Food Plots for Small Properties
By Chance Vorderstrasse and Whitetail Instinct
Owning your own piece of hunting land is a whitetail hunters dream. I know it’s mine and I’m pretty sure it’s yours as well. You don’t have to deal with all the other hunters on public land and unlike a lease, no one can buy the rights to hunt the land out from under you a month before the season starts. But when it comes to owning land, small, tiny, and undersized are not words that most want to hear, but for most of us looking to own our own piece of whitetail heaven, buying hundreds of acres is out of the question and owning small tracts of land is the only option. Here is a few options to consider for your food plots for deer.
Of course owning just a few acres has its drawbacks. If I could own 400 acres or 3, of course I would choose 400. But small, doesn’t mean useless. Quality deer hunting can definitely still be had it just takes a little extra planning to enjoy the best part of owning your own land. Getting little dirt on your hands and doing some habitat management work is a very rewarding endeavor and there is nothing better than improving the habitat on a property and seeing the deer herd improve along with it. And nowhere can you see the improvements you have made help a deer herd faster, than on a small piece of property. One of the best ways to see this improvement is by planting food plots.
Do I Need A Food Plot
Food plots for deer are a great way to improve small properties, but first you need to decide if you need food plots for deer. On small properties food plots for deer might not always be necessary. To do this you not only need to look at your property, but your neighbor’s property as well. The Midwest has food everywhere and cover is the limiting factor. If you have property with only cover for miles, you would be foolish to destroy that cover to plant more food. In the eastern half of the whitetails range cover is everywhere and food is the limiting factor. When surrounding properties have plenty of cover, food plots for deer is a great idea. What’s your limiting factor? Does food plots make sense or should you create more cover?
Where Should I Plant My Food Plots
If food plots are still a possibility, let’s look at where to place them. There are many different schools of thought when it comes to planting food plots on small properties and one is to plant them near the middle of your property to keep deer away from the property lines. To me it just depends on how small the property is. If you have 10 acres, it doesn’t matter where you locate a food plot it will be near a property boundary. If you have 100 acres, you can probably locate a food plot near the center of the property; however, one drawback is how you hunt the food plot. If you like to hunt over your food plots, having one in the center of your property means you will create a lot of disturbance getting to and from your stand.
Another school of thought is to plant them in natural openings. Sometimes on small properties you don’t have many options and you are left with planting a food plot in areas that are already relatively open, or will allow enough sunlight to grow a crop. This theory works fine, just remember to check and make sure that you can hunt these locations without doing more harm than good.
Plant Food Plot Seed In Travel Routes
It is a good idea to plant your food plots in areas where the deer are traveling. This is a great idea for small properties because more than likely deer will just be passing through. So by planting a food plots where deer are already traveling you give them a reason to stop and stay on your land just a little bit longer. One problem with this is that in some areas there may not be any natural openings in this area or it will take more time and effort to create a food plot in this area. But, if you are willing to do the extra work, these types of food plot locations are great.
Each school of thought has its drawbacks and its benefits. Each property is different and it is up to each individual land manager to decide what is best for their property. Also, as mentioned earlier, make sure when you decide to place a food plot in a certain location, that the location is place you can enter and exit the stand unnoticed and take note of the prevailing wind as well.
What To Plant
We know where we’re going to plant our food plots, now it’s time for that million dollar question. What do I plant in my food plot?
Clovers are perennial legumes that make great food plot crops. They are easy to establish and deer love them. Clovers are also shade tolerant so for small food plots tucked back in the timber, clovers are perfect for your food plot. Crimson clover is great in warmer climates throughout the South and is not as cold tolerant as some other varieties. Durana white clover is drought tolerant and is highly productive and it has a high graze tolerance, which is great for small properties to help you get the most out of a small food plot. Both of the above clovers are best planted in the spring.
Forage radishes are cold tolerant brassicas and their long roots act as a great soil builder. Radishes have huge tap roots and succulent leaves that both providing food for wildlife. Because of this they will provide a maximum amount of food for your deer herd in a small plot. Forage radishes can be planted in late August in the North and September in the South. Radishes should not be planted for more than two years in the same plot.
Wheat is a great crop for a small plot because you give the deer an almost year round food source. Deer will consume it in the spring, fall, and the winter. Wheat will provide protein levels as high as 25 percent for your deer. It is generally planted in September in the North and October in the South.
Another great way to provide a food source to deer on a small property is by planting trees. Oak trees and the acorns that they produce are a great deer attractant. However, they are relatively slow growing. Mast producing trees such as apples, pears and persimmons are great as well.
Small properties and food plots present a whole new set of challenges for whitetail managers. Good news. You can still have a great deer hunting property, but it will take a bit more planning. The key is to strategically plant food plots so that your property is different than surrounding properties. Well thought out food plots for deer will attract and hold more whitetails on your deer hunting property.