Keeping a well maintained food plot is invaluable for landowners and hunting clubs alike. To do this, the proper equipment is a must but what equipment do you need for your specific situation? We’ve spoken with some experts to get their advice on how hunters can go about choosing food plot equipment.
Why You Need Implements to Plant Food Plots
You must have implements to plow, plant, fertilize, lime and seed a food plot. The types of implements you use for these tasks generally depends on the hardness of the ground where you’ll be planting the food plots. When considering the equipment to use for green field planting, you need to know the size of the field you’re planting, and whether or not that ground has been plowed before.
How to Decide on the Food Plot Equipment You Need
The first question that has to be answered, when choosing food plot equipment, is whether you need a tractor to create the food plot, or can you use implements designed for an ATV (all-terrain vehicle) or a UTV (utility task vehicle or Side-by-side).
In order to answer this question, you need to consider:
* Will this food plot be a new site?
* Is this location an old logging road or an old log landing?
* Is the spot an overgrown field?
* Are there stumps and roots at this site?
* Are the rocks there as large as grapefruits?
* Is the soil tightly packed, for instance like red clay will be?
* Is the plot larger than 3 acres?
* Are you planning on having six food plots or more?
When You Need a Tractor
If you answer any one of these questions with “yes,” then you need to use a tractor with tractor implements to create a food plot – at least for the first plowing. The best and least expensive way to solve these problems is to hire a farmer who already has these implements to do the work for you. Many of the people who are hunting today live in towns, have little or no experience in farming and don’t own tractors with all the implements required to solve the problems listed. Buying a tractor and the required implements is very expensive. If you can find a local farmer in your hunting club’s area who has the equipment and implements to create four to six green fields, then he can do the work in far less time and for less dollars than you can.
What About ATVs and Farming Implements
For beginning food plots (places that never have been plowed before), you are dollars and time ahead to hire a farmer with his tractor and implements to create, lime, fertilize and seed the food plot, initially. But after that initial food-plot planting, many landowners and hunting clubs may want to replant the food plots once or twice a year, with their ATVs and ATV implements.
The two types of ATVs and UTVs are the ones designed to take hunters and their equipment to and from hunting sites and help carry the animals they take out of the backcountry and the ATVs with more muscle that can do the work required to build and maintain a green field. The muscled-up ATV engine needs to be at least 450 ccs, have four-wheel drive, feature low-range capabilities and have been well-maintained or be new.
An ATV that doesn’t meet these specifications won’t get the job done when you put ATV food plot equipment on the back of it. If the green field has been prepared by a farmer the year or the season before, the field is less than ½ or ¼ acre and there’s not a large number of green fields to plow and plant, then you can maintain these green fields with smaller scale ATV implements.
ATV farming implements have been designed for sportsmen to plant small food plots in isolated areas where a tractor may have difficulty reaching. For instance, you may want to create a food plot on a bench on the side of a mountain, which will be difficult for a tractor to reach. However, if you have one of these muscled-up ATV vehicles, you can go into that bench with lightweight ATV implements and create a food plot.
Another advantage to using ATV food plot equipment is that today biologists are encouraging landowners and hunting club members to plant the same food plot twice a year, once with a cool-season planting and then replanting that same food plot with a warm-season planting to help hold wildlife on that property all year long. By breaking up the ground twice a year, the soil becomes easier to plow and plant each time you break it up. Also since ATV implements are built on a smaller scale than tractor implements, they are less expensive.
Do consider that you’ll spend quite a bit of time preparing, harrowing and cultipacking the soil, liming, fertilizing, planting the seeds and then cultipacking the seeds into the ground, if your food plot is an acre or more. But you can do it. I have a food plot that’s an acre, and I use my ATV implements to plant green fields in it every year.
Steps to Follow to Plant for Wildlife
Once you’ve gone through the process of choosing your food plot equipment, it’s time to plant.
- Plowing – If you have access to thousands of acres, and you want to put food plots on them and already have a tractor, the first implement you’ll need is a disk plow. This true plow does primary tillage and leaves behind a rough surface by breaking up the soil.
- Harrowing – You drag the disc harrow over the field to cut up and break up the clumps of earth and turn it into very fine soil which leaves you a fairly level seed bed to plant your crop for wildlife.
- Soil Testing – A soil test tells you the chemical makeup of the soils in that specific food plot and will give you recommendations on the amount of lime and fertilizer you need to put on that field that you’ve just disked and harrowed.
- Liming and Fertilizing – You can use a seeder to set the amount of lime and fertilizer to be spread over the size of the green field you want to plant.
- Cultipacking – After you’ve put out lime and fertilizer, you need the cultipacker to help get the seed bed as level as possible and make the soil somewhat pressed down.
- Checking for Rain – Watch the weather forecast before planting. After all the work you’ve done, the best way to ensure the germination of the seeds and to get your green-field plantings out of the ground is to have rain on that field as soon after planting as possible.
