Fall Food Plot Planning And Preparation
Every year about this time of the summer, we start to realize that the fall hunting season isn’t actually all that far off. That’s great news since we dream about the fall throughout the year anyway. But if you want to have a lush and productive fall food plot, you will need to start planning soon to get the best results. Here are a few things you should keep in mind as you plan it all out, including the best spots for fall food plots, the best food plot species, and how to prepare the soil properly.
Best Fall Food Plot Locations
Depending on what state you live in and how your property is laid out, the best location will be a bit different. But here are some tried and true places for you to plant a food plot this fall that should work no matter where you are.
- Field Corners – although large agricultural fields (e.g., corn or soybeans) are magnets for deer at certain times of the year, they aren’t always the best spots to hunt on because the size spreads the deer activity out so thin. But when you plant a smaller fall food plot on the inside corner of one of these fields, you remove a lot of those limitations and even enhance its attraction.
- Deep Woods – although they might take less gear overall, small hunting plots deep in the woods can take a fair amount of work to pull off. But they can also be highly attractive to deer and therefore great hunting spots. If you locate one of these plots between a bedding area and large destination feeding field, you should have some great daytime hunting opportunities this fall.
- Water Features – when you’re hunting in the early season, it can still be really hot out, which stresses deer and forces them to seek water. Locating a fall food plot near a small pond or along a creek or river will further enhance its attraction for deer in the early September weather.
Planning the Best Species to Plant
As far as what to plant in fall food plots, it will again depend on where your land is located geographically and how the deer react to it. Something that’s really attractive to deer in the Midwest might not work much in the Southeast, for example. That being said, here are some good food plot seed blends to try. It’s important to note that you can mix and match many of these in the same plot to provide a buffet for deer.
- Brassicas, turnips, and radishes – this group includes several different species, some of which produce large roots underground and lush leaves aboveground. This combination produces a lot of food plot tonnage. In the early season, deer usually focus on the leaves of brassica food plots But after a good frost event in the fall, the underground roots start to sweeten and you can often hear deer crunching on them.
- Clover – while many people plant it as spring nutrition for does, fawns, and bucks alike, clover can also be very attractive in the fall. It is a cool-season plant, meaning it grows best in spring or fall, but it goes dormant over the hot summer weather. You can plant a perennial food plot that will start slow this fall and come back in the spring. Or you can just plant fast-growing annual clovers for a thick and lush fall food plot this year.
- Cereal grains – you can incorporate a cereal grain (e.g., wheat, oats, or rye) into almost any fall food plot mix because they don’t take up much room and can grow quite well. Winter rye (not ryegrass) grows in nearly any soil with little help needed, and it handles browse pressure really well.
- Beans or Peas – while soybeans or winter peas likely won’t have time to get to the maximum production and forage phase if you plant it in the fall, the young leaves of both are still super attractive to deer. They are susceptible to overbrowsing, though, so this should only be added to a food plot mix to enhance its attraction power for a specific season – maybe targeting the opening week of bow season.
To maximize your food plots, you will need to prepare the soil first. Depending on what you’re planting and whether you are no-till drilling or broadcasting the seed, the soil preparation stage will look a little different. But generally, you should start by killing the existing vegetation that grew over the summer. One way to do that is by mowing it off, letting it regrow a little, and then spraying it with an herbicide. This should expose some soil and remove the competition to allow many small-seeded plants, such as a clover food plot, to germinate and take off. The dead plant material may even act as a mulch to minimize water loss. But if you’re planting larger food plot seed, such as corn or beans, you might want to drill it into the existing mulch of dead plants or till it first. Although tilling exposes new weed seeds to germinate in your plot, it definitely kills the existing vegetation well. If the soil is fertile, your annual food plot species may get the jump on weeds and outcompete them.
Speaking of soil fertility, you also need to make sure your fall food plot will be capable of growing well. First, do a soil test to see which nutrients are deficient and where your pH is at so you know what you should add. Adding lime will actually improve the plants’ ability to absorb more of the fertilizer. Instead of broadcasting granular fertilizer, as many people traditionally have done, try using a liquid fertilizer like Buck Gro. It contains more nutrients, minerals, and other trace elements that you don’t find in typical fertilizers. Plus, it’s easy to mix with water and apply it to your field in a backpack sprayer, ATV sprayer, or tractor-mounted sprayer. At the time of planting, you can spray the soil formula onto the dirt to help boost the initial growth. Once the plants have grown a few inches tall, apply the foliar formula to the leaves to give them another boost and make them as nutritious and palatable as possible. Before you know it, you could be looking at a lush green food plot pulling deer onto your property like crazy.
If you want to plant the very best food plot for deer this fall, put the thinking cap on now and start planning your approach. In food plot timelines, fall isn’t all that far away, and it’s best to over-prepare than under-prepare.