By Mark Kenyon

We’ve experienced one of the worst droughts in years across the United States this summer and the implications that this will have on whitetails and hunting success this fall is yet to be fully understood. But one of the droughts most obvious impacts has been on agriculture, and the result of this is that corn, soy beans and other common crops across the country will not be available in as high of quantities for deer as usual.

This will obviously have an impact on your local deer herd’s nutritional intake, but also on their behavior. With traditional food sources gone or diminished, deer behavior and travel may be drastically different this year unless you take matters into your own hands. You can do this with fall food plots. More than ever before, fall food plots could have a huge impact on your hunting success.

If you’ve already planted your plots, your in a great shape and I commend you. But if you haven’t even thought of planting a plot or have just been putting it off, I’m here to tell you that there’s still hope! If you get on the ball right now, you still have time (in most parts of the country) to get in a fall food plot and see success. That being said, here are 4 things to consider to help your last minute food plot get off to a great start!

1. It’s Not Too Hard: If you’re new to food plots, the idea of planting one might be intimidating. But don’t let the novelty of planting a crop turn you away. Planting a fall food plot doesn’t need to be hard. Even just clearing a small plot the size of a swimming pool can help your hunting success this fall. If you’re ready to take the leap but need some more help, check out my earlier post called “ 4 Easy Steps To A Successful Fall Food Plot” for some helpful pointers!

2. Time Is Of The Essence: We are nearing the end of the planting season for most areas of the country, but we still have a few days or weeks to go. So get on it! Depending on what you’re planting and where you are in the country, your optimal planting dates will vary. A great resource to help you understand these optimal dates is provided by Whitetail Institute. Check out their very helpful planting dates map, which highlights what the best planting dates are for certain forages in specific regions. Click the link below to see this resource.

Whitetail Institute Food Plot Planting Dates

3. Think Annuals for Fall Success: Annuals are plants that grow for one season, but they are key for fall food plots because they establish quickly and grow robustly in the cool fall months. You need a fast establishing food plot at this point, and an annual like a brassica is a great option. Kale, rape, turnips and radishes are all great generic options. I’ve personally used a brassica blend from Whitetail Institute called Winter Greens this year, that has performed great for me in the past. Can’t wait to see how it produces this fall.

4. Fertilizer and Lime Is Key: When planting a last minute food plot, you can’t afford to have less than stellar growth. You need a fast and full food plot – and the only way you’ll achieve that is with proper lime and fertilizer. If you have time to get a quick soil test done, do so! This will tell you exactly what you need to add to the soil for optimal growth. If you don’t have time to get the soil test done though, at least add some generic fertilizer. Many food plot seed companies will offer a generic example for fertilizer, if no soil test is available. For example, Whitetail Institute recommends that if no soil test is available, you use 20-20-20 for your Winter Greens food plot.

If you act fast, you still have a chance to get your fall food plots in – and this year, more than ever, the benefits can be astounding.

For more information on fall food plots, visit the Whitetail Institute of North America website.