When it comes to hunting deer, creating a great deer food plot can be the difference between bagging your whitetail vs. coming home empty.  By following the tips below, you'll learn how to prepare and till your plot using the proper fertilizer, and to plant seeds that produce the best deer hunting results.

Deer food plots before planting for whitetail deer
Before Planting
Knowing what deer eat is important to creating better food plots for deer
After Planting


Why Tilling the Soil Makes for a Better Deer Food Plot

Removing Debris:

Depending on the current condition of your deer food plot, you may need to first remove any large pieces of debris from the plot before tilling the soil.  Tilling the soil is key to food plot preparation that creates an attractive whitetail deer habitat.  The first benefit of tilling is that it incorporates the existing biomass into the soil.  As it decays, it will provide more nutrients to power your next deer food crop.

Water Filtration:

Tillint the soil increases water infiltration by loosening the soil and promoting better and deeper root growth that will later nourish your deer plot seed.  As the soil is tilled, all of the biomass, including the weeds and weed seeds, are also incorporated into the soil.  This incorporation helps eliminate the next crop of weeds.  If you turn the undesirable biomass and more importantly the seeds deep enough into the soil you will discourage the next crop of weeds.

Picking a Cover Crop for Your Deer Food Plot:

We recommend incorporating a cover crop as the next step in controlling weeds.  If the weed seed is turned deep enough into the soil, it will decompose deep in the earth and prevent the weeds from germinating.  Not only does this practice aid in controlling weeds, it also adds valuable organics into the soil that will later boost the growth of your deer plot seed.

Using Lime to Improve pH for a Healthier Deer Food Plot

Adjust pH Before Planting Your Deer Food Cover Crop:

Achieving proper pH helps make for a successful deer food cover crop.  The more successful you cover crop, the better your chances of having a successful food plot resulting in a better deer hunting experience.  If you do not adjust your pH before planting your cover crop or deer food plot, you run the risk of poor plant performance and mediocre results.  Spending the time to perform these steps will attract more deer to your food plot in the long run, and will reward you with better deer hunting, which is the true fruit of your labor.

Using Lime to Improve pH and Mineral Content:

Although this task seems trivial and not as important as broadcasting your seed or tilling your soil, using lime may be the most important and far-reaching key to success for your food plot.  Introducing lime improves your cover crop by adding minerals and regulating pH to achieve the most beneficial range for plants and soil organisms.

Strive for a Neutral pH for a Healthy Food Plot for Deer:

Most nutrients become available at a pH range of 6.2 to 7.0 with the most desirable results achieved at a neutral level.  Soil organisms such as earthworms desire pH levels near neutral.  Even some beneficial fungi and bacteria that promote decomposition and release nutrients to the soil flourish in a near neutral pH.  Stabilizing your pH near the neutral point will set the foundation for a strong and healthy plot Lime or calcium carbonate is an alkaline material.  The basic (>7) pH of the lime is what is responsible for increasing the pH levels in your soil.  The calcium that is present in the lime becomes available as the lime buffers the soil.  Calcium is an important mineral that helps most plant species flourish.

Use Cover Crops to Prepare the Soil for Your Deer Food Plot Seed

Using a cover crop will aid in preparing the soil, eliminating weed competition, providing additional nutrients, and adding nitrogen into the soil.  Cover crops are also referred to as green manures.  Basically this cover crop will be incorporated into the soil to provide compost-like effects to further improve the soil condition for the next crop.

We recommend oats as the cover crop for your food plot for several reasons.  First, oats are inexpensive and fast growing, two attributes that you should be looking for to establish a healthy food plot site.  Oats are a non-legume cover crop, which do not fix nitrogren from the atmosphere, but instead they recycle the nitrogen to help reduce leaching losses.  This will aid the health of the crop that takes the place of the cover crop later in the spring or early summer.

More Reasons to Use Oats to Prepare Your Food Plot

Oats grow fast and quickly establish a thick mat that has several benefits:

  • Inhibits weeds:
    First, the portion of the plant above the soil quickly blocks out sunlight from the soil, which then inhibits the growth of competing weeds.  If a weed is able to germinate, it may be choked out by the oats and never get the opportunity to produce seeds.
  • Nitrogen & nutrients:
    This fast growing plant creates a good amount of biomass that will later be incorporated into the soil and return more nitrogen and nutrients back to the soil.  The root mass will provide additional organic matter to increase nutrients as it decomposes in the soil.  The remaining root mass also aids in conditioning the site for future crops.  The root system will drive these nutrients deep into the ground.  Oats can generate roots that reach 30 inches or more into the soil, plus additional inches at maturity depending on the soil type and conditions.
  • Water filtration:
    The root system will also increase water infiltration and attract beneficial worms and insects which will aid in further enhancing the site for our future food plot.
  • Erosion Control:
    Reductions in soil erosion due to wind and water are also great benefits of the cover crop.