4-H Wildlife Food Plot Project
Who: Junior and Senior 4-H members ages 9 to 19 years
What: Preparing, establishing, maintaining and observing a food plot using provided seed for the purpose of food and cover establishment for wildlife.
When: Deadline to register is July 1. Youth are encouraged to start project activities (e.g., identify site, collect soil samples, apply soil amendments) months prior to registration deadline. Deadline for submitting food plot project book
s and videos to county offices is March 1. County offices may designate an earlier deadline to allow time for review and obtaining county signatures. Counties submit project book and video to the state office no later than March 5.
Where: This is a statewide program. Youth can prepare a food plot for judging in any county within Arkansas.
Why: Apply science (plants, soils, wildlife management), technology (video production and trail cameras), engineering (constructing an exclosure cage), and mathematics (calculate area, soil amendment rates) in a hands-on learning activity; and learn field ecology and wildlife management concepts.
How: Contact your local County Extension Agent for more information or to register for the contest. For a registration fee, youth receive enough seed to establish approximately 1/8 acre (5,445 square feet) food plot.
- The 4-H member must register for the Wildlife Food Plot Project by July 1. A $25 registration fee is charged to cover program expenses.
- 4-H members are responsible for picking up seed packets from county offices about August 1st. Soil test boxes and other resource materials are available from county offices upon request.
- 4-H members are responsible for equipment, materials and supplies associated with the project with the exception of provided seeds. At least one exclusion cage should be placed inside the plot to observe plant growth. (You can supply your own materials, or a limited number are available on loan from the county office upon request to the state coordinator.)
- The project plot will be approximately 1/8 acre in size. Thus, the plot should cover around 5,445 sq. ft. Plots less than 4,628 sq. ft. or more than 6,262 sq. ft. are not eligible for competition.
- Periodically the enrolled participant should receive a magazine publication from the Quality Deer Management Association and their Rack Pack Youth Program. If you do not receive a publication by September, contact the project coordinator or your county agent.
- 4-H members wishing to compete in the district and state contests will complete a food plot project book and a brief video (3 minutes maximum) used for judging projects. Youth should schedule at least one site visit at the food plot from their County Extension Agent. The project book and video are due to the county office on or before March 1. County offices may require an earlier deadline in order to meet review and signature requirements.
- Youth must be enrolled as a 4-H member and register for the 4-H Wildlife Food Plot Project by July 1. (Youth are encouraged to work on their plot prior to July 1 and keep records of their activities for reporting in their food plot project book.)
- Youth will prepare, establish, maintain, and observe a food plot that meets specified requirements.
- Youth who wish to compete will prepare and submit a project book and video to their local County Extension Office by March 1 or earlier as designated by their county office.
- The food plot contest is an individual event. Each participant completes a project book.
- Participants will be notified when seeds are being distributed to county offices, and are responsible for contacting the county office to schedule a time to pick up seeds.
- 4-H youth are to conduct all food plot activities except those in which safety is of concern. An example is an inexperienced youth driving a tractor for plot preparation. Adult assistance is expected and should be noted in the project book.
- Youth are expected to contact their County Extension Agriculture and 4-H Agent(s) as the source for advice and recommendations regarding their food plot and project book.
- Youth must plant only the seed they are provided for the project. No additional seed may be added to the plot.
- For optimum plant growth, the recommended planting date is August to September 15. Plots should be planted no later than October 20, as it is unlikely a viable plot can be grown after that date.
- All plots should be protected from livestock.
- Youth are allowed to hunt over project plots.
- If seed fails to produce a crop for uncontrollable reasons, such as the weather, the
4-Her will remain eligible to compete for recognition and awards. It is entirely possible
for a 4-Her to receive Top State Junior or Top State Senior recognition even if seeds
fail to germinate. The objective of this project is educational.
- Many “native” or “natural” food plots are a valuable source of food and cover for wildlife, even if seeds fail to germinate. Field demonstrations imply soil amendments which nourish native plants also attract wildlife.
- In the event of total plot failure, no additional seed should be planted to remain competitive. A participant may desire to plant other seed, but such actions confound judging efforts and will result in disqualification. Following protocols for establishing food plots including fertilizing and liming plots often result in other plant growth which attracts wildlife.
- Communication efforts for "failed plots" can focus on proper food plot establishment practices or "lessons learned." Youth can relay the importance of soil amendments and native forages for wildlife.
- Youth should schedule at least one site visit from a county agricultural agent, including one visit to complete the County Agent
Assessment Score Sheet. Typically, the county agent completing the score sheet is
located in the county where the food plot is located.
- If the food plot is located outside the youth's home county, then the home county office (or participant) will contact the county office where the plot is located and make arrangements for an agricultural agent to conduct the site visit.
- In some circumstances, the county office may designate a qualified alternate to conduct the site visit on the county's behalf. A note should be made on the County Agent Assessment Score Sheet if this should occur.
- The participating youth must be present during this site visit and bring a copy of the County Agent Assessment Score Sheet.
- At the conclusion of the site visit, the county agent will provide the youth or the home county office a completed County Agent Assessment Score Sheet with signature. This score sheet is included in the project book.
Youth are expected to document this site visit with a photo of the youth with the county agent in their project book, and/or a segment in their video.
Recognition & Awards
- A 4-H food plot project book and video will be used for judging, and are due to the county office by March 1 (or an earlier date as designated by the county office). A judging team of Extension faculty will evaluate entries.
