Planting food plots is one of the common methods used by hunting enthusiasts to lure in deer. And the steps in creating one are not just as easy as they may look — hunting experts have long been mastering and gathering knowledge on how to effectively utilize this method to achieve their goal of luring deer. However, it is also a fact that there are mistakes that are committed during the process that can jeopardize their hunting activities.
So, in line with this, I have created a way to make things easier for you and help you out as best as I can. I have sourced out experts that help on answering a very important question: What are the most common mistakes when planting food plots?
In this article, I will share with you the responses and advices we got from 19 hunting enthusiasts that you can utilize yourself. I have listed their responses below. Let’s us see what they have to say.
What are the most common mistakes when planting food plots?
Devon Johnk joined Arrow Seed as one of their specialists in December 2011. He also works as a warehouse manager and sales representative for the company’s food plot division.
- " In my opinion, the largest mistake made when planting their food plots is how they are preparing their seedbed. The typical preparation steps are mow, spray, till or disk, broadcast, and pack. Anyone can save time and provide better bed if they would rearrange a couple steps. I suggest, mow, till or disk (if you can’t, drill), give dormant seeds 10 days to 2 weeks to germinate, spray out growth then broadcast or drill, and pack. This will give you a better opportunity to eliminate as much of the weed competition as possible "
2. Bronson Strickland, Associate Extension Professor, Wildlife Ecology and Management - Msudeerlab.com
Apart from being an Associate Extension Professor for Wildlife Ecology and Management, Bronson Strickland is also a published author of numerous materials about wildlife in general. He graduated B.S. Wildlife Biology at the University of Georgia. He then achieved his M.S. Range & Wildlife Management at Texas A&M University - Kingsville. Finally, he earned his Ph.D. in Wildlife Ecology at Mississippi State University.
- "That’s a great question and I’m glad you are addressing it in your blog. The biggest mistakes I see are 1) not taking a soil test – that’s the best $10 you will ever spend on a food plot. 2) Not seeing what the Pure Live Seed amount is in the bag. With the advent of seed coatings, sometimes the coating makes up 50% of the weight of the back. Thus, a 50-pound bag only has 25 pounds of seed. 3) Not looking for the germination rate and adjusting the planting rate accordingly.”
3. Mark Newell - Associate Wildlife Biologist and Accounts Manager, Tecomate.com
Hailing from Northeast Mississippi, Mark Newell is known to be a skilled land manager and wildlife biologist. He is currently an Associate Wildlife Biologists and Accounts Manager at Tecomate and is also the President and Founder of Newell Wildlife Services.
- “Food plotting in the Deep South is a major part of hunting culture. So growing up in a hunting family in Mississippi you learn quickly how to plant a food plot. By the age of 13, I was on a tractor disking up my personal plots along with many others for guys in our hunting club. Now I am Tecomate Wildlife Systems’ biologist with 27 years of hands on food plot planting experience. I have learned the hard way many of the dos and don’ts of food plot planting. However, the most common mistake I see is incorrect planting depth, more specifically, the seed planted too deep. Since most folks use the broadcast method of planting you see this problem a lot. I cannot tell you the calls I have gotten through the years stating that their plots did not come up and it was due to plots typically planted too deep. Many times guys cover their seed by disking it or even dragging it in on an uneven soil bed. The results of both bury much of the seed too deep for it to germinate and make it out of the ground.
- Here is a quick rundown of how to properly plant a plot using the broadcast method. 1. Remove vegetation with herbicide and/or clipping. 2. Apply fertilizer (also lime if needed). 3. Disk up the soil 6 inches or so. 4. Level the plot with a drag or cultipacker. 5. Broadcast your seed. 6. Cover the plot with a drag or cultipacker.
- If you will go by these steps you will eliminate the “planted too deep” problem and have much more success out of your food plots.”
4. Kent Kammermeyer - Wildlife Consultant and Certified Wildlife Biologist Deerconsulting.com
Graduating B.S. in Wildlife Management from University of Connecticut in 1972 and earned his M.S. in Wildlife Biology at the University of Georgia in 1975, Kent Kammermeyer began his professional career as a Senior Wildlife Biologist at Georgia DNR. He became a Certified Wildlife Biologist in 1979 and for 25 years served as a Chairman of the State Deer Committee. He has also published countless articles mostly about deer.
