Maximize wildlife corridors with food plots

Food plots are often a top priority when managing a property for wildlife and hunting. Not every property, though, has large open spaces for planting. And, if you have permission to hunt someone else’s property, the landowner may not want to sacrifice existing farming or grazing space for wildlife nutrition.

There are other options, including surveying the property for narrow strips of space suitable for planting food crops to help attract and sustain wildlife.

Travis Sumner, NWTF’s Hunting Heritage Center and habitat manager, understands the challenges of finding suitable fields for wildlife crops and acquiring the permission needed to enhance a piece of land. Here are his suggestions for unlocking opportunities to set a table on unused strips of lands.

Take Inventory

“Power line rights-of-way, gas line rights-of-way, third or fifth rows found in pine stand harvesting and roadside corridors can work,” Sumner said. “Just about anything that is long and narrow works well.”

Their linear nature often means these strips of land are overlooked, but rights-of-way have a character ready-made for food plots.

“Maintaining most of these areas can be relatively easy,” Sumner explained. “The power and gas line rights-of-way are maintained by the utility companies. They will ensure that all woody growth is removed either by herbicide or mechanical means. This allows easy work with a tractor to create a good food plot.”

Property roadsides are also typically kept clear to allow machinery to easily pass up and down lanes for agricultural chores. Such private roads or trails could be considered for a plot if they don’t see too much traffic to flatten crops.

Special Management Considerations

Sumner advises to first obtain permission with the power or gas companies that maintain and own these rights-of-way before beginning any food plot.

“Most companies are glad and have no problems with you creating these,” he said. “It helps those companies maintain the right-of-way. These companies also will inform you of any easements that may be on the right-of-way.”

This communication prevents later hiccups. Working together results in clear understanding of what plant types are acceptable and where they can be planted, as well as the type equipment you may use.

Landowners who allow you to use a corridor for wildlife crops merit the same consideration. Share your plan and intentions, and get their approval before any work commences.

“Working with landowners is a privilege,” Sumner said. “First, remember to respect their wishes. Respect their property. Abide by their rules for use of the property. Make sure to only plant or utilize areas where you are given permission. Communication is key to a successful landowner and hunter relationship.”

Special Planting Considerations

With approval in hand, you now need to carry out a plan to maximize your corridor investment. Working with a local NWTF habitat expert or USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service professional can help ensure you properly prepare the soil and choose the right crops for your region.

“When selecting seed for these corridors, consider soil type, terrain and shade,” Sumner said. “Remember, these areas are long and narrow. They may be near trees that will produce some shade or even compete for water. Some crops that will grow well in shade include certain types of clovers, chufa and sorghum. The key item to remember before planting is to select the correct seed for the site on which you are planting.”

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