Deer camps argue every year about the relative merits of planting springtime, warm-season wildlife food plots. I can argue either side of the coin, but the final decision ought to be based on the current status of residing deer and expense considerations.

Each club has to decide this balance on their own. But getting some input from a state biologist would no doubt help in the decision-making process.

"After all, we do plant fall plots, though we have scaled them back from roughly 40 acres to 10 to 15 acres and reduced the number of plots in half," said Andrew Dulaney of Spring Farms in Holmes County. "We were trying to play with the redistribution of deer on the property. We had too many plots that dispersed deer too wildly across the place.

But now we are considering spring plots, trying to maintain deer on our land."

Spring plots can provide additional high-quality forages when birthing does need extra nutrition for milk production and for fawns to eventually have high-grade browse to eat. Of course, if the rains cooperate, native browse is often enough to supply these needs.

However, if your deer camp land soils are poor or low in production of browse, then it's time to consider some warm-season plots.

 

Step by step

There is usually a logical approach to most things, and this includes a positive pathway to working up an overall plan to plant spring wildlife plots.

These elements should include the following:

Site Selection

Soil Analysis

Liming and pH

Fertilizing

Seed Selections

Planting

 

Most of these plot-planning factors are probably already in place on your deer hunting lands from past fall season planting projects. It isn't rocket science, but there is a reasonable way to go about prepping soils and following the proper procedures to obtaining successful food plots, whether in the spring or fall.

This may also be a good time to reconsider the location or layout of current plots. Before another round of planting takes place, think about letting some plots go fallow or creating new ones. Maybe alter the planting rows, or skip rows. A couple of seasons ago, we planted every other 20 yards to creating a stripe effect. We used less seed with this idea alone.

Existing plots can simply be replanted with warm-season seeds after proper seed bed prep. If you catch the weed-growing cycle early enough, the plowing or discing should not be too difficult to return the plots back to good seed beds. This is a key part of getting a good start to high quality plots.

 

Sew to reap

"Several seasons ago, we tried to skimp on food plots, and it was a waste of time and money," Dulaney said. "If you cut corners, it can come back to haunt you.

"Spend the money where it is needed, especially on lime and fertilizer. We knew right away we had screwed up by reducing the amount of fertilizer. Hope we don't make that mistake again."

Just because it is an extra spring plot is no reason to shortchange the process.

When it comes to liming your plots, this is definitely not the place to go cheap. Have each plot soil tested to know exactly what nutrients are required. Soils can vary greatly across even small acreage deer clubs, so don't assume it is the same for all plots. Whatever the recommendation says, do it.

Soil prep is paramount. Fall plot plants should be dead by now. I argue this point every planting season, but my camp mates will not listen.

Discing needs to be thorough and overdone. Seed beds should be cut in both directions multiple times to break up clods and hard ground. Good seeds demand a silt-like soil to produce quality and quantity.

 

Warm-season seed options

Seed mixes by their very nature tend to produce better, but these mixes do not have to be high-profile trade name brands.

Most local farm co-ops will mix whatever you want. Just make sure you feel confident the seeds are fresh and not left over from fall. Otherwise buy bagged seeds that should be dated on the package.

For spring, legumes are a highly recommended choice. These include iron clay cowpeas, soybeans, clovers and joint vetch.

A really good standby standard selection for a spring/summer food plot seed mixture is 40 to 60 pounds per acre of iron clay peas with 10 to 15 pounds per acre of joint vetch.

But be sure the seeds are properly inoculated to ensure they germinate and sprout successfully.

Drill or broadcast the peas first, and cover lightly to about an inch deep.

Then spin spread and cover the vetch over the top of the peas to about a half inch.

Fertilize appropriately based on soil test and local recommendations.

To save time, the vetch and fertilizer can be put down at the same time.

That should put a wrap on a good warm-season wildlife food plot. The only other element needed is some rain.