Regrouping after a Spring Food Plot Failure
Photo by NPR
The spring food plot that you envisioned being a deer magnet in the upcoming fall season is slowly but surely turning into a barren wasteland of weeds and grasses. Now what?
Well, the first thing you can do is welcome yourself to the club. Anyone who has ever planted a food plot for hunting purposes has experienced miserable failure. It's just par for the course. There are so many reasons why food plots struggle and ultimately fail.
The second thing that you need to do is pull it together to get ready for your next project. Outdoorsmen and women aren't the type of people to give up and give in after a failure, so we have to use these failures as learning experiences. Otherwise you will be right back in the same position after your next food plotting project, and then you will definitely feel like giving up.
Despite a mid-summer food plot burnout feeling miserable, you can still bounce back to do something good for the wildlife and for your upcoming hunting season.
Put a Finger on the Failure
If your food plot is a failure, it's time to figure out why. Unfortunately, there are a lot of reasons why food plots fail. The reasons for failure can be numerous. Your plot may be a disaster because of poor soil, weed control issues, weather, or over-browsing by the very deer that we are planting for. If you're new to food plotting, it can be tough to put your finger on the failure. A plot that never emerges or grows slowly may indicate improper planting techniques or poor soil. A plot overtaken by weeds should speak for itself. Weather is also pretty self explanatory. Over-browsing can be a tough thing to gauge, but the use of utilization cages can be a major help. Utilization cages simply cordon off a couple of feet in your food plot to give you some reference to the exposed areas where deer and other animals can eat. When you are able to decide why your food plot failed, you can begin to learn from the mistakes or the uncontrollable factors.
Put it in the Bank
In order to move on and become a better food plotter, you have to learn from your mistakes. Knowing where things went wrong and putting those things in your memory bank can help you to avoid them in the future. We have all heard the famous saying about people who fail to learn from history, right? Experience truly is the best teacher, but only if you put your mistakes into the bank and avoid them in the future. Poor soil? Remember to treat your soil right with lime and fertilizer next time. Weed issues? Make sure that you are applying the proper herbicide or terminating weeds and grasses in some manner before you plant. Are the deer mowing your food plots to a nub? Well, you might want to consider harvesting more deer or planting more acreage if possible. With uncontrollable things like weather out of the picture, there is almost always a lesson and an answer to your food plotting failures.
Transition to Fall Annuals
Let's be honest, nobody likes dabbling further in their failures and learning the tough lessons. If you're an eager outdoorsman looking to make things right, you want to get back on the horse and plant another food plot. There's good news if you are looking for redemption. It's mid-July and that means you need to be planning for fall food plots. Fall annual blends can hit the dirt anywhere from early August to late September, depending on where you live. Even the best food plotters have to use fall annual plots as bandages for spring and summer failures. Fall plots can still provide quality nutrition for the autumn and winter months. They can also revive that stand or blind location that you thought was doomed after the spring or summer failure. August and September are perfect months for establishing clover, brassicas, turnips, radishes and plenty more.
Think Small and Numerous
Shifting your focus to fall food plots is going to require an adjustment to your overall food plotting game-plan. You may have been dreaming of big destination feeding fields to help you recruit new deer to your property over the summer. It's time to forget that for the time being and focus upon creating small food plots in as many areas as possible. Think hunting over feeding and housing deer. Creating what a lot of hunters call "kill-plots" or "hidey-hole" food plots. Small areas that will attract deer enough to get them in the neighborhood during hunting season. You're not abandoning providing nutrition by doing this, either. Think about spreading the wealth rather than putting all of your hopes into one or two larger plots. You can still feed the local deer herd while spreading out the browse pressure and hunting opportunities. Salvaging the win-win situation for your hunting season and for quality deer management.
I hope that you can now see that a spring or summer food plotting failure does not spell doom and gloom for the hard-working hunter. The opportunity to plant fall annuals can give most of us a chance at redemption.
In my experience, you never gain anything by giving up. That usually holds true in food plotting. You will thank yourself for keeping after it on that first fall afternoon in the treestand as you watch the deer pour into the plot that you salvaged. It's an incredibly rewarding experience, especially if you ultimately harvest a deer off of your plot.
Going with numerous small food plots can be a dynamite tactic when it comes to fall annuals. You just have to figure out why your spring or summer plot failed, learn the lesson to avoid stubbing your toe again, and regroup for the fall.