Food Plots and Deer
There is no denying that food plots for white-tailed deer are fun to develop and fun to hunt, but careful consideration should go into developing plots prior firing up the tractor and turning over some ground. One of the most important plot considerations is size. So, how big should it be?
The overall size of a food plot or the total acreage of plots should be tied directly to your goals and objectives. A large food plot will provide supplementation for the local deer herd. A smaller food plot is geared towards deer harvest. Large feeding plots can also help with occasional harvest, but the goal is to allow deer to feed freely on these fields most of the time.
Food Plots for Hunting
A hunting plot only needs to be about 1/4 acre in size. It can be smaller, but a food plot loses its ability to attract deer when it has very little new growth in it. A deer or two can keep a very small fall and winter plot eaten down. If the goal is to attract a single deer for harvest, then this may work for you. Go for it.
Food plots intended to supplement deer must be larger, especially during winter months. If the goal is to supplement deer, then it is important to note that the real goal is to supplement the deer herd in the area, all the deer using the property.
This can actually become problematic as high quality food plots tend to attract more deer, which then creates a need for larger plots or possibly even increased harvest. Then the question becomes, “How much bigger should my plot be?” or “How big should my freezer be?” You will have to wait and see.
So, what size food plot is needed to effectively supplement deer diets? The answer will depend on deer density and the availability of natural foods. It is generally thought that an acre of food plot can supplement about 3 white-tailed deer. This should give you a place to start.
Size Matters, But How Big?
There is, however, no easy answer when it comes to food plot size. It will ultimately vary by property, but a rule of thumb is that plots comprise between 3-8 percent of the total acreage. Again, the acreage will vary by habitat type and location, so there may be instances when plots should make up 2 percent of acreage and there will others where plots should comprise 15 percent of the total acreage.
It will take some experimentation, with some tweaking, to meet your management or hunting objectives and goals. Properties with limited woodlands should plant on the low end of the scale while heavily-wooded properties can expect to plant on the high end.
It is recommended that properties that are just getting into food plotting start with plantings of 2-4 acres in size to fall and winter food plots. Plant something simple such as oats or wheat. Planting this amount will result in a higher percentage of total acreage in food plots on smaller properties and a lower percentage of acreage in plots on larger properties. Pay attention to plot performance, the number of deer using it and determine how big or how small the food plot should be in future years.