Making Your Food Plots Exceptional: Edge cover?
by Dan Eastman for
Vermont Sporting Journal
March 2005 Issue
Many people underestimate what is needed to create a great food plot. All too often, I hear from people who feel that planting a food plot is no different than say, planting a garden. There is some truth to this. However, I can guarantee this person will never realize the full potential of that food plot.
I am about to tell you some of the secrets that will ensure any food plot you plant will get the maximum usage. Most of the animals people are trying to attract using a food plot are edge-type creatures. These creatures rely on edges to find forage, cover, and safety. Let’s use whitetail deer for an example. How many times have you set up a bow stand in the one tree left in the center of a clear cut or on a long hedgerow in a large field? I am guessing your answer is zero, or, if you have, then you probably will never do it again. It is common sense that your best chance is to set up on the edge of a field where the forest meets the field. This is the edge that I am talking about.
When you plant a food plot, one thing you want to keep in mind is the comfort zone an animal has in an opening during the day. For example, a rabbit may only travel 10-15 feet in a meadow where a deer would travel 50 or more feet to feed. This comfort zone will directly affect how heavily certain areas of your food plot are used. Let’s use deer as an example. Lets say you have a 15-acre field you can plant and you want to put three acres of this into a food plot. Now, what is the likelihood that the deer are going to consume most of the forage in the middle? If you take this same 15 acres and plant near the edges, lets say 50 to 75 feet from the woods until you plant three acres, now what is the likelihood that these deer will consume the outer reaches? By keeping this in mind, you will not only save money on seed that would not have been used anyway, you will see your money and your seed put to work.
To further improve this situation, take a look at the surrounding woods and ask yourself this question, “If I take a baseball and throw it into the woods, how far will it go?” If you can say 40-50 feet, then you need to do something about this; your goal should be 5-10 feet. This will create great cover for animals using your food plot and will also provide the browse needed for the deer.
How do I do this?
To create this type of diverse edge cover, you need to remove all trees above six feet high within the first 15 feet. Then, remove 60 percent of the remaining tall trees (20 feet and higher) 25 feet back from this.
To accelerate the regeneration process, you can fertilize this area using an iron bar and a fertilizer such as 5-10-10. Drive the bar into the ground about 6-8 inches and fill the hole with the fertilizer. Do this every 6-10 feet around the entire area, and the vegetation will regenerate quicker and thicker.
A logging road gives you the maximum edge coverage possible. If you follow the steps above, then you will ensure that you get enough light and cover on either side to make it possible. For more information, the Internet is full of information on ways to create edge cover and food plots that I think you will find interesting.
By following these techniques, you will maximize the benefit of your food plot no matter what is planted there. In the next publication, I will discuss what to plant and will talk about what I have found to work best in Vermont.