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By: CJ Rena Johnson

Setting up a Hunting Plot to Bring Home the Big Buck

Sportsman Phil's Hunting Plot
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.

Deciding Where

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 place.

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 happens.

Tip: Check the date on the seed packages. If the seed is older than six months, do not purchase.

Land Preparation

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 recommendation.

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 soil.

Planting

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 year.

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.

Maintenance

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 range.

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 first.


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