For old logging roads to be useful as food plots, stop all traffic.
Logging roads, firebreaks and food plots
story and photos by J. Wayne Fears
Some of the most valuable food plots are little-used logging roads and firebreaks, or linear openings that run through wooded areas. Since most game animals are edge feeders, the safety of food in a narrow strip, adjacent to cover, is attractive.
A long strip can feed a lot of critters.
Select the right roads
Old logging roads that are to be planted should be roads no longer used. If the road gets a considerable amount of traffic from hunters, farm activities, etc., it cannot be expected to grow a good food crop. The same is true for firebreaks. I have seen many hunting clubs plant fire breaks in late summer and, just as the crop was coming up, use the firebreaks for ATV trails.
Let the sun shine in
Narrow logging roads or firebreaks to be used as food plots should be wide enough to allow sunlight to reach the roadbed. A minimum width is about 25 feet, but the wider the better. If your old logging roadbeds are not that wide or the edge timber is shading the roadbed most of the day, consider “daylighting,” or cutting the edge trees back.
Food crops like clover thrive when an old logging road is opened so that sunlight gets to it.
Determine what to plant
Once you have selected a roadbed or firebreak to convert into a food plot, determine what wildlife food species you want to plant.
A good choice for deer and other wildlife are cool-season annual grasses such as rye, oats, winter wheat and annual ryegrass mixed with shade-tolerant clovers. With adequate moisture, they germinate and grow quickly, providing soil cover in just a few days. They provide forage almost instantly and last a long time during the cold months. In the spring, the grass seeds and clover provide food for various birds and wildlife.
In linear openings, plant a seed mixture that will control erosion and provide plenty of cool-season food.
Ask your local Natural Resources Conservation Service agent, county agricultural agent or wildlife biologist to help you determine the best mixture for your soil and climate.
Planting old logging roads a hand seeder or ATV with an electric seeder.
Follow the soil test
Take soil tests from your linear openings to get the best planting results. Liming, fertilization and seeding roadbed food plots can easily be done with an ATV using an electrical seeder or by walking and using a hand seeder. Use a small tractor to break up the roadbed for seeding. Logging trucks pack roadbeds so hard, you’ll need a tractor to break up the soil.
Once the seedbed is established, keep road traffic to a minimum. In fact, it’s a good idea to keep the road closed except for emergencies. — J. Wayne Fears