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Start Planning Your Spring Food Plots Now - Ackerman's Equipment
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It is hard to think about whitetails and not think about getting your food plots rolling again. What will you plant? Will you start any new food plots this year? What has worked best on your property in the past? These are all questions you should think about before you start your spring food plots. Here are some tips to get you started with food plot planning as you count down the days toward spring green-up.

Planning Spring Food Plots

You can get started on planning your spring food plots for whitetail deer right now. The biggest thing to consider is what your goals and objectives are for your property. Would you like to have a deer factory over the summer to support many new fawns and watch the development of bucks with your Nikon– optics? If so, spring food plots are probably the way to go. Or would you prefer your property to really attract deer during the fall hunting season? If that is your primary focus, fall food plots are where you should spend your time. The best of both worlds, if you have enough property and resources to support them, is to keep a good mix of both food plots for deer so you have all-season nutrition. You can do that either by rotating spring and fall crops in the same plot or keeping completely separate plots.

After you have identified your property goals, the next step to take is to choose a location for your food plot. Prevailing wind directions, terrain, proximity to bedding areas, and amount of sunlight the plot would receive are all important factors to consider. Anther key factor when choosing the food plot location is seclusion. Mature deer are much more comfortable and more likely to show themselves during daylight hours if they feel secure. The more secluded your food plot is, the safer the deer will feel.

You should also consider the size of the food plots you want to plant. As the size increases, so does the cost and time investment. It takes longer to till, prepare, plant, and maintain larger plots, and you will have to buy more seed, herbicide, lime, and fertilizer as well. So if you are feeling a little cash or time-strapped this year, you might want to downsize your spring food plots a little. Of course, the downside to planting small or micro food plots is that they can quickly get over browsed. This is especially true if you would like to keep deer on your property over the summer. There are many mouths to feed that time of year making it hard for small food plots to keep up.

Best Spring Food Plot Mix

Alright, you have made your plans and now you need to buy some deer food plot seeds to plant. There are probably hundreds of choices when it comes to food plot seeds, but most are just different varieties of the same dozen or so plants. But you can’t talk about planning food plots without mentioning perennials versus annuals. Perennial species include long-lived species that come back year after year, which cuts back on planting costs, as long as you properly maintain them. Common perennial food plot species include clover, alfalfa, or chicory. Annual food plot species only grow for that growing season and are highly attractive. Common annuals include corn, soybeans, turnips, radishes, cereal grains, or peas. In some seed mixes, you’ll find a blend of perennial and annual seeds to get the best of both scenarios. The annuals act as a nurse crop because they grow fast and are highly attractive to draw deer attention away from the slower growing perennials, which will grow back in the following years.

Consider your surroundings as you decide what you want to plant in your food plot. For example, it would not make much of a difference to plant a small corn plot if you live in Iowa’s corn country. Focus on planting something that deer can’t easily find in your neighborhood. In that same scenario, try focusing on clover plots for spring nutrition (before corn is available) or brassicas and turnips for late season attraction (after corn has been harvested).

The climate and soil type can make a big difference in what is a good fit for your food plot. Brassicas, especially turnips and other bulb type plants, don’t do well in damp, saturated soil but rather prefer sunny, well-drained plots. Clover, on the other hand, thrives in bottomland type soil. Another example is sugar beets. They flourish in sandy, loamy soils but normally don’t do well in clay soils.

There is one last thing to keep in mind as you plan your food plot. Crop rotation. Like good farming practices, crop rotation is very important in food plots. A good rule of thumb is to plant brassicas for no more than two years in a row in the same plot.

Genesis Food Plot Planter

Genesis No Till Food Plot Planter

Planting Spring Food Plots

The planting process is where the hard work begins, and it is a great way to get your kids involved. Of course, it is much more involved than simply planting. First, you need to prepare the soil, which can take some time. If it is a new plot and you are breaking new ground, it might be a better idea to use the first summer to spray it with herbicide and loosen the sod. If you have access to heavy farm equipment, you could also just till it under and have access to good soil relatively quickly.

Before planting, be sure to do a soil test, which will tell you how much fertilizer and lime to add to your plot. Also, make sure you know the best planting method for the seeds you choose. Most large grains and seeds (e.g., corn, soybeans, etc.) need to be planted using a drill or by broadcasting and disking it into the soil. Meanwhile, small seeds (e.g., clover, brassicas, etc.) should usually just be broadcasted over the soil surface and lightly cultipacked in. It is always a good idea to plant right before a steady rain, so watch the forecasts. As far as when to plant food plots for deer, the seed you buy will have recommended planting dates based on your geography.

As long as you plant the seeds using the steps above and get enough rainfall, your spring food plots should do great. If weeds start to show up in your plots, don’t worry too much about it. Most forbs (flowering broadleaf plants like goldenrod) are preferred deer food too. If they start to take over or you notice really invasive ones (thistles, milkweed, etc.), you can mow the perennials to a height of 6 to 8 inches or spot spray the invasive ones. Don’t forget to hang a trail camera on your spring food plots to monitor the deer herd when you’re not there. Soon enough, you will be staring at a lush spring food plot and counting down the days toward autumn.