Whether you own or lease hunting land, at some point you have or have thought about installing food plots. The fact is, most hunters do not have access to tractors and tractor-driven implements.
While heavier equipment can do more with less effort, if you can get your hands on an ATV or UTV and a few implements, you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish.
Before we talk about what seed to plant, let’s cover the much more important fundamentals.
Small food plots done right can increase hunting success through attraction and even improve wildlife nutrition. Midsized and compact tractors are perfect for small plots. But if not within your budget, you can use an ATV or UTV with the right equipment, especially on small parcels of land (under 100 acres) to manage food plots as small as ¼ acre to over an acre. These vehicles also quickly cover a lot of ground, visiting many small plots
across the landscape.
One of the first tasks is to identify the location, size and shape of the food plot you are planning to install. Existing openings in timber, old fallow fields or extensions off existing crop fields provide excellent opportunities. It is critical to pull a soil sample, especially if you have never planted it before. The soil sample will indicate which amendments, such as lime and fertilizer, if any are needed to grow a successful food plot. If the area is in tall grass or weeds, a pull-behind trail mower and sprayer will get you started. Mow the vegetation down very low; if it is thick you may need to make a couple passes. After a week or so you should see new growth starting, especially in late spring and summer. Then use an ATV/UTV sprayer to apply glyphosate (generic Roundup) and kill any existing vegetation.
In a week or so after the glyphosate burn-down, use an ATV/UTV disc harrow to till the soil. Because you have less weight than a standard tractor disc, you will likely need to make several passes in order to create a soft seedbed. If the soil is still in large clumps, you can hook up an ATV/UTV harrow drag to break up the soil clumps. Based on the soil-sample results, you should know if any lime or fertilizer is needed. If your pH reading is low (acidic), consider using a fast-acting liquid calcium product, which can be applied as a solution through the sprayer. Liquid calcium sprayed on bare ground can raise the pH fast but may not last long, so multiple applications might be needed through the year. You can purchase liquid soluble fertilizers in powder form, which can also be applied in solution through your sprayer or you can go granular using an ATV spreader.
For seeding larger plots, hooking up an ATV/UTV spreader will get the job done fast and accurately, while a hand-crank spreader will suffice for small plots. Once the seed is broadcast, going over the plot with an ATV/UTV cultipacker, roller or drag will ensure great seed to soil contact, which will lead to good germination.
Get started on your small plot project soon following these fundamental steps, and in no time you’ll be
hanging your stands on lush, green plots to reap what you have sown.