I’m hooked on my poor man’s food plots for several reasons. First, they’re cheap in terms of money and time invested. Second, I can plant them just about anywhere. Lastly, if designed properly, they are deer magnets.
When discussing food plots, I like to think of them in two different ways. Feeding plots are big and help supplement the local herd’s nutritional needs. Most of the deer feed in these near or after dark. I do not hunt feeding plots. Killing plots are small, and deer feel comfortable feeding in these during shooting hours. I do hunt killing plots.
When creating a food plot I always consider three things. First, am I going to hunt it? Second, how am I going to access it? Lastly, what wind do I need? This in itself is an entirely different topic, but always consider these questions before selecting a location for your food plot. There’s no sense making a sweet killing plot that I can’t hunt. Or making a feeding plot that I can’t walk by without bumping all of the deer out of it.
Here are three types of poor man’s food plots:
My first style of poor man’s plot is what I call the “mow-n-grow.” I basically find an area and clear it of any brush and trees. I then get in with an old push mower that is past its prime and knock down all of the growth to a more manageable height. I wait for about two weeks until the natural growth has regrown and greened up.
I then return with a highly concentrated mixture of weed killer in my pump sprayer. It’s important to check the weather forecast to make sure it won’t rain anytime soon. The weed killer needs a certain amount of time to soak up and be effective. After saturating all of the weeds and such, I leave to return again in two weeks.
When I return, usually in July or August, I typically bring enough seed to plant the area. I’m usually planting turnips, canola, forage radish and possibly oats. The food plot offerings will depend on the time of year. If the weeds are good and dead, I’ll simply hand spread the seed by throwing it or by using a small seed broadcaster. Ideally I seed the plot before a rain storm. The dried-up dead weeds act as a mulch and the rains not only help germinate the seed, but knock it down for the desired seed to soil contact.
If the weeds are not quite dead yet, I’ll re-spray and return in another two weeks to seed. Whitetail Institute has developed three products, Secret Spot, BowStand and No-Plow that are all designed specifically for these type plots.
The second poor man’s food plot idea involves either a late-summer standing corn or bean field. In this one, I only use turnips and radish. Four excellent products for this situation are Whitetail Institutes, Tall Tine Tubers, Winter-Greens and No-Plow. With farmer or landowner permission, I simply walk around in the rows where I want my plot to grow and spread the tiny seeds on the exposed soil.
The fields are generally weed-free and irrigated. As the corn and beans dry, the sunlight hits the soil and helps the tiny turnips and radish grow. Once the field is picked, I have a beautifully manicured food plot in place. After the first frosts of fall, the starches in their leaves turn to sugars. The deer hammer the greens all fall then dig for the rest of the plant in the winter. The turnips and radish have no effect on the combines at all and a few will get run over but it’s no big deal.
3. Just fertilizer
The last and simplest plot I use requires a bit of fertilizer and that’s it — just fertilizer. I will find potential treestand or feeding areas and fertilize them. Yep, I fertilize the native weeds. Deer know where their food is the healthiest and will easily find these areas. Their nutrient-rich weeds will become preferred food sources and the results are impressive. I like to use a bag of 12-12-12 fertilizer mix from my local Home Depot. I prefer to fertilize them in the spring and summer, but sometimes wait for the fertilizer to go on clearance in late spring.
Once my plots are growing well and it is nearing the fall, I start to monitor them. By going into complete scent-free mode, the deer have no reason for alarm as I maintain my summer trail camera routine. I’ll put out my cameras in easy-access places and begin to condition the local deer with DUI – Deer Under the Influence attractant spray. The DUI sprays are very habit forming and deer love them.
Spray a bit each time while checking a camera and, soon after, the deer will curiously arrive for a sniff — and a photo. Eventually the deer form the habit of checking the spot in front of the camera each day or night. If I set everything up properly, I have a huntable treestand nearby. If not, I quickly figure out where to hang one.
That’s it — short, sweet and simple. Get out this year and try a poor man’s plot. You don’t need to spend a lot of money creating an effective food plot. As always, be safe and have fun. And send us pictures of your plot — and your trophies.