The Juice is Worth the Squeeze
When you love deer hunting as much as I do, you exhaust every last resource to make sure your property is as desirable to deer as possible. We all know that deer need Food, Water and Cover to survive and seek out properties that provide this type of habitat. Although I hunt a small property protected by steep ridges, I still wanted to do everything I could to provide these 3 assets to my property. So I “hired” an expert forester to come help me hinge cut some areas to improve the bedding on my ridge tops and help me fell some tall trees to open the canopy for a backwoods micro plot. I also went to the local farm store and purchased a 10 gallon trough to create a water hole. All that was left to do was create my micro food plot and my plan would be in motion. As I had mentioned earlier, access to the location for my micro plot would be is limited to “foot traffic only” as the steep ridges make navigation by motor vehicle virtually impossible (I did it once and almost didn’t live to tell about it 😉 ). Follow along with me as I sweat through the steps to creating the PERFECT backwoods food plot:
STEP 1: Choose My Location
This step was easy, as I mentioned earlier my property is small (like REALLY small) I only had one location that a food plot was feasible. But for those of you with more property to play with, my plot is near bedding and is in a natural funnel that deer move through on a regular basis. It also happens to be an area that received the most natural sunlight out of any spot on my property. And lastly, it’s a location that offered plenty of nearby trees for future stand sites that would be easily accessible.
STEP 2: Creating Sunlight
I’m no expert when it comes to “lumber-jacking” so when it came down to creating sunlight to help my micro plot thrive, I called in one of my best buddies who happens to be a skilled forester. I wanted to be around to hunt my plot, so this seemed like the best decision. He made quick work of a half dozen trees that really opened up the canopy for my future micro plot. Many of you may be qualified to do this on your own, if so great, if not find someone who is, because sunlight is key and safely removing trees to create more sunlight turned out to be a game changer for me.
STEP 3: Going to Work
This blog post is aptly named “The Juice is Worth the Squeeze” because planting a food plot in a location that isn’t easily accessible is not easy work, in fact it is hard work. But in my humble opinion, the harder you work for something, the sweeter the prize and as you follow along you’ll see that in this case the “juice” was absolutely worth the “squeeze”. Now that I had selected my location and cleared some trees to create sunlight it was time to prep the soil, rake away leaves and debris, remove fallen decaying branches and create the best soil bed that I could. The tools I selected were a leaf rake and a steel garden rake. I used the leaf rake to remove leaves, sticks and debris to get down to the soil. Once the soil was exposed I used the steel garden rake to rough up the soil and dig the tines into the compacted earth as best I could. This takes time, energy and will flat wear you out. But every ounce of sweat was more than worth it.
STEP 4: Testing my pH
I hate to admit it but in 2017 I tried planting this exact location without first testing my pH…partly as a test and partly due to limited time. I just applied a little pelleted lime, raked the soil and planted Slam Dunk. It germinated and grew “ok” but showed the signs of plants needing a better growing environment and more nutrients. So this time around I tested my pH levels and it was determined that I needed what I estimated to be about 100 pounds of pelleted lime and a nice dose of Plot Max Soil Conditioner. Since it does take some time for lime to break down in the soil, I did this roughly 2 weeks prior to planting (working your lime into the soil will activate it faster but the time it take to completely change the soil can vary from weeks to months).
STEP 5: Seeding my Plot
After my soil was prepped and dirt was exposed it was time to seed my food plot. If you follow our social media pages you’re well aware of our newest seed mix called “Small Town Throw Down“, this mix had been researched for years and was finally launched this Spring with high expectations, so I decided to select this mix for my micro plot. Here is why I selected it….I needed something that was pH tolerant, Shade tolerant, cold tolerant and offered plenty of forage for Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter…Small Town Throw Down checked all the boxes. Since my plot is less than a 1/4 acre I didn’t even use the entire bag. So I poured 1/2 the contents into a hand spreader and spread the seed directly onto the exposed dirt. After using roughly 1/2 of the bag I then spread several spreader fulls of 10-10-10 fertilizer to give it a jump start. After spreading the seed I LIGHTLY raked over the seeds…I highlight this because you don’t want to bury the seeds, but lightly cover them 1/4″ or less. The hard part was now over and it was up to Mother Nature to help out with some warm temps and timely rains.
STEP 6: Plot Maintenance
After several weeks my Small Town Throw Down Food Plot was flourishing. Mother Nature brought her “A-game” and I had taken the necessary steps to ensure food plot success by creating sunlight, improving pH, proper seed depths and applying a starter fertilizer. However, I wasn’t quite satisfied yet because I knew with my high deer density I needed as much forage as possible. That’s why I applied a mixture of Jolt Foliar Fertilizer and Plot Max Soil Conditioner to further boost plant production and forage growth…as you’ll see the results speak for themselves. Plot Max Soil Conditioner can be applied at any time and works directly with the soil, whereas Jolt Foliar Fertilizer can only be applied once plants are at least 3″ tall. Unlike granular fertilizers which are absorbed through the roots, Jolt is absorbed through the leaves and the stem of the plants.
STEP 7: The Finished Result
This has easily been my most successful micro plot to date and I’m eagerly excited about the up-coming Fall. The Clover, Chicory and Buckwheat are currently feeding my resident deer population and the Brassica, Kale and Rye are growing thick and beefy to feed them come Fall and Winter, it’s going to make for some Sweet Sits come Fall!
Thanks for following my Micro Food Plot Journey and I hope I shed a little light on the subject, while providing some simple tips to help your next backwoods micro plot be more successful. No Till Food Plots are hard work, but if you follow the appropriate steps and put the work in, The Juice WILL be Worth the Squeeze. If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out, I’m here to help.
Mike Lindahl – Antler King