Sep 10, 2018

Too late to plant a food plot? Or not ...

Even if your foot plot has been neglected all summer, a few simple tasks in early fall can still attract deer in a short time

By Steve Jordan

Going into the fall after a busy spring and summer, some of you have beautiful fall food plots already established. Some of you have overgrazed or extremely weedy plots. And I'm sure that some of you never got around to getting a food plot planted this year.

Let's address some of these scenarios.

If your food plot is overgrazed or extremely weedy in September or October, simply work up a part or all of it with a disk, digger or tiller. Freshly worked up soil in the fall is a huge draw in itself with the aroma it gives off.

I would recommend planting winter rye during this later time of the year. The deer and turkey will eat on it after it greens up and will continue eating on it in the winter. They will even dig through the snow to get at the plants.

Other options for a late planting are winter wheat or good forage oats. Forage oats are a very sweet and slow growing oats compared to agricultural oats. Agricultural oats are fast growing and stalky, so deer don't eat on them often.

The fall is a good time to break in a new food plot or enhance an existing one. Even if you are hunting that area, a tractor with a digging attachment is an attractor to deer. Remember the fresh smell of the soil is an attractant and also works as a cover scent.

In two weeks or less, even in late fall, winter wheat and winter rye will green up nicely. If you look over your plot once it greens up and take notice of the dead, dried-up foliage, you will see why this is such a good attractant for deer.

If you want to get creative with this strategy, you could mix 20 percent by volume of the tillage radish seeds to the rye, wheat or oats. The tillage radish is a broad-leafed plant that thrives in cold weather also. If planted after Sept. 1, it may not get a tuber or radish forming above the ground, but the leaves are sought after regularly by the deer. This mix has been one of my favorites for September and October plantings.


Fall plantings still attract deer

I receive a lot of calls from hunters who have been sitting in their bow stands in mid-September and have said they meant to call me earlier in the year to see if I could help them get a food plot started. Depending on my schedule and their location, I will always try to encourage them to put it in even if it is getting late into the year. First of all, the plot will be worked up for the following year, soil samples will be back, and the late plot will still attract deer with a crop of rye, wheat or oats.

During the fall of 2017, our first hard frost did not come until mid-November in northeast Wisconsin. Our late plantings did fantastic.

It is so rewarding to see the wildlife come into a healthy green food plot in the later fall months. All the vegetation around the plot is dead, the leaves have fallen from the trees, and underbrush creates a desert look to the landscape, with the exception of the little field of lush green!

I like planting winter rye next to corn patches or wooded edges. When the deer come out of the cover, they almost always stop for a minute or so to eat on the lush rye grass.

These late plots still need fertilizing to get a deep green color and to be great tasting for the deer. Grasses like wheat and rye really green up nice with granular nitrogen (urea, 46-0-0). The tillage radish greens up very nicely with 17-17-17. It’s best to fertilize when planting and after the crop is up three inches or more. The later fertilizer is ideally put on right before a rain or if a rain is forecast in the next 24 hours. Liquid fertilizers also work with great success. Most local farm co-ops will usually have these fertilizers on hand.

So maybe it's not too late after all to plant your food plot. Have a great fall! I hope you have many viewing opportunities on your food plots and success on your hunts.


Steve Jordan's passion is planting food plots for wildlife. He likes to help others with their food plots and enjoys training them on how to attract wildlife to their properties. Steve and his wife, Kim, both enjoy hunting a variety of game on their own property near New London and sharing their love of the outdoors with their grandsons. They also go to Colorado each fall to hunt elk or mule deer, and can help you book a hunt of a lifetime with this outfitter.

Steve recently received two awards from the state chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation. One was the 2017 Outdoor Writer of the Year Award, while the other was the 2017 Land Stewardship Award. If you have questions on food plots, contact Steve or Kim at