John's Journal...

Grow Your Own Better Deer All Year by Careful Planting and Fertilizing

The Best Ways to Prepare Your Food Plots in September and October

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: If you want to take trophy bucks, you have two options. You either can pay several-thousand dollars to hunt a couple of days at a ranch or a lodge with an extensive deer-management program that produces trophy bucks each season, or you can grow your own trophy bucks on the land you hunt. I’ve contacted some of the nation’s leading deer managers and developed a month-by-month Click to enlargeguide, which if followed, will help insure you’ll have more and bigger bucks on your land each season.

Often sportsmen make the mistake of planting when the soil doesn’t have enough moisture to help the plants in the food plot get established. To test the amount of moisture in soil, pick up a handful of dirt. Squeeze the dirt gently. If the dirt stays together in a clump, the soil should have enough moisture in it for you to plant. If the dirt in your hand falls back as dust, then the soil probably doesn’t have enough moisture to plant. Dr. Grant Woods, a wildlife biologist from Reeds Spring, Missouri, suggests you plant a seed mixture specifically for fall planting.

This month you also need to selectively control low-quality hardwood brush to enhance native plants preferred by white-tailed deer. Pick certain sections of the land you hunt with deer activity, such as trails from bedding sites to feeding areas, trails to feeding plots and trails leading from Click to enlargeescape cover. You want to establish small native-food feeding sites that act as magnets to deer, pulling deer off the trail and causing them to stop and feed. After using a herbicide to control hardwood brush and allowing native plants to re-colonize, then broadcast a native-plant fertilizer to produce high-quality native-plant feeding sites under existing overstory. These small feeding sites only may cover 1/10- to 1/2-acre but they will prove to be honey holes for the tree-stand or the ground-blind hunter. These feeding sites remind me of fast-food restaurants on the edges of busy highways. The deer can just stop off from their normal routes, grab something to eat and keep on going Click to enlargewhere they’d planned to go.

If you wait until October to plant, you can’t hunt that green field until later in November. Deer will eat food-plot plants grown frm seeds for about 22 weeks, whereas wheat and rye become less palatable the longer they grow. If you’ve fertilized your trees the previous January or February, you can begin to hunt around the trees you’ve fertilized, if you hunt in a state with an October black-powder and/or bow season. Install travel/feeding lanes to connect different habitat types in October. Deer like open edges and lanes to travel from one kind of habitat to another. By using a herbicide, you can create lanes 25- to 35-feet wide that deer will use.

To contact Dr. Grant Woods, visit

Tomorrow: Food-Plot Planting in the Winter

Check back each day this week for more about "Grow Your Own Better Deer All Year by Careful Planting and Fertilizing"

Day 1: Preparing Your Food Plots in July and August
Day 2:The Best Ways to Prepare Your Food Plots in September and October
Day 3: Food-Plot Planting in the Winter
Day 4: Preparing Your Food Plots in January and February
Day 5: Planting Food Plots in the Spring and the Early Summer


Entry 516, Day 2