How to establish a wildlife food plot

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Well, it’s safe to say that spring is here, which means that summer is not too far along and eventually fall. We all know that good planning saves us headaches in the future.

Not only does late summer, early fall bring the secondary planting season, but also the main prime time for fall food plot planting.

For those who enjoy the sporting lifestyle, fall is a mystical time of the year. However, few of us start to feel that fall rush until it’s actually upon us.

Food plots

Now, however, is when one needs to start planning ahead for fall food plot establishment. Food plots are not only for sportsman, but also for those individuals who wish to admire nature and attract wildlife to their residence or property they own.

When we think of food plots, we typically associate them with the whitetail deer. However, there are a number of wildlife species that take advantage of these plots; deer, turkey, squirrels, waterfowl, upland birds, rabbits and doves.

In fact, manufacturers have greatly diversified their product availability tremendously over the last couple of years to design specific plantings not only for plant species but also being selective for specific game species.

The waterfowl sector has grown in leaps and bounds from what was originally offered.

In the early days, one would have to mix a blend themselves. This is still a very good option for individuals wanting a specific type of plant; it just takes a little more homework and effort.

There are multiple seeding packets available that offer a variety of choices and those mixes go as far as being geographic and season specific for seed and plant species.

Test

If one is interested in establishing a wildlife food plot, your first order of business should be to conduct a soils test.

There’s nothing worse than putting time and money into a plot only to have it not germinate or become established because the soils were not conducive to what you planned to grow.

On the flip side, putting unnecessary funds and time into a food plot in the way of lime or fertilizer that may not be needed is simply a waste of your money and time.

In order to put the odds in your favor of establishing a productive food plot, you should perform a soil test, so that you will know exactly what your soils will or will not need.

Next is to begin bed preparation; spraying, cultivating, tilling and seeding (broadcast or no-till drill).

Once seeded, one wants to make sure you don’t forget a very important step — seed to soil contact. I have personally seen plots fail due to improper seed depth placement.

Make sure you are at the correct depth for your preferred seed of choice.

Depth

Be sure to check your specific seed recommendation of depth.

If you are planting corn, for example, the depth of the planted seed will need to be deeper.

If you are interested in establishing a plot within a wooded sector or off the beaten path, certain manufacturers offer seed(s) that excel in low light or plots with a heavy canopy scenario.

If you decide to plant an early food plot (spring) be sure to keep up on the maintenance of it throughout the summer months.

For those of you who wish to plant a brassica mix, late season results are what you will be seeking. I’ve personally seen wildlife take to these late season plots with mixed results.

Weather plays a very important role with late season plots as it relates to the nutritional needs of the wildlife.

In Ohio, we are fortunate that we are in a rich to semi-rich agriculture region.

A lot of times these wildlife species will find ample food sources without even having to visit these established plots and will reside in a very small home range that provides everything they need: food, water and shelter.

Let’s not forget about our nonmammalian friends either, butterflies, bees and hummingbirds, the pollinator plots. These plots are designed to attract pollinators to help establish future generations of pollinators as well as a sanctuary during certain species migrations (Monarch butterfly).

They usually consist of flowering plants to do exactly what they say — offer pollen and substance to the visitor. These plots, due to the species of flowers, tend to be very fickle in nature but are very beautiful and well worth the effort once they become established.

Details

If you wish to learn more about pollinator, wildlife, or waterfowl food plots, I urge you to reach out to your local SWCD. They will be able to assist you in what you need or at least point you in the right direction.

If you happen to reside in northwest Ohio or western Pennsylvania, I invite you personally to join us for a Wildlife and Food Plot Symposium June 3 at 8:30 a.m. at On Target Outfitters, Calla Road, Canfield, Ohio.

We will hold a day-long seminar (classroom and hands-on sessions) focusing on wildlife food plots (establishment and care of), waterfowl habitat, forestry habitat, and pond care as it relates to wildlife.

In addition to the seminars, we will be highlighting the rental equipment Mahoning SWCD has available for rent to help individuals establish their own plots (seven no-till drills and ATV type equipment). This event is free to attend, however, a R.S.V.P. is required.

A vendor booth area will also be available during the session breaks. If you are interested in attending, R.S.V.P. at 330-740-7995.

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