At Tecomate, we are all about utilizing nutrition via food plots to grow, attract, and harvest the biggest bucks possible. The first question is always, “What is your goal?”
We break it down into warm season (antler growing) and cool season (attractant) plots according to the purpose you’re trying to achieve.
For antler growth, warm season nutritional plots can be critical for providing adequate protein, and unlike with supplemental protein feed – you can feed your entire herd (and pull deer from neighboring properties as well), which eventually means more numbers of big bucks, instead of one or two trough hogs that keep all subdominant deer away.
While Tecomate made it’s name by pioneering warm season plots for growing antlers, we’re also all about being able to harvest those bucks during season and therefore, we are big believers in cool season attractant plots as well, but for a totally different purpose.
Attractant plots are all about having the best game in town on your property! You want to be able to keep the target buck your after on his feeding pattern, and it’s also a rewarding surprise when new trophy’s show up because you have the best food source available. It’s important to keep in mind that deer are browsers, and they will generally choose to browse high quality food plot nutrition over standing in one spot eating supplemental feed or even (king) corn. The key is to do it right — we are big believers that when it comes to planting food plots, either do the prep/planting properly or don’t do it at all!!
Start with making a plan! Find a reason of why you want to put the plot there, and then map out where it will be. Determine what trees need removal in order to get maximum sunlight and then clear the area. Pull all the junk trees and remove the brush so you have a nice open area with plenty of sunlight. After you get samples, kill the weeds and grasses and start prepping for planting.
Food plots are like many other things in life – you get out of them what you put into them. You can haphazardly scratch out a plot and attract a few deer, but for really good plots, you’ve got to do it right. To help with that, here’s “8 Keys To Great Food Plots.”
1) Do a soil test, and then fertilize and lime as needed. You won’t believe the difference fertilizing and liming will make in both the attraction and production of your food plot! This is a critical step that you don’t want to skip!! The results of your soil test will tell you what you need to do to get your soil to the right PH to maximize growth potential.
2) Control competing weeds and grass. Weeds reduce yield…and the life expectancy of perennial plots. Thorough disking before planting and/or the use of selected herbicides will do wonders. You’ll want to kill weeds and grasses BEFORE tilling and preparing seed bed. Using a herbicide, the goal is to kill any weed plants that inhabit your plot, and they should have seeded out and grown into a plant if they’re there, which means you’ll be able to kill them and they won’t seed again.
3) Prepare your seedbed well, making sure it is thoroughly disked and clean and level. Deep tillage of “new” ground and every 3-4 years on existing plots will great improve root penetration and plant vitality.
4) Choose the right seeds for your soils, climate and purpose. Your food plot will be no better than what you put in the ground. This is a HUGE ONE! You can’t expect to have great results if you plant a warm season blend (like Horn Maker Extreme) and intend for it to be a late season midwest food source. It will start to play out when the frost hits and will not be strong late season. It’s critical to do your research on what product or blend to plant during which time of year according to the purpose you’re trying to achieve. In this case a better choice would be Brassica Banquet or Ultra Forage.
5) Time your planting for optimum success. Plant at the right time of year and when the temperature and moisture are right for your crop. Wait for the ideal window and move quickly. Planting too early or late or in the wrong conditions will cost production…and maybe even the crop.
6) Plant at the right depth. Big seeds like cereal grains and peas can be planted an inch or more deep, but small seeds, like clovers, brassicas, chicory, etc., can’t push through much soil and must be planted a quarter-inch deep or less. So many people mess this up! Probably the most common mistake we see in food plot planting is planting small seeds too deep or disking them in!
7) Larger, “fatter” plots yield more than smaller, narrow ones. You’ll have less production on plots under an acre in size and/or on long, narrow plots with lots of edge because of shading and competition from adjoining trees and brush. The edges of plots will also inherently get the most browse pressure, and the 15-20 yards adjoining trees and brush will be competing anyway. At the end of the day, you have to plant your plots based on the ground you have to work with, and sometimes (especially when bowhunting) you have to set them up where you can get in and out of stands and have best chance of harvesting a deer. Try to utilize pinch points when possible. You can even create them with the trees and brush you clear out to create your plots if they aren’t already set up. Get creative!!
8) Plant sufficient acreage for the deer you’re feeding. Small, isolated plots get hammered. If your plots are getting eaten to the ground, you don’t have enough acreage in plots. That may be ok for attraction only, but it won’t help much nutritionally. This is especially the case for big seeded legumes (such as Lab Lab), which have a growth point above the ground and although they are probably the most incredible source of protein on the planet, they are vulnerable to early browse pressure. For warm season planting Tecomate now also have a blend called Horn Maker Extreme which is formulated specifically to solve this problem (Sunn Hemp shoots out of the ground and shields cow peas, which then vine around the Sunn Hemp and both are great protein sources). As a general rule for warm season or attractant plots, it’s critical to plant enough acreage to support your deer density!
No other management option has as much to offer as good food plots…more and bigger deer, better habitat for all species, more fun and greater hunting success! That’s a win-win deal anyway you look at it.
For more info check out www.tecomate.com and check us out on “The Bucks of Tecomate” TV show on Outdoor Channel!