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Are We Planting Too Many Annual Food Plots?

April 04, 2013
Are We Planting Too Many Annual Food Plots? - 3

If you are like most of the whitetail freaks out there, you have started thinking food plots. It happens every year, the spring thaw comes and deer property managers start thinking about what to plant for the deer. Note; I said “for the deer”, not “for the deer hunter.”  Let me explain.

Over the past few years I’ve noticed an increase in the use of fall attractant annual food plot products. Seems like every seed manufacturer has come up with a new whiz-bang seed mix to attract whitetails to a hunting plot and everybody is planting them. The trouble is, some of them are just that, fall attractants. They are planted in late summer to early fall, grow a couple of months, and die. They are one-year wonders; feeding deer just when they need it least. By fall, fawns are grown and weaned, antlers are formed, and the countryside is covered up with foods.

Let’s be honest, the main objective in planting fall annuals is to attract whitetails to hunting locations. Sure, late summer and early fall plantings feed deer, and some food is better than no food at all, but (especially in poor habitat areas) but unless the seeding carries over into winter (like a few acres of brassicas or high sugar oats often will), the deer are getting a free lunch just when they need it least. 

If you are serious about helping (and hunting) deer you need round out your annual plantings with perennials. We like a property to be planted in at least 60% perennials. Perennials green up early with the spring thaw and feed deer when they need it most. A good old fashioned clover-chicory blend, for example, will produce highly nutritious forage for whitetails just when they need it most—after a tough winter, when fawns are dropping, the does are lactating, and the bucks are building bone. A good perennial plot will produce from spring green up through the summer (drought excepted), and well into the winter. The best part is a well-maintained plot will last 3 to 5 years or more. 

Now, before you go start burning up your keyboard in response, please understand, I’ve got nothing against planting fall attractants. I plant them myself and hunt them hard. But come spring I’m out there making sure I have plenty of perennial plots producing 24-7- 365 (give or take a few months). I plant by the 60-40 rule.

This food plot and habitat thing has to be more than attracting deer to hunting locations.  With a little less work (remember they last longer) you can take care of your deer all year long and we’ll all be the better for it.

 

Comments (3)

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from TayHawk wrote 1 year 14 weeks ago

Craig,

Great article as someone with a degree in Forestry and Wildlife Management it is great to see a writer that knows the science behind game management, not just what they've heard around the camp fire. While old tricks of the trade are valuable facts are facts and that is why I love this article.

A good rule of thumb is 3-5% of land should be food plots on high to medium quality tracts of land, and up to 10% if the land has poor quality. As for plant types I agree 100% mixed plots of oats, wheat, and clover are essential for year round feeding. Plus, they look as natural as a food plot can.

Thanks Again!

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from Craig Dougherty wrote 1 year 14 weeks ago

We plant certain annuals like brassacas to take advantage of certain characteristics they have. Brassacas stays up during snow and provides winter food long after clovers are frozen and buried. Other annuals like high-sugar oats work well on newly developed plots which are not yet ready for perrennial plants. Also we have our perrenial bases well covered as far as the deer using our property go. The perrenials will be there when they need them most and plenty to go around

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from schmakenzie wrote 1 year 15 weeks ago

If you believe what you have written, why do you still choose 40%, it seems a rather large amount after your blog?

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from schmakenzie wrote 1 year 15 weeks ago

If you believe what you have written, why do you still choose 40%, it seems a rather large amount after your blog?

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from Craig Dougherty wrote 1 year 14 weeks ago

We plant certain annuals like brassacas to take advantage of certain characteristics they have. Brassacas stays up during snow and provides winter food long after clovers are frozen and buried. Other annuals like high-sugar oats work well on newly developed plots which are not yet ready for perrennial plants. Also we have our perrenial bases well covered as far as the deer using our property go. The perrenials will be there when they need them most and plenty to go around

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from TayHawk wrote 1 year 14 weeks ago

Craig,

Great article as someone with a degree in Forestry and Wildlife Management it is great to see a writer that knows the science behind game management, not just what they've heard around the camp fire. While old tricks of the trade are valuable facts are facts and that is why I love this article.

A good rule of thumb is 3-5% of land should be food plots on high to medium quality tracts of land, and up to 10% if the land has poor quality. As for plant types I agree 100% mixed plots of oats, wheat, and clover are essential for year round feeding. Plus, they look as natural as a food plot can.

Thanks Again!

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