Planting Clover for Deer

So you think you want to plant a food plot? Here's an easy crop to start your whitetail paradise

We have been planting food plots for almost 25 years and have learned a thing or two about what works with whitetails and what doesn’t. And, when it comes to planting food plots you can’t beat clover.

Clover is relatively easy to grow, is loaded with nutrition, and whitetails simply love it. A good clover plot will produce 2 to 4 tons (per acre) of easily digestible plant matter and give your whitetails a shot in the arm when it comes to nutrition.

Clover can be grown in most food plot environments. It does best when a good seed bed is prepared and the seeds make firm contact with the soil. Clover seeds are tiny and should never be incorporated into the soil through disking or some other method that will cover them with more than ¼ inch of soil. Buried seed is dead seed. Unless you have a roller or similar tool for pressing seed into the soil it is best to spread the seed and walk away. The rain will take care of the rest.

Clover tolerates wet conditions well but has a tendency to go dormant in hot-dry conditions typically found in some areas during the dog days of summer. Adding chicory to a clover plot will hedge your hot-dry bets as chicory loves heat and dry conditions. Perennial clover plots green up early in the spring (when deer need it most) and generally will produce well into the frost season. Our whitetails work clover plots all winter long and will dig through 8 to 12 inches of snow to get to it.

The average whitetail eats about 6 pounds of forage per day which nets out to roughly a ton per year. Much of what they eat is browse which typically contains about 6 to 8% protein so a pound or two of clover at 25% protein is a welcome addition to their daily protein intake. Whitetails thrive in diets containing roughly 16% protein.

It’s tempting to save a few bucks on clover seed buy buying from the local feed and seed stores. In one word: don’t! Much of clover sold by agricultural feed stores is designed to be baled up and fed to livestock. Long, tall clovers (like most reds) look good in the field but they contain a high percentage of stem like material (lignin) and whitetails do not digest lignin well.

The Whitetail Institute of America started the clover rage in 1988 and has been the “king of clover” ever since. You can’t go wrong with a good name brand product. There are hundreds of specialized food plot mixes on the market today and most of them perform as advertised. But, when it comes to a day in-day out food plot performer, and keeping it simple, it’s hard to beat a good plot of clover.

For more information on planting food plots and food plot forages visit