- “Hunters most often plant based on the calendar (Ex. Labor day weekend). The decision should be based on rainfall predictions from late August (in the north), September (in the mid-south) and October (in the deep south). The fall season in the eastern U.S. is typically one of the driest times of the year as many of us found out last fall. Hundreds if not thousands of plots ended up total failures because of scant if any rain in September and October. Sometimes a late crop of Cereal Rye (not ryegrass) and clover planted in November can save us, sometimes not, if the weather turns colder than normal.
- Other common mistakes Most hunters skimp on fertilizer and lime. The best way to find out how much is needed is to take a soil test and sent it to a test lab. They will help you interpret the results. Lime usually only needs to be spread at about 2 tons/acre every 3-5 years in the east and midwest. Fertilizer is more difficult to guess but a rule of thumb is 250-300 lbs/acre of 17-17-17 or 19-19-19. These are a better bargain than 5-10-15 or 10-10-10 as they contain less Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium that all crops need at planting time.”
5. Steve Elmy - Owner of Rack Stacker- Rackstacker.ca
Steve Elmy is the owner and founder of Rack Stacker which offer a line of animal feed, hunting and conservation products. Steve is a Level II QDMA (Quality Deer Management Association).
- “The top mistakes made in food plotting could be….. Planting the wrong time of year for the products/ seed they are using. Certain plants need a longer growing time and there are plants that mature very quickly. This can do 1 of 2 things, mature and not be as palatable for the wildlife, or may not mature at all if planted late. This being perennial forages like clover or Alfalfa.
- Another common mistake in food plotting is applying the wrong fertilizer. It's important to apply the right fertilizer if any is needed at all. A local agronomist and walk you through the steps of a Soil test and direct you to the right fertilizer to use.”
6. Blaine Burley - Owner of Woods-N-Water Inc Theplotmaster.com
Blaine Burley is the owner of Woods-N-Water Inc which developed a complete line of revolutionary and all-in-one food plot planting machines for tractors and All-Terrain-Vehicles. His many years of experience gave him vast and valuable knowledge in food plot management.
- “One of the biggest mistakes that I see when planting food plots is that most people plant them too large and in the WRONG location.
- One of the key ingredients for my success in producing and harvesting BIG BUCKS over the years is planting small “harvest” plots near established bedding areas. There are many benefits of planting these small food plots. Not only can food plots provide a high-quality food source for your deer herd, but they can also serve as an effective means of concentrating and attracting deer on your hunting property. Plus, your deer do not have to travel as far to feed which increases your chances of harvesting these big bucks during legal hunting hours and decreases the chances of them being harvested by your neighbors. This also increases your chances of maintaining older-age class bucks on your property.
- When planting my small “harvest” plots, I prefer to keep them as small as possible ( a ½ acre or less). Big bucks are normally very nocturnal animals and do not like to expose themselves (especially in large openings) during legal hunting hours. That is why I like to plant these small plots as close to known bedding areas and thick cover as possible.
- Traditionally, wildlife managers and sportsmen have used large farm tractors and farm implements for planting food plots. Unfortunately, most of this farm equipment is too large to get into these often remote areas. Therefore, food plots have been planted primarily in areas that are easily accessible to tractors and/or larger equipment. However, in recent years, many sportsmen have discovered a much easier and cost-effective means of planting these small “harvest” plots-using ATVs, small tractors and small implements. Today’s ATVs are much larger and more powerful than ATVs of the past. Today’s larger ATVs can pull ATV implements such as the PLOTMASTER™ by Plotmaster Systems, LLC with ease.
- One of the benefits of using small implements is that it enables hunters to plant food plots in the isolated, “hard-to-get-to” places. This enables sportsmen to plant food plots in the areas that are closer to established bedding areas. By locating food plots near established bedding areas, deer do not have to travel as far to get to these food sources. Mature bucks tend to feel more secure and travel more, especially during daylight hours, in these isolated places. Therefore, hunters have a better chance of harvesting trophy class bucks during legal shooting hours. In other words, sportsmen can bring the “food” to the deer by planting small, isolated food plots thus increasing your chance of harvesting that “Buck-of-a-Lifetime”.”
7. AJ Gall - Manager for Legendary Whitetails Community Page Community.deergear.com
AJ earned his degree in Wildlife Management and Research at University of Wisconsin-Stevens Points. Filming for Midwest Whitetail and Growingdeer.tv are just some of AJ’s professional projects. With years of hunting and wildlife experiences and being a habitat, consultant makes AJ a perfect in-house expert.
