One week before rifle season is perfect time to plant food plots

Being on the Bassmaster Elite Series tournament trail doesn’t leave one very much time to think about deer hunting back home. But when the fishing season ended for Louisiana pro Dennis Tietje in August, it took him all of one day to run to his deer camp to check things out.

“I knew I would be gone a while, so I disked all my plots before I left for the last leg of the tour,” Tietje said. “I went up there to check the moisture level in the ground, and I’m thinking about planting an early plot this year.”

But early plots are not how Tietje always rolls. Given the time to do it right, he prefers planting his food plots exactly one week before the rifle season begins in Southwest Louisiana.

“Admittedly, when you’re planting a late plot you’re doing it more for your benefit than you are the benefit of your deer,” Tietje said.

While wrapping up the Elite tour, Tietje had the chance to go out and help some locals in Indiana plant their food plots in August. Although we would never think about planting food plots that early in the South, Tietje noted that hunters up north have to plant early because seasons can change so quickly up there.

“Deer don’t need food plots that early in Louisiana,” Tietje said, “so I tend to wait. If you plant so early that your plots grow too much while deer are eating natural browse and acorns, you will have wasted your time and money because they’re not going to want to touch it when they get ready to start feeding on plots, because it won’t be tender enough for them.”

Being that the rifle season where Tietje hunts generally opens around the Oct. 20, he typically tries to plant around the 13th — close to the same date I used to try to plant, even though my rifle season doesn’t open until Nov. 21.

Planting too early like I have been also creates other problems if the moisture level in the ground is too low during September or October.

“Those are two of our driest months in Louisiana,” Tietje said. “If you put seed in the ground, it will sprout just from the dew, but it won’t go any further than that.

“You can plant this week, and it will be dead next week. That’s really my main reason why I plant so late — to keep it from dying.”

Although he waits until the week before rifle season to plant winter wheat, Tietje said that, if his soil is holding enough moisture, he would consider planting soybeans or iron clay peas early to provide an early fall draw.

“But then I would go in a week before rifle season and throw wheat seed on the ground between the soybeans,” he said. “Wheat seed will germinate lying on top of the ground if there is enough moisture, and you’ll have tender, new growth as your soybeans start to die out.”

Tietje said he can look back on plots he’s planted early and see that they grew too fast too early, and that deer didn’t eat the vegetation.

However, he can also look back on wheat he planted a week before the season and see that deer kept it mowed down.”

“I think once we get that first cold spell, deer turn to that tender vegetation,” Tietje said. “It kind of makes me wonder why people used to talk about planting food plots on Labor Day.

“I guess they did it then because that was the only day they had off.”

And I suppose that’s where a lot of people get off track with their food plots — they plant them when they can rather than when they should.

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About Chris Ginn 778 Articles
Chris Ginn has been covering hunting and fishing in Louisiana since 1998. He lives with his wife Jennifer and children Matthew and Rebecca along the Bogue Chitto River in rural Washington Parish. His blog can be found at chrisginn.com.

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