Written by Mike Collins
Hunters are working on spring and summer food plots in preparation for deer season. Many are spending hours on a tractor moving acres of soil to make those perfect plots on the farm. Others might not have the acreage to have large food plots, or even a field to plant in. If the property you hunt on doesn’t have any fields, all is not lost, there are plenty of shade tolerant food plot options for you to create a secret spot in the woods.
Reading: Best food plot seed for shady areas
Locate the spot(s) on your property where you want to put a food plot and take note of what you might need to do to get it ready for planting. Most of these areas are remote where tractors and implements are not an option. Gardening and lawn care tools are all you’ll need to help construct your plot. Clovers, winter wheat, oats and various brassicas are great shade tolerant options for your food plot.
Where To Plant
If you have any open hardwoods on the farm you hunt, consider planting your food plots in those areas. Any place where natural sunlight makes it through the tree canopies, start your work around there. Take some survey flags with you to help mark the corners of the plot. This will help you shape the plot and give you an idea of what you are working with.
Depending on how much work you want to put into it, look around for trees that you can afford to clear out. Knock a few cedars down with a chainsaw or clear away any underbrush in the area. You don’t want to remove any oak trees for obvious reasons. Cut down ash trees, cedars, and small maple trees.
You can make the plot as big as you desire, but more than likely you are going to want to keep it condensed. You are designing a food plot to draw deer into bow range. Sure, you’ll be supplementing their diet, but this plot will never be big enough to handle constant browse from the deer herd.
After getting your plot marked off and desired trees cut, assess the weed situation. Spray any understory with glyphosate or Round-Up and give it time to kill the undergrowth. Return with a leaf blower or some rakes to remove the dead material and leaves to expose the dirt. Work the dirt with a rake to get it broken up a little bit. It’s always recommended to add some fertilizer to the soil. When you choose your seed, pay attention to the fertilizing instructions. Once you get some fertilizer down, you’re ready to start planting.
Logging roads are perfect for food plot strips. Logging roads require a little less maintenance than plots in the hardwoods. Logging roads are typically clear since they get used as four-wheeler paths. You may need to move a few logs or cut up some blowdowns with a chainsaw during the process, but these dirt roads are typically maintained for easy access.
Tools you might need are a chainsaw, weed-eater, rake, and Round-Up. If the road is easily accessible, you might even be able to get the tractor out to take care of business. ATVs and ATV implements work great for logging roads as well. It would help make quick work of things after a few swipes back and forth on the tractor.
Spray the weeds with Round-Up and give it time to work. Come back and clear the road of any dead material and leaves. Again, fertilize the soil with what is recommended for the seed you are planting.
Shade Tolerant Food Plots to Plant
Whitetail Institute’s Imperial No-Plow seed is a mix of clovers and brassicas, designed to grow in areas that lack sunlight. It is advised to use 400 pounds of 17-17-17 fertilizer per acre. The seed doesn’t require any tilling, a true throw-and-grow option which is perfect for the remote food plots in the middle of the hardwoods. Nine pounds will plant around a half of an acre. For best results, broadcast the seed and lightly rake the dirt to help cover the seed. The mixture of clover, brassicas and radishes will bring deer into bow range from early fall to late season. Clover is a perennial, if weeds are managed, it will return the following year. Right now, it would be best to plant between August 20 and Sept. 30.
Whitetail Institute’s Imperial Whitetail Clover is a high-protein food plot option that aids in antler growth and milk production in does. Clover is one of the best food plots you can plant for the deer on your property. You can plant clover in the hardwoods plot or on logging roads. Broadcast the seed and do not cover it. For even distribution, get a walk-behind seeder or hand-held seeder. You can take these instruments right to your remote food plot. Clover can be planted in the spring or the fall. Fertilizing the soil is recommended. Four pounds will plant about a half an acre.
Whitetail Institute’s Imperial Bow Stand is another shade tolerant seed mix for food plots. The seed is a mix of lettuces, radish and winter wheat. This type of mix is designed for putting deer in bow range during the early season through the late season. Plant Bow Stand any time between August 20 and Sept. 30. Like some of the options before, it is recommended that you lime and fertilize the soil in the area of your plot. One hundred pounds of lime and 40 pounds of 17-17-17 fertilizer is the suggestion for an acre. After you’ve cleared the area and fertilized, broadcast the seed as evenly as possible. It would be ideal if you could drag the ground. In those inaccessible spots, find a manageable log and tie an end of a rope to each end of the log. Pull the log behind you, if the soil is loose, the log will help roll dirt on top of the lime, fertilizer and seed. Sometimes you must get creative in the deer woods to get the job done. Eight pounds will cover about 9,000 square feet, according to Whitetail Institute.
Whitetail Institute’s Imperial Whitetail Oats Plus is a fantastic option for logging roads. It will grow well in the prepared plots in hardwoods too. Oats are high in sugar content and are highly attractive to deer after the first few frosts. Oats should be planted around the beginning of September. A 45-pound bag will cover around a half of an acre. Oat seed is larger, which might require more groundwork. The seed will need to be covered by at least an inch of dirt. If an implement isn’t available, hopefully some gardening tools can help you get the seed covered. It is recommended that you spread 200 pounds of 17-17-17 fertilizer for a half-acre area to get the best results. Deer absolutely hammer oats mid to late season, the extra work will be worth it.
Think About The Possibilities
Get creative! You know and understand going in that these food plots will never be the main food source for deer on your property. You are providing supplemental food sources. Your main purpose is to draw deer to your stand. You increase your chances at seeing deer and hopefully harvesting one too.
Plant a trifecta. Plant clover, oats, and turnips together in one plot. A food plot that will attract the entire season. Clover from start to finish, oats and turnips get hot during the mid to late part of the season. Deer will eat the brassica leaves on the turnips during the early season, but when it begins to frost, those sugars will leave the greens and drop into the turnip. That’s going to be a desirable food plot for deer to frequent. Hopefully, you’ll be in a tree nearby to take in all the action.
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