UACES Facebook 4H Wildlife Food Plot Project

4-H Wildlife Food Plot Project

Wheat stalks up close with barn and pond in background
DINNER'S SERVED -- Wheat is a standard food plot recommendation because of its adaptability to many soil types and attractiveness particularly to white-tailed deer. (Image courtesy Becky McPeake, University of Arkansas.) 

The 4-H Wildlife Food Plot Project provides an opportunity for Arkansas Junior and Senior 4-Hers to demonstrate their skills with preparing, establishing, maintaining and observing a small wildlife food plot using provided seed for the purpose of food and cover establishment for wildlife. This project applies STEM through hands-on activities.

This Food Plot Project is intended to introduce youth to ecology concepts and habitat practices for wildlife. Food plots are only a small part of a comprehensive wildlife habitat plan. Other practices such as establishing native plants, thinning forests, prescribed burning, building brush piles, and controlling invasive plants and animals are examples of additional practices.

For the 4-H Wildlife Food Plot Project, participants submit written, photo, and video evidence demonstrating knowledge gained and field activities.  All Junior and Senior 4-H members ages 9 to 19 are eligible. 

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.
Deadline to register is July 1 through 4-H Online. 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 books and videos to county offices is March 1. Submit to county office prior to deadline 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 of $25, youth receive enough seed to establish approximately 1/8 acre (5,445 square feet) food plot and a year’s membership to the Quality Deer Management Association’s (QDMA’s) Rack Pack youth program.
  • General Information

    • The 4-H member must register for the Wildlife Food Plot Project by July 1 through 4-H Online.  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.)

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.  Both 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 should schedule at least one site visit at the food plot from their County Extension Agent or someone on their behalf as designated by the county office. The completed County Agent Assessment Score Sheet  from this visit is entered in the project book. The 4-H member is required to attend the site visit. The score sheet must be signed by a county agent or designated person to qualify for district and state competitions.

    • District and state contest winners will be recognized at 4-H District O-Rama's. Check the 4-H Calendar of Events for dates and locations.

  • Rules

    • Youth must be enrolled as a 4-H member and register for the 4-H Wildlife Food Plot Project by July 1 through 4-H Online.

    • Youth will prepare, establish, maintain, and observe a food plot that meets specified requirements. 

    • Up to 4 youth total of either division (Junior or Senior) can complete individual project work on the same food plot. Only the primary 4-Her under whose name the 4-H Food Plot Project is enrolled will receive correspondence, seed packet, and magazine subscription. List additional participants when enrolling the primary 4-Her in the space provided on 4-H Online. Each participant must accurately describe his or her contribution to the food plot in an individual project book and video to be eligible for recognition and awards.

    • Youth prepare and submit a project book and video to their local County Extension Office in early to mid February (county office deadline is March 1 or earlier). The county office submits the project book and video electronically using a link to a UAEX BOX account. The link will be e-mailed to county offices prior to the submission deadline. The county office may elect to forward the link to youth for them to upload and submit the project book with signatures and/or video. A judging team of Extension faculty and/or non-Extension professionals will evaluate entries. 

    • Youth are to conduct all food plot activities except those in which safety is of concern, for example driving a tractor for plot preparation. Adult assistance is expected and should be noted in the project book.

    • Youth must plant the seed they are given. No additional seed may be added to the plot. 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.

    • For optimum 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.   

    • Youth are allowed (even encouraged) to hunt over project plots.

    • All plots should be protected from livestock.

    • 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. Many “native” or “natural” food plots are a valuable source of food and cover for wildlife, even if food plot seeds fail to germinate. Field demonstrations imply soil amendments which nourish native plants also  attract wildlife. In the event of total plot failure, a participant may desire to plant other seed, but such actions will confound judging efforts. It is highly recommended that no additional seed be planted to remain competitive. 

    • Youth should schedule at least one site visit from their County Extension Agent or someone designated by the county office on their behalf. (If the food plot is located in a county other than the youth's home county, then youth or their county office will make arrangements with a county agent where the plot is located.) The participating youth must be present during this site visit. At the conclusion of the site visit, the county agent will provide the youth and/or the county office a completed County Agent  Assessment Score Sheet with signature.  This score sheet is included in the project book. Youth may document this site visit with a photo of the youth with the county agent in their project book, or a segment in their video.

