Plots without Food?


Active Member
Let me explain the title of this thread and why I put it in the Habitat forum instead of Food Plots.

I have two open areas on the perimeter of my property that make excellent rifle stand sites because they are surrounded by good habitat, allow for low impact access and currently provide open shooting at reasonable distances.

Strategically, I don't want to plant these areas with food because I want to encourage deer movement to the central area of the property past other archery stands.

If left alone, these areas will eventually fill in with old-field habitat and become difficult to hunt due to low visibility. So I have a few options and I'm wondering what you guys think:
1. Spray the areas periodically to keep them in an "open field" state and just let the native seed bank grow weeds.
2. Mow the areas yearly in late summer to keep vegetation low for good shooting visibility.
3. Go ahead and plant the areas with something like clover that will provide summer food, but go dormant during hunting season so as not to derail my overall strategy.
I would do a combination of all three. Whether you plant food or not, a clearcut area will provide food to them. Also, I dont think a small plot of clover is going to alter their patterns if there is a draw to the center of your property.
3. I would plant clover either along the edges, a patch in the center, or in random spots that are clear with good soil depending on the shape of the plot.
1-2. Depending on what is growing there now, spray to kill if its older woody growth, or mow if there is good diversity of plants and food. If you plan to leave this open I would try to get a disc in there to lightly break the soil and bring new seed to the surface. With the disc you could rotate the areas you disc each year and keep a variety of successional stages there for different food sources.
I have quite a few areas as you describe. Most of my roads are 2-3 chains wide, and I have several fields all of which I let grow all summer in whatever native vegetation is there. Great fawning cover plus whatever preferable forb growth may happen. Then early fall after I have finished planting everything and all plot chores are finished I mow them. Been doing this for years and very happy with the way it works.
Sometimes just posing a question in writing helps my own thought process. After I posted this, I realized I probably should try a combination of all three options, as Charlieyca suggests. The two areas are different in size and access. One area is over an acre and I can get any equipment to it I need, so all options are on the table. I will probably just mow as Baker suggests. It already has some clover. The other area is only about 1/4 acre and I would have difficulty getting my pull-behind ATV mower in there through wet areas, so my ATV-mounted sprayer is the best option. This will provide a good experiment as well.
If you already have clover in the large plot, I would mow the areas around the clover a month or so before season (if possible) to get new growth and limit the height of the vegetation so as not to limit visibility, but also give them some cover walking through the "plot". Mowing in strips will give you more edge throughout the plot . On the small plot, spray or pull a drag through to knock down vegetation and disturb soil for new seeds to emerge.
I would consider spraying clethodim on one of them as an experiment to keep the grasses knocked back and promoting the forbs. The big one where you can mow, mow half one year and the other half the next and see how it works out.
I would consider spraying clethodim on one of them as an experiment to keep the grasses knocked back and promoting the forbs. The big one where you can mow, mow half one year and the other half the next and see how it works out.
I have not thought of spraying cleth instead of gly on these areas. I normally spray gly on edge feathered areas to limit competition, but cleth killing the grasses might be better as it will leave more of the beneficial forbs.
I would mow once or twice a year to keep the woody brush at bay.

If you wanted you could spray or mow really short and then do a frost seed in the spring to keep things simple but if you don't want it as a food plot then I'd simply mow
Something I have always wanted to try is amending soil as per recommendations from a proper analysis, followed by strip-discing either annually or bi-annually.

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The timing of the annual mowing is critical. ie; If we mow May 1 we set back the shrubs, trees and natural regrowth of timothy or clover gets a good start., If we mow July 15 to Aug. 1, we set back the golden rod and other weeds keeping them from producing seed. If we mow in the fall the field will come back quite diversified yet maintain its succession status that the deer may enjoy the most. Mowing saplings just after they get leafed out is a big jolt to them while mowing them after leaf fall cuts the stalks back yet preserves the vigor in the roots. If we mow very regularly we get a grass/clover mixture;The results on your property may be different but it is important to note that mowing dates directly impact what regrows.
And Yes, absolutely, Cleth is an excellent ingredient to the wild field program.
I have areas like you are describing. I have let them go a few years and it about gets to big to brush hog. What I have done the last few years is mix bin run wheat, cereal rye and bin run oats and Austrian winter peas and throw it down and brush hog it down on top of the seed. That and making the woods thicker has made the deer hunting about 200% better.