Feeling as though bow season is just around the corner and you are way behind? Don’t feel alone, most people are at this point. Procrastination can really be a bitch… I was terrible in school at it and still could use some serious guidance.
Procrastinators, fall food plots are for you. They provide green forage long into the fall and could provide a legit food source late into year. They generally need to be taken care of in July and August. So if you are like me and during spring turkey season you get completely sidetracked with chasing those pesky gobbler, this is for you.
Over the last five years I have planted fall food plots, mainly out of necessity. I have created an eight step system for fall plots.
If you’ve read the previous blogs, “Should I Plant A Food Plot” and “Annual Vs Perennial”. Please use definitions from previous blogs and cite them. If you have no idea what I am talking about hit over to the homepage and start from the beginning.
I’m going to cover my 8-step method on how to plant fall Food Plots.
Step #1 – Audit Surrounding Food On Your’s And Your Neighbors Property
Take a quick drive and take a look at what you and your neighbors have to offer the deer herd in your area. Think back to previous years and think about when those crops are usually harvested.
I have a neighbor right now that will leave his corn until the spring and even left his beans last year until late spring. In that sense, I’m not worried about fall food for my herd. I don’t worry about planting big food plots that need to last until the winter as he supplies that food for us.
I also can hunt his property and and can keep track of deer on his property. In a situation where I could not touch my neighbor’s property, and he was pulling the majority of winter traffic. I would change my techniques.
Below are some examples of base crops deer use to survive.
Alfalfa is great in the month of August and September, sometimes even the first two weeks of October. It will brown out after that and it becomes kind of just a pass through crop.
Corn is highly dependent on when and how it is cut. Corn is exceptional the first few weeks after it is cut. If the farmer “chops” the corn there’s very little leftover, the deer will pound it for a couple days and move on. Chopping occurs earlier in the year and the farmer takes the whole plant leaving little for deer.
What I refer to as “cutting” will happen a little later in the fall and the farmer will only take the ear, leaving tons of leftover food. I have seen these fields produce good movement late into winter.
If your corn is getting chopped with little leftover food try to plan for an additional food source.
Beans much like Alfalfa are excellent end of August, September, they brown earlier than Alfalfa. My observations show, the deer will start moving off of soy beans the second week of September (Sometimes Later).
Don’t worry though, they will become absolutely dynamite late season when all the other food sources are gone. If there are standing beans anywhere in December, January, get on them.
Step #2 – Audit Your Materials
Materials are personal preference, I will list mine below.
The tools and materials are endless and everyone has an opinion of what you need. The key is to kill the weeds and get the dirt exposed. Don’t get caught up on needing every tool and gadget.
Step #3 – Select A Location
Fall plots for me are smaller micro kill plots. I like to have them board thick cover and bedding areas. I love it when you can get it next to water as the later you get in November bucks really hammer water.
Think of any natural transition from a major food source, water source, to bedding area. If you can insert a nice funnel or strip of a food plot, it can be very beneficial.
People refer to these areas as staging areas a lot. A prototypical Stalin area is to plant right on the inside edge of fields. It is used as that last bit of a cover before a deer walks out into that major crop field.
Main thing is access, if you can’t get in and out, you are better off sitting out.
Step #4 – Select A Blend
You will need to research your area and your soil content. Personally in this area of Wisconsin, I like rapes, chicory, brassica and any type of bulb that grows in the ground (Radishes & Turnips). They will last well into December, January, February where they get literally torn up.
A very common blend is clover as well and it should come back next spring. (Remember Perennial Vs. Annual)
Leave it up to your research and test your theories. (Just like biology)
Step #5 – Spray area and clear out debris
Alright, time for work! Go spray your spot! Try to do it in the middle of July, but I have seen some people spray and plant in the same day. Right now weeds are about as tall as my head or taller and really love getting your allegories going. (Literally sneezed writing that)
We use a four wheeler to go through them and spray them, but a hand sprayer works fine. After you spray, I would advise to then….
Step #6 – Take A Soil Sample
Pull in three to four different locations in your plot, depending how big it is. Take those soil samples, put them in a sandwich baggy and then run the appropriate tests on them. Once you get the test results back, buy the appropriate amount of fertilizer and lime.
Step #7 – Prepare The Seed Bed
Try to give it 3-4 weeks. I generally go out the first or second week of August to work up the ground. If you do not have a disc, let that Roundup really kill the weeds. It might take a month or so but you will have the ground exposed. Use a rake or a metal drag, anything to rough up the dirt.
This is also a great time to lay that lime and fertilizer whatever was recommended from your soil test.
Step #8 – Broadcast The Seed
Look at your forecast!! Be certain of rain!!
Make sure you read the directions on your seed blend. A lot of the seed blends that have these radishes and turnips in it require pretty wide planting instruction. It’ll be the lowest function on your seed spreader, it may feel like nothing is coming out.
It is better to under seed turnips and radishes, rather than over seed.
I always use rain as the main factor in driving that seed into the ground. Some use rollers or their four wheelers to push that seed in a little bit.
Tips and Reminders
Keep impact low. A lot of these fall plots can be in desolate areas, so don’t be going back and forth a ton in July and August. Plan your days out and combine some of these steps into a single day.
Create structure in your plot. A lot of people put fake trees and I usually leave a tree or bush in the middle. Deer gravitate to edges, so throw a scrape tree in the middle and that big bow walk up to it.
Keep impact Low! Get your stand hung one of the days you are already in there and get out. Let your cameras keep surveillance!
Finally, consider the down wind travel routes of the food plot. Try to direct downwind movement within shooting distance of your stand. I have seen too many times a mature buck skirt the down wind side and be out of shooting range.
Food plots are a great way to get out in the field. Understand your goals, budget and time commitments. Don’t get sucked in on product marketing in the hunting industry, read the label and plant what you think is best. Use this as a trial and error, each year you will get better and better.
I planted my final fall plot on Monday. I will dive into plot architecture next… We are just getting started!
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