- Juniors and Seniors with quality projects will be awarded first, second, and third place in each District. One Top State Junior and one Top State Senior will be recognized. Youth who complete all project requirements and do not receive an award will receive a certificate of project completion provided to their county office upon request.
- In case of a tie, the District or State winner may be determined by tie-breaking bonus questions from the County Agent Assessment Score Sheet. If a tie remains, judges have the option to call for interviews. Participants will be interviewed individually either in person or video conferencing (e.g., Zoom).
- The Top State Junior and Top State Senior winner from the previous year are not eligible to win awards or recognition in the same division for the current project year, but they are encouraged to participate. After not competing for one year, they are eligible to compete again in the same division.
- Winners will be recognized at 4-H District O-Rama's. Check the 4-H Calendar for dates and locations.
Deadline to register
April - July
Select site and collect soil sample
(you can start before registering!)
County offices pick up seed packets at State ORama
August 1 - September 15
Recommended planting dates
Recommended deadline to plant food plot
November – January
Schedule a site visit from local County Agent
Submit project book and video to county office
Final day for project book and video due to county office; some counties may have earlier deadlines.
County office deadline for submission
March - April
Judging project books and videos
Recognize District and State winners at
4-H District O-Rama's
Plot Requirements & Recommendations
- The plot must be approximately 1/8 acre in size. Thus, the plot should cover around 5,445 sq ft. (Plots less than 4,628 sq. ft. or more than 6,262 sq. ft. are not eligible for competition.)
- Seed packet cannot be split between multiple plots.
- No additional seed is allowed in the plot.
- Better plots are situated close to natural cover such as woods, fence rows, or brush piles with consideration to adequate sunlight.
- Preferably plots are located away from houses or human activity. However, if there is no alternative, this is permissible.
- At least one exclusion cage should be placed inside the plot to observe plant growth and the effect of grazing pressure or disturbance from deer and other wildlife. Participants can construct their own cage, or a limited number are available on loan from the county office upon request to the state coordinator.
- Using a trail (game) camera is optional to observe wildlife usage of the food plot.
- Using corn feeders or other artificial attractants is not recommended in the vicinity of the food plot. Feeding wildlife is illegal in the Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) Zone during certain months of the year. Check rules and regulations at the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission's website (www.agfc.com) for details.
A project book and video are used to judge entries in the 4-H Food Plot Project.
The project book can be downloaded (below) or contact your local County Extension Office. Project books change periodically, so DOWNLOAD AFTER JULY 1. Do not submit a previous year's project book.
- 2021-2022 4-H Food Plot Project Book (Word)
- 2021-2022 4-H Food Plot Project Book (PDF)
- 2021-2022 Scoring rubric (for judges) (PDF)
The project book is to be prepared by the 4-H member throughout the course of the project. The completed project book is turned in to the county office by March 1 or earlier as designated by the county office.
The project record book can be either hand written (neatness counts!) or typed.
The County Agent Assessment Score Sheet in the project book is to be completed by a county agent (or someone on their behalf as designated by the county office) in the county where the food plot is located. Project youth must be present when the county agent visits the food plot site. After completing the site visit, either include the score sheet in your project book, or remind the county agent to include the signed County Agent Assessment Score Sheet in your project book when you turn it in.
A short video (of 3 minutes or less) is judged based on participant's description of project work and presentation skills. A participant who speaks without being prompted is viewed more favorably than an interview format, for example.
Minimally, the video should feature the 4-H participant stating name and county; a view of the food plot; and a description of project accomplishments, including what was learned.
It is acceptable and common for video to be taken in the field near the end of the project. However, videos showing progress during the coarse of the project typically are judged more favorably.
Special video graphics, manipulations, or enhancements to the video will NOT be considered in judging.
Common Reasons for Disqualification
- Incorrect plot size - plot is less than 4,628 sq. ft. or more than 6,262 sq. ft.
- Lack of signatures - participant, parent, and county agent signatures are required for authenticating the project book on the cover page.
- Incomplete County Agent Assessment Score Sheet - completed form with county agent's (or designated person's) legible signature is required to verify the existence of the food plot and that rules were followed.
- Submitted past the due date - project book and video must be received at the county office on or before March 1 and the state office by March 5; therefore, county offices may require an earlier deadline for review and signatures to be completed to meet deadline requirements.
Before March 1, the county office will upload a color PDF of the project book and video, each titled with the participant's name, to:
- The PDF copy of the project book should be in color, legible, and straight (not crooked) pages. Black and white images in a project book tend to transfer poorly and are challenging to judge.
- The video needs to be clearly visible, as it will be distributed to judges in the manner received.
The county office has the option of giving participants permission to upload the project book and video AFTER county review and signatures are obtained.
Sometimes slower internet speeds or older office equipment may present difficulties when scanning the project book or transferring video. In these cases, the project book and/or video can be delivered to the project coordinator using other means, such as a CD or flash drive. Please email the project coordinator an alert about the incoming project book and video. It is recommended the county keep a backup copy of the project book and video.
We greatly appreciate sponsorships of the Arkansas 4-H Food Plot Project.
Eagle Seed Company - donates seed mix used in the food plots!
National Deer Association (formerly Quality Deer Management Association) - provides awards for district and state winners.
If you are interested in becoming a sponsor, please contact the state coordinator.