As you read this it is time to plant a few cool-season food plots on your land. While these ½- to 2-acre green strips and patches provide deer with some nutrition for a short time, they are designed mainly to pull the animals out of cover and into shooting range and ultimately into your freezer.
Note: If that sounds like baiting, it is indeed a controversy that pops up from time to time. I don’t see fall plots as baiting at all, but some people do. NO states consider food plots as bait—planted food plots are legal everywhere—so that is all matters.
You might or might not kill a buck in or near one of the plots, but you will definitely draw and see more does and get more shots at the skinheads if that is on your agenda. Most of the time, if you’ve got the land and it’s open and smooth, it’s not a major job for the good hunting you’ll get in return. In a couple of weekends and with about 3 hours of sweat equity per acre planted, you’ll have your feed patches in and deer on the way.
- Plant where you don’t have to cut down many trees or bust a lot of brush. With archery season only weeks away, you don’t want to change the habitat and the deer patterns too much. A long, flat stretch of logging road; ½-acre clearing in the woods; diagonal corner of a weed field; edge of a power-line cut—small, accessible spots that are already part of the natural landscape are perfect for fall planting.
- Check aerial maps, think back to past hunts and plant plots near cover and on ridges and in bottoms with high deer traffic. Make it easy for deer to swing over to your strips and patches for a bite.
- Plant 2 or 3 plots 10 to 14 days before your bow season opens in late September or October. Don’t plant any earlier or else deer might mow your plots clean and move on before you start hunting. Wait a week to 10 days and scatter 2 or 3 more feed patches across your land. If you get rain, you’ll have tender greens popping up and attracting deer for more than a month.
- Mow grass and weeds in plot spots with a tractor or ATV if you need to. Kill the low vegetation with Roundup. Come back in a week to 10 days and rake and seed, by hand or, for larger plots, with your 4-wheeler or tractor. Add fertilizer if you have time and pray for rain.
- Wheat, clovers and oats grow fast and lush. You can’t go wrong with a seed blend designed for fall planting, one that requires only basic soil prep for plants to pop up thick and green in about 2 weeks (with rain!). One good choice is Imperial No-Plow.