By Mark Kenyon
It was an early autumn evening, fresh greens still lively, but increasingly mingled with October browns, orange and red intruders of the approaching Fall. Rain drops splished, splashed and kerplunked upon the roof of my blind, providing the necessary percussion to accompany the wind rustling symphony of this first hunt of the season. Soon, a turkey emerged from the wood and stepped carefully into the tender greens that stretched before me, stopping to peck periodically along the way. Not long after, a curious wood chuck burst across the opening, paused for a moment to feed, and then sprinted back from where he came. And finally, as the sun began it’s return to home upon the horizon, a single doe came forth into the lush patch of clovers, oats and turnips.
Only ten yards away, I could see in perfect detail each careful bite of greens she pulled from the earth, and I watched as she chewed long and thoughtfully, and then finally took this nature’s bounty into herself.
It was an incredibly satisfying moment for me personally. I had worked long and hard that preceding summer, tilling the ground, sewing seeds, enriching the soil with the nutrients it needed to spring forth this lush carpet of growth. And now here I sat, enjoying the show, as I watched Mother Nature’s creatures enjoy the small gift I had given back.
For me, I’ve found the act of planting food plots is much more than simply a project completed to improve my chances of killing deer. It’s much more than a task endured just to grow bigger bucks. It’s more than just a job to be done in order to encourage higher or healthier populations of whitetails.
For me, I’ve found the act of planting food plots is much more than all of that. It’s a way of connecting with the earth. It’s a way of giving back. And it’s a way for me, as the great conservationist and wilderness philosopher Aldo Leopold said, to “ see land as a community to which we belong…” and to “…use it with love and respect.”
The practical benefits of planting food plots on your hunting property are plenty, and they’ve been regaled in countless numbers of articles, books and magazines over the years. We all know that food plots offer terrific supplemental nutrition to local deer. We all know that they can help does acquire the nutrients needed to care for their young. And we all know that food plots can provide the protein necessary for bucks to develop their antlers in the summer, and the nourishment needed to help deer make it through hard winters. And since we know these many positive notions of food plotting, I’ll let that piece lie.
For me though, as previously mentioned, there is much more to this whole food plotting thing than just the practical. Much more often, the greatest benefits of food plotting are the personal.
It’s the simple joy of breaking ground, getting dirt under your finger nails and spreading a seed, that someday – if all goes well – may turn a rough brown earthy ground into a lush carpet of green.
Food plotting is the simple, if not immediately understood, joy of becoming more aware of the natural cycles of life, rain and sun and how these three all dance intermingled and dependent upon each-other. Never before did I become so interested in rain and it’s possibility of arrival as when I became involved with the ritual of planting and praying for the sky to unleash.
Food plotting is the simple joy of watching all creatures, deer or otherwise, enjoying the fruits of my labor and being happier and healthier for it.
Some may decry food plots as “just like baiting” or “too easy”, and to both those accusations I sincerely disagree. For one, have you ever heard someone speak so affectionately as this about the benefits of baiting? Doubtful. Baiting does nothing for the greater environment, requires no understanding of the earth and asks for no long term investment of sweat and time. And as for being too easy? These claims come from the outside looking in, as no one who has actually attempted to plant forage for wildlife would ever still hold such a belief.
No, food plotting is not baiting and it is not easy. Far from it. To food plot is both practically beneficial, to all surrounding wildlife, and personally beneficial, to the simple man who pulls the plow and sows the seed. And for that reason, I choose to dirty my hands each spring and summer, knowing full well the impact it will have on the earth, and on me.
Aldo Leopold once explained that “Acts of creation are ordinarily reserved for gods and poets, but humbler folk may circumvent this restriction if they know how. To plant a pine, for example, one need be neither god nor poet; one need only own a good shovel.”
I’ve found that planting a food plot, just as a pine, allows me this simple joy, one ordinarily reserved for gods and poets, of creating something beautiful and giving something important back to the wilderness that has given so much to me.
It’s the least I can do.
If you’re interested in learning more about food plots, check out our “Best Of” page, where we’ve linked many articles sharing food plotting tips. Also visit the Whitetail Institute website for more great food plotting articles, recommended planting dates, and more information.