Mini Plots

Few of us have unlimited acreage on which to plan, create, and hunt multiple lush, diverse food plots capable of carrying deer through the summer months and well into the cold, latter stages of the year.

But you can still enjoy the benefits of different forages used to attract deer at key times of the year, even if you have but a single, smaller plot to work with. This is a tactic I’ve personally employed over the past couple of years with great success. With one plot, we’ll create three distinct “harvests” and draw deer from late summer through December.

The concept is simple, take one patch of dirt and plant three crops, each with a specific purpose and time period of attraction.

SUMMER CROPS

It starts with soybeans and buckwheat. If you live in the farm belt, you’re probably scratching your head since soybeans are usually planted early in the spring. Here’s the thing: We aren’t planting soybeans to harvest. We’re planting them to feed deer. And for deer, the best part of the soybean plant is its big, green leaves. I’ll plant soybeans in June or July (as long as there is rain in the forecast) and mix them with buckwheat to provide the plot a little diversity, as well as a bit more tonnage to till back into the ground.

Summer Crops

With any luck (and some rain), the soybeans will be drawing plenty of deer by August, and the buckwheat will alleviate a little of the browsing pressure. In late August, I’ll attach a sprayer to the back of my ATV, fill it with glyphosate, and spray the plot. Then, a few days later, I’ll disc under the entire plot and allow that vegetation to decay and build the soil for next year’s planting.

FALL AND WINTER CROPS

With the plot disked, it’s time for planting number two: a combination of oats, winter wheat, and brassicas.

The oats are my go-to forage for October hunting. And while late August is a tad early to plant for that, it’s not so early as to be ineffective. Again, be sure to wait for rain. In fact, it’s perfectly acceptable to delay planting until mid-September if need be. But you must have soil moisture for the seeds to germinate. I’ll mix the seed with fertilizer in my spreader to save a step and ensure the fertilizer goes where it’s needed most—the plants’ roots.

Mini Plots

The oats and wheat will begin to pop up within a week or so, and will provide an outstanding October food source for the early stages of bow season. At the same time, the brassicas (I like a mix of purple top turnips and forage radishes) will begin filling in. After a hard frost or two, the deer will begin to browse their leaves, giving you a solid November food source.

Finally, with all the greenery devoured and cold weather setting in, the third crop comes into play: Those big, bulbous turnips and radishes.

In a single plot, with two plantings, we’ve created a system that can both draw and hold deer. Obviously, if the plot is small it’s not going to support a large number of deer. But the variety of forages, and their differing peaks of palatability, will prolong the plot’s effectiveness throughout the entire season. —Tony Hansen

 

About the Author: Tony Hansen manages for and hunts mature whitetails in his home state of Michigan, where sweating the details is the only way to succeed. When not hunting his own properties, he can be found pursuing deer on public land throughout the whitetail's range. Tony's writings have appeared in Outdoor Life, Traditional Bowhunter, North American Whitetail, and Bowhunter.