- “Don’t skip the details. Soil tests are crucial for determining what to plant and what your fertilizer needs are. Better Soil, Bigger Bucks
- K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid) – A simple acronym reminding folks to keep their food plot program simple. Don’t get too cute trying to plant 10 different things. Perfect two or three and rotate those from year to year. My staples are soybeans, clover, and a brassica mix.
- Timing is everything. Check your key planting dates and wait for the rain. Prep ahead of time so you’re ready to throw seed down when rain is on the way. Also, be aware of your average first and lasts frost dates.
- Don’t forget the rest of the property. Food plots often get all the attention, both in terms of off-season management and hunting during the season. Don’t fall into this trap.
8. Jim Stickles - Associate Wildlife Biologist, The Wildlife Society Biggamelogic.com
Currently, a Masters student and apart from being a certified Associate Wildlife Biologist for The Wildlife Society, Jim Stickles is also a Deer Steward II for Quality Deer Management Association. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Wildlife Science at the State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry. He has also published articles namely, Deer Hunting in June, Where Has That Darn Buck Gone?, and 10 Things We Know About Mature Buck Movements.
- “Food plotting is a lot like cooking. If you follow the recipe, everything usually turns out OK. However, if you try to cut corners, or add incorrect ingredients, the results can be disastrous. Like novice chefs, novice food plotters routinely make mistakes, the most common of which are as follows:
- 1) Failure to conduct a soil test.
- 2) Planting small seeds too deep.
- 3) Planting at the wrong time of year.
- 4) Planting without rain in the forecast.
- 5) Planting browses sensitive crops in small acreage.”
9. John O’Brion - Owner, Grandpa Ray Outdoors Grandparayoutdoors.com
Aside from being the owner of Grandpa Ray Outdoors, John O’Brion spent 24 years as a Wildlife and Ruminant nutritionist and a crop advisor and seed specialist. He believes that nutrition starts with a healthy soil. He is also one of the pioneers that introduced generic chemicals in the US.
- “Not enough people are educated on the maturity of the forages they are planting. Two forages that are commonly planted too early across the US are daikon radish and turnips. Radish may seed out as early as 45 days and turnips mature in 60 days. Neither of those crops should be planted anywhere before August. There are rapid growing brassicas and long season brassicas. The maturity ranges from 45-150 days on brassicas. People need to educate themselves on when to plant based on the specific brassicas they are planting.”
10. Mike Hanback - Deer Hunting Expert and Blogger Mikehanback.com
Mike Hanback started as an Editor for American Hunter Magazine. His has gained valuable experience both in hunting and writing over the years. He then started to do freelance writing in mid-1990s for Outdoor Life and became their Deer Hunting Editor. His next venture is becoming a blogger with over 2,000 posts and counting in the last 6 years about deer hunting.
- “People often overlook the easiest place of all to put a food plot on a property--an old logging road. Planting 1,000 yards of logging road is like putting in a one-acre plot. Log roads are already open and easy to access--no major tree clearing--so you can go in with an ATV and disc and plant seeds quickly and easily. A perennial clover works best here. Clover tends to grow best on north-south roads that get 3 to 4 hours of sunlight each day, but plant and fertilize as many road sections as you can for maximum food and edge for deer”
11. David and Wayne Ward - Co-Founders of Wilderness Obsession Wildernessobsession.com
Both David and Wayne Ward are Co-Founders of Wilderness Obsession which is served as a legacy within the Ward family. David is a fisherman and a hunter by heart, while Wayne loved the outdoors ever since he was young. These two just have the passion and enjoys everything about the wild.
- “The biggest mistake we made when we got started in the world of food plots was not completing a soil sample prior to just planting. Take a 5-gallon bucket, dig in multiple spots on your plot just below the sod and stir it together in the bucket. You only need a small amount of soil but taking it from multiple points in your plot make for a true sample. The information the lab will give you will amaze you. Soil sample kits can be had for as little as $15 and often make all the difference with crop growth”
William Yancy currently is the Head of Sales for the Firminator equipment which is manufactured by Ranew’s Outdoor Equipment. He also serves as Sales and Marketing Manager at Ranew’s Outdoor Equipment. He earned his degree in Agricultural Business at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College.
