I’m often asked by people who want to start a food plot program, “How many acres of food plots do I need and how many plots?” Of course, the answers will depend on your particular situation, but some general guidelines developed from years of research will help you begin figuring out what’s best for you.
Let’s start with the total food plot acreage you need. If just attracting deer is your main goal, planting 2 to 3 percent of your property in food plots will get the job done. But if you want both attraction and nutrition, you’ll need 5 to 8 percent of your property in food plots, depending on how many deer you want to support.
If you’re really serious, you can use the rule-of-thumb – An acre of year-round plots will feed about three deer – to further pin down the plot acreage you need. With that baseline, just decide how many deer you want to support and divide that number by three. For instance, to feed 75 deer, you need 25 acres of plots. It’s just that simple.
How many food plots do you need? That depends on the coverage (draw) area of a food plot, which relates to deer travel distance. The maximum distance deer will dependably travel to a major food source is about a half-mile. If you draw a circle with a half-mile radius around a food plot, you encompass about 640 acres, or about one square mile. That means that you need at the very least one food plot per square mile, but that is far from ideal. With only one plot per square mile, deer travel too far for my liking and some deer in the coverage area aren’t going to find it “convenient” to really use the plot…plus that long travel distance exposes deer to unnecessary perils and consumes too much energy. A more ideal travel distance, especially on smaller tracts, is a quarter-mile or less. If you draw a circle with a quarter-mile radius around a food plot, you encompass about 160 acres, which is a pretty reasonable target coverage area for one food plot on a mid-sized tract. But with that baseline, we can develop some rules-of-thumb for various sized tracts of land:
►On small tracts (300 acres or less), 1 plot per 80 acres is about right.
►On mid-sized tracts (300 to 1,000 acres), 1 plot per 160 acres works well.
►On large tracts (over 1,000 acres), figure 1 plot per 320 acres.
All this means that most hunting tracts should have 2 to 5 plots. Large places will obviously have even more. And remember: Smaller plots are less efficient and less productive than larger plots, but multiple smaller plots are more interesting and aesthetically pleasing than just one or two larger plots. You’ll have to decide what trade-off is right for you.
And by the way, the travel distance to a food plot tells you how far a plot should be located from a bad neighbor. If possible, stay at least a quarter-mile away from a neighbor with an indiscriminate trigger finger with you plots. A half-mile distance from a bad neighbor will really reduce his negative impact of your herd.
How big do the plots need to be? Easy. Just divide the number of plots you want or need into the total food plot acreage required. If you need 4 plots that total, say, 25 acres, simply divide 25 by four, giving you an average plot size of about 6 acres each. So, say you have 640 acres. Using our rule-of-thumb of a plot per 160 acres for a mid-sized tract, then just divide 640 acres by 160 acres and you’ll find that you need 4 plots.
Next time, we’re going to cut through all the confusion surrounding your choice of what to plant for the best results. I’m David Morris. I’ll see you then.
Posted by David Morris