Critique my food plot plans please!


Active Member
Hey guys, this will be my first year of planting a food plot, been hunting for many years but I finally have a place to put some serious food plotting into. Its not easy around here to find much of a spot that isnt grazed by cows or farmed already. What I have is about 8 acres of waste ground, meaning it cant be farmed without major dirtwork, and its not worth building a fence around. Its surrounded on 3 sides by corn field, and buts up to the neighbors pasture on the other. Its a good funnel area between the water in the pasture and corn when its up is their bedding area. We used to hay it when the field was alfalfa, but when the corns up we cant get to it so its become my plot.

Anyway its got some good hunting, in the last 6 years weve taken 4 bucks off of this farm, with the smallest being around 115" 4x4, last year I got a 138" 5x6. And I know theres a bigger one that made it through season last year. But I want this plot to feed the deer year round too, along with the turkeys and pheasants. I farm the ground too, so Ive got the tractor and planter, along with a 4wheeler, spreader, harrow, and a cultipacker. After about June I cant get anything bigger than a 4 wheeler back there though.

I thought about some perennial plots, but in about Dec-Jan, the cows will be out grazing the stalks and Im afraid they will mow the clover down to nothing and it will winterkill.

So I disked up about 3 acres this spring. My plan right now is to use some left over corn and bean seed from cleaning out the planter, 1 acre of corn, 1 of beans, plant everything a little thin compared to normal, then later on this summer, go in and spread some crimson clover and rye in the corn and a mix of oats, radishes and turnips into the beans. On the last acre Im going to use the "stacking" method, in about August, Ill spread some oats and Austrian winter peas, then about 2-3 weeks later, a mix of wheat and rye. Obviously the oats will die over winter, the peas might too, nobody Ive talked to knows for sure.
Then early next spring, depending on how the peas winter, I might frost seed some red clover. Then about this time, Ill plant beans in the corn plot, and corn in the bean plot, the beans should have grown a good bit of N and the rye that I sowed in the corn plot will help supress weeds for the beans, meaning I might not have to spray herbicide, except to possibly kill the rye if it doesnt die from rolling it.
Meanwhile, the wheat/rye/peas/clover will grow and provide early spring food, and some as it heads out and matures, hopefully keeping some pressure off my other plots. Then repeat with the same stacking method in the fall.

Any help or ideas from the experts is greatly appreciated!
Forgot to add that Im also planting a 30ft wide strip of Arrows Green screen around the ends so they can have some security when the corn is gone
i dont think the cattle will graze it down and cause it to winterkill. My clover and alfalfa plots have cattle wintered on them from jan-feb every year and they always come back strong.
Here it seems that if we graze alfalfa in the winter alot of times there's a major stand reduction, it depends on how much snow we get too, years with decent cover, it's not bad at all, but if not, like this past winter, those real cold snaps do a number on it. We lost quite a bit of stand even in alfalfa that didn't get grazed.

You might be far enough south that it's not as bad, I'm about an hour north of I80
That is certainly a good food plot plan, but my first question is this: Where do the deer bed once the corn is harvested? What kind of native vegetation exists in the area? Sometimes a "waste" field is an ideal place to foster early successional growth that provides both cover and winter browse, in the form of high stem count brush and young trees.

Do they need 8 more acres of food in the summer? Is there ever any soybeans planted in the area or is it literally all corn?
You don't really sound like a novice food plotter as you obviously know how to plant. Jason Broom makes a good point. Do you really need more food with all of the ag around the 8 acre "waste" ground? Deer need food, water and cover. Try to determine what is least available on your ground and then plug the lowest hole in the bucket first.
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After the corn is harvested, they tend to use the draws of cedar, shelterbelts, CRP, or native tallgrass pasture. Literally anywhere they can lay down and be partially hidden. Last year right after rifle season, I saw a huge buck laying in the middle of a hill with no other cover around except for the knee high grass he was laying in, he was laying with his chin to the ground and the only reason I saw him was the glint off his rack. So here they are very good at finding cover. The food plot isn't the end of my plan, I'm also working on establishing some tall grasses like switchgrass and bluestem into this piece to also give them cover. It's only going to be 3 acres out of the total 10 in this patch.

Around here there is lots of corn, beans and alfalfa grown, but no small grains. Which is why Im kind of leaning a little heavier towards them. During the winter, my plot will be the only standing crops left for miles.


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It's good to hear that you're planning some NWSG stands. While deer may be good at "finding" cover, they are much more secure when they have an abundance of it. Having the only real food around for miles, once all the ag fields are harvested, should result in a lot of late season activity. At the same time, consider the holistic view of what you're trying to accomplish. If you're really only interested in seeing and harvesting large-antlered bucks, the way you manage your land should be different than if you're managing for the overall health of both flora and fauna on the ground you control. Frankly, if you had the only 10 acres of good cover, surrounded by miles of harvested fields, you'd have a better shot at larger bucks than if you turn 3 of those 10 acres into food plots and have doe groups settle in around them. Just "food" for thought. :)
Those are some good thoughts, eventually that's the hope with adding the NWSG, and letting the trees grow up where they want. I'm hoping to end up with some fairly thick nasty cover, with some open food plots and having the water so close. I doubt any cover I could make would compete with the draws full of cedars so thick you can barely get through them. For sure some things to think about!

