It’s a given that August is hot, humid and nasty. Who in the world is thinking now about fall hunting?
Well, any deer hunter worth his trail camera, grunt call, bow and arrows or a favorite deer rifle is already dreaming about sitting over a well-groomed food plot in a well-positioned tree stand or shooting house.
Focus boys, focus: Its coming fast.
The operative phrase “a well-groomed” food plot. The dog days of August are certainly not too early to start getting prime wildlife food plots prepped for fall deer hunting.
If you get behind the 8-ball now, you may never find the time to catch up.
Projecting plot plans
“Just about the time the Wildlife Federation has their Extravaganza the first weekend in August, we start talking wildlife food plots,” said Dr. Andy Dulaney, who along with Dr. Drew Dulaney make up a father-and-son hunting team with property along the Big Black River in Holmes County. “We start talking about burning off plots, planting plans and what new seed mixtures to test out for the season, but mainly we focus on just planning on getting the plots in shape for good planting success.”
“The plot soils on our 16 available wildlife food plots totaling roughly 40 acres across our entire hunting property of some 600 acres varies greatly from a sandy dirt in places to hard rock clods in others. However, this time of year what they all have in common is waist-high weeds.
“The first order of business is an application of herbicide to knock down the bulk of the summer growth well ahead of even talking about putting a disk in the ground. If conditions are right, some of the plots might be burned off, too.
“If we can’t get onto the place to do the spraying, then we have an outside food-plot farmer get in there early to cut the plots down with a first disking.
That leaves time for the soil to breath a little before being planted.
“With our annual idealistic goal of planting sometime around Labor Day, we want the plots to lay fallow for several weeks before we hit it again with final disking before planting,” Andy Dulaney said.
Plotting time frames
Drew Dulaney added said it takes planning to get everything done.
“When you get involved in planting as many plots as we do — that being a rotation of the 16 plots down to about seven to eight each year with about 20 to 25 acres planted in plots — the timing is everything,” he said. “We always have a great plan, but often it is foiled by Mother Nature, usually in the manner of it being too dry to plant.
“We have had to push back planting our plots into early October. Then it always becomes a factor of post-planting to get enough moisture from rain to get the seeds started. It’s always a toss of the dice.”
“We have discovered after 20 plus years of owning this hunting land that allowing sufficient time for the disked weeds to completely die off is essential to the final success of the food plots come rifle season. Then we have to disk and disk again to try to get the heavy dirt clods to break up into a finer seed bed. That can be really tough in dry years, which we have had plenty of the last few seasons. Hard, dry ground is tough to break up.”
“But, of course, you can’t plant until the plots are properly prepared, and that can be the rub. You want an adequate time delay to allow the turned-under weed growth to die off, but then you can’t wait too long before you try to plant your selected wildlife seeds along with an appropriate application of fertilizer before new weed growth will inevitably begin to sprout — especially if the area has been getting any rain at all.”
After preparation, it’s a matter of crossing your fingers.
“You simply have to have the plots ready to plant, and then when the conditions are just about as right as you can get them, you have to get in there and plant as quickly as possible,” Drew Dulaney said. “Then pray for rain.”
Indeed, when it comes to food plot planning and execution, timing can be a huge factor that often cannot even control.
Time to get with it
“Some seasons we even have a little panic attack about our food plots,” Drew Dulaney said. “We plan and plan. We spray or disk, then wait for the right time to disk again.
“Depending upon the weather trends or approaching rain fronts, which we literally watch nearly every day, we have to be on standby to pull the trigger to plant, fertilize and then cover the seed bed. Often this ends up being done all in one weekend or two to three days of the week.
“We may well be on a cycle to do our liming as well, so that also has to be done in this same time frame even though the lime will not impact us until a year later. It still has to be done when our food plot farmer guy is available to get it done. Once he is done, he is gone for the year.”
Again, planning is planning, but timing is everything when it comes to wildlife food plots.