Fall Micro-Plots for Deer
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What is a micro-plot?
A micro plot is a small wildlife plot that is typically around 1/4- 1/2 acre in size. Micro plots can be grown in even smaller patches as well (1/16- 1/8 acre). The plots are typically planted with an annual planting in order to provide forage in periods when other food sources may be scarce. These plots are ideally located in natural openings in wooded land but are sometimes planted in man-made firebreaks.
What makes micro plots beneficial?
One of the often overlooked values of these micro plots is that it limits the amount of land disturbance that is associated with larger food plots. No heavy equipment is needed for tilling or disking with these smaller plots. A leaf blower, a rake, and a spreader are all that are required to prepare and work the ground. Less land disturbance helps to limit the amount of soil runoff into nearby water sources.
An additional benefit in reducing land disturbance is that it leaves more potential suitable habitats for smaller wildlife. If increasing small game species in an area is a priority it is best to leave some of these cleared areas to grow the early forest vegetation that these smaller species depend on for habitat.
Why not just put out corn if the goal is less disturbance? Deer corn is not considered to be a particularly nutritious option for deer. If the goal is to provide suitable nutrition for the deer a food plot would better accomplish that goal. There are more concerns for homeowners and hunters to consider, read this North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission article on feeding corn for more information.
It is best to select a site at least a month in advance of planting in order to pull a soil test. When selecting a site it needs to receive at least 6 hours of sun a day to grow fall-planted annual crops. For hunters, it is important to think about proximity to water, wind directions, your entry to the site, and proximity to roads/other infrastructure.
Blow away the leaves from the site, and spread fertilizer/lime (per soil test recommendations). Work the ground with a rake to prepare the seedbed. Spread your seeds at the recommended broadcasting planting rate and gently work a light layer of soil over the seed with a rake. If it is not forecasted to rain a supplemental source of water is necessary to water the area after planting.
What seed mix/blend should I use?
Most commercially available fall food plot mixes/blends will grow under the conditions described above. Preferred fall planted forages for deer include clovers, oats, wheat, winter peas, brassicas (kale, rape, radish, turnips,), and cereal rye. An annual food plot mix should be designed based on the goals of the planter. This guide from the University of Tennessee includes situational-based plot mix suggestions for white-tailed deer.
Is this method useful in urban areas?
The micro-plot method may be useful in areas that allow for urban archery (check with local government) that have limited space for traditional food plots. Homeowners in urban areas are discouraged from providing additional forage or feed to white-tailed deer. White-tailed deer are habit forming and it is best to discourage activity in high-density areas. This protects neighboring landscapes and keeps roadways safer.