Food plot mania has swept the nation in the last 20 years. Deer hunters have discovered that they can not only attract and hold deer in a given location with food plots, but with proper fertilization and care, they can grow deer with sizable antlers.

There is a touch of Fall in the air. Bowhunters are practicing more frequently, with opening day less than 40 days away. Many are beginning to plant food plots in anticipation of drawing in a shooter buck.

Food plot mania has swept the nation in the last 20 years. Deer hunters have discovered that they can not only attract and hold deer in a given location with food plots, but with proper fertilization and care, they can grow deer with sizable antlers.

Dusty Snelson, of Snelson’s Wildlife Habitat Management in St. James, has witnessed the growing interest in food plots. “Everyone that deer hunts is either putting in food plots these days, or wanting to plant plots,” he said. “It has been phenomenal to watch the growth of this great wildlife management strategy. And anyone can do it.”

Anyone can plant food plots, if they have land, owned or leased, the right equipment and time and money to invest. Many deer and turkey hunters have one or several of the necessary ingredients to be successful with food plot production. Many times, however, individuals simply don’t have the necessary time available to prepare and plant their own food plots. That is where Snelson comes into play.

“Planting of food plots continues to grow in popularity in this country,” Snelson said. “Hunters have found out that it works. The facts are simple. The more nutritious foods a plot provides, the more deer will come to it, and the bigger bucks will grow, if they are allowed to age.”

Snelson has witnessed a number of problems with food plots over the years that hunters have developed. “It is a real disappointment to an individual when his food plot doesn’t work out ,” he said. That can happen for a variety of reasons.”

One of the most common reasons for food plot failure, according to Snelson, is that people simply do not think through the process. “You can’t just toss out some seed and expect great results,” he said.
Evaluating your land should be one of the first steps in planning food plots. What areas can you afford to set aside as food plots?  

Is the space you choose in an area that deer already utilize? Is the land conducive to growing deer forage, such as annuals and perennial plants? Wild plants that already grow in the area should be taken into consideration as well. Deer feed on natural plants such as cresses and herbaceous cover all year and will continue to do so in spite of the fact that you have planted food plots consisting of grains and soft forage.

“Hunters need to determine how they will use the food plot,” Snelson advised. “Is it going to be a bow hunting food plot, or will it be used for gun season hunts? More success seems to be had by bowhunters on smaller plots. Seeing a monster buck walk out int a food plot 250 yards away doesn’t do you much good when  you have a bow in your hands.”

Conducting a soil test is paramount to success, according to Snelson. “Soil test kits are available and easy to use,” he said. “Testing the soil in your plots and then adding lime and fertilizer at the recommended rates is key to growing good forage in your plots. Scrimping on these items will lessen the quality of your plots and the end result will be fewer deer and other wildlife visiting your food plots.”

Buying the best seed available is another often overlooked aspect of planting quality food plots, says Snelson. “Lots of people still plant basic winter wheat and clover plots,” he said. “Most farm clovers have been developed to grow tall, so that those short necked cows can reach it easily. Too, it is often cut for hay”
“When I include clovers in my food plots for deer and other wildlife, I want a variety that puts its energy into leaf development,” Snelson stated. “There are far more nutrients in the leaves than in the stems.”

New Zealand is 20 years ahead of the Untied States in plant developments for food plots. One of their main exports is deer antlers and venison. One can actually earn a college degree in deer forage management there.

Regardless, deer managers are making great strides in the United States. Dozens of specialty seed blends have been created in recent years, giving food plot managers plenty of options for their particular soil types, terrain and location in the nation.

Snelson also recommends that hunters think about planting a variety of foods that will serve deer and wildlife throughout the year. “A variety of forage foods will hold animals on your place for longer periods of time,” he said. “If you can leave a few acres as a sanctuary and stay out of it, deer will become very fond of your place. It only makes sense. If deer can have plenty of nutritious foods and not be bothered, they are more likely to spend more time there.”

“Holding deer on your property serves you well not only during hunting seasons, but the rest of the year as well,” Snelson pointed out. “I don’t know of a deer hunter anywhere that doesn’t enjoy seeing deer and other wildlife on their place all year round.”  
Snelson is well equipped with knowledge and machinery to put in your food plots.

He can bushhog, spray, till, seed and fertilize your chosen areas. The benefits of having him do your plots becomes evident immediately when he begins working on them. You can watch his procedures on WWW.Facebook/Outsidealways or Snelson’s Wildlife Habitat Management. - Facebook.  Or, give him a call at: 573-842-7636.