5 Things to Know When Starting a Whitetail Food Plot
Undoubtedly, having a thick and lush food plot to hunt over in the fall can significantly increase your odds of luring in a mature whitetail deer. With that being said, a lot of work goes into creating a healthy whitetail food plot and many important details are often looked over. When done correctly your food plot can be an absolute deer magnet.
In a perfect world, we would all have the resources to plant a significant amount of acreage in a variety of food deer love, but we don’t. Most of us have limited access to equipment, not enough vacation days, and not many places for food plot management. To help you out, we have outlined 5 important steps to help you start your whitetail food plot.
You do not need large acreages to plant a successful and powerful food plot. Spend some time on the BaseMap PRO App high-resolution imagery looking for an opening on your property like an old logging road or even an overgrown field. The most important aspect for selecting a good spot is finding a site that is receiving plenty of sunlight and a place you can get good seed-to-soil contact.
Once you have selected your location, the next step is getting a soil sample. The soil makeup and chemistry determines what you can grow and how well you can grow it. Spend an evening at your food plot location with a shovel and a ziploc bag. Dig up some soil in three different locations and place it in a ziploc bag. Make sure to mark the bags well so you confidently know what site the soil came from.
Once you have your soil sample, ship it off to a lab for it to be tested. Most counties have an Agriculture Resource Office, agricultural university lab, or Natural Resource Conservation Office that does soil sample testing. Private seed companies can also offer soil testing services. It is usually a mere $8-$10 per soil sample and takes about a week or two to get back. Your soil test results will show you how much lime and fertilizer needs to be applied to bring the soil to a PH needed to maximize your food plot.
Now that you have the amount of lime and fertilizer needed to maximize your food plot yield, the next step would be to ensure you have the correct amount. Generally, results are based on an acre, so your soil test may read 1.5 ton per acre. BaseMap makes it easy to ensure you are applying the right amount of lime and fertilizer to your food plot.
Once you complete the outline of your food plot BaseMap’s Draw Shape tool auto calculates your acreage now giving you an educated estimate for lime and fertilizer.
Now that you know the size, simply do the math to figure out how much lime and fertilizer is needed based on the size of your plot and the amount of lime and fertilizer needed from your soil test results. Once you have that figured out, check with your local Co-Op or Ag Supply Store to purchase the needed soil amendments and/or hire them to spread it.
The next big step is spraying and killing the existing vegetation and weeds. Doing so eliminates plant competition for your seeding and will provide a lush field of nutritious food for your deer. A non-selective herbicide such as Round-up works perfectly to kill existing vegetation. Depending on the size of your plot, a tractor sprayer, a UTV sprayer, or even a backpack sprayer will work great. Make sure to read the herbicide label for instructions on herbicide spray-rate and mixing.
Once your food plot has been sprayed, your next step is prepping the soil for seed. You can do this in several ways such as using a tractor with a plow, tiller, or harrow. Attachments are also available for ATV’s to do the same. The important aspect is to expose and soften up the soil for seed to soil contact.
Once you have the ground prepared, you are ready to seed. This can be done by using broadcast seeders attached to a tractor or ATV or even a cheap over-the-shoulder seed broadcaster from your agricultural supply store. Timing with weather is also key. Watch for a good storm in the forecast and get the seed on the ground right before to ensure good germination and green up.
Although starting a whitetail food plot can seem like an overwhelming task, it is more than manageable when remembering these 5 steps. Simply find a location, get your soil sample, use the information from your soil sample and the “Draw Object” tool on BaseMap PRO to apply your lime and fertilizer, spray roundup, and then plant and you will be well on your way to a nutritious, delicious deer food plot.