Hunting season is right around the corner. When you’re deciding which Whitetail Institute forage to plant in each of your sites, don’t overlook No-Plow and Secret Spot.These two extremely versatile food plot products can perform a wide variety of roles in your fall/winter food plot system. Most Whitetail Institute customers already know that No-Plow and Secret Spot can be planted with minimal ground tillage. That’s one reason they’re so versatile. But don’t forget that’s only a small part of the picture. Keep in mind that they are products of the same exhaustive research, development and testing process that all Whitetail Institute forages go through. That means that they’re not only versatile, they’re also top performers.
First, we’ll look more closely at each product. Then, stay tuned because we’ll discuss some ways you may have never thought of to use them this fall.
No-Plow and Secret Spot are “annual” forage products, meaning that they’re designed to last up to one year after planting, and both can be planted either in a fully prepared seedbed or with minimal ground tillage. They’re also designed to establish and grow extremely quickly—it’s not unusual to see them growing above ground even just a few days after planting, and they also begin attracting deer right away.
No-Plow is ideal for planting in the late summer or fall. Packaged for areas one-half acre and larger, No-Plow consists of specially selected forage grains and grasses, annual clovers and brassica. Secret Spot, which is specifically designed for fall planting in smaller, remote hunting plots, contains very similar components plus small amounts of other cool-season grains and WINA chicory. Secret Spot is packaged in two sizes: Secret Spot (4-lbs. covers up to 4,500 square feet), and Secret Spot XL (10-lbs. covers up to 1/4-acre).
Like most other Whitetail Institute forage products, No-Plow and Secret Spot are blends of multiple plant varieties. One reason most Whitetail Institute forage products are blends is that professional blends of different plant varieties in the right ratios can almost always outperform single plant varieties in food plots.
No-Plow and Secret Spot are designed to attract deer throughout the fall and winter but they also keep performing even after winter. When designing No-Plow and Secret Spot, the Whitetail Institute also kept in mind how important it can be to provide deer with highly nutritious food sources during the period from late winter into early spring. This is a time when nutrient requirements in deer are very high as they try to recover their winter health losses. However, it’s also a time when natural food sources can be extremely scarce or exhausted, and when what little food may remain is usually low in nutrients and unpalatable. It’s at this critical time that the annual clovers in No-Plow and Secret Spot can continue to shine, providing deer with a highly nutritious food source.
IDEAS FOR USING NO-PLOW & SECRET SPOT
As we’ve already mentioned, No-Plow and Secret Spot are perfect for areas where you can’t fully work up the seedbed before planting. Below, I’ll give you some ways that this can be a huge benefit in the fall, as well as some additional ideas for taking advantage of the performance potential of No-Plow and Secret Spot. The following certainly isn’t an exclusive list. When it comes to finding new ways to use No- Plow and Secret Spot in your fall food plot program, you’re limited only by your imagination.
HIGHLY ATTRACTIVE FOOD PLOT
When it comes to fall/winter attraction, No- Plow and Secret Spot don’t take a back seat to anything. Like all Whitetail Institute forages, No-Plow and Secret Spot are extremely attractive to deer, so remember that they can be good options virtually anywhere you want to establish a highly attractive food plot, even in places where you can work up the seedbed.
LOW SOIL PH
Most high-quality forage products for deer grow best in soils with a soil pH of 6.5 or higher. Most fallow soils, though, have a lower (“acidic”) soil pH, which should be corrected by incorporating lime into the soil prior to planting. When soil pH is low, the lime needed to raise it should be incorporated well in advance of planting if possible to give the lime additional time to work. In some situations, you can have an extensive amount of time to wait for soil pH to come up. One example is if soil pH is extremely low, meaning that the lime must raise soil pH a long way. Another is if the forage you plan to plant is highly dependent on soil pH being 6.5 or higher at planting, for instance Alfa-Rack Plus and forage products that contain alfalfa. In such cases, it can be a good idea to go ahead and lime the soil, and then skip a planting season before planting the perennial. While you wait, though, the plot can still be fully productive. No-Plow and Secret Spot can tolerate lower pH soils better than many other forages, making them great options for keeping a site attractive and nutritious during the fall and winter while you’re waiting for soil pH to rise.
