5 Tips for Establishing a Successful Wildlife Food Plot
Manage your land and provide food, shelter, water, and a welcoming habitat for wildlife while you're at it.
When it comes to land management, you can get a lot of enjoyment and output from as little as a garden-size food plot. Increase that size to an acre or up to five, and you’re well on your way to establishing a hotspot for birds, game, and other wildlife to seek refuge, a bite to eat, and a place to raise young.
Why You Should Consider Adding a Wildlife Food Plot to Your Property
Whether you’re an avid birdwatcher or practiced hunter, you can establish and manage a food plot to create a show-stopping area for the local wildlife and your own enjoyment.
By setting aside land to grow both native and cultivated grasses, plants, and seeds, you’re setting up your soil to be more productive while you support animals and birds throughout periods of scarcity. (Usually, late summer and late winter show the harshest conditions and lead to depleted forage.)
When planting a food plot, you can choose a mix of annuals and perennials to provide nutritious food and helpful cover. Depending on your goals, you may be able to fill a nutritional gap and harvest the benefits. For example, a steady food source may improve deer antler growth, or provide safe nesting cover for wild turkeys.
Five Steps to Cultivate a Successful Food Plot
Set yourself up for success by first outlining the goals of your food plot. Do you want to develop a wildlife viewing area? Harvest game? Increase carrying capacity? Or maybe you want to support all of these?
Once you’ve determined your needs, it’s much easier to determine the food plot size, location, and seed mix.
1. Find the location of your new food plot. Keep your eyes and ears in tune with clues like deer bedding areas, roosting spots, water access, and other wildlife trails. Choosing a place that’s already active with wildlife makes it that much easier to attract into your plot.
2. Determine forage seed mix to plant. Acknowledge if tillage or other equipment can access the plot. If not, choose no-till blends. Other mainstays in food plots include legumes like clover and cowpeas, which provide a good source of protein and help to fix atmospheric nitrogen in the soil. Cool-season annual grasses like oats, wheat, and ryegrass keep animals (especially deer) fed from late fall through to winter. Opting for a commercial seed mixture can increase the diversity and availability of forage throughout the year.
3. Get the soil & seedbed ready. First, test the pH of your soil. You’ll know before you plant if you need to add inputs like lime to correct low pH. Then it’s time to prep the seedbed. If you have weeds, you need to remove them (new seedlings don’t really stand a chance against established weeds.) Then consider discing to create a level seedbed before using a cultipacker to firm up the ground
4. Plant the seeds & maintain your plot. Get solid seed-to-soil contact with a food plot seeder. Once growing, keep soil fertility and weed eradication top of mind. Even though a food plot is a supplemental planting, it still needs to be properly managed to increase the yield and overall enjoyment of your work.
5. Measure your success. How well is wildlife taking to your food plot? Set up a “exclusion cage” around a small patch of land and have a visual cue to what you’re providing. Usually made from woven mesh fence and about four feet square, this cage keeps critters out while letting the same amount of sunlight, rain, and other nutrients in. This way, you can see what the food plot offers to animals without the strain and stress of being picked over.
Key Yanmar Tractor Equipment for Managing Your Food Plot
Planning, prepping, planting, and managing a food plot can be done more efficiently with a few hardworking, helpful tractor attachments. Consider adding one or more to your arsenal and take your land management to the next level.
And if you have specific questions about starting your wildlife food plot, reach out to your county extension office or agronomist.
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