- Seeding – After you’ve cultipacked the ground the first time, you need to replace the cultipacker on the back of your tractor with the seeder. Pour the seed or blend of seeds that you’re planting into the seeder. Use a tractor to seed the food plot that you’ve just built.
- Cultipacking – Once you’ve completed the seeding of your green field, take the seeder off the tractor, put the cultipacker back on and go over the field you’ve just seeded with the cultipacker to push the seed down into the earth.
Planting green fields with both annual and perennial seeds will drastically improve the overall health of your deer herd. Many sportsmen today are hunting smaller acreages and planting smaller green fields that often are more efficient than large green fields. To reach this goal, more individuals and landowners are go with stronger ATVs and smaller implements when choosing food plot equipment.
How to Take Care of ATV Implements with J. Wayne Fears
(Editor’s Note: J. Wayne Fears of New Market, Alabama, a wildlife biologist, has written 34 outdoor books and thousands of magazine articles as an outdoor writer of more than 50 years. He has owned and managed two different hunting lodges and has supervised 220 hunting clubs for a major timber company and is well acquainted with food-plot management.)
One trend I’ve noticed is that an individual or a small hunting club may purchase ATV implements and plant their food plots in September. However, after they finish planting their food plots, they don’t take care of their implements. Then they wonder why those implements don’t work like they should work the following September.
Farmers know that they have to maintain and take care of tractor implements after using them if they are to last. For instance, if you have a seed hopper that you’ve been using to put fertilizer, lime and seeds in and you don’t wash it down, clean it out and do the recommended maintenance on it, that food hopper will be destroyed in a year or two.
You need to clean, oil and lubricate all your implements after using them, according to manufacturers’ recommendations and then have a place to store those implements, so they are out of the weather.
To learn more about building, maintaining and planting food plots, check out J. Wayne Fears’ books, “Deer Hunter’s and Land Manager’s Pocket Reference” and “Hunt Club Management Guide.”
How to pay for Food Plot Equipment
Once you’ve gone through the process of choosing food plot equipment and decided on a tractor or an ATV or UTV to create, plant, lime and fertilize your green field planting or hire a farmer to do that work for you, the next question to answer is, if you do plan to buy ATV implements is whether it will be used or new equipment, and who should you consider for a financial partner (lender)?
One of the oldest and most trusted lenders for any type of farming equipment nationwide always has been the Farm Credit System that was established about a century ago. Each state has an association that is part of this system, like Alabama Ag Credit, a borrower-owned cooperative lender.
We talked with Steven Bozeman, a loan officer with Alabama Ag Credit in Enterprise, who explained that Alabama Ag Credit works with farmers and hunters in the lower 40 counties in Alabama through eight offices.
“The amount that we can loan on agriculture equipment can vary. A typical example would be 75% with the buyer putting up 25%,” Bozeman said. “Terms vary as well and could be from five to seven years.”
“However, when you’re considering buying ATV and UTV farming equipment, you may want to consider a shorter loan term, depending on the cost, the age and the size of the implement(s) and the projected useful life of the equipment.”
“The purpose of Alabama Ag Credit is to help individuals, hunting clubs and people to buy rural land for farming, planting for wildlife and/or improving the land. Many people, especially first-time land buyers may not ever have heard of Alabama Ag Credit, or may not know that we can help them buy the equipment they need to improve the land for wildlife, as well as farming and even rural homes,” Bozeman noted.
“If you need help finding an Alabama Ag Credit, you can go to www.alabamaagcredit.com and find the offices and information about them. We also help direct customers to Farm Credit offices in different states, if that’s where they live or hunt and fish. Although we do more loans for real estate than we do for implements, we’re becoming more involved in loaning money for all types of equipment as well as providing money for other kinds of land improvements like fencing. You can call me directly at 334-489-7103 or write Steven.Bozeman@AlabamaAgCredit.com.”
Why Plant a Green Field for Deer and Turkey
Choosing your food plot equipment can take time, research, and financial planning but the end results of those beautiful green plots are certainly worth it. Dr. Grant Woods, a longtime deer researcher from Reeds Spring, Missouri, says, “You must maintain a constant food supply in a green field to improve and increase the number of deer and turkeys using your green field. Always keep food on the table for wildlife. Having highly-nutritious and palatable food for deer and turkeys to find every time they visit your green field means they won’t stray off your property.”
“The more wildlife you draw to a green field, the more feed you must provide for them. If a buck deer thinks, ‘green field’ when he feels hungry, he’ll be more likely to use that green field, even during hunting season, due to his belly being tied to his brain.”
This article first appeared in the July 2019 print issue of Great Days Outdoors Magazine. For more great hunting and fishing content for the deep South, subscribe to Great Days Outdoors print and digital editions or click the image to download this issue.