Small Clover Food Plots | Selecting the Best Location
With spring rounding the corner, it’s only natural for deer hunters to begin thinking about food plots again. From soil preparation to ordering seed, the process repeats each March for most. However, each hunter starts the process with the same question…”Where will I plant food plots this year”. While some hunters might consider entire fields, or 10+ acres worth of food plots on certain properties, most are just considering one or two small food plots. These will be less than one acre food plots in wooded openings, edges of fields, small logging landings, or maybe even small plots cleared by hand. While small food plots may be less in size and limit species that can be planted, they are no less effective at attracting deer. They can work as micro food plots or kill plots, a low pressure attraction source that can trip up even the canniest of mature bucks. By nature, smaller food plots take more strategic placement, as they can’t rely on the shear amount of food available as a destination food source. This article will cover some of the best locations for small kill plots and clover food plots.
In a recent blog by DeerGro, a lime replacement food plot spray, titled Frost Seeding Food Plots, a breakdown of a strategic clover kill plot is offered.
The article first discusses frost seeding, a tool, and method for planting food plots In late winter and early spring. From frost seeding, the article begins to discuss the scenario in which frost seeding was used to tag the author’s target buck. The HuntStand mapping app was used to breakdown the hunt and setup.
Best Locations for Small Food Plots
Small food plots in the woods or in openings tend to have several factors working against them. To start, the shade is a big issue and limits food plot productivity. Small food plots also happen to be subject to over-browsing as a few deer can nip any species that can’t respond with more vigorous growth. For this reason, food plots under an acre benefit from being planted in clover, rather than fall food plot species like brassicas, or species like soybeans. Clover tolerates shade and can take a beating in terms of deer browse and still produce tons of quality forage per acre. It also can be established by tools like frost seeding or simply broadcasting after a glyphosate application. It can also be easily managed simply with herbicides.
With a species like clover, small food plots can offer green forage for early season bow hunting or green forage in November that can be very attractive in the absence of other crops or acorns. The real benefit of clover, in a setting like a small kill plot, is its attractive enough to pull a deer through the plot in a natural route they are already taking. In the DeerGro blog, the studied plot is positioned between bedding and a large food source, acting as a staging area.
Photo: The plot outlined in the DeerGro blog, nestled between several bedding areas and the staple food source of a large corn field.
Positioning Near Large Food Sources
Small food plots and kill plots are very effective when positioned near or adjacent to large food plots, and/or known bedding areas. This placement allows the limiting size of a kill plot to be used as an advantage. A small opening or field edge can act as a staging area for the property’s deer herd. In the final hour of light deer, particularly mature bucks will stage in the plot before moving to a larger food source. This allows them to stay within their comfort zone, still with plenty of cover from the surrounding edge or trees around the plot. This plot placement, adjacent to larger food sources allows them to dine on an appetizer without the risk a big field has. It can also serve as a checkpoint for scent checking, as the addition of a mock scrape, waterhole, or other nominal improvements can create an irresistible point for passing bucks.
Photo: A target buck leaving a sunny south slope bedding area through the adjacent clover food plot, before heading into the larger ag fields.
Positioning near Bedding Areas
The very same mechanics of a small food plot next to a food source can work wonders next to known bedding areas. If a property is lacking a staple destination food source like a large clearing, ag field, or another food plot, a small clover kill plot might just become one of your best strategies for shifting deer movement into some sort of pattern. Take for example a heavily wooded property that lacks any pastures, fields, or clearings. Deer movements are very tricky considering food sources most likely include random browse and acorns. A kill plot adjacent to a bedding area could be that one source of green and can serve as a big buck magnet in late afternoons or throughout the rut. However, this setup requires much more stealth as any pressure could enhance the already perceived danger for a buck visiting this risky food source.
Of course, whether planting a small food plot near a bedding area or a food source, the proper precautions need to be thought out.
- Does it make sense for the deer in terms of travel and scent checking areas?
- During what winds can you hunt the plot?
- Is it too close to a bedding area or food source that it creates entry/exit problems?
- What route has bullet proof access for minimal pressure?
- When and how often will you check the camera to pattern deer on the plot?
- Does this pull deer away from another setup?
- Does the kill plot offer a tree stand or blind setup that works with the wind?
Photo: The target buck being examined in the small clover kill plot that had inevitably been responsible for his harvest.
With spring arriving in just a matter of weeks, now is the time to plan out your small kill plots. As you have read, small food plots are subject to more strategy and thought due both to their limitations and benefits. Done right, small food plots can help you pattern buck and deer herd movements, or can be directly responsible for setting up an encounter and shot opportunity in the plot.