Food Plotting in April
Photo by The Bearded Buck
April means springtime in the outdoors. It also means more than the start of turkey and fishing seasons. April is go-time on getting ready to plant those spring food plots. One of the more active months of the year for those hunters who go the extra mile.
While the food plotting community remains split and somewhat skeptical of spring food plot planting, there is no doubt that it can benefit the deer herd. Proper nutrition is crucial as bucks begin the antler regrowth process and fawns begin to hit the ground.
The spring and summer months are where success in the fall is built. Big racks and healthy, plentiful deer herds do not come overnight. Unless you are blessed with a hunting spot that features premier habitat and agricultural fields planted by professional farmers, you will probably have to do some work on your own.
Hardcore deer managers seek to provide the deer herd with that extra kick of nutrition in antler building season. Things like soybeans and clover can provide that perfect balance of forage during the spring and summer. Hunters looking for late-season food sources also have to get off on the right foot in April.
If you have dreams of a standing soybean field or a cut corn field during the late-season periods of December and January, you have to get rolling in the spring. Those grain crops have to be planted sometime in April, May or June. Leaving April and early May for prep time.
If you follow us closely here at Affiliated Outdoors, you know that we already kicked off our food plotting season on March 2. Throwing some clover seed into established plots in hopes of thickening them up through frost seeding. April is also a great time to tend to previously established perennials.
All of this leading us to a pretty busy month for food plotters.
Without further delay, we wanted to present you with a list of April food plotting endeavors. Something to guide those of you who are new to planting food plots or to give you veterans a little bit of food for thought.
Spring is a time when many food plotters establish new planting sites. You have fresh plans in mind after watching deer throughout the fall and winter. You may also have a mess on your hands from the residuals of the previous year's crop. Corn stalks and soybean stems litter plenty of plots here in the Midwest. April is a great time to get out and buzz that garbage down with the brush hog. You can also get the brush hog out to scalp some overgrown grass in the spot where you're planning to plant that new plot.
Soil preparation is the top task in the month of April. The strength of your food plots and eventually the strength of your deer herd will be dictated by your soil. Good soil is the basis of strong deer herds. Just look at the Midwest and the agricultural belt of America for confirmation on that. If your soil lacks, there is a good chance that your plots and your deer herd will lack as well.
We covered the importance of conducting a soil test quite a while back, but click here if you want to read more. You simply have to know where your soil stands. PH is incredibly important, but micro and macronutrients are also huge. Once you have an idea of what your soil needs, you can begin to add to it.
There's a great chance that your soil will need some lime to sweeten that PH up a bit. April is the time to drop some pelletized lime or to have your local ag service spread some lime for you. Adjusting that soil in April will set the foundation for success over the summer months and beyond.
You will learn in the future that we are not huge advocates of tilling in the spring, but some situations necessitate tilling to establish food plots. Don't get us wrong, getting on a tractor and tearing up some ground is great. If that is your style, April is go-time. The ground is soft and perfect for tilling. The sooner you break that ground and bring up fresh dirt, the more you can work that soil over the next month in anticipation of planting.
Tend to Your Perennials
If you are a food plotting veteran working the same piece of ground for several years, there is a good chance that you have some kind of perennial plot on your property. Clover is the golden perennial in deer and turkey hunting. You can always plant clover in the spring, but it's actually best to drop it into the ground in the early fall. Meaning that you should have clover plots bursting out of dormancy as we speak.
April is where successful clover plots are built. As that clover turns bright green, you need to be helping it along. Clover is a legume, which means that it prefers a bit of a sweeter PH. A shot of pelletized lime is a smart play in early April. Later in the month, it's a great idea to drop some fertilizer. Something with a low nitrogen analysis like a 5-14-42 would be a great option. It can be shocking how clover will respond to a lime and fertilizing regiment.