What to Plant in a One Acre Food Plot

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THE ONE ACRE FOOD PLOT

By Paul Annear

Food plot season is here in the upper Midwest. If you are planting a spring or summer plot, it is crunch time. Even though it has been a cold spring, the weather has finally broken. Many questions come up regarding what to plant in a small food plot.

As time and money compete for family and life commitments, I have become more of a planner with my whitetail work. Budget, time, and hunting – or feeding – goals are the main factors I now consider when deciding what to plant in my plots. Defining goals is the first step in deciding what to plant.

ARE YOU HUNTING DEER OR FEEDING DEER?

Before even choosing a location or blend for a small food plot, you should decide if it is even going to be a hunting plot. A one acre food plot that is located very close to cover, hidden from roads and easily approachable without alerting the deer is a classic ‘kill’ plot. Not every food plot fits this criteria, however. It is still rewarding to just see deer feeding in your plot even if you can’t effectively hunt it. Such plots still serve a very valuable purpose to increase the health of your deer.

BUDGET

If you aren’t careful, a food plot can get away from you and become quite expensive. Conducting a soil test can be a money saver since your results will tell you exactly what you need in order accomplish near perfect fertility for your plot.

For those on a lower budget, focus on annuals such as brassicas or turnips that are relatively inexpensive in terms of maintenance. Annuals mixes such as Big-N-Beasty can be a go-to for your small one-acre plot. If you plant a good blend, you can be confident that one of the seeds will become attractive during a critical time of year to hunt.

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Planting a mixture like Autumn Quick Plot, with its blend of brassicas, peas and cereal grains, can make a plot attractive from opening day until season’s end. Brassica blends establish quickly and can usually shade out competing weeds, reducing maintenance costs.

For most hunters, clover is a go-to for small, tucked away plots. Clover in a one acre food plot is going to require maintenance throughout the summer to mow, spray for weeds and possibly fertilize. If you want clover to succeed in a one-acre plot, at minimum, you will need to mow with a tractor during early summer – or find a creative way to get this done.

Having access to a sprayer to eliminate grasses that a mower couldn’t kill is a major plus. It is easy to spend $200-$400 (when you factor in all expenses) to ensure success with a 1-acre clover plot. But, on the upside, clover plots typically last two to three years before you need to rotate to something else.

TIME

Most folks committed to a food plot are willing to spend the money and work hard for a successful plot, time is usually the holdup. You cannot work to earn more time or press the ‘mulligan’ button.

Before planting, plan weekends in advance and set those aside for food plotting maintenance. As mentioned above, if you plant a perennial, like clover or alfalfa, your summer maintenance time will be higher than plots planted to brassicas.

With clover, chicory or alfalfa, mowing does help control grasses, but spraying with a grass selective herbicide is the ultimate way to eliminate grass competition. Be sure to follow the directions on the chemical label exactly.

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Annuals typically require less maintenance, however, it is still a good idea to follow guidance from a soil test and fertilize the plot as needed. This will insure it grows fast and outpaces competition.

CONSIDERING SOYBEANS OR CORN

If you only have a one acre food plot, planting corn or soybeans is probably not your best choice.

If you want to hunt over a soybean plot come fall, a 1-acre plot would most likely require you to fence off the plot throughout summer.

Unless fenced, such a small food plot of beans will be browsed heavily, even with the presence of other ag crops nearby.

Corn might be successful in a one acre food plot if deer numbers aren’t too high and if you can keep raccoons and other animals out.

Josh Kasinskas, a hunter and friend from Southeast Wisconsin says he likes to plant corn or soybeans even in a one acre food plot to “ensure my property is holding a good amount of deer and drawing in bucks during the pre-rut phase.” But again, it can be hard to keep these plots thriving through the summer if deer densities are high.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Planting a one acre food plot might not seem like much, but depending on what you plant, you could have your work cut out for you. Planning trips and maintenance costs ahead of time is important. Make sure you have the time, budget, and realistic goals and you will enjoy success in the end.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>