With a passion for hunting and land management honed over years, I understand first hand the significance of well crafted food plots in attracting and sustaining thriving deer populations.

These feeding areas play a role in deer management fostering wildlife well being and offering hunting opportunities. Yet developing food plots demands more than scattering seeds; it necessitates strategic planning, alignment with your objectives, and dedicated effort to ensure your plots supply the needed nutrition at the right moments.

This guide will lead you through the steps to design and establish food plots for deer. From defining your plot’s purpose and choosing a site to selecting crops and implementing maintenance practices, I’ll draw from my experience to assist you in unleashing the full potential of your food plots.

Are you mainly interested in enhancing the health and nutrition of the deer in your area? Are you hoping to attract a number of deer to your land during hunting season? Maybe you’re considering establishing feeding areas that can sustain your deer population for the term?

Your specific objectives will influence every aspect of how you design your food plots, including where they’re located, how big they are, and what types of crops you decide to grow. It’s beneficial to categorize your goals into two groups;

Hunting Plots

If your main aim is to draw deer to spots on your land for hunting purposes, then creating smaller, strategically placed plots is key. These plots should be near stands or blinds and encourage deer to come out into daylight hours.

It’s best to establish plots that consistently provide forage. These feeding areas can vary in size, ranging from an acre to five acres or more, depending on your property size and deer herd density. When setting up plots, my focus is on cultivating a mix of crops that offer top quality nutrition throughout all seasons.

By outlining your objectives from the start, you’ll be able to make informed decisions during the food plot design phase and ensure that your actions align with your overall deer management goals.

Selecting the location for your food plots is crucial once you’ve established your objectives. The site you choose plays a role in determining the success of your plots, affecting both deer activity levels and the effectiveness of your management strategies.

When scouting sites for food plots, it’s important to consider locations that strike a balance, between accessibility and seclusion.

It’s important to have access to your plots for planting, upkeep, and hunting purposes. In my experience,  food plot locations should possess the following traits;

  • Bedding areas: Plot locations near bedding areas are great ways to maximize hunting success. These locations allow deer to have minimal stress while receiving the nutritional benefits that are needed in peak growing times

  • Quality Soil: The success of your food plots largely hinges on soil quality, crops grown in drained soils and a balanced pH levels tend to have higher yields  When scouting plot sites, assess soil quality by conducting a soil test. Your local ag co-op will be able to help u determine what your soil is lacking and needing to stabilize it

  • Ideal Sunlight Exposure: Most crops grown in food plots need plenty of sunlight to grow well. When picking a spot for your plot, aim for areas that get 6-8 hours of direct sunlight daily. Stay away from locations shaded by trees or other plants, since this can hinder crop growth.

Apart from these aspects, it’s important to think about how your property’s laid out and how accessible it is when deciding where to set up your food plots. Choose sites that’re fairly level and easy to reach with equipment like tractors or ATVs. If possible, opt for spots to existing roads or trails to make planting and upkeep less time consuming.

By assessing these factors and exploring potential locations, you’ll be able to pick the perfect site, for your food plots and increase your chances of success.

Assessing Your Soil: Groundwork for Successful Crop Growth

Once you’ve chosen the spot for your plot the next step is to evaluate your soil quality and determine any improvements to create the best conditions for your crops.

A common mistake I often observe among  landowners is overlooking soil testing. Directly planting their crops without considering the soil conditions. Although it might seem convenient to skip this step to save time and money, it’s crucial to understand that poor soil quality can significantly hinder the growth and yield of your crops, regardless of your planting efforts.

To avoid this issue and ensure a crop yield, I strongly recommend conducting a soil test before planting. Soil tests are cost effective. Offer information, on nutrient levels, pH balance, and overall soil health.

During a soil test, gather samples from points in your designated garden area. Use a stainless steel probe. Spade to collect soil from 6-8 inches deep, then combine the samples in a clean container.

Once you have gathered a sample, send it to a trusted soil testing facility, for examination.

The soil test findings will typically include details about the pH level of your soil and the levels of nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. If your soil test indicates pH levels beyond the ideal range of 6.0-7.0, you will need to address the imbalance.

If your soil is too acidic (pH below 6.0) you can increase the pH by incorporating lime into the soil. Conversely, if your soil is too alkaline (pH above 7.0) you can decrease the pH by adding sulphur or other acidifying agents. The quantity of lime or sulphur required will vary based on your soil’s pH and the size of your planting area; hence, adhere to the suggestions provided by your chosen soil testing facility.

Besides pH levels, your soil analysis results will also highlight information regarding levels in the soil. If certain key nutrients are lacking in your soil, consider applying fertilizers or other supplements to promote crop development. Once you have your soil test results, make sure to follow the recommendations from your lab regarding the type and quantity of fertilizer needed.

By conducting a soil test and addressing any deficiencies or imbalances in your soil, you’ll set the stage for growing crops that will attract and feed deer all year. It may require a bit of time and resources upfront. Can yield benefits in the long term.

Moving on to step four, consider designing your food plot layout to create a safe environment. How you lay out your plot can influence deer activity levels and their comfort while feeding.

Planning Your Food Plot

When planning the layout of your food plot, remember to prioritize creating a welcoming space for deer. Deer are naturally occurring creatures that prefer feeding in areas where they feel shielded from dangers. One effective way to enhance the security of your food plot is by designing it with the elongated shape of a standard square or rectangle.

Irregular or elongated shapes in plots offer edge habitat, which serves as a buffer zone between the food plot and the surrounding vegetation. Deer tend to feel comfortable feeding in areas with edge habitat, as it allows them to swiftly retreat back into cover if they sense any threats. When planning your plot, aim to create a shape that maximizes the edge habitat while still providing space for your crops to flourish.

Another aspect to keep in mind when organizing your food plot layout is its size. Your goals and the overall dimensions of your property will determine the ideal plot size. If you are primarily aiming to attract deer for hunting purposes, you might consider developing plots less than an acre in size.

These smaller plots can be strategically positioned near hunting stands or blinds, effectively concentrating deer activity in an area during daylight hours. If you aim to provide a source of food for the deer population, consider creating larger plots ranging from a couple of acres to five acres or more. Larger plots can accommodate deer. Offer consistent nourishment, especially during periods of limited natural forage availability.

When planning your food plot layout, it’s essential to take into account the crops you intend to plant and their growth characteristics. Some crops, such as soybeans, may grow tall. May need wider spacing between rows for growth. On the other hand, crops like clover have heights that can be planted more closely together.

Before finalizing your plot design, research the growth patterns and spacing requirements of each crop you plan to cultivate. This research will help you determine the spacing and arrangement of your plot to support crop growth.

Feel free to experiment with shapes, sizes, and layouts when designing your food plot. Each property is unique. What works effectively on one piece of land may not be suitable for another. Get creative with your layout to find the best approach for your property.

Utilize your understanding of your land and the deer population to design a setting that exudes a sense of comfort and warmth. Feel free to tweak things as you figure out what suits your circumstances best.