By Mark Kenyon
With March already upon us, believe it or not, it’s time to start thinking about food plots! I’ve had some great experiences the last couple years planting plots on my various properties – but it’s safe to say that I made plenty of mistakes along the way. An article I recently ran across by Brad Herndon did a great job of identifying ten of the most frequently occurring mistakes we make in the food plotting world. And today I wanted to share those with you at a high level, with a few of my own thoughts. Be sure to check out the full article here for more details.
As you go about planning your food plots this spring, make sure to keep these 10 often made mistakes in mind. If you avoid these doozies, your deer herd will thank you – hopefully with a big buck this fall!
The Top 10 Food Plot Mistakes
1. Thinking you can avoid the need to shoot does just by planting more food: It’s exactly the opposite in fact, the best way to help your bucks benefit the most from your food plot strategy is to kill more does. It’s the right thing from a deer management perspective, and it’s the right thing if you’re trying to grow big bucks as well!
2. Underestimating the importance of the location for your food plot: We all know the line, “if you build it, they will come”. Unfortunately that’s not necessarily the case with food plots. Deer might come to your plot, but it may not be in the ideal way or at the right time to make it huntable. This needs to be considered when planning your plot.
3. Believing that a soil test is optional: Even though I KNOW this is so wrong, I’ve still fallen prey to laziness and not always gotten my soil tests. Every time I’ve regretted the decision. Take the couple minutes of extra time and just get a test – it will pay off in the long run.
4. Thinking that lime isn’t all that important: You can have the best seed and fertilizer in the world, but without the proper PH level (adjusted with lime), your soil will not be able to properly transmit nutrients to your food plot. What does a food plot without nutrients equal? The sand lot.
5. Skimping on fertilizer: Again another victim of the cutting corners mentality many of us take on when we’re strapped for time and money. You’ll never get your money and time’s worth out of your food plot if you slack on fertilizer. Planting food plots is like baking a cake. You can’t have just flour and butter – that’ not cake. You’ve got to have all the ingredients to make a tasty treat – and thats just as true with food plots.
6. Assuming more seed is always better: It’s human nature to always think more is better – but that’s not the case when planting a food plot forage. I myself have fallen victim to spreading more seed than needed, thinking it had to help. But in fact it doesn’t. Often times over-seeding will lead to your forage never reaching it’s full potential because of overcrowding.
7. Planting your seeds deep is the safe bet: Planting clover is not like planting a tree in your yard. It took me awhile to figure this out, and many other folks struggle with this as well. Many types of seed are recommended to be planted hardly a quarter inch deep – but instinctually many of us think that will result in washed away seed. But in this case you just need to trust the experts. Plant at the recommended depths.
8. If a food plot crop works for your neighbor/friend/boss it will work for you too: Monkey see, monkey do. Unfortunately this won’t work with your plots. While one type of forage might work great for your friend, circumstances on your unique property could result in that not working at all. Take your situation (soil, water table, access, weather, etc) into account and make your food plot decisions based on that – not what your buddies do.
9. Wanting your crop to grow as big and tall as possible: Deer like fresh, young tender growth – not old tough stems. With some crops, like Whitetails Institute’s Imperial Clover, you need to mow it periodically to ensure that there is plenty of new growth.
10. Thinking your plot is about an acre, so a couple bags of seed will do: This relates back to almost all the prior points. If you don’t have an accurate idea of the size of your plot – you’ll never be able to accurately apply seed, fertilizer, lime, etc. Take the time to figure this out.
Hopefully with this reminder, you and I can avoid as many of these mistakes as possible when planting our food plots this spring. It’s not always easy or convenient to dot your i’s and cross your t’s, but when it comes to food plots – it’s worth it!