therefore, if you decide this is
for you, then you might want to follow some of
the guidelines below.
You will need to scout out the area on which you
plan to hunt. Look for signs of heavy wildlife
traffic, such as scrapes, tracks, and other
areas of vegetation that provide obvious signs
of food. However, do not plant too close to the
bedding area. If you disturb this area too much,
the animals will leave it and look for a safer
The land you choose needs to be level enough to
plow or till. However, it does not have to be in
any certain shape. Irregularly shaped plots
often work great and can provide ideal spots for
your stand. Make sure there is enough sun to
support healthy growth of the crop you wish to
plant. The plot needs to be close to cover,
either tree growth or underbrush, so the game
feel safe enough to come out and eat on it.
Always be aware of the direction of the wind in
relation to where you want your stand. Make sure
the wind is carrying your scent away from the
plot, not to it.
What to Plant
Soybean is the top recommended plant for such
game as deer and turkey. Chicory and white
clover follow closely behind. Other popular
plants are winter wheat, rye grass, leaf
lettuce, and turnip.
Even though deer and turkey will destroy your
backyard garden, they actually are attracted
even more to the plants listed here. Just try
growing those in your backyard and see what
Tip: Check the date on the seed packages. If the
seed is older than six months, do not purchase.
New areas, not previously used as plots will
need plowing. You can do this yourself or
perhaps find a local farmer to do it for a small
fee. Check at a nearby feed store for a
If you choose an area previously used as a food
plot, tilling may be all that is required.
Either way, make sure to turn over and loosen
the soil at least 6 to 8 inches deep.
Next, check the acidity of the soil. An
inexpensive test kit can be purchased at most
feed and grain stores. Most wooded areas
naturally test with a pH level between 2.0 to
4.0. Hunting plots need to have a pH level of
6.0 to 7.0 for best results. It is best to test
the soil just after a light rain.
Add the right products, usually lime or gypsum,
to bring the acidity level to where it needs to
be. You also can add a good fertilizer to help
ensure healthy growth. If it is clay-type soil,
add gypsum instead of lime to help break up the
Food plots planted in the spring are beneficial
in several ways. They help with overall growth
of the herd both in numbers and in overall body
weight. Depending on what you plant, it may also
help antler growth.
Hunting plots are usually planted a couple of
months prior to the opening of hunting season,
so that all the plants are coming up and the
animals are used to coming to that area to eat.
hen seeding, by hand or with a spreader, do so
at double the recommended rate, especially for
new plots. New ground is less than optimum for
germination. Over-seeding will compensate for
this. Full coverage of all soil will also make
the plot area better for replanting the next
Turn the soil again to cover up the seed so it
is safe from birds and other animals until it
has time to sprout. There are several ways to do
this including implements designed specifically
for this and pulled behind an ATV or small
tractor or by means as simple as dragging a
piece of chain-link fence over the area.
What to Expect
Within a week of planting the seeds, you should
see signs of sprouting. The wildlife will start
eating the clover and leaf lettuce as soon as it
starts to come up. Soybean plants usually grow
up to 8 to 12 inches before they start eating
it. This usually takes about two to three weeks.
Other plants vary.
If the plot seems to be growing well, do
nothing. If it does not seem to be growing well,
retest the acidity and take steps to correct it
if it does not test within the appropriate
You can always add more fertilizer if needed.
Reminder: Planting food plots on public land is
illegal and can carry fines up to $5,000 or six
months or jail or both. So, before you carry
those seeds out into the woods, make sure you
are doing it in a legal area.
Good hunting and always remember to put safety