Skip to main content

Did Your Food Plot Really Fail?

Did Your Food Plot Really Fail?
Every year, thousands of deer hunters plant food plots. Despite a lot of effort and hard work, many will fail miserably. (Jeremy Flinn photo)

Every year, hunters across the continent plant thousands of acres of food plots for deer. From ¼-acre “kill plots” to five-acre destination feeding fields, there are a wide range of plot sizes. But for the most part, food plots will average around one acre in size, give or take.

For those with equipment like compact tractors and disc harrows, the size of the plots may be a little larger correlating with the easier and faster planting time. For those using ATVs or hand tools, plots may not be much more than ¼ to ½ acre. With all the sizes, there is a plethora of food plot plantings. From clover to oats, and soybeans to brassica, the choices for a food plot are nearly endless, especially when you consider food plot mixes.

Every year, without fail, no matter the timing of planting, I consistently hear about food plot disappointments. From poor production to no production at all, sometimes it seems as if more food plots fail than succeed. There are lots of causes for this, from soil conditions to weather, but in all the food plot failures I have consulted for, the number one culprit is almost always deer.

Huh?


That’s right, too many deer. Whether that’s because you actually have too many deer for the property, planted a non-browse tolerant species, like soybean or cowpeas, or the plot was too small to handle the pressure of deer herd, they typically all lead to what one might call food plot failure.


A failure is a failure right? I mean does it really matter why the food plot will not be producing for you to hunt over or feed your deer and turkeys? Absolutely! The fact is, we will always face weather conditions, like drought or flood, and there is not much we can do about that.

If the issue is soil conditions, we can always look to amend through adding pH-raising elements like lime or bio-activated calcium, such as DeerGro. But one of the first gut reactions I make when I see a food plot fail is that over browsing by deer is the source cause. Many instantly think that they don’t have “that many deer” or “have other plots that grew,” which may be the case.

But there is one simple way we can easily determine if deer are the cause, and it goes into action right after the seed is sown – a food plot cage. A food plot cage is an extremely simple tool that can tell you a whole lot about the food plot you just planted.

Using a six-foot long by four-foot tall piece of grid panel, form a circle and lock into place with rings or wire. Attach to a t-post and establish in the dead center of the food plot. For larger plots you may want two of these. The cage will prevent browsing deer from getting inside and show what the true potential of the food plot, excluding deer pressure.


Often it’s amazing how much damage deer can do to a food plot, especially smaller plots or those with plants not suited for heavy browsing, like soybeans or cowpeas. Not only will this show you how the plot should have grown, but during the hunting season can be an indicator of deer usage on a plot for a hot hunting spot.

Although we like to think soil and/or weather is the immediate cause of plot failure, deer pressure is the number one cause of food plot failure in most of the whitetails’ range. Installing a small food plot cage after planting can make a big difference in your reasoning.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Tactacam Fish-I Camera and Remote

Tactacam Fish-I Camera and Remote

Recording your fishing success is a one-button deal with Tactacam's FISH-I Camera and Remote. Tactacam's Ben Sterns shares insight on the camera system with In-Fisherman's Todd Ceisner as part of our 2020 ICAST New Fishing Gear Guide.

Make Your Own Tackle Box with Plano Edge Flex

Make Your Own Tackle Box with Plano Edge Flex

Plano's Charlie Davis and In-Fisherman's Rob Neumann talk about the new Plano Edge Flex as part of the 2020 ICAST New Fishing Gear Guide.

How to Quickly Re-Spool a Fishing Reel

How to Quickly Re-Spool a Fishing Reel

Stripping a reel and adding fresh line is a breeze if you know the drill—literally.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

The colder waters of early spring are prime times to use these proven bait rigs for stripers.3 Proven Bait Rigs for Stripers Striper & Hybrid

3 Proven Bait Rigs for Stripers

J.B. Kasper

The colder waters of early spring are prime times to use these proven bait rigs for stripers.

In need of a rugged container to sip from in the backcountry? We've got you covered. From tumblers to bottles to flasks (and even clever bottle openers), we've rounded up some of the best bar gear for the outdoors.Ultimate Outdoor Bar Gear Roundup The Deck

Ultimate Outdoor Bar Gear Roundup

Chelsie Walters and Jessyca Sortillon - August 31, 2020

In need of a rugged container to sip from in the backcountry? We've got you covered. From...

Field Skills: Want to be a better shooter? The first step is perfecting your release.6 Steps to the Perfect Trigger Pull on Your Compound Bow Hunting How-To

6 Steps to the Perfect Trigger Pull on Your Compound Bow

Jace Bauserman - August 27, 2020

Field Skills: Want to be a better shooter? The first step is perfecting your release.

Dozens of different bait types are commonly used for catfish, including these great options.12 Great Catfish Baits Catfish

12 Great Catfish Baits

Jeff Samsel

Dozens of different bait types are commonly used for catfish, including these great options.

See More Trending Articles

More Whitetail

Field skills: Here's how to find more game with binoculars every time.The Right Way — Some Wrong Ways, Too — to Glass for Big Game Hunting How-To

The Right Way — Some Wrong Ways, Too — to Glass for Big Game

Bob Robb - September 04, 2020

Field skills: Here's how to find more game with binoculars every time.

If you're like a lot of deer hunters, you probably hunt out of the same stands every season. You might want to re-think things.Take a New (Deer) Stand for Fall Hunting Whitetail

Take a New (Deer) Stand for Fall Hunting

Mike Marsh - July 09, 2020

If you're like a lot of deer hunters, you probably hunt out of the same stands every season....

More adjustability and improved balance make these nine compounds even easier to shoot.The Best Compound Bows for 2020 Bows

The Best Compound Bows for 2020

Jace Bauserman - August 24, 2020

More adjustability and improved balance make these nine compounds even easier to shoot.

Prevent a great afternoon deer hunt from turning into a long night of dread and disappointment.Blood-Trailing Big Game After Dark Hunting How-To

Blood-Trailing Big Game After Dark

Bob Robb - October 21, 2020

Prevent a great afternoon deer hunt from turning into a long night of dread and disappointment.

See More Whitetail

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Game & Fish App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now