-By Randy Cooper
It seems that the summer just doesn’t want to give way to fall. We’re into October already. The temps are still in the high 80’s during the day and high 60’s at night. The rain has been spotty at best and the ground is still hard and dusty. Bow season has started, and just like every other year I’m looking for transition zones where two habitat types come together i.e. thick pines meet open hardwoods in a defined line. There will always be a travel corridor along the edge, you can count on it. When I find an area like this or where a pine plantation has been thinned and a row is open about 20 yards wide and 60 yards long, I have myself an opportunity.
If this opening just happens to be close to a natural travel corridor such as a creek drainage or along a transition area, I start looking for a place to make an out-of-the-way secret food plot. This will be one that only I know about. It usually is pretty inaccessible and unless you have an ATV with a small trailer to pull behind, you’re in for a little work. If it’s at all possible to get a walk behind tiller into the area, you’re in business. If not, a good steel rake is the ticket. I like to make the plot small, say 15 yards wide by about 30 to 40 yards long. I want to put a stand 20 yards off the plot close to an approach trail on the downwind side.
I start by getting my equipment together. I either use the tiller or a steel rake to rough up the ground. I want to bring my fertilizer, food plot seed, grow coat, broadcast spreader and a 10-ft. long by 4-ft. wide piece of chain link fence. I take a pruning saw on a long pole and cut away any overhanging tree limbs that will cast shadows across the plot. You want as much sunlight as possible to be able to hit the ground. If the grass, weeds or pine straw are heavy on the ground I’ll rake away as much as I can. If they aren’t too bad, I put out my fertilizer first. I use 10-10-10. The reason for this is to save myself a step. When I till all the grasses or weeds under I will also be tilling in the fertilizer at the same time. If time allows I will till in a cross type fashion to make sure the ground is tilled well and I have a good seed bed.
Next, I fill up the broadcast spreader with a good, fall-type seed such as rape, brassicas, clover, iron clay peas and a little grow coat to help the roots of the plants really get a jump start. There are many good food plot seed companies that have gone to great lengths to provide a seed blend that is right for any part of the country. There are also seed blends that don’t require any soil preparation besides just roughing it up some with a steel rake. If I’m really way back in the woods and have to tote everything in, I’ll use this type of seed. I start by using a zigzag motion with my spreader. To an onlooker you look like you have mental problems. It works though. After I spread the seed, I use the length of chain link fence to drag behind me all over the plot in a back and forth, side to side fashion to bury the seed 1\4- to 1\2-inch deep in the soil. This gives the seed their best chance to germinate and the birds won’t peck up the majority of it before it has a chance to get started. About all that’s left to do is pray for rain. If you’re near a creek you can take a watering bucket and give it a good watering before you leave for the day.
Sure, I’ve given up a little sit time in the stand to do this but it is well worth it. Especially when it’s your own little honey hole that no one knows about but you. It’s the secluded places like this that are small and out of the way that the biggest bucks in the area may feel the most comfortable coming to.