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7 Steps to Take When Your Food Plot Fails

Posted by 
June 5, 2014
2399   Comment

If you've done everything you can to save your food plot from failing after spring planting, here are the seven steps you'll need to take to get back on track.

Step #1 — Diagnose cause of failure. Food plots fail for a variety of reasons, but most of them are weather related. Food plots can't live in a puddle of water and they can't live in a dust bowl either. Keep your eye on the weather and hope. That's about all you can do. Plant disease and insects can also wipe out a plot, as can too much competition by weeds.

Heat and lack of rain can cause food plot failure.

Step #2 — Take remedial action. There is little you can do about the weather but you can take action if weeds are crowding out your deer forages. Applying an herbicide designed specifically for the weeds or grasses taking over your plot can do wonders. Bes sure to use herbicides that will not harm your clover, chicory or whatever deer forages you have planted. Same goes for attacking insects. Most insect pests can be handled with insecticides.

Step #3 — Know when to fold 'em. Sometimes it's better to start over than try to fix all the damage, but how do you know when you know? A plot completely taken over by weeds is generally a lost cause. Leave it as a weed plot (yes, deer like most weeds) or start over again. A plot that is little more than a mud puddle with 3-inch plants or dust and shriveled up plants is a start over. So is a plot that has been totally consumed by insects or deer or some other critter.

Step #4 — Start over. Generally speaking, the first thing you need to do with a start over is check the calendar. Do you have enough growing time left for plants to grow to usable size? If so, hit the seed section at Bass Pro Shops again and grab some fast growing seed.

Step #5 — Pick the right plants. Not all plants grow alike. Some like cool (late season) conditions, others prefer hot weather. Study expected growing conditions and plant accordingly. Check the growing cycle of your plants. Most food plot blends need at least 60 days of growing time. Check the first expected frost date and count backward. In most parts of deer country you will need to replant by Labor Day. Some grains are ready for deer use in just a few weeks. Corn and other crops need much more time and may not be a mid-season option.

Step #6 — Repeat planting procedure. Mow the plot (if all weedy and nasty) and put the plow or cultivator to it. Repeat the plot preparation and planting process and hope for ideal growing conditions. About all you can skip is the soil test (you already did that) and liming the plot if indicated (too late for that). You will still need to prepare a seed bed and probably do a little fertilizing for good measure.

Step #7 — Hope for the best. You can't fight Mother Nature but you can sure ask for her help. The right growing conditions can make all the difference in the world with a "do over". Watch the weather and wait for the right conditions for planting and growing. If you are re-doing a draught killed plot, wait till it starts raining to replant. Same goes for a "drown out". Eventually it will stop raining.

Plan "B"

Sometimes the best laid plans of men and mice just go to hell. It's about that simple. But the woods are full of food plots. Apple trees, acorn flats and agriculture plantings — all are food plots to a deer. So are a hundred other foods that deer use during hunting season. Pull the plug on your plots for the year and get busy locating other food sources. Hunt there and before long the rut will be on (hunt just about anywhere). Next year will always be better; just don't make the same mistakes twice.

Tagged under Read 2399 times Last modified on September 22, 2017
Craig Dougherty

Craig Dougherty has been active in the hunting industry for over 30 years. He currently is president of NorthCountry Whitetails, a wildlife consulting company which specializes in developing deer hunting properties. He and his son Neil currently manage over 300,000 acres of whitetail habitat and are continuously developing new and improved techniques for growing and hunting mature bucks. They have published two books on whitetails and their NorthCountry Rut Tracking Report is read by hundreds of thousands of deer enthusiasts each fall. They are frequent presenters at deer gatherings, appear on TV and in videos, and are regularly cited in articles. His most recent book, "Whitetails: From Ground to Gun", can be found at Bass Pro Shops and online at Craig has been a senior executive in the archery industry, served on many hunting industry boards, and is past Chairman and a current Director of QDMA.

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