This is a tutorial on how to create small and affordable food plots that whitetail deer will love, and which are actually easier to hunt than 2- to 4-acre green fields.

The Plan

Roll out an aerial photograph of your property, and pull up the Google Earth coordinates for a secondary source. Look closely for strips and openings where you might plant some clover, tucked away—and this is key—in areas where you don’t have to cut down many if any trees, or otherwise do extensive clearing and leveling.

Look for easy-to-work spots that are part of the natural landscape and your herd’s habitat. Now think back to previous scouts and hunts on the property. Where are major deer trails and staging areas near acorn flats, or corn or bean fields that a farmer plants? Where are the thickets where deer like to bed? Where do rubs and scrapes pop up each October? Develop and plant your strips and openings in areas of high deer traffic.

Most hunters do own a chainsaw and an ATV or ORV. Add a few implements, hand tools and bags of seed and you’re good to go. Here are 3 easy and cheap plots to try.

Road Strips

One of the farms I hunt in Virginia is 750 acres of woods laced with old homestead and logging roads that date back decades. My friend Jack Hazel, who owns and manages the land, works those trails into his food-plot plan.

On flat, open stretches of roadbed that receive some sunlight, Jack clears away deadfalls and rocks. He mows the grass and weeds in the roads short with a small tractor or ATV and sprays Roundup. He comes back in a few weeks, tills the dirt with either an ATV or hand spreader and sows ladino clover.

“Planting a 150 to 200 yards of road bed is like putting in a 1/4-acre plot, and it’s a heck of a lot easier,” Jack says. The green strips grow well for years. Keep in mind that clover grows best on north-south roads that receive 3 to 5 hours of sunlight each day. Fertilize road strips once a year with 10-10-10.

In our part of Virginia, deer walk and nibble in these clover strips year-round. Bucks love to rub and scrape along the green road edges in October and November. We hang bow stands in wide spots and bends in the roads, generally on the south or east sides as we play the predominant northwest wind. Our road plots are 20 yards or so wide, so it’s easy to shoot right across them.

Field Strips

Outdoor Channel personality Mark Drury is a self-described mad scientist when it comes to food plots. One of his favorite strategies on his Midwest farms is to look for a strip of open, easy-to-work ground between a field of corn or soybeans and a timber edge. In that strip, which is typically 25 or 30 yards wide, he mows and kills the grass and plants a ribbon of clover, chicory and/or oats.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched bucks come out of a corn or bean field and feed out into a low, green strip,” he says. “The edge of the timber on the opposite side of the corn or beans creates a natural funnel right to your tree stand.”

A spot like this is a cinch to plant, and setting up an ambush is just as easy. “Determine the predominant wind during the time you’ll hunt there,” says Mark. “Hang a stand in a good tree just back in the woods on the edge. Plant the clover and fertilize heavily next to your stand to pull bucks your way.”

Micro Plots

Missouri biologist and bowhunter Grant Woods looks for hidden, remote spots in the woods where most people would never dream of planting seeds–a 200-yard strip near a creek where he has seen deer cross, the flat slope of a bench, an 50-yard hole in the woods near staging thicket where he knows deer bed…you get the idea. “The only criteria are there must enough soil moisture and sunlight in a spot to grow plants,” Grant says, “and it must be easy to sneak in and hang a stand.”

To create a spot for a mini-plot, Grant sometimes mows and kills the grass, or simply clears away leaves with a blower or rake. He treats the soil with a lime/fertilizer mix, works up the dirt with a rake and plants a fast-growing fall attractant blend just before or after a rain.

“Locate little spots like these this spring and summer, and clear them out and get them ready,” Grant says. “But don’t plant until much later, 14 days or so before your bow season opens in late September or October. These tiny spots are not designed to feed and grow deer, just to attract them for hunting in the fall. If you plant little spots too early deer will find them and eat them clean before you start hunting.

“Hang your bow stand downwind of a tiny plot and there’s a great chance you’ll nail a doe for sure,” Grant says. “And who knows, you might get lucky and shoot a good buck the first week of bow season.”

4 Land Tips for Better Hunting

When planting any size plot, give deer a buffet. As a rule, plant 60 percent of your plots with a perennial clover/chicory mix, which will provide a steady food source for about 3 years. Plant the other 40 percent with an attractant like oats or wheat.

Mow or bush-hog a lane through a weed field or thicket and right up to your favorite tree stand on a wood’s edge. Keep that lane trimmed low all summer. Deer will find the lanes and use them. One day this fall a buck might walk smack down the strip to your stand. Trimmed lanes are great places to plant mini-plots of clover or fall attractant.

Check sunny edges of logging roads you planted for blackberry bushes, greenbrier and other brambles.  Deer love this natural browse more than the clover you just planted. Fertilize the browse with 10-10-10 once or twice this summer to grow it lush.

Scour old farm/weed fields on your property for hidden fruit trees, like apple or persimmon. Open up the trees by clearing away brush; prune and pour some fertilizer over the roots. A tree should make soft mast just in time for bow season