- “The one mistake I see a lot of people make when planting plots is putting out to many seeds. If the seed company recommends putting out 40 lbs to an acre a lot of people will add 50 percent more or double it to 60 or 80 lbs per acre. These recommendations are from agronomist who knows their business. The recommended setting is also for the soil conditions being close to perfect as far as nutrients go. When you put out too many seeds and they germinate you have a lot more plants competing for the nutrients in the soil. This will cause your plant growth to be stunted and not reach maturity. Stick with the recommended seed rate per acre and you will have a lot better-looking plots and save you some money on seed.The one mistake I see a lot of people make when planting plots are putting out to many seeds. If the seed company recommends putting out 40 lbs to an acre a lot of people will add 50 percent more or double it to 60 or 80 lbs per acre. These recommendations are from agronomist who knows their business. The recommended setting is also for the soil conditions being close to perfect as far as nutrients go. When you put out too many seeds and they germinate you have a lot more plants competing for the nutrients in the soil. This will cause your plant growth to be stunted and not reach maturity. Stick with the recommended seed rate per acre and you will have a lot better-looking plots and save you some money on seed.”
13. Joel Hagen - Agronomist, Deer Creek Seed Deercreekseed.com
Joel Hagen is a Certified Crop Advisor and is currently serving as a Sales Staff for Deer Creek Seed. Deer Creek Seed focuses on growing, conditioning, and packaging turf, forage, and wildlife food plot seed.
- “Food plot success or failure is driven by several factors. Soil pH, fertility, and climate can and must be considered when selecting seeds or seed mixes. Seed, plant roots and the forage they generate require optimum soil conditions to generate maximum nutrition and yield. Plants have a comfort zone. Soil type, soil moisture, and soil nutrition are the basis of healthy productive plants. Climate, location and planting date also interact with plants to change performance. Failure is often selected at the checkout line. Test your soil to establish a nutrient baseline. Correct soil with appropriate lime and nutrients. Select seeds that fit within existing conditions. Plant seeds at the proper seeding rate, planting depth and planting time for ultimate success.”
14. Tayler Riggen - Sales and Marketing for Muddy Outdoors and Big Game Treestands Gomuddy.com
Currently working as a Sales and Marketing Staff for Muddy Outdoors and Big Game Treestands, Tayler Riggen is a passionate whitetail deer hunter. He earned a B.S. in Horticulture and Turfgrass Science, Minor in Agronomy at Iowa State University. Combining his love for hunting and film, most of his work can be viewed online at Muddy’s Trophy Pursuit.
- “I would say the biggest mistakes people make with planting food plots are not understanding their soil nutrients, and not putting in enough time to prep the soil BEFORE planting. Many people want to mow/disc/seed/culti-pack and finish a food plot all in 1 day. You just can’t have a great food plot that way. Take the time to do a soil test, then mow and disc the area, spray the weeds and wait for them to die. Then come back later and disc in your fertilizer, and seed right before a good rain. A good food plot is a process, but it’s an enjoyable one. You can’t cut corners!”
15. James G William - Food Plotter Expert Huntingkentuckydeer.com
James considers himself as an expert food plotter as he has a numerous and vast experience in setting up food plots. He manages over 13 food plots that are ½ acres each. For him, learning from your own mistakes is the best way to acquire the best knowledge.
- “#1) The big mistake experts make in giving advice to up-and-coming food plotters is that we don't care about losing money! That's right. I said it. We don't care if our germination rates are .08% off from a professional farmer to produce an extra $2.32 per acre of corn. Farmers need to be picky, but food plotters waste money and let's be realistic on how much money we are "wasting" over-seeding, fertilizing/not fertilizing, etc. Answer: Not much money at all.
- #2) So after me telling you not to worry about all the advice experts have for you, you should still listen to the experts! When they start taking numbers, rates, etc., just know that's when really don't need to "worry" so much unless it's just flat out fun for you as it is me.
- #3) You food plot for "fun" I hope. There is no way you can manage for deer and expect to make enough money to even make a care payment unless you were lucky enough to inherit land from family. Remember this should be your "hobby" so treat it like one. Have fun!
- #4) Stop listening to those of us who do foot plots all the time! Go out and make your own mistakes. Learn what works on your soil, food plot shade, and deer density.
