More people are beginning to realize how important having a proper soil pH is, but there is way more to the soil than meets the eye. I use to soil judge when I was in high school and even made it to the nationals. It was there that I really learned a lot about soil and how we need to treat it as soil and not as DIRT. It is really easy to screw up your soil health and much harder to get your soil back in balance.
I attached a picture of a soil pit. When you look closely at the picture, you should see a layer of darker topsoil and below that would be the subsoil. Once your topsoil is gone, your productivity really decreases. This is why it is very important to practice sound conservation on your food plots. If you have steep slopes, put in strips/contours to help reduce the amount of top soil runoff. When it's gone, it's gone forever. Instead of putting in a whole field of corn, soybeans or brassicas, every so often put in a strip of perennial clovers or other legumes. This will reduce erosion as well as help improve water quality.
So, what do we want to look for with the soil? You want a healthy soil structure. This is accomplished by not compacting the soil. You also want to not over work the soil. You want healthy soil particles. You also want good levels of soil organic matter. This will help slow down water moving too fast past the root zone. You will also help hold fertilizer in the root zone to allow it to be effectively used. We also want a great soil microbial population as well as many worms and organisms. Think of a healthy soil as an equivalent to a healthy gut. In many ways soil is a lot like a deer's rumen. They both need a good pH, they need organic matter, they need a good balance of the major and minor trace minerals.
So what to do on soil that has been strip mined, over farmer or otherwise is unhealthy? I use elements in most of my food plot mixes to help out your soil healthy. I like using annual clovers to build up soil nitrogen levels naturally. I like including some grains to help build up soil organic matter levels when they die off or when you kill them off. A product like soil builder was designed just for that very thing. You plant it in the spring to help set up your fall food plots and the food plots going back in those areas for the next year and years after.
I know I talk a lot about the soil but it's where growing large and healthy deer starts. It's not about a fancy bag of product in a fancy bag. It starts right where the deer walk and the forages they consumed on that very ground.