How 3 Top Whitetail Outfitters Grow Killer Food Plots

We asked three outfitters how their food plots produce big bucks year after year

Illustration of a deer in a food plot.
Making the most out of your food plots will keep big bucks on your land. Steve Sandford

If an outfitter’s food plots don’t produce, it can mean tough hunting for clients and lost business. We surveyed a panel of these pros to learn their best plot secrets. The two major takeaways? Food-plot advice isn’t one-size-fits-all. And food-plot seed doesn’t need a picture of a deer on the bag to work.

1. Go For High Tonnage on Small Food Plots

  • Outfitter: Carl Doron, Snipe Creek Lodge
  • Location: Southwest KentuckyAcres
  • Managed: About 20,000

″I use a blend of chicory and ladino clover. The tonnage that chicory provides allows a small plot to feed more deer than a pure clover plot of the same size. Most of my plots are less than an acre, and I start them in early spring or fall, tripling the recommended seeding rate so that it outcompetes the weeds. I also fertilize them a couple of times during summer.”

Secret Weapon: “I overseed new fall plots with annual ryegrass. Deer love it when it’s young and tender, and it germinates fast.”

2. Plant Foods That Keep Deer Fed Throughout the Season

  • Outfitter: Ted Marum, Tri-State Outfitting
  • Location: Northern Missouri, Iowa, and WisconsinAcres
  • Managed: About 6,000

″In August, I plant a blend of oats, barley, wheat, and daikon radishes in plots ranging from 11⁄2 to 3 acres. Each plant becomes palatable at a different phase of the season. Deer start out eating the oats, then transition to the barley and wheat, and finally hit the radishes when they’re cigar-size, usually around the first of October.”

Secret Weapon: “I top-dress some of my plots with canola. When it grows to about a foot tall in late fall, deer can’t leave it alone.”

Read Next: What’s the Best Food Plot Forage for Each Region?

3. Small Plots Near Cover Keep Deer Around During Shooting Light

  • Outfitter: Robert Pitman III, White Oak Plantation
  • Location: Alabama Black Belt
  • Acres Formerly Managed: About 20,000

″In our wet soil, not much grows except ryegrass, but the deer love it. We planted in September, then top-dressed the plots in December, just prior to the January rut, with ammonium nitrate. That gave them a big jump just before the hunt. Small plots (1⁄2 or 1⁄4 acre) give deer the quickest access to dense cover, and deer seem to hit them best during shooting light.”

Secret Weapon: “Native browse beats any food plot. If you fertilize your honeysuckle, deer will annihilate it.”