How to Make a Food Plot - A Beginner's Guide

If you build it, they will come. That theory applies to food plots and deer as well as magic baseball fields. There is endless information and just as many opinions on planning and executing a food plot.

This is my novice approach to simplifying the process for anyone out there like me, who just wants to get their hands dirty. You have to start somewhere on your way to becoming a master of deer management and part of that schooling is food plot 101. Give yourself plenty of time before the planting season and read up, because planting without a plan is a sure fire way to fail.

Your first step should be selecting prime locations on your hunting property using the onX HUNT App, which easily identifies property boundaries. You can also use the app to help locate dense, wooded areas and nearby water sources from an aerial point of view. The closer your food plot is to thick cover, the more you increase the chances of deer frequenting it and feeling safer.

Next, check for sufficient sunlight, spots to place stands and easy access for small farm equipment that may be needed to build and maintain the plot. A good rule of thumb is if the area is already growing some kind of ground vegetation, even weeds, it can grow a food plot.

Our plot needs to be near cover and existing trails, but also needs key factors to encourage plant growth. One of the biggest factors is proper pH level in the soil. You can buy a pH testing kit at your local farm supply store and in some cases, the store will test it for you if you bring them a sample. pH testing is a vital step before you even think about planting, plus you can sound really smart when you tell people you are busy over the weekend doing a soil analysis.

Now comes the labor intensive parts, especially if you are like me and don’t own any real farming equipment. It’s time to kill the weeds and existing plant growth. A simple broad spectrum herbicide can be applied with a sprayer. This will free up nutrients for your plants instead of having to fight unwanted grasses and rogue weeds vying for a spot in the light. Plan this ahead of time and work the herbicide in days or even a week or two before continuing working the ground. It will be satisfying to watch all those undesirables wilt away into nothing and give you some free time to plan out your five-star deer dining experience.

When the weeds are dead, it’s time to churn everything up and break the ground according to the seed you’re planting. If you aren’t tired from the previous work, you will be. When the soil is tilled it’s time to get lime, if your pH is too low, and fertilizer on that nice, fresh dirt. A lot of math is involved in calculating the proper amount of fertilizer and seed to spread. I suggest leaving that up to a professional farm supply store employee, someone who can be held responsible and make sure the multiplication is done correctly. Sure you can Google it, but do you really believe everything you read on the internet?

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If your brain hasn’t exploded over all the choices you have in herbicides and fertilizers, wait until you start looking at types and combinations of seed. The options are endless. Narrow down what animal you’re planting for and when, during the season, you want them there eating. Also take into consideration your region, climate and how often you might want to be planting the area in the future. Some crops are annual and will need to be replanted each year, while a perennial will reseed itself and keep coming back.

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One of the biggest mistakes first timers make is covering the seed with too much dirt. Most seed for food plots will not germinate if covered with more than ¼ inch of dirt, so it may just be best for you to drive over your newly broadcasted seed with your ATV or tractor to press it into place. Another mistake is not maintaining the crop properly after it starts growing. Most crops will need mowing and some weed control so keep an eye on them and after a few weeks a second round of fertilizer isn’t a bad idea.

I live in an area where corn and soy are the main crops of surrounding farms, so I planted alternative crops, like turnips, radishes and clover, because they can be used long after the corn and soy have been harvested.

Plant your seed according to the crop guidelines and don’t be afraid to ask advice from experienced planting magicians or your farm supply store. I should have been charged rent for how often I was at our local seed and feed store asking questions and going over my plan.

A basic food plot is not rocket science, just a little sweat and money to get things going. It will absolutely improve your hunting experience and help you on your way to practicing some Quality Deer Management on your property.

Updated September, 2018


Jessica Delorenzo

Based in Eastern Pennsylvania, Jessica is a passionate hunter wielding a bow and a camera. She runs DeLorenzo Photography, an award-winning photography business, and enjoys life outdoors with her daughter and husband. She is a Sitka Whitetail Ambassador, GORE Hunting and Fishing Tech, contributes to Team Mathews, and is a member of several conservation groups such as QDMA and NWTF.

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