The sight of a giant buck standing in a lush green food plot during daylight hours is one that many hunters dream of. It is this dream that causes many of us to spend countless hours and way more money than we should planting and caring for our food plots each year. In fact, this “labor of love” along with other land management projects actually rivals actual hunting as the preferred outdoor recreational interest. Make no mistake, the interest in planting wildlife food plots is huge and growing.
Most deer hunters who set out to grow food plots have very little or no agricultural experience or background. Growing anything is foreign to them. Thats understandable as we all have topics that we know almost nothing about and others which we are well-versed in. The novice food plotter and land-manager has become a target for some seed companies looking to turn a huge profit by selling inferior products. The tricks they employ would never fly in the agricultural community where the customers are much more knowledgable about the products they buy.
A good food plot starts with a good seed and yet the hunting industry has been bombarded with seed companies looking to take advatage of the uneducated consumer. Sadly this seems to apply more to the big-name, well-established seed companies more so than the smaller ones although a few of the smaller players are also engaging in some practices that are questionable at best. If you plan to plant a food plot this year I encourage you to read this entire article and educate yourself before ever buying your seed. I am going to shed some light on some of the tricks used by some seed companies to sell you an inferior product at an inflated price.
By law all seed products are required to have a tag detailing the contents of the bag, jug or package. This is a really great thing as it exposes the truth about any seed product for those who actually read the tag and know what to look for. The seed tag will list everything contained within the bag by percentage. If there are three different seeds in a blend, the tag will tell you the percentage of each one. The tag will also tell you the germination rates of each different seed as well as the percentage of other contents such as seed coating or inert matter.
Using the actual seed tag, lets look at the contents of one of the most popular clover products on the market which is sold by one of the biggest name companies in the food plot seed industry. By doing this you can easily see just how bad this company is ripping off its customers. The tag on this product shows 3 different clovers in the blend. This is fine except right out of the gate an experienced observer will notice that one of the clovers is an annual clover while the other two are perrenial clovers. Then we see the germination rate for each clover is 70%. Finally, we see the bag contains 50% seed coating. Now lets dig into this information and see just what we are getting for our money.
To start off this 1-acre, 8# bag of seed only contains 4# of actual seed because 50% of the contents by weight is seed coating. Seed coating is a good thing but 2% is plenty; 50% is on the verge of robbery. This coating is much cheaper than seed so some companies go way overboard with it to decrease the cost they have invested in the product. Right out of the gate your 8# 1-acre bag is down to 4# of seed.
Next let’s look at the germination rate of 70%, meaning that 30% of the seed will never germinate or grow. This very poor germination rate is probably a result of using old seed. It is not illegal to sell old seed as long as the germination rates are accurately labeled. This poor germination rate in this real-life example drops the 4# of seed down to 2.8# of good viable seed for your plot out of the 8# of seed you thought you was buying. That would be bad enough but we aren’t finished with the bad news just yet.
Remember that this product contained three different clovers. One very common trick that many seed companies use to further increase the profit margins in their products is to use cheaper “filler” seeds. One of the three clovers in this particular blend is an annual clover while the others are perrenials. An annual plant grows for one year and then dies whereas a perennial will come back for several years. By putting the cheaper annual clover in this particular blend, the plot will have bare areas the second year where the annuals did not come back. These bare spots are great spots for weeds to get started and eventually take over your plot. Never plant a seed blend that contains both annuals and perennials.
The example I used here is from an actual seed tag from a very popular clover product from one of the biggest seed companies in the industry. It is a brand that is promoted by celebrities and their ads can routinely be seen in hunting magazines and on TV. I encourage you to start looking at the analysis tags on seed products the next time you are at a sporting goods store. Once you do you will be shocked.
Every year millions of dollars are spent by unknowing land-managers on junk seed products that have been promoted through elaborate ad campaigns and celebrity endorsements. The seed tags on these products is your ticket to wading through the trash to find the treasures. By law seed tags must be updated every year so make sure the seed tag you are looking at has a date that is less than 12 months old. Then you can start looking more closely at the seed percentages, germination rates, percentage of seed coating and specific seed varieties. Dont trust a celebrity to tell you which seed brand to buy and dont fall for the fancy magazine or TV ads or the pretty packaging.
More than a decade ago I became frustrated with the tricks and gimmicks many of the food plot seed companies were pulling and thus started Real World Wildlife Products with my business partner Kevin Boyer. Using education such as this, we have built the Real World brand into one of the most trusted and respected in the industry. The percentage of food plotters that see through the tricks is growing each year. It is our goal to help you get the most from your food plots. It all starts with the seed tag; don’t buy any seed product until you have read the analysis tag. It is required by law and is there for your benefit.