Hunting on a small property can seem like a daunting task and we often fall into the trap, that our small property can’t produce quality deer or quality hunts. I had to see it to believe it myself, but with a little effort and a lot of sweat equity, I was able to turn my little acreage into a hunting paradise.
“The Harder you Work, the Luckier you Get.” — GARY PLAYER
How it Started
It all started the summer of 2018, my wife and I live on 7 acres of hard woods and rolling hills with no food established on the property when we built our house.
Year 1 of owning the property was a “scouting year” - I basically set up cameras and looked on onX Maps to see what looked like a strategic stand location and hunted natural deer movement passing through our little property.
The Deer Food Plot Process
The Fall of 2018 rolled around and I saw a few deer but knew I needed to give them a reason to hang around and seek out my property, which triggered me to try my hand at planting a food plot. This is where the property “make over” (and fun) began.
I thought to myself, “This is going to take a lot of work – but I’m willing to give it a shot!” That following Spring I started by clearing out about a 1/4 acre of all the underbrush and taking down some big trees to open it up for sunlight – the more sun the better roots and plants are able to develop.
After we cleared enough canopy to shed plenty of light on our new food plot location we went ahead and took a soil sample to see what type of pH level we were going to be working with. Thankfully, in my case, the results were favorable and I didn’t need to amend it with lime (6.0-7.0 is the desired pH level for food plots).
With the additional sunlight created our next step was to ensure we cleared the food plot as best we could to remove leaves, debris and competition, which will help allow for better seed to soil contact and better seed germination.
Our next task was to prep the plot for planting (with minimal equipment). Since I don’t own a tractor, disk or tiller I used a drag behind my ATV to help rough up the ground as much as possible, going over it many times, until plenty of dirt was exposed and the food plot was ready to plant.
The Domain Choice
The first year I planted Hot Chic and No BS, because both mixes offered plenty of year-round variety, but most importantly were shade tolerant. It was pretty impressive to see the Before and After and watch our hard work beginning to pay off – the food plot exploded in there!
Food Plot Results
That fall, during hunting season I was shocked with the amount of deer I would see during my hunts, grazing and socializing in the food plot! It was so rewarding to see and exciting to know that I was beginning to build a deer paradise in my own backyard.
While my new food plot did offer some perennial food sources, the following spring of 2020 I went back to my food plot and used a leaf blower to remove all the leaves and debris from the clover and chicory that remained and “frost seeded” in some additional Hot Chic and Comeback Kid to thicken up the plot.
As the summer months came the plot continued to grow and thrive – what was once overgrown forest had now become a small “destination” food source with lush clover and chicory. That fall rewarded us with our best year yet, with the amount of deer and turkeys that fed in it all fall long. The icing on the cake was my dad harvesting a beautiful 127” 9pt while hunting over the plot on Thanksgiving Day.
There is no property too small if you’re willing to put in the work because your hard work will pay off. It is so rewarding in the end to create the best Domain possible! Good luck and happy planting! #ifyoubuildittheywillcome
Jake Ergen - Wisconsin