Minnesota farmers are dealing with flooded or soggy fields, thanks to Mother Nature dumping copious amounts of rain this spring and early summer — not to mention the heavy runoff from last winter's deep snow. Those who farm for wildlife by planting food plots face the same problems. The wet conditions are widespread across the state.
Right now my plots are waterlogged, which means I wasn't able to do the planting I planned for this June. But all is not lost. There are still several options available to me and other wildlife-watchers who want to grow high-quality food plots before the freezing weather arrives.
Food plots have become popular in recent years. Companies specializing in wildlife food plots have introduced a variety of options that can be seeded as late as early September, even in Minnesota, while still attracting deer and other wildlife later in the fall.
Since it's too late to plant corn or soybeans, I'll be focusing on oats and brassicas when my plots dry out.
Here is my plan:
Since a healthy crop of weeds has taken over my muddy plots, I'll spray the weeds with a herbicide or disc the weed infested food plots as soon as the soil is dry enough for me to work in it. I'll plant oats around mid-August, just before or after a good soaking rain. Some land managers prefer wheat or rye to oats, but I like oats because they are not cold hardy and will die during the winter. Next spring the food plot will be comparatively clean, allowing me to disc or cultivate without all the old plant