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Setting Goals for an Effective Food Plot Program

Posted by Blaine Burley on 23rd Mar 2014

If you want to attract more deer and grow bigger deer on your property you must develop an effective year-round food plot program. In other words, you will need to grow and maintain a significant amount of high-quality (year-round) food plots that will greatly enhance the nutritional plane on your property. In short, you must begin “farming for deer” not just planting a few small plots each fall to attract and harvest deer. 

In order to get the most out of your property and your investment you must be willing to commit the time, money, and effort necessary to develop and implement such a program. To do this, you will need to develop a comprehensive deer management plan. This management plan will address several key management components such as nutritional management, habitat management, herd management, and harvest management. This overall deer management plan should also include a thorough evaluation of your current resources, goals, and objectives. 

First of all, you must evaluate what you have to work with and what you’re trying to achieve. In other words, you must take a hard look at your current resources including: available land (native habitat, water sources, and your neighbor’s), wildlife resources (deer population, deer quality, other wildlife, etc), financial resources (money, time, equipment, personnel, etc.), and expertise. All of this information will help you determine the best food plot program for your particular property based on your goals and your available resources.

After you have evaluated your resources, we will need to develop some realistic goals for your food plot program. If you are going to have a successful program, you will need a target to shoot for. Just like archery and hunting, we must have a well-defined target. You will have a much better chance for hitting your target if it is clear and well defined. In other words, most successful bow hunters don’t aim at the entire deer whenever they are shooting. They aim at the vitals (or a particular spot or hair within this vital area in some cases) of the deer in order to increase their chances of getting a clean kill.

Depending on your resources (particularly landowners with limited time and budgets or landowners with smaller tracts of land), you may have a modest goal of just attracting more deer to your property for hunting purposes. If this is the case, your goal may be plant a few small highly attractive harvest plots to attract as many deer as you can during the hunting season. However, if you are interested in growing bigger deer, you will need to establish more lofty goals such as providing year-round plots, which are both highly attractive and nutritious. Depending on your resources (time, money, and amount of open land), you may have to adjust your goals accordingly. 

In setting your food plot goals, you must also consider the quality of deer you would like to grow on your property. In setting these goals, you must be realistic. For example, for most parts of the Midwest, landowners could have a realistic goal of consistently growing 150-class plus deer on your property through an effective year-round food plot program. However, this may not be a realistic goal for many landowners in most parts of the Southeastern U.S. due to limitations in genetics, poor quality soils, and hunting pressure.

Depending on the type/quality of soils, weather, and annual rainfall in your area, you may also have limitations as to what will grow in your area and how much forage production you can reasonably expect. This will determine what type of plants will grow and how well they will grow for your particular property. Therefore, we will need to set food plot goals to will take these limitations into account. Lastly, you will need to set a goal as to how many deer you will want to feed or grow on your property. This will determine how many plots and the total acreage of plots you will need to support your deer herd.

Many landowners tend to forget one of the most important considerations when establishing a food plot program. This is the process of setting well-defined, realistic goals. After a thorough evaluation of all of your resources and limitations, noting both the pros and cons, you can then set some realistic management goals. Once you set these goals, you will be ready to develop a food plot program to help accomplish your goals for attracting more deer and growing bigger deer on your property.

Remember: If you want to have an effective food plot program and reach your management goals, you must plant and maintain your food plots the RIGHT way using the RIGHT products and the RIGHT equipment.