Plotting on a Budget

We all know genetics, nutrition, and pressure play key roles in whitetails growing healthy and reaching their full potential.  Some of these can be controlled or assisted and others cannot. I will address the issues out of our hands in a minute, but planting food plots can drastically improve the herd health and hold more whitetails on your property.  

For starters…I do not have a thousand acre farm. I actually lease 120 acres in SE Iowa and the landowner gave me permission a few years back to plant a food plot on this secluded 1.7 acre piece. I have always enjoyed the process of land management even though I have very little to play with. My background from college is a degree in Turfgrass/Horticulture so at least understanding soils, fertilizer, and organic matter come into play and tackling food plots is not as daunting as some make it.  

In the world of beans and corn, every neighboring farm has em’! Of course, most rotate their crops and I have tried beans and corn on my plot to decent success before I decided to go a different approach. Clover!  My plot was too small to try to keep a good stand of beans for late season but in years past it did give my soil the organic matter it greatly needed. The blend of Clover/Chicory from Domain will be perfect for my setup! I actually blended Hot Chic and Comeback Kid because I do like alfalfa along with clover.  


I started out by spraying my entire plot with Roundup 41% glyphosate using a borrowed 4-wheeler and a 15 gallon boom sprayer I purchased from the local Farm/Home store for a one time cost of $174.99 to go with the now non patented “Roundup” mixed at 3 oz per gallon costing me about $30 after a simple $15 soil test.   

Once I waited 3-4 days to make sure I hadn’t missed any spots, we tilled the ground with a friends tractor/tiller setup giving a good 6” deep till but more importantly mixing the organic matter/thatch layer in with the soil to give more nutrients during decomposition and I’ve found this will keep soil from compacting as much, plus giving some extra moisture retention in sandy soils. There are several options for exposing the ground to get the seed/soil contact you need, small ATV implements or hand rakes (for really small plots) can both work great. As long as you have some sun and dirt, you can get something to grow.  


Sometimes with clover it’s just easier to spread by hand due to most hand/bag spreaders don’t have a gate opening small enough.  I used 2 jugs of Hot Chic and 1 of the Comeback Kid and in roughly 30 mins had my plot seeded. And with a few nice timely rains, the plot will be up and growing!  My theory this year was to offer the greens!  The farmers around me will have beans and corn and with my smaller plot, I don’t have enough yield to support the deer browsing by the time late season rolls around.  Maybe I will have the only green field in the area too? Time will tell.

Food plotting doesn’t mean you have to have thousands of acres! Small or Micro plots as some call them can produce a “honey” hole. And maybe you just like planting and making some small changes to your property to increase your deer and turkey habitat (which turkeys love the bugs in clover/alfalfa). The schedule I keep, with hunting in numerous states, in the mountains out west, and traveling for photo shoots for clients…micro plots work for me with a couple of cell cams to check things when I’m on the road. I have seen a huge increase in past seasons with does in the plot and that will translate to more buck encounters closer to rut!  


Good luck and happy plotting! 

John “utah” Mulligan

@johnny.utah.hunt - instagram




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