The Poor Man’s Food Plot
Every year I think about what I can do hold more deer on my property. I have tried mock scrapes, mineral sites, deer attractants, and more.
Do they work? The short answer is yes. Mineral sites will hold deer in the spring while mock scrapes will funnel deer your way in the fall, mostly after dark. But neither one of these is ideal for when I can hunt. So, when I ran across some data about food plots, I was overwhelmed at how much information is out there on this topic, and the many different ways to plant one. So, between a little research, talking to a few different people, and my own trial and error, I think I have found the perfect way to keep deer around when I want them around.
When it comes to food plots, though, the sky is the limit. That’s especially the case when it comes to spending money on them. You can rack up quite a bill on just land and equipment, and you haven’t even gotten started.
One Result in Mind
There are several different types of food plots for Whitetail. They’re all made to achieve the same end result: attracting and holding deer. Hunting can be expensive enough, so I like to find cheap and effective ways to be successful. The method I’m going to describe is not only cost-effective, but it also allows you to have a food plot in hard-to-reach places. I like to call it the “poor man’s food plot.” I didn’t come up with that name; I believe Bill Winke of Midwest Whitetails coined the term. But it is a highly effective method that doesn’t break the bank. (With a quick YouTube search, you can find several videos to give you an idea of what you’ll be doing.)
Before we get too far in-depth about seed types and what to plant, there are a few basic things to review.
The first is soil. You need to know your soil’s pH and nutrient content. This allows you to know if you need lime and what fertilizers to use. The soil in my area is acidic, therefore I need to add lime before planting anything. This allows whatever I plant to reach its max potential. Now, some stuff will grow just by broadcasting seed, but knowing what you have will help you get the most from your seed and help you make nice, full, rich food plots.
There are several services that will allow you to mail in samples of your soil for analysis online. The cost is around $15 for the test. This step can save you a lot of money because you’ll know exactly what your soil needs.
Now, Check the Location
After that, the next step is looking at the location. I like to look at a topographic map of the area and know my crop rotation. This allows me to know where the deer move and gives me an idea of a secluded place to establish my plot.
When doing this, you need to take into consideration where you will have your stand or blind. You want to know your entry and exit routes and the wind direction so as to not bump any deer.
After that comes measuring the area of your food plot. I like to put mine in timber, so I don’t like them to be too large. I like to be able to get a shot on the deer from all directions in the middle of the plot. A good tool to use for measuring is one of the many hunting apps. I like to use HuntWise, but they all work. They allow you to measure a given area over a topographic map. You’ll need this information when purchasing seed to be sure you get enough.
Now that all the basic information is down, the next step is preparation. With this being a poor man’s food plot, using only the bare minimum of tools, this is going to take you a little more sweat equity.
When I go in to start the plot, the tools I take are a rake and a sprayer. You can take a leaf blower if you have one, but a rake works just as well. The first step is to clear the area the best you can of any debris so that it’s down to bare soil. Clear out any small trees in the area if you want but you will need a saw or pruners. I sometimes like to leave a small tree in the middle. This can make the perfect rub or licking branch. I then spray the area with glyphosate (weed killer). This will kill off any remaining vegetation. That’s it for preparation. Then, I like to wait a few weeks to let the glyphosate work before seeding.
When it comes to seed, it’s now all personal preference. I have tried a few different kinds. My favorite (and the only one I use anymore) is FrigidForage.
For this article I am going to be using FrigidForage Pure Trophy Clover, and Wild Game Buffet, which is a mix of turnips, radish, rape, and clover. These are great plots to plant in the woods because the grow very well in just about any area, and they can even be planted in shady areas.
Some of the other company seeds I have tried are Whitetail Institute, Evolved Harvest, and Antler King. I have tried the “throw-and-grow”-type plots without much success. I would suggest contacting a small company that will help you every step of the way. That is why I use Frigid Forage.
Whatever company you go with, make sure you follow their instructions. They will usually tell you how many pounds of seed to put on an area. Some will say to burn off dead vegetation before seeding, but I don’t believe that is necessary. When I go back into the woods, the only things I take back with me are my Moultire mobile cell cams, my seed, and a spreader. I just broadcast my seed over the dead vegetation. Then I hang a few cameras and leave. I like to watch the weather and do this right before a few rain events. This works the seeds into the soil and helps them take off and start to grow. From there, I let them do their magic.
What About Timing?
As far as timing goes, you can plant these plots in early spring or early fall. I personally like to do one in both seasons. I like to plant a clover blend in the spring. I will also place a Trophy Rock mineral site next to it. (Be sure to check your local laws). This is the perfect place to watch with my Vortex spotting scope. But if I had to only pick one time of year, it would be early fall. The reason is that I will plant an early fall plot of wild game buffet in the back of a woods that has two different agricultural fields on each side. This gives the deer a break from the beans or corn and can also be a good source of food as crops come off. But the main reason is that it can be the perfect staging area for deer before they move out into the open fields to feed in the evening.
These small food plots can be the perfect ambush point because they can allow you to funnel the deer. This is why the planning and location at the beginning stages are so important. Another thing I like to add at the perimeter of my plot in the fall is a mock scrape. You would not believe how much attention it can get leading up to the rut.
In closing, for around $50 to $100, depending on the seed you go with and a little sweat equity besides, you can have an awesome food plot. These are perfect to situate along field edges where you don’t need that much room (say 20 yards across). They are perfect for the hard-to-reach spots back in the timber where you want to funnel deer between food sources. They are even perfect for an acre of land that is tillable. And they are easy to do. And hopefully, your neighbor doesn’t read this, and creating your food plot gives you the thing to help you hold deer when it matters.