Food Plots 101: For Best Habitat Management Planning, the First Step is Soil Testing

Deer seasons are over in some parts of the country and still going lights out in others, including the Southeast region where food plots and deer hunting go together like college football and pretty cheerleaders.

If you’re not thinking about food plots for the 2015 season, well, maybe it’s time to do so. If your season is over it would be good to make some notes about the different plots on your property and what you need to do or change. If your season is still going on, take note of your plots when you’re in the field or talk with club or family members about what they’re seeing.

In any case, here is a critical first step for anyone wanting the best food plots for deer hunting:

As a co-owner of Real World Wildlife Seed Company, I field a lot of questions each year regarding food-plots. These questions run the gamut from the most basic to the most complex. Some of are even impossible to accurately answer.

By Don Higgins

Soil testing will give your habitat planning a boost by providing information about the pH and whether you need lime, fertilizer or other options.

Soil testing will give your habitat planning a boost by providing information about the pH and whether you need lime, fertilizer or other options.

This experience has taught me that the typical deer hunter planting food plots is not a farmer and lacks a lot of the basic knowledge concerning the establishment and maintenance of food plots that my agricultural background has given me. I have learned that education is extremely important to help customers experience success with their first food plot efforts.

One question I often get that really shows a person’s inexperience concerns my recommendations for fertilizer and lime. It is as if they expect to just be able to tell me what they are planting and I should be able to rattle off some magical fertilizer formulation that will allow their food-plots to look as lush as those in magazines such as Deer & Deer Hunting. These questions are impossible to answer because I have no idea regarding the analysis of the soil where the person intends to plant their plot. The good news is the answer to these questions can be easily obtained by submitting a soil sample for a soil test.

Soil tests are very cheap, easy to do and will often mean the difference between success and disappointment. I am not going to go into the details of how to conduct your test, as that info is readily available.

Instead, I am going to reiterate just how important a soil test is. Your soil fertility may be fine but the pH can make it impossible for the plants in your plots to utilize the nutrients. Adding the right amount of lime to the soil can correct this problem and lime is relatively inexpensive.

The only way you will ever know what your soil needs to produce great food plots is by doing a soil test. You wouldn’t go hunting without sighting in your gun or bow, yet planting a food plot without a soil test is essentially the same thing.

To get the most from your plots this year, don’t skip the most important step in the process. Do a soil test!

Don Higgins has gained a respected reputation for his knowledge about hunting mature whitetail bucks and for his work in creating quality whitetail habitat. Higgins can be reached through his website:

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