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Deer Hunting Food Plot Trail System

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In the previous year, I put in a 1/2 acre food plot along a road (see sketch below). This plot brought in deer, but mostly from across the road. What I really wanted was something to draw in deer from the back of our property that bordered on bigger woods. The property in the back had been logged off 2 1/2 years ago and was just starting to grow in nicely with young popples, but was kind of a tangled mess too. So I decided to create a series of food plots and an ATV trail that itself was seeded with food plot. The trails and plots totaled nearly 1/5 acre. The rest of this page details the steps I took. Update: These plot trails prove to be especially valuable in late season - the deer and rabbits trimmed them off nicely over the summer and they are good and green as everything else is brown! (See bottom photo)

foodplot trail

The First Thing To Do is to create your ATV trail and plot areas. You will need to map out a trail that avoids trees and large stumps. You will need to remove logs, sticks, and brush. I found it was best to pull up small trees if possible. Otherwise, dig them out. Also, old rotted stumps could be chopped or dug out but other stumps needed to be cut down at ground level. At the same time, I cleared out three areas (outlined in green above) for some new small food plots. All in all, this was a lot of work! Also, at the end of summer, I put in a small new fall food plot next to my archery stand within the larger original plot.

After getting a trail established, I built a few needed bridges. See my ATV bridge plans. These would allow me to get back to my trail with my ATV, mowers, disc, etc.

I ran a push mower over the new trail and plots to help clear it of debris, old dead grass, and taller grasses and plants starting to grow. The trail was starting to take shape.

Weed Killer - Phase 1 - After getting the trail established and mowed, allow a few weeks for plants to grow back to a height of about 6". Then spray thoroughly with a Roundup type weed killer containing glyphosate. Use at least 8 ounces of concentrate per gallon of solution. I used a 4 gallon backpack sprayer. This worked nicely! Note that you can get weed killer for about 1/8 the cost at a farmer's agricultural supply center.

Till Up and Prepare For Seeding - After 7 or more days, start preparing your trail and plots for seeding. I added a bag or two of lime to each new small plot and tilled it in with a rear tine tiller. For the trail I used an ATV disk that I purchased at Northern Tools. I found that the disk, would go over the top of the few sawed off stumps I had left, so it worked well. In my heavy soil, I was only able to till in an inch or two. Now, let this sit for a week or so to let any unkilled weeds pop up. A rainstorm or two will help bring out the new weeds. Ideally, you should have a soil test done, but at a minimum, get a pH kit and check your pH - mine was about 6, the minimum for good growth. Lime will help bring up your pH.

deer hunting food plot trail

Weed Killer Phase 2 - Three to seven days after tilling up and a rain has occured, spray any new weeds thoroughly. The tilling you did probably brought some new weed seed to the surface. If you skip this step, your new trail and plots may get overrun with weeds in a season. A day after you spray, you can plant your food plot.

Seed and Pack Down - Figure out how many acres you have. I have a acreage calculator that helps greatly. I paced off my trails and used 4 ft (1.33 yards) for the width. Also added in the small plots. I came up with about 0.2 acres (1/5 acre). I used twice the recommended seed due to less than ideal seeding conditions. To avoid running out of seed, mix your seed with fertilizer and some other filler. I used a bag of vermiculite. To pack down, I used a cultipacker filled with water - an ATV can pack the seed down with its tires, but on a trail barely wide enough, you will not be able to pack in the center. The cultipacker, combined with the ATV tires, packs the whole width of the trail. Plant before several forecasted days of cool rainy weather.

Mow Your Trail and Plots Once or Twice, if Needed - You will want to mow your plots to a height of 6" as needed. Otherwise, stay off your trail if you want deer to use it! Note that if you have a fair amount of deer on your trail, they will trim it off nicely and no mowing is needed. In the photo below, taken in mid-October, the deer kept this trail well trimmed - I never had to mow it!

ATV mower

Here is my food plot trail after a killing frost browned out most everything else. My plot contaiing clover is still nice and green!


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