Planting Small Food Plots For Whitetails
(Foodplots of all shapes, sizes and kinds can help nourish, attract and hold whitetail deer on your property.)
by: TONY KALNA Jr.

As I walked down the logging road on my parent's farm during spring turkey season, I was amazed at how lush and green the plants that carpeted the roadway were. The green growth beneath my feet was all part of my father's efforts of planting food plots in early April. Food plots on a logging road? You bet!

A lot of folks have property in the many hills and creekbottoms of Missouri and both of these places and everywhere in between are great candidates for a place to plant a food plot! This article isn't directed to the landowner who owns good bottomland farm ground and a tractor and disc to plow the fields. This article is to educate those of you who own or lease wooded areas and don't have either the time or money to invest in planting row-crops. Now that we've established the fact that you don't have to have 100 acres of row crop farmland to successfully plant a food plot for whitetails and other wildlife, let's get into the basics of what to plant and how to make such an area on your property.

What Should I Plant?
If you don't own land with good bottomland soil and an area that is suitable for planting row crops like corn, soybeans, milo or the like, I highly recommend using some of the wildlife food plot mixes that require nothing more than contact with the soil for germination. The Whitetail Institute of North America based out of Alabama markets a product known as "No-Plow". Nature's Own, a company based out of Illinois sells a product called "Throw and Grow". Both food plot mixtures require little more than contact with soil, some rain and sunshine to thrive! Both of these products are quick and easy and work well, even on the poorest of soils if you give them just a little help in preparing the site before planting.

Choosing A Food Plot Site
If your land is like ours, all timber, you need to choose a place where sunlight reaches the ground. Places where the forest canopy is sparse, a place where storms have taken out a tree or two, and even logging roads make excellent choices for planting such a wildlife food plot.

How Big Should My Food Plot Be?
These woodland food plots can come in any shape or size. You have to make due with the open areas you have to plant in. For instance, we have five different rectangular shaped food plots on Mom and Dad's 80 acres that range in size from 1/16 to 1/8 of an acre. This isn't counting the plantings on the logging trails that meander along the ridgetops that probably total about 1/4 to 1/2 acre. The following measurements in the table below all add up to about 1/4-acre so you can use these figures to determine the size of the food plot on your land. Number of feet Number of Steps (at 2.5 feet per step) Number of Yards 105 x 105 42 x 42 35 x 35 75 x 150 30 x 60 25 x 50 40 x 275 16 x 110 13 x 92 20 x 550 8 x 220 7 x 183 These figures will help you determine exactly how much lime, fertilizer and seed you need to use if you want to get technical about it. However, when planting an elongated food plot on a logging road it is a little more difficult to calculate the size. A road 6 feet wide by 70 feet long (2 x 23.3 yards) is about one percent of an acre. If this would be the size of your plot, you should lime, fertilize and seed this size plot according to 1% of the recommendations for a 1-acre plot on the directions of the container.

Site Preparation
My folks' place is located in the big timber hills of central Missouri and there isn't any prime dirt for raising any kind of row crop on the place. However, since we don't have good soil, a big tractor and a bunch of fancy farm implements, we make due with a few simple tools and homemade farming implements. The first and most important job is to start by clearing the forest floor of leaf and other debris with a leaf rake. A small camping hatchet is used to cut out any small samplings or woody plants that are growing in the area we want to plant.

Next, we use a steel garden rake or a Garden Weasel to rough up and loosen the soil. After removing the leaves and before planting on the larger plots, we pull an old bed spring weighted down with concrete blocks behind our 4-wheeler to loosen the soil. This is much more easy than doing it by hand on the larger plots with a rake. However, it's hard to beat a garden rake on the little plots.

A camping hatchet is used to remove any small saplings and woody plants from the food plot site.

A garden rake is a great tool for roughing up the soil.


The basic rule of planting these types of food plot mixtures is that they have to have good contact with the soil to grow so the first step is important. Without a proper soil test you are not going to know for certain how much lime or fertilizer you will need per acre. However, generally speaking, most of these wooded areas are very acidic and lime needs to be added to the soil to increase pH levels. Without a soil test you are not going to know your soil pH but remember, this article is for those who don't have the time to take soil samples and wait for the results. To get your soil to a pH of 6, a 1/4-acre plot requires about 450 lbs. of lime. However, we recommend following the directions on the bag or bucket of seed mixture for best results. You can use the following simple formula for basic fertilization of your 1/4-acre plot. Use at least 150 lbs. of 12-12-12 (triple 12) fertilizer at the time of seed bed preparation. Make sure you have had good rain to allow the lime and fertilizer to absorb into the soil before planting your seed. Again, we emphasize that you should follow the directions on the bag or bucket of seed mix you are using to properly fertilize, lime and seed your plot for optimum results. Before seeding, I like to take out the garden rake or Garden Weasel or drag the bedsprings across it one more time before broadcasting my seed. Again, make sure you follow the directions on the container of seed you are using when determining how heavily to broadcast your seed mixture.
You can simply broadcast the seed by hand or use a spreader.  It's so easy, even a youngster can do it!


Maintaining Your Plot
Make sure you follow the direction on the container of seed you choose. Some recommend applications of ammonium nitrate once seedlings are 2-3 inches tall, while others require that you reapply your balanced fertilizer (triple 12) at 45 day intervals as necessary. You might want to take the time to cut back any competing plants or weeds that may have grown into your plot as the summer wears on. To keep an eye on how well the local deer herd is enjoying this tasty smorgasbord, place a milk crate over a portion of the plot and see how the protected plants grow taller than those outside the crate. You won't believe how much the deer keep your plot eaten down!


With a little elbow grease, your effors can produce a lush foodplot for whitetails in the middle of the timber.

Summary
In Missouri, anytime in April is a great time to plant such a food plot. You can even stretch your planting season into early to mid May but you definitely don't want to plant in the hot months of summer. You won't believe how quick and easy making such a beneficial plot can be. The personal satisfaction of knowing that your own labor made such a deer and wildlife attractant is immeasurable. So, get out those rakes and hatchets and take to the woods to start making your own personal wildlife salad bar! (Editor's note: For more information on both seed mixes you can contact the following companies and make sure that you tell them that Missouri Deer Hunter Magazine recommended you to call!: Whitetail Institute of North America 239 Whitetail Trail Pintlala, AL 36043 Phone: 334-281-3006 Nature's Own P.O. Box 814 Manteno, IL 60950 1-800-480-7661 END