Year after year, food plots continue to increase in importance for most whitetail deer hunters. We see these "Wild Gardens" as not only a way to improve our deer herd through added food and nutrition, but also as a way to improve our success when we are out hunting. However, one general discussion that I find myself being apart of or overhearing is what kind of plot to plant or when to hunt a specific type of plot. Through my years of planting food plots I have had plots that were extremely hot during the spring/summer months, unbelievable in early to late fall, and of course the late season kill plot. In order to understand these three plots we must look at what kind of seed we are tucking into the soil.
Spring/Summer Plots A lot of people generally think of a spring/summer plot being one that has to be a perennial type plant. These blends generally consist of clover and chicory that provide a great food source from early on up to actual hunting season. This however is not always the case. I have had many plots that were planted with a high rate of forage oats, beans, sunflowers, and buckwheat that have worked just as well. Think about what you typically see when you're doing your summer time scouting, the deer are generally feeding in soybean fields. This is due to the soybean being a very rich plant that provides a good source of energy compared to that of corn. One must keep in mind that just like a soybean field, early season plots are great up until the cold starts setting in. Early season plots can be great for taking a patterned back or big ol' slickhead prior to their movements changing leading up to the lull and the rut. At this point, it is time to start focusing on your fall and late season plots where does will be gathering. This will lead to one thing, bucks cruising these plots for does! Early/Late Fall Plots The plots that shine above all the rest, fall plots! We at CreekBottom Land Management particularly love fall plots whether early or late fall. These plots tend to be there for you all season long. These plots typically are a blend of annual seed blends and some perennial seed blends. A mixture that we typically prefer is one that contains clover, chicory, plants from the brassica family (turnips, radish, rape, etc.), beans, peas, and oats. This collection of plants will provide different rates of maturation. The oats, beans, and peas will mature first (produce seed heads) followed by the brassica family which will mature mid to late fall. These plants are all maturing meanwhile the clover and chicory that you have put into the blend are still green and lively up to the first couple of frosts. These plots tend to be great staging areas for bucks and does. The does will feed in these areas with their fawns (if they are still around) from fall all of the way through winter. Bucks are attracted to these areas due to the does making these areas a primary feeding location. Once the rut winds down, these plots are still very huntable as long as you have put in brassica type plants. However, if you focused on having a rotation food plot, primarily due to cabbage root worm prevention, it is time to jump over to your late season turnip/radish plots. Late Season Plots Now that the does are bred and the bucks are in recovery mode, it is time to bundle up and get into your late season plot stand. These plots can be made up many plants, but typically the main plants we will see in a late season blend are soybeans, turnips, radishes, and rape brassica. These plants provide a solid food source for wintering deer herds due to high protein and sugars that reside in the leaves, turnip/radish balls, and beans. These plots tend not be the greatest early or even mid fall plots since the deer have yet to make them primary feeding locations. I typically stay away from these plots until my DLC Covert Cameras begin exploding with deer pawing up turnip balls. Sometimes this can take until the weather drops severely and a good layer of snow has covered up the plants. Less forage means the deer need to go searching. What better for the deer than a area loaded with plant life just a paw kick under the snow. Once these areas have been made primary food sources, you can start assuming this is where you will stick your late season animal or find the sheds of a buck you are looking to harvest the following season. As you can tell there is a lot more to food plots than putting a seed into the ground. Just as you hang a stand according to a specific wind direction, we must prepare to have plots for all times of the year to ensure that our deer herds receive the food they need throughout the year, and also to increase your overall chance at harvesting an animal during the season. If you would like more information on how you can develop a successful food plot, or if you would like to get a quote on having our team of professionals install the food plots for you, please give us a call today at 1.920.539.2934