Last-Minute Hunting Plots

By Tracy Breen

During the past decade, food plots have become the rage among many hardcore hunters. Ten years ago, many hunters could not tell you the difference between a clover and a carrot. Hunters are now becoming land managers and farmers. They are creating tracts of land with one goal in mind: growing and harvesting trophy-class whitetails. The problem is for every hunter who has figured out how to grow food plots successfully, there are 10 who haven’t learned the ins and outs of putting in a food plot.

Many hunters go into the process not having a clue about what they are doing, resulting in a food plot that resembles more of a dirt mound than a food plot. Some hunters know how to properly plant a plot, but when July arrives, the plot they slaved over and cared for like an infant doesn’t see a drop of water; or worse, it has rained too much, and the plot looks like a small duck pond.

There is another category, which I fall into. This group has the best intentions of planting a plot, but somewhere between buying the seed and clearing the land, hunters drop the ball and look at the calendar and realize it’s too late to plant. When these situations occur, most hunters throw in the towel, figuring there isn’t enough time before the hunting season arrives to start over and get a plot planted and flourishing. However, in the past few years, seed blends have been developed for almost all situations. Whether you are a green thumb, a brown thumb or a horrible procrastinator, there are seed options for you. Before you plant a last-minute plot, however, you need to know how to grow a plot.

Maybe you’ve waited until the last minute to plant your plot, had a plot fail because of the weather, or don’t know how to plant a plot properly and suddenly it’s late summer, and you have no time to waste if you plan to hunt over your plot during the rut. Steve Scott of the Whitetail Institute of North America has some suggestions. It starts with plot placement.

 “Anyone planting a plot during late summer needs to make sure the plot is planted in an area that receives adequate sun, rainfall and has decent soil,” he says. “Most seed blends won’t grow in pure sand conditions. If that’s where you plan to plant a plot, maybe you should reconsider.”

Like any crop, food plots flourish when they are well cared for. More hunters are taking the time to put in food plots off the beaten path, where it’s difficult to utilize fertilizer and lime. Unfortunately, because bringing these vital items into the woods adds time and difficulty to putting in a food plot, many hunters don’t fertilize or lime these food plots.

“A food plot that is planted last minute off the beaten path needs to be cared for like any other crop,” Scott says. “Putting the proper amount of lime and fertilizer on the plot will help the plot reach its maximum potential faster than it would without these items. Adequate sunlight can also help a plot grow quickly, so hunters should consider cutting down a few trees or removing branches on trees that might block the sun from reaching the plot. Failing to do any of these things can cause the plot to not take off the way it could if it was properly cared for.”

If you plan on planting a last-minute food plot to hunt, you are probably not planning to plant a monstrous plot that will take up several acres — most likely it will take up a few acres or less. Maybe much less. The beauty of a small plot is that you can quickly break up the ground, spread lime and plant a plot in a day, which is very important when hunting season is just around the corner.

“I’ve had guys call me who have planted a plot late in the summer in a few hours or less,” Scott recalls. “Planting a small hunting plot doesn’t have to take several days like a large plot does.”

Whitetail Institute makes two seed blends that are perfect for hunters who are short on time and don’t have a lot of money to wrap up in farming equipment. The blends are Imperial No-Plow and Secret Spot.

“We put these two blends together for hunters who want a food plot but don’t have a lot of time or money to put into one,” Scott explains. “These two blends work great for hunters who want to plant a plot off the main drag, where bringing equipment in would be a big ordeal. These blends can handle dry conditions and should be able to thrive-even when it doesn’t rain all of the time.”

The name No-Plow says it all. No plowing is needed. Simply rake the area you plan on planting to expose the soil and then plant the seed. Within weeks, the annual blend will be growing, and when it’s planted in late summer or fall, it can last into hunting season and into the following spring. One nice thing about No-Plow is that for less than $35, you can cover a half-acre, which is the perfect-size hunting plot.

The Secret Spot blend is another great option for a plot that will be planted last minute or planted off the beaten path. One bag of Secret Spot can plant 4,500 square feet (Secret Spot XL covers 10,000 sq. ft.) and the seeds germinate quickly — only a week or so after the first rain. To prepare the area for planting, mow the area, or kill the weeds in the area with a weed-whacker or weed killer. Expose the soil and loosen it some with a rake. This will help insure seed and soil contact.

The great thing about these seed blends is that with a little effort and time and for as little as $40, you can have a lush, green plot to hunt. If you have an ATV, planting a last-minute plot can be even easier. Before you groan about the amount of money you need to spend on ATV attachments to put in a plot, consider that more companies are making ATV attachments that are reasonably priced. As a matter of fact, many companies are giving ATV owners several options. You no longer have to purchase an all-in-one plot unit that costs several thousand dollars. You can purchase a disc, sprayer, and hand seeder separately. You can also buy an attachment for your ATV that accepts a wide range of implements that can be purchased one at a time.

Kolpin, which specializes in ATV accessories, has attachments that turn an ATV into a plot-planting machine. Its Dirt Works Series lets you purchase a 3-point hitch system with numerous attachments for the system. This allows you to buy them one at a time. A seeder/cultipactor, a chisel plow and disc can be purchased individually from a Kolpin dealer.

Planting a last-minute food plot doesn’t have to be a lot of work or cost a lot of money. It requires a little last-minute planning to make sure you cross your T’s and dot your I’s. After all, if it’s already August, you don’t have much time to lose. The good news is if you have waited until the last minute to plant a food plot, the Whitetail Institute has everything you need to take a piece of ground full of weeds and turn it into a lush green plot just in time for the rut.