I'm in no way thinking that I know more than you guys do, but I'm hoping that when I'm all done that a thick ungrazed stand of tall NWSG will be the difference, one that they are used to being in from spending a chunk of the year in the corn.
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As you've seen, deer use different types of cover at different times of the year, and with different goals in mind. Doe groups will often bed down very close to food, or even IN it, in some cases. Bucks tend to be more selective; they like isolated locations that predators can't access without being heard and/or scented, but also allow the bucks, themselves, to escape that cover rather easily. So, even within a thick stand of conifers, there are going to be preferred locations. If you also control the draws, you can augment the cover types on the 10 acres and within the stands of trees to create layers of bedding that really help your hunting success. The key there, as is so often the case, is carefully planned ingress and egress. Especially on something as small as 10 acres, hunting from the edges, and only with the right wind, is critical. You have a lot of the pieces in place, so it's just a matter of arranging them in a logical order. It never ceases to amaze me, the properties some people own, or have access to hunt, but they never set them up right or access them intelligently, so their success rates are poor.
The draws are usually measured in feet wide (maybe 50-75) by 100-300 feet long if your lucky, and really thick, so correct me if I'm wrong, but I consider them as bedding areas, and theres little pockets of them basically everywhere with open grass areas in between. Ill try and get another bigger pic so you can get an idea. A lot of our hunting is sitting in stands glassing hoping to see one in the open, or using whats refered to as the "mobile deer stand" AKA, pickup truck, trying to cover lots of area. There are some areas like this one where you can see deer on a pretty routine basis. Thats usually where someone has a permenant stand.
You should be able to confirm, during the off-season, if deer are bedding in those draws. In situations where deer do not have an optimum environment (most properties, really) they make do with what is available. The key to becoming a better land manager is understanding their specific needs, year 'round, analyzing surrounding properties to identify what gaps exist, and then working to bridge or fill in those gaps. This process of land stewardship can take on a life of its own and become more rewarding, in many ways, than the actual hunting. For one thing, it's essentially a year 'round, and lifelong, endeavor. :)

How successful the hunting is, irrespective of habitat work that is done, is basically an entirely different topic. In other words: Habitat work has specific goals, but it is only by careful planning that they coincide with (and do not inhibit) your hunting goals.
Here's the pic, everywhere except my little patch for quite a ways is either farmed, or grazed. Most of the draws I was talking about are thicker than they look in the pic. My initial plan was I can't control them, so if I plant the best food, they will come to me.
We've found that "here" the deer, especially bucks in rut will cover vast distances. They might be here today and a mile or more the next.
Is the area in the boundary about 100 acres?
It looks like there are lots of areas to make improvements within that boundary. Do what you can to thicken up everything around the fields, along with the food plots you're planning, and you should have deer there on a regular basis.

It has been my experience that bucks cover ground to find receptive does. Put more does on your ground and some of them will be receptive, which means you'll see bucks on a more consistent basis.
No, it's about 400 acres. We do what we can, but anything more than good tall grass makes it hard to maintain fences. Id love to hear any thoughts you guys have.

My biggest struggle has been how to balance deer management, and farming/ranching. Great deer habitat does not make for good grazing and vice versa. And with literally almost every inch of ground that isnt farmed is grazed by cows at some point, trying to help deer out gets real tough. I gotta make money farming or I wont be able to afford to deer hunt lol. Im just trying to make the most of what I have available to me.
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That IS a conundrum, choosing between grazing almost every inch of ground that isn't farmed, but still wanting to make high quality deer habitat.

I'm glad I'm not a farmer or a rancher and don't have to make those decisions. If it were me, I'd fence off odd-shaped or inaccessible pieces here n' there and commit to making very good wildlife habitat...but I don't have to pay your bills, do I? ;)

In light of what you're working with and what you're trying to achieve, I think your plan is a very good one. If and when you have the opportunity to put more of the land into wildlife habitat, versus grazing, there is a world of options to choose from. Good luck! :)
If I give you the economics of it it gets even worse lol

Right now good pasture like this is bringing about $300/pair, which is a momma cow and a calf, for 5 months, usually May 1-Oct 1. Here it takes about 5-8 acres per pair.
Dryland farm ground like this goes for about $125/acre, could be more, irrigated is $200 plus now. A few years ago everything was higher than now.
When its all said and done at the end of the year, if you make $10-20 acre profit, youre doing damn good, lots of us are hoping to break even. Thats why every acre counts.

Thats why I was excited to get the chance for this patch, Im hoping to do the best I can, using the plots for both feed and some cover, then improving the rest of the cover on the patch the best I can. Theres so many things I want to do or could do if it wasnt for the damn cows lol. I know the guy who started Big and J and I joked with him that he needs to come up with a feed that cows wont eat, and Id buy the hell out of it
If I give you the economics of it it gets even worse lol ... Theres so many things I want to do or could do if it wasnt for the damn cows lol. I know the guy who started Big and J and I joked with him that he needs to come up with a feed that cows wont eat, and Id buy the hell out of it

Plant and protect hard mast trees, like beech, oaks and chestnuts. Get 'em big enough that the cows can't eat 'em or knock 'em over and you've got yourself a food plot in the sky. There is nothing growing on this continent deer like better than chestnuts. Where there is a will, there's a way. I wish Doug Gallow could see this thread...he has years and years of experience combining the needs of cattle grazing and deer.