The Procrastinators Plot A Plan for Last-Minute Food Plots

By Tracy Breen

Let’s face it — most of us are very busy. Between working, taking care of the kids, mowing the lawn and keeping a household in order, there is often very little time left to do the things we want to do like planting a food plot. In most cases, growing a successful food plot requires lots of time and energy. Time and energy are two things many of us are lacking. Before we know it, fall is almost here and our plans to plant a food plot have gotten away from us. There are two things you can do. Bury your head in the sand and put off putting in a good plot until next year or roll up your sleeves and knock one out quickly before opening day arrives.


Steve Scott from the Whitetail Institute knows a few things about growing successful food plots. He’s been helping hunters plant great food plots for more than 20 years. When there are only a few months between the time you plant and the rut, he believes you better do things right the first time. “I strongly suggest anyone who is planting a food plot do a soil test first,” Scott said. “It is extremely important to know ahead of time how much lime and what type of fertilizer to use so you can create an environment where the seeds can flourish. If you wait until late summer to plant a plot and something goes wrong, you won’t have time to plant again before hunting season is in full swing.”

Scott believes regardless of the type of food plot someone is planting, a soil test is necessary for best results. However, a large percentage of people who plant food plots don’t take the time to have their soil tested even though a soil test can mean the difference between the best food plot imaginable and total failure. If you’ve waited to the last minute to plant, you can follow the general recommendations on the product bags; but you would likely be better off delaying planting for a week and using the Whitetail Institute soil testing service. The Whitetail Institute soil test lab will get the results and recommendations back out to you within 24-48 hours of when the kits are received. Put your email address on the soil test submission form and you’ll get the results back extremely quick.


If you find yourself in crunch time, you can’t plant just anything and have it be lush and green by hunting season. You need something that establishes itself quickly. “When time is at a premium, hunters need to plant a fall annual,” Scott said. “Two of the products Whitetail Institute offers that fall into this category include Winter-Greens and Tall Tine Tubers. These two options produce a lot of food quickly for deer as long as you have 60 days before your first frost when you plant them.” Winter-Greens and Tall Tine Tubers are very drought resistant, so if you live in an area that doesn’t receive much moisture, these two options are great choices.


Scott also recommends planting Whitetail Oats Plus for a great early-season food plot. “We are getting rave reviews for this product. Many deer hunters like this product because it grows quickly, and since it’s a high-sugar oat, the deer really love it,” Scott explained. Along with being a great early-season option, Whitetail Oats Plus is very winter hardy so it can provide a great food plot for hunting in the rut and even into the late season.


Many hunters don’t have fancy food plot equipment or can’t get an ATV or tractor to their favorite hunting spot. If you fall into that category, realize you still have a few options. “We have certain food plot seeds that are designed for the hunter who has an out-of-the-way place where they would like to plant a food plot but don’t have a way to get bigger equipment in to till the soil” Scott said. “The annuals we have for this type of situation are great because they can tolerate a wide range of pH levels and soil types.”


For hunters planting a half-acre or more in remote areas, Whitetail Institute offers No Plow. “No Plow consists of cereal grains, clovers and brassicas and was designed for areas where you can’t prepare a quality seed bed,” Scott noted. “The cereal grains and clovers will work well during the early season and the brassicas will work well during the late season. The nice thing with this product is there are several seed varieties in it so something is always attracting deer.”


A couple of great options for smaller food plots off the beaten path are Secret Spot and BowStand. “Both of these products have anywhere from 10 to 15 different types of seed in them,” Scott said. “If a perfect soil bed is created and the right amount of lime and fertilizer are added, all the seeds can take off. If the soil is less than perfect, there are still various seeds in the mix that will take off and provide a good food plot to hunt over. Having a wide variety of seeds in one bag makes it easier to be successful in a variety of soil conditions because certain seeds will pick up the slack where others fail. These blends are made for virtually every situation, from a sandy soil to heavy moisture holding soils and to places that receive lots of sunlight or less sunlight. There is something for everybody in Secret Spot and BowStand, which is why they are perfect for the procrastinator who is short on time but wants a quality food plot to hunt over.”


No food plot seed is bullet proof. If planting an out-of-the-way food plot at the last minute appeals to you, realize the one thing you must have is good seed-to-soil contact. “For these food plots to flourish just like any plot, there must be good seed-to-soil contact which means grass, leaves, sticks and debris will need to be removed so the seed can get to the soil, otherwise the plot will likely not perform as well,” Scott said. “The best way to make sure this happens is by raking the soil with an old-fashioned hand rake if an ATV or tractor isn’t available. If you have enough time, using Roundup will make the plot turn out even better. Using Roundup really works well because it can kill weeds and anything else that might compete with the food plot and choke it out.” A small sprayer is extremely portable and well worth the investment for this type of food plot.


If you are a procrastinator and don’t have much equipment, a small last minute plot may be your best choice. “There is no question that if someone is in a hurry and planting a small plot off the beaten path, a small BowStand plot or Secret Spot is probably best,” said Scott. “We have people who plant these seed blends on large acreage because they grow well and grow quickly, so it really depends on each individual’s needs. A large plot will provide more food, but a small plot is obviously less expensive and doesn’t take as much time to put in.” So there you have it. Being a procrastinator isn’t such a bad thing after all. The Whitetail Institute has plenty of options for those of us who wait until the last minute to put in our food plots. As the saying goes, it is better late than never. In the food plot world, ‘never’ means you didn’t put your food plot in and you won’t kill a big buck over it.


If feeding or baiting is legal in your neck of the woods, you may want to try to use a nutritional product like Whitetail Institute Cutting Edge Sustain or an attractant like Acorn Obsession by themselves or in conjunction with your food plot. Deer can’t resist the odor and taste of these products and they are good for deer.