Written by John Ingalls MD – AFS Food Plot Customer
The greatest questions most of us ask regarding food plots are the obvious. I am surrounded by hundreds or thousands of acres of corn, alfalfa, and soybeans, why would I ever need to plant a food plot? My neighbors plant many acres of soybeans and I simply can’t compete with them. The deer are in those soybeans constantly all summer. Why should I waste my time and money trying to plant a small plot on my own property? Perhaps your question is more basic; What is a food plot?
The definition of the food plot is rather basic. It is simply a plot of land of any size which is planted for the purpose of feeding wildlife. It is generally not planted to be harvested, or to feed livestock or even as a cover crop. Any of those things might happen but that wasn’t our original purpose. Rather, A food plot can be any size, shape, or location to be called a food plot but as you will find, each of those parameters can and will make a difference in their effectiveness.
Before you plant, the best thing to define is the specific purpose of the food plot, because that will drive your planning. Food plots are synonymous with deer and deer hunting but many are also planting food plots for turkeys, doves, pheasants, migratory birds or simply for benefit of all wildlife. If you have a specific purpose, that will help in your planning process. The old carpenter adage “Measure twice, cut once” applies equally well here. Don’t rush out and start breaking ground or planting seed if you haven’t defined what you want to accomplish.
Additionally, planting food plots is not commercial farming. You can use traditional and modern agricultural practices in the process but you must train yourself to think and see differently. It you simply intend to leave five or ten acres of high yield standing corn that is fine but it is an expensive food plot. Consider the lost revenue, the input costs, the location, and the ultimate benefit. You probably could establish a small food plot without giving up valuable production ground, with far less cost and greater effectiveness. A picture perfect, weed free soybean plot might look good and be a nice background for your hunting photos but something less pristine may be better. Consider a plot of diverse, multi-species plant sources with varying germination and maturity rates and hardiness to rain, drought or cold, with a few weeds thrown in. It won’t make the cover photo for a Farm Journal magazine but it may be much more effective for your purposes. Learn to see things differently.
Finally, planting food plots isn’t something you must do to have greater hunting success but it becomes something you want to do. In my experience, I started planting food plots with the purpose of attracting deer but it became much more than that. I found I enjoyed the process of feeding and observing wildlife almost as much as I enjoyed hunting season. It’s almost as if hunting season lasts all year. I am planning new food plot ideas, prepping, planting, observing throughout the year and then observing and documenting my results. It becomes addictive. Planting food plots may not be necessary but it can and will dramatically improve your outdoor experience.
So where do you start? If you’re already planting cash crops or crops for feeding livestock, learn to think differently. Food plots are different than production in many ways and much easier. If you aren’t a farmer but want to enhance your own hunting experience, consider food plots. Even small plots in the right locations and with the right mix of forage can significantly improve your hunting or wildlife viewing activities. If you don’t have the right equipment, don’t rush out and get the latest food plot implement. Most of these aren’t necessary. If you don’t have a clue where to start or just need more advice consider talking to an agronomist at Asmus Farm Supply. They can advise you on 1000 acres of soybeans or 1 acre of turnips and radishes for deer hunting or a mixed plot of sunflowers, sorghum and oats for pheasant hunting.
I hope to bring you more information about food plots here at AFS over the coming year. Sometimes your greatest success in life is learning how to see the same things in a different way. Follow along as we explore food plot options for the coming year.
John Ingalls is a Family Practice Doctor in Northern Wisconsin and enjoys spending his time in the great outdoors. He grew up hunting, fishing, trapping and keeps a hobby farm on the side with chickens, soybeans and a number of other various produce. John’s family was raised in Bricelyn, Minnesota, where they later moved to Northern Wisconsin when he was a child and has resided there since. Aside from being an avid outdoorsman, John has taught himself many skills from building his own canoe and log cabin, to learning wild medicinal plants and survival tactics. We look forward to having him write more for us in the area of food plots and hunting game in the Midwest.