Small food plots are probably more common than any plots that are planted today. Everyone wants to plant but many have very little room to do so or don’t have equipment available to accomplish anything bigger than 1/2 acre or so. Not to worry because when done right small plots are as effective as any big plot and a helluva lot of fun to plant and hunt. Smaller plots need some different considerations when planting so let’s cover a few that I promise will help you out.
When referring to small plots I’m talking about areas that are usually measured in feet as opposed to acres. A 1/2 acre plot is still a decent size food source although most consider it small. It’s common for small plots to be something like 20′ x 45′ for example and these plots can still produce a lot of action. Let’s keep in mind when we talk about areas this small we aren’t “feeding the herd” here , we’re talking about a place where we can attract deer during hunting season. When planting small plots I’m approaching it as though I’m giving the deer a “stop by” place to grab a quick bite on their way to wherever they’re feeding for the evening or a place to hit in the morning on their way back from the evening feed grounds. My experience is the deer will hit the place for a few minutes at a time and move on. This being the case let’s make it as attractive as possible and give ourselves the best opportunity for some action. Here’s a few things I’ve learned that may help you accomplish your goals.
1) DON’T PLANT BRASSICAS ! : We all see those awesome pictures / videos of brassica plots that are always filled with deer. Brassicas are great but have no place in a small plot and here’s why. Many brassicas are hardly touched by the deer until your woods experience at least one really hard frost. Once that frost hits the brassicas are THE plant the deer want and they can wipe out a small plot overnight, literally. I’ve seen it happen and let me tell you there isn’t any enjoyment in watching your work evaporate while you slept last night. In my area the 1st frost will hit in September sometime which means a small plot is probably gone before the season opens. Don’t put yourself through this , stay away from brassicas in your small plots and you’ll sleep better I promise.
2) PLANT A CLOVER MIX OR OATS: There are serious benefits to both so let’s cover it. A clover mix with alfalfa and maybe chicory in it will attract deer through most if not all of your season so put this at the top of your list. If you take care of the clover mix plot it will last a good 5 years probably. Some fertilizer when needed and some lime here and there and your work will be minimal for a few years. A clover type plot can take some traffic and bounce back pretty quickly. THIS is what you’re looking for in small plot. If you’re going to go this route make sure you get it in the ground as early in the year as possible. Clover , alfalfa etc. is deep rooted and takes some time to get going so give your plot as much of the warm weather as possible. If you want to plant clover but can’t get to it until late summer that’s where the oats are pretty handy. By themselves oats are a very good plot , mixed with clover late in the summer and they’re even better. Over the years I’ve found nothing easier to grow than oats. The most important consideration with oats is don’t plant them too early. Up here I don’t plant them before Labor Day because they grow so fast they will be too big by hunting season and the deer won’t touch them. Remember this, if all else fails plant oats , they will not let you down. The seed is cheap and this stuff will grow on a sidewalk.
3) SPRAY IT ! : When you locate the spot you’re going to plant, spray it and kill it ! Let’s assume your plot is in the middle of the woods and there’s all kinds of stuff growing there. It has to go asap so get at it. If possible take the Weed Whacker with you and mow down as much as you can. In the next few days you should be back there spraying the whole place. Go to Tractor Supply and get some of that “weed & brush killer” stuff and hit everything that’s in your planting area. Trust me it’s worth the effort and will make your plot MUCH more productive. A backpack type sprayer works great for this but the kind you carry and has the pump on top of the container will work just as well. Within a couple weeks of spraying the place will look completely different and you’ll be convinced this will work. Do it !
4) OVERSEED : We know going in to this that planting in the woods is not the best growing conditions. Therefore I throw more seed on the ground than I would if I were out in one of my fields. I’m not a fan of all these “no plow” , “throw and grow ” gimmicks because I haven’t seen them produce much. To me this is more about marketing than results so I would stay away from these seeds. Plant the good stuff, use a little more than what’s called for and let the plants fight it out for survival. I don’t know about you but I’d much rather have a plot crowded with plants than a plot thin in plants. If your plants come up on the thin side you will have a weed problem in a matter of days. Throw a few more seeds, you won’t regret it.
5) HIDE YOUR PLOT ! : This sounds obvious but it has to be mentioned. Do whatever’s necessary to keep this plot out of sight from neighbors or anyone driving down the road. Not only do you want to keep others from seeing your plot but you want to make it as comfortable for the deer as possible. When you have a plot well hidden the deer become used to going there during the day light hours and not being bothered. The fact it’s small makes the deer more comfortable anyway , so hide the plot and give them every reason to come during hunting hours and you will have a riot , I promise !
Not sure if there’s anything of use here but I’ll hope there is. Whatever you decide to do make it fun and enjoy the whole process. It’s a lot of work for sure but it’s also a lot of fun. Many people have proven small plots are worth the effort so don’t get discouraged. you can do this and do it well. If you’re looking for a place you can plant your food plots please let me know. I have plenty of land for sale in NY and would be happy to give you some details. Thank you for stopping by and please feel free to pass this along to your friends. Have fun and best of luck. mj