Planting Quality Food Plots for Ducks and Geese Most people don’t immediately think of waterfowl when they hear the words, “food plot.” They’re more likely to think of whitetails or turkeys feasting in a lush clover field.However, ducks and geese benefit from food plots in much the same way. Increasing the “groceries” on your property will attract waterfowl during the hunting season, but also provide a food source to get them off to a good start for fall migration. With wetlands disappearing across the nation at record paces, the birds need all the help we can give them. Excellent waterfowl food plot seed options include millet, milo, corn, wild rice, sago pondweed, wild celery, and smartweed.All you really need to start a new waterfowl plot is a pond, seasonally flooded depression in a field, beaver swamp, impoundment, etc. You need to be able to access water in the fall to flood your plot. The trick for some food plot species (e.g., millet, milo, corn) is to be able to remove much of the water in the summer. This is important because you need to be able to plant seeds on a good soil surface and let the plants establish a root system before re-flooding the field to give access to the birds. You can accomplish this by pumping the water out or removing a beaver dam to naturally let it flow away from your site. However, it may make more sense to install a culvert if you plan to manage the plot for many years to come. It will be much easier to add or remove stop logs to manage the water level this way. Check your state’s regulations before tampering with natural wetlands or beaver ponds that flow into streams or rivers, as there could be legal ramifications. Corn is certainly attractive to ducks and geese alike, as many waterfowlers know from hunting flooded fields. But it can be a little pricey to plant when you add up fertilizer and equipment costs. However, millet is cheap, generally has a shorter time to maturity than corn, and can be planted with a hand or ATV spreader on moist soils, giving it certain advantages. Milo is somewhere between corn and millet in terms of planting and conditions, and ducks love it just as much. Speaking of site conditions, several types of millet grow well in wet conditions, while corn and milo require slightly drier soils. Most native waterfowl food plot species (e.g., wild rice, sago pondweed, wild celery, smartweed) should be planted right into standing water or in very close proximity. The benefit of planting these species is that they will generally be more adapted to your local conditions and may be able to thrive with little ongoing maintenance. Smartweed produces small seeds that waterfowl species consume, and is best planted in moist (not flooded) soils, so target pond edges and mud flats that will eventually be flooded during hunting season. Wild rice produces grain that persists in flooded conditions, and grows well in shallow water (i.e., 1 to 3 feet). Sago pondweed provides nutlets that ducks absolutely devour and can grow in similar water depths as rice. Wild celery produces buds that large diving ducks seem to prefer, and actually grows in waters as deep as 3 to 9 feet. Save this one for the deepest parts of your pond. One good way to get the benefits of both approaches is to plant the native water-loving species in the deepest parts of your pond or impoundment. Then dewater the pond enough to plant the fringes with the corn, milo, or millet. You can replicate a shallow lake situation and attract divers, dabblers, and geese alike. To recap, plant these food plot seeds from driest conditions to deepest water: corn, milo, millet, smartweed, wild rice, sago pondweed, and wild celery. Though not a food plot species, per se, you can also add freshwater shrimp (scuds) to your ponds. Many waterfowl species feed on invertebrates like these, which provide a great source of protein. If your pond has fairly clean water and enough depth, shrimp can persist from year to year and provide good forage year-round. In summary, ducks and geese will benefit from food plots just as much as a deer, turkey, or pheasant would. They provide vital nutrition during fall migration, and attract waterfowl to your property to give you more hunting opportunities. Given the choice between a pond with a bountiful smorgasbord and a regular old beaver pond, which do you think would be more popular? Don’t leave the outcome of your hunt up to chance. Do your part to help preserve waterfowl populations and start a legacy on your property.