After a long, cold, drawn out winter, the time is finally here to get some spring habitat projects underway. There are several ways to improve the deer habitat on your property and most of them can be done without having access to large farming equipment or hurting your wallet. Today, I will go over how four people worked together for half a day to break ground on a new kill plot. If you are interested in the details of our kill plot’s location and how we chose a certain area, be sure to check out last week’s article, Kill Plot Planning. Keep in mind that this process is mainly for food plots 1 acre in size or smaller. Scroll through to the end for a short video of the work that was done.
If you are going to spend the time and money on a food plot, do it right. You don’t need a tractor or even a large 4-wheeler, but you do need some sort of small machinery. In our case we had a 4 wheel drive vehicle, compact disk, hand built drag, trailer, and a 250cc 4-wheeler. The trailer and 4-wheeler were borrowed courtesy of my future father-in-law. We also had everyday tools such as rakes, saws, and a push spreader. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that this is the bare minimum in terms of equipment you need, but after doing the work, I wouldn’t encourage you to have much less.
Turn the Ground
The first step was turning up the ground. We used a drag that was handmade for keeping the trails on this property maintained. The easiest way we could think of exposing the soil was to loosen the top 4-6″ of decayed, compressed leaves that covered it. This also helped tear out any dead stumps and was the first step to leveling the new plot area. We raked the leaves and twigs into piles and removed them from the area. This plot is in a dense area of oaks so getting those acidic oak leaves off the freshly turned soil was critical. Turning up the ground with a drag may not be necessary for everyone, but for us it was a must.
Disk it up
Our next step was to get my fiancé, Jen, going on the 4-wheeler with the disk. If you somehow persuade your significant other to help, I’d suggest giving her the easiest, most fun job of the day. While disking, we added 520 pounds of lime; 400 pounds was disked into the soil and the other 120 was spread on top when disking was done. Disking will aid in leveling your plot out. This is necessary to prevent ponding during significant rain events.
Seeding and Fertilizing
This was the final step. I could almost taste the beer waiting for me! Once everything has been disked you can start seeding. I know a lot of guys like to mix seed and fertilizer/lime together to ensure a more consistent spreading of the seed, but we decided to fertilize first and then through seed out by hand. On a small plot like this it doesn’t take much time to do it by hand. Depending on what you want to plant, you’ll find directions that instruct you to cultipack the seed into the ground. We didn’t have that option so we just cut down some smaller saplings, about 6′ in length, and brushed the ground back and forth. This is a cheap way to flip and bury the seed into the soil. It is important to cover your seed because it will ensure good seed-to-soil contact and will protect your freshly laid seed from the birds and weather. We planted a large quantity of rye because rye doesn’t require good pH levels and is great for prepping soil beds. Rye also establishes itself quickly and will choke out most unwanted weeds.
And Now You Wait
Hopefully you will have a significant rain event shortly after your planting. We were fortunate enough to have heavy downpours on three separate occasions during the following week.
Overall, this is a fairly inexpensive way to create a small food/kill plot. We did have some existing equipment and hopefully you do too. Ultimately, you’ve just got to get out there and get the job done.
In my next article, I will be covering how you can create larger food plots in just a few hours if you are willing to pay a little bit more for some hired help than you would if you were to do it yourself.