Food Plot Basics


  • Try not to place near property boundaries or in sight of roads (Screen with Leyland Cypress, pines and other evergreen trees). Use corn planted by broadcast and leave standing for a temporary screen where others cannot see your food plots from their land or the road.
  • Try to place food plots on your better soils and slopes of 5% (5′ change in 100′) or less to reduce ersosion.
  • Try to place where you will recieve full sun or 6 hours of direct sunlight per day.

Shapes of Food Plots

  • Follow the contour of your land weaving in and out of wooded areas and making hour glass pinch points in places for the game to cross.
  • Mass feeding plots are usually larger and do well with annuals.

Clearing Procedures Do’s and Don’ts

  • It is common for experienced equipment operators to be concerned with speed and therefore push all or part of the topsoil off the field along with the stumps and brush. This is terrible. You need to keep the topsoil in the fields even if clearing takes longer.
  • You will want to remove the stumps
  • Do not leave trees in the food plots. It is tempting to leave mast trees but don’t. These trees shade the plantings and, more detrimental, the trees pull huge amounts of moisture from the soil.
  • Do not burn stumps and limbs in your food plot areas. This will burn out organic matter and harmfully alter the soil fertility. Burn in turning lanes and roadways.

Ratio of Wildlife Food Plots to Total Acreage

  • This is not an exact science. Issues include how much agriculture is in the area that supplies food for the deer or elk. It also includes the amount and types of browse and mast in the immediate area. Even at heavy mast times I have repeatedly observed deer go from 15-20 minutes of feeding in the food plot to going to pick up 5-8 acorns and then repeating this process several times. An important issue is whether or not you are growing food plots year round or just for part of the year. Another issue is the amount of fruit trees you have. All that is said just to show that the following recommendations are general in nature.
  • 1% of your land will generally draw deer in a little for hunting. In this case the recommendation is to use all annuals in your plantings.
  • 3% allows for better deer nutrition and will cause the deer to spend a greater percentage of their time on your land and may increase the antler size somewhat.
  • 5% to 10% will result in greater deer population, larger racks and a healthier herd.

Perennials vs. Annuals

  • Annuals are planted and grow for one growing season. In many areas this means a spring planting and then a fall planting in the same field.
  • Perennnials last for 3-6 years or longer based on maintenace quality.
  • If you have a smaller percentage of your land devoted to food plots then plant mostly annuals.
  • If you have a larger percentage of your land devoted, the recommendation would be to plant about 60% in perennials and 40% in annuals planted spring and fall
  • Use your most level areas for annuals and your smaller areas and more sloped fields in perennials. Because of the reduced tillage for perennials there will be less soil erosion on moderate slopes.

Equipment Needed for Planting and Maintenance of Food Plots

  • For small acreage (5 acres or less), you can use a 4 wheeler (UTVs are very good).
  • You will need a mower, chisel plow, drag harrow (or disc) and a cultipacker whether you have a tractor or a 4 wheeler.
  • A fertilizer spreader is needed. For small acreage a walk behind commerical grade fertilizer will work. Spreaders are avialable for ATV’s and tractors.
  • Seeding can be completed very well with an over the shoulder bag spreader
  • Earthway makes high quality bag seeders and walk behind fertilizer spreaders as well as ATV spreaders.

Planting instructions, maintenance of perennial food plots, soil fertilitly and liming, and other subjects are covered in separate articles in the Learning Center.