Big machines are more efficient for large feeding plots, but ATVs are a much better option - sometimes the only one - for small hunting plots.
Build smaller hunting plots between bedding areas and feeding plots and you’ll have better odds of seeing deer before dark.
By Bob Humphrey
Planting may be a few weeks or months away, but there’s no better time than right now to begin planning your food plots for the coming year. Food plot is a generic term used to describe an area that was agriculturally manipulated for purposes of attracting and feeding wildlife, especially deer. However, not all food plots are create equal. In fact, there are some distinct differences.
There are two general categories of food plots: feeding and hunting. Of course, these categories are not mutually exclusive. In fact, both types serve both purposes. The difference is their primary intended purpose.
The overriding goal of feeding plots is to provide deer with more and better food on a year-round basis. In doing so the landowner can hold more deer on his property year round, and offer them better nutrition. This is typically where you’ll plant your summer crops - high in protein to support antler growth in bucks and better lactation in females.
Feeding plots are designed and managed for agriculture. In other words, their shape and size are such that they can be planted and maintained with the least amount of effort. They are large, and often square or rectangular as these configurations lend themselves better to larger machinery like tractors.
Hunting plots, on the other hand, are designed more to attract deer so you can shoot them. They’re generally much smaller than feeding plots. They don’t need to be big. In fact, you don’t want them to be. Deer will feel more secure in less open space, and will be more inclined to visit them during daylight.
The better ones are also configured for hunting. Instead of flat and square, they may be long and narrow, or irregularly shaped, and are often on less arable ground. This offers better shot opportunities, particularly for the bowhunter. It also makes planting more difficult.
However, this is where a utility ATV really shines. Towing small plot implements around is a breeze with your four-wheeler or side-by-side. And because you don’t need tons of lime and fertilizer, you can carry what you need in the smaller bed or racks of an ATV.
These smaller machines are also ideal for a third sub-category, what I call opportunity plots. One of the simplest and most cost-effective food plots is a cut-over. Selectively cut an area and as soon as the sunlight hits the ground, new growth springs - instant food plot. Treat the cut-over and adjunct logging roads with a bit of lime, fertilizer and seed you’ll have an even much more productive plot. Maneuvering in and around remaining trees and stumps with a tractor would be a chore. But with an ATV it’s much easier.