    Recognition & Awards

    • Youth who complete all project requirements and do not receive an award for their food plot project will receive a certificate of project completion provided to their county office.

    • The 4-H food plot project book and video will be used for judging, and are due to the county office by March 1, and the state office by March 5. County offices may have an earlier deadline. No late entries to the state office will be considered.

    •  Juniors and Seniors of quality projects will be awarded first, second, and third place in each District. One top state Junior and Senior will be recognized.

    • The top state Junior and Senior State winner will be determined by reviewing project materials of those who win first place in each District.

    • 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 by a video conferencing system (e.g., Zoom). Judges will ask each participant questions about their food plot project.  Although there is no time limit, the expected length of the interview is less than 10 minutes. 

    • The top State Junior and Senior winners 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.

    • Judges use the following rubric for scoring project books and videos.

      4-H Food Plot Scoring Rubric

  • Timeline

    July 1
    Deadline to register
    April - July
    Collect soil sample (you can do this even before registering!)
    County offices pick up seed packets at State O-Rama
     August - September 15
             Recommended planting date
    October 20
    Deadline to plant food plot
    November – January
    Schedule a site visit from local County Agent or someone designated on their behalf
             Submit project book and video to county office
    March 1
    Final day for project book and video due to county office; some counties may have earlier deadlines.
    March 5
    County office deadline for project book & video upload
    March - April
    Judging project books and videos 
    Winners announced
    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 plots 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 is not to be split between multiple plots.

    • Better plots are those situated close to natural cover such as woods, fence rows, or brush piles with consideration to adequate sunlight.

    • Plots should NOT be located close to houses or other human activities.  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 4-H food plot coordinator.

    • Using a trail (game) camera is optional to observe wildlife usage of the food plot.

    • Using corn feeders or other artificial attractants skews the results and therefore are not recommended in the vicinity of the food plot. In addition, feeding wildlife is illegal in the Chonic Wasting Disease (CWD) Zone during certain months of the year. Check rules and regulations at the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission's website ( for details.

  • Project Documentation

    Project Book

    • The project book can be downloaded at this website or contact your local County Extension Office. Project books change periodocally, so DOWNLOAD AFTER JULY 1. Do not use a previous year's project book.

    • The project book is to be prepared by the 4-H member, completed throughout the course of the project, finished, and turned in to the county office before March 1.

    • The project record book can be either hand written (neatness counts) or typed.

    • The County Agent Assessment Score Sheet 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, the county agent will provide the youth the signed County Agent Assessment Score Sheet. 


    • A brief video (3 minutes maximum) of the participant describing his/her project story will be uploaded to a BOX file by the county office on or before March 1. The county office has the option of providing the 4-H youth with the BOX link for uploading, after the project book has been reviewed and signed by county faculty. In the event there are difficulties uploading the project book and/or video, other media such as a CD or flashdrive may be forwarded to the state coordinator.

    • Videos should demonstrate progress and are judged based on participant's description of project work and presentation skills. Minimally, the video should feature the 4-H participant stating name and county; a view of the food plot; and the 4-H participant providing a description of project work, accomplishments, and what he/she learned.

    • Videos shot while visiting the food plot field at different stages of food plot establishment/maintenance will be judged more favorably.  Special video graphics, manipulations, or enhancements to the video will not be considered in judging.

    Common Reasons for Disqualification from Competition

    • 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 (or designated person) 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. Judging starts shortly after March 5; late applications cannot be accepted.

  • Submission Guidelines 

    The county office will upload a color PDF of the project book and the project video with the participant's name in the file name to UAEX BOX, an online storage of files.  A link to the UAEX BOX folder will be provided to counties with participants prior to the submission deadline.

    • It is important that the PDF copy of the project book be in color, legible, and straight (not crooked) pages. Black and white images in a project book tend to tranfer poorly.

    • 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 providing youth with the UAEX BOX link for uploading 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. If a county office experiences difficulties, the project book and/or video can be delivered to the project coordinator no later than March 5. Please email the project coordinator an alert about the incoming project book and video. 

  • Sponsors

    We greatly appreciate these sponsors of the Arkansas 4-H Food Plot Project. Please express your appreciation by supporting these businesses. 
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