How can I create a food plot in a 10 year old clearcut using hand tools?

By Grant Woods,

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← Grant's AnswersFood Plots
Hey Grant,

Thank you so much for your work! I learn a lot from watching your show.

I purchased a 40 acre property in Wisconsin that was completely clear cut about 10 years ago. It was reseeded and now there are 1000+ sapling per acre (mostly apen, poplar and some maple/oak) – 8-15ft high and 1-3″ thick. Hunting/patterning is difficult since the terrain is pretty flat and each acre seems to look like the next.

I am hoping to open up some trails and food plots in a connected system that will promote more consistent movement. What is the best method for clearing the saplings and dealing with the stumps/root systems if I don’t have a huge budget for heavy equipment. I am hoping to do as much as possible with hand tools or small engine machines (chainsaws, rototillers, etc.) That said, do I have any hope of producing food on my land?

Thank you,



Such habitat can be very difficult to hunt!  

Yes, you can create food plots in such habitat by using hand tools and (lots of) manual labor.  We’ve done the same here.  We simply cut the stump sprouts/saplings as close to the ground as possible without dulling our chainsaws. We then treat the stumps with the appropriate herbicide for that species. The herbicide needs to be applied within five minutes or less after the sprout has been cut.  Otherwise the herbicide may not penetrate the sap.  

We pile the sprouts in the center of the clearing and allow them to dry for months.  We then burn the sprouts.  We do a soil test and add lime and fertilizer as needed and then broadcast seed. It important for the seed to have contact with soil to germinate.  Depending on the time of year the seed is to be sown, you may need to spray the area with glyphosate to kill weeds, etc,. You may also need to rack or use prescribed fire to remove the duff to insure good seed to soil contact.  

Broadcast the seed over the sprout stumps.  They will rot out in time, but won’t hinder the plot establishment at this time.

This is a simply, but labor intensive method to create plots in such habitat with hand tools.  Deer simply want the best food within their range that they don’t associate with danger. By creating hidey hole sized plots in such thick cover, I suspect deer will readily use the  plots you create!

Enjoy creation,