Creating Food Plots

Last December I was bowhunting my property during a cold spell which I’d figured would have the deer on a feeding frenzy during daylight hours. I was hunting close to a cut-over cornfield that showed some fresh tracks in the snow but the sign was mostly old, probably because the cornfield was already pretty much picked clean by the deer. As I shivered in the 6 below zero conditions, without seeing any sign of life, I realized that I needed a better food source to attract and hold the deer on my property. I knew my neighbors had planted food plots and I figured that was were the feeding frenzy must be taking place.

I don’t have any farming experience, or a tractor, or any of the implements necessary to plant my own crops so this spring I contacted a food plot specialist to see if they could help me. Reed & Hoppe’s Wildlife Food Plots, located in the Wausau, Wisconsin area, were recommended to me so I called Brian Hoppe to find out if they would be able to travel the two hours to my farm to do my food plots. Brian said that they plant food plots all over the state and surrounding states, so we scheduled a meeting during the Wisconsin Deer and Turkey Expo in Madison where they had a booth displaying their food plotting business. I met both Brian and Jim Reed at their booth and we talked the perils of food plotting and how to avoid common mistakes so that you would have food plots that would attract deer 9 months out of the year. We planned to start the plots in late summer or early fall of this year and put in a variety of crops based on factors that would be determined once they visited my property. Since the areas where I wanted the food plots located hadn’t been planted in at least 14 years, these guys would have their work cut out for them to get a crop to grow.

Brian came to my property to gather soil samples, so that he could determine what type of fertilizers were needed and how much lime would be required to prepare the soil for planting. He suggested proper locations for planting based on creating a successful crop and being able to hunt it effectively. We also discussed which types of plants would attract and hold deer best year-round. He also took into consideration what the local farmers were planting and based on that we decided to offer something different than the usual corn, beans and alfalfa that were so prevalent in the neighboring farm fields. We agreed that a variety of something nutritious that was not now available to the local deer would work best to pull them in. Brian came up with oats, rape, winter wheat, and rye. He explained how these crops would mature at different times, offering something the deer would need nutritionally during the course of their year. Brian and Jim are avid deer hunters as well as encyclopedias on food plotting, and they know what crop is attractive and necessary to deer at the different stages of the season. Brian suggested we plant oats, rape, winter wheat and rye. He would plant them around Labor Day to enable the plots to produce the young sprouts of oats that deer prefer for the bow opener in mid-September.

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Reed & Hoppe’s Wildlife Food Plots, a food plotting service provider in Wisconsin, planted this gorgeous plot of oats late this summer. We’re already seeing great improvements with our hunting.

Then after the oats matured to the point where they weren’t such a magnet, by early October, the rape and winter wheat would have come up to the point where they would be a great fall and early winter food source that will provide a crop hardy enough to last well into December. The rye will sprout the following spring and act as a natural herbicide to help control weeds and also a fertilizer after being plowed under to plant the new crop later.

The 2006 bow season opened September 16th and the oats were coming in real well in my food plots. Deer tracks were everywhere in the food plots and I wonder if the oats will be able to grow faster than they are being eaten. It looks like I’ll have to stand guard over them to “protect” them from all those hungry deer. That’s a problem I hope will continue until the bow season closes in early January. Our hunting group saw more deer and bigger bucks this past opening weekend than we have in many years.

Erdody 2006 archery deer kill

Jarrod Erdody with slob buck taken as it worked towards a food plot of oats planted in late summer by Reed & Hoppe’s Wildife Food Plots.

These food plots may just pan out as well as I was hoping. I’ll be monitoring them closely and hopefully they will make this year a banner one for hunting, maybe even make it worthwhile to hunt in a December cold spell.

Anyone wishing to learn more about food plotting or to contact Reed & Hoppe’s Wildlife Food Plots, visit their website, www.foodplotting.com.

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