OLDER PERENNIAL STANDS
Let’s say that fall is approaching, an Imperial perennial you’ve had growing in a site for years is reaching the end of its useful life, and you plan to work the seedbed up next year for a new perennial planting. Overseeding the existing forage with No-Plow or Secret Spot this fall can be a great way to add new, attractive growth to the plot and keep it performing at a high level through the coming fall and winter.
SOIL STRUCTURE ISSUES
While most soils are suitable for tillage, that’s not always the case. Although it’s uncommon, some soils should not be tilled under any circumstances. An example is a soil structure we’ve seen in Central Florida — one inch of top soil above several feet of nothing but sand. In that situation, that one inch of top soil was all that would sustain a forage planting, and tilling it would have mixed the thin topsoil with the sand beneath it, virtually destroying the soil. Planting No-Plow or Secret Spot without ground tillage is ideal for such a situation. The same holds true for soils that wouldn’t be harmed by tillage, but that you don’t want to till for other reasons. Examples are skidder roads and ATV trails in soils that are difficult to stabilize. Skidder roads, ATV paths and the like often make excellent food plot areas, but disking an established roadbed in such soil would render it virtually impassible as soon as it rains. With No- Plow and Secret Spot, you can establish highly productive fall/winter food plots without compromising the road beds.
LEASING HAY FIELDS
If you’ve ever leased property from a farmer who makes his living producing hay in the spring and summer, you already know the first demand they often make on their leaseholders. It usually goes something like, “I don’t care what you plant for hunting season, as long as my hay comes back full strength next spring!” Here again, No-Plow and Secret Spot are excellent choices. Once the farmer has taken his final hay cutting for the year, wait until the grass starts to go dormant. Then, mow the grass stubble as low as possible, and Plant No-Plow or Secret Spot according to the no-till instructions. Remember that the seeds must make contact with the soil, so drag something over the field after you spread the seeds to help achieve better seed-to-soil contact.
A SNEAKY (AND DEADLY!) USE FOR NO-PLOW AND SECRET SPOT IN POWERPLANT SITES
By now, most folks know that PowerPlant, a spring/summer annual, is a prolific producer. Stands often reach 5-6 feet in height, and it’s so thick that deer readily use the mass of vegetation PowerPlant produces for bedding cover as well as a forage source. PowerPlant spends its life during the spring and summer producing maximum tonnage of high-protein forage, and once frost arrives it starts to die. There’s a great way, though, that you can maximize PowerPlant as a hunting plot in the early season and even keep the site attracting deer throughout the hunting season.
Step 1. Check your fall planting dates for No- Plow and Secret Spot.
Step 2. Most areas of the country have a most commonly prevailing wind direction during hunting season. About a month before your fall No-Plow and Secret Spot planting dates, locate a stand site on a corner or edge of your PowerPlant site that’s most commonly downwind during hunting season.
Step 3. A few weeks before your fall planting dates for No-Plow and Secret Spot, mow narrow lanes (ballpark 6-10 feet wide) through the standing PowerPlant so that you can look down the lanes from the stand site.
Step 4. During your fall planting dates, plant the lanes in No-Plow or Secret Spot. This can be a great way to hunt all day long, as deer bedded in the PowerPlant often step in and out of the narrow No-Plow or Secret Spot lanes all throughout the day.
I hope this article has helped you see just how versatile No-Plow and Secret Spot can be in your food plot arsenal. Just like all other Whitetail Institute forage products, No-Plow and Secret Spot are top performers—and the fact that they can perform well with minimum seedbed preparation is just icing on the cake. Whether you use them in all your plots or to fill specific roles in a few, you can’t go wrong with fall plantings of No-Plow and Secret Spot. For more information about No-Plow or Secret Spot or to order, call the Whitetail Institute’s in-house consultants at (800) 688- 3030.