- #5) Plant Eagle Seed Soybeans like what Dr. Grant says to do from Growing Deer TV. Plant them in 1/2 acre plots as I have and watch them fail! LOL...as I have. Try putting up fencing and spreading stinky manure around to keep out the deer...and watch it all fail as I have. These are some of my food plots from this year: Kentucky Hunting Outfitter Plots
- #6) Do some more failing on your own. Even though you're reading all the advice in the world, if you're like me, you'll still forget something, rush through something, etc. The NUMBER ONE THING above all to do is to spray and kill your weeds a few weeks before planting! All the soil samples, lime, and fertilizer in the world is not going to help you with weed control.
- And to quote an Iraqi friend/outfitter Chris Simon, "Food plots are all about the theory of relativity. Corn is great, but if you're trying to plant corn around 1,000's of acres of farmer corn, you're better off taking a crap in the field. It will attract more animals. Plant something unusual for the area." And this would be where Ph levels, fertilizer, etc., comes into play. It's the difference between Big K Cola and Coke. Both are good, but you'll prefer the Coke every time. I would have brought up beer or bourbon, but we're hunters, most of us will happily drink a Pabst Blue Ribbon.”
16. Ben Addington - Marketing Supervisor, Lacrosseseed.com
Ben Addington is an Advertising and Marketing Professional and currently is the Marketing Supervisor for La Crosse Seed (La Crosse Forage & Turf Seed, LLC). He earned B.A Major in Public Relations and Minor in Management at Carlson School of Business. Apart from that, he is also a music, sports, and outdoor enthusiast.
- “Above all the most overlooked and important step in establishing a food plot is doing so with soil testing. A soil test must be done prior to planting as it is our way to evaluate the health of the soil and the key to making amendments appropriate for the species planted.
- Secondly, ensuring adequate soil to seed contact is of great importance. This allows the seed to come in contact with nutrients and water needed to germinate. Having the correct seed depth and seedbed preparation will result in optimal soil to seed contact for germination.”
17. Justin Pederson - Conservation Specialist at Millborn Seeds Millbornseeds.com
Justin Pederson shares his expertise as a Conservation Specialist and a Food Plot Expert as a part of Millborn Seeds. This company focuses on delivering intelligent grass seed solutions by identifying land characteristics, species selection, seed mix ratios, timing, and techniques.
- “When planting food plots, timing is everything. You want to allow enough time after planting to establish growth before hunting season but not so much that the plants will become too mature and non-attractive to the wildlife. The biggest mistake we have seen is people getting their plots in the ground a little too early and having the plants, especially brassicas, become too mature by the time the late season comes around.”
18. Austin Delano - Research and Development for Mossy Oak BioLogic Plantbiologic.com
Austin Delano is a passionate worker that enjoys being a research and development staff for Mossy Oak BioLogic. He takes pride in helping people manage their land for better wildlife.
- “One of the most common mistakes I see made in the world of food plots is a lack of proper seedbed preparation and soil testing prior to planting. Soil testing before planting can give you all the info you need to add the correct amount of fertilizer as well as time if it is needed. A lot of guys are also looking for a shortcut when it comes to preparing the soil. Germination rates, seedling survival, and overall plot success are greatly increased when the effort is made to prepare the soil correctly.”
19. Mark Drury - Part Owner of Drury Marketing Inc and Employee of M.A.D. Game Calls
The Drury brothers are part owners of Drury Marketing Inc. Apart from that, Mark is also a staff of M.A.D Game Calls. And Terry is President and Owner of T. Drury Contracting. Mark is known to be a competitive turkey caller and has earned six different world titles. He is passionate when it comes to land management to ensure healthy animal population in the farm. On the other hand, Terry got himself involved in a career as a general contractor since the family owned a construction company. He then decided to start his own company called T. Drury Contracting Inc. Like his brother, Terry also is passionate about hunting and this led them to create Drury Outdoors.
- “I think one of the biggest mistakes people make is not checking their soil conditions before the planting begins. That will help palatability. Another one would be prep on the ground if it’s going to be a new food plot. Meaning mowing or spraying for weeds etc. If you don’t do that, you will tear up your equipment when you go to start turning the dirt.
- Those are pretty simple things, but if you do that, it should help set you up for success when you go to actually plant your plot!”
Now, this is definitely an amazing article, isn’t it? Our experts just shared with you some of the most valuable information you can now apply and use for setting your own food plot effectively and efficiently. This just completely justifies the adage, “take it from the expert”.
How about you? What do you think are the common mistakes when planting or creating a food plot? We love to also hear it from you. Share your ideas with us by leaving a comment below.