Planning the Food Plot

Cuz you have to have a plan!

“I’m wanting to put in a food plot for this fall in the immediate area where I’ve been seeing a really nice buck.  Should it be a big one, or a little one?” read the email that reached me through my website.

I responded with “Tell me a bit about the area you’re hunting.  What State do you hunt and what part of it? Is it basically woods and if so, what kind of trees in the area?  Is there top soil? And what sort of planting equipment do you have or access to?”  I asked these basic questions because if the area has a lot of oaks, which are acorn bearing, deer tend to go to those rather than visit food plots until the acorns are somewhat depleted.  Also, I have hunted in parts of Kentucky with a lot of persimmon and when the persimmon fruit is ripe, that’s where the deer and pretty much all the rest of the wildlife will be!  Then too, if the area is basically farmland, it may be hard for a food plot to compete with the standing crops, which the deer have been regularly going to.  And if there is very little top soil, as in some of the areas I have hunted in the Texas Hill Country and a few other places, there is not much soil for a food plot.

A couple of days later I got the inquirer’s response.  “My property is in central Oklahoma.  It’s basically woods, some oaks and other hardwoods in the creek bottoms and juniper and some oaks on the higher country.  About half of the property is improved grasses which we use for cattle.  We rotate them out of the pastures with woods starting early September and keep them out of the woods through the fall hunting season until about late January.  So, whatever I plant I do not have to fence to keep cattle out.  No one close to the property plants row crops. Much of the property is a sandy-loam style of soil “

He continued, “We have four places in the woods pastures where there is room to plant up to about an acre and a half. Stepped them off there is about 7,000 square paces in each of them.  There are also places where I can plan plots that area about a hundred to hundred and fifty square paces.  I’ve got access to a tractor, plow, disc and planter for the bigger fields, and if I can’t get into the smaller areas with the tractor, I can get there with our ATV.  The areas I’m asking about planting does not have too much grass cover, but I can plow the big areas and then run a disc over it.”

It sounded to me like the inquirer had things pretty well in hand.

I responded that essentially there were two basic food plots, larger plots to provide added nutrition for the deer herd and small secluded plots to entice wary, mature bucks into making an appearance during daylight hours.  I mentioned with food plots no larger than an acre to an acre and a half, it would likely not be too big and even a mature buck would feel safe and comfortable in venturing into during daylight hours.

“Were I you… I would plant one of the bigger openings, one close to the area where you have seen or heard reports of the buck you’re after.  During late summer I would plow it, then disc it to reduce grass and weed growth.  Then just before planting, I’d fertilize it, either based on a soil sample, or simply with Triple Thirteen, which you should be able to get at the local feed store.  Fertilize and disc it into the soil about a week before you want to plant, and I would not plant until the last week of September.  I would also plant one of the smaller remote spots as well, but I would plant it a month after you plant the bigger food plot.  I’ve done this in the past on several different places, particularly in those areas where we’re trying to target one or two older mature and truly wary bucks.   If the buck you’re after does not come to the bigger food plot, he very well may likely come to the small remote one.  I’d hunt the big plot for starters and if he does not show up there, then as the season progresses hunt the remote one.”

I also suggested since he hunted in Oklahoma where blaze orange is required he start hanging an orange vest and every few days smelly socks in the immediate area he would alter hunt from, changing out just worn socks or underwear, every few days, hereby getting the deer in the area used to human odors.  Too, even though deer obviously perceive blaze orange differently than we humans they do notice it. Again, by the time hunting season arrives the deer are used to seeing orange where you’ll be hunting 

I finished my return email to the Oklahoma hunter with, “As to what to plant, the answer is pretty simple!  Go to and see what they suggest for your immediate area.  There you can also learn the seeding rate.  Hopefully that’s answered your question.  And please send me a photo of the buck when you take him this fall!”


“I’m headed to my rifle range to make certain two of my Ruger rifles are properly sighted in, my Model 77 Hawkeye, FTW/SAAM hunter in .300 Win Mag shooting Hornady’s 200-grain ELD-X Precisions Hunter and my Ruger Number 1 in .275 Rigby shooting 140-grain Hornady Soft Points which I’m taking to Namibia for my hunt with Dzombo Safaris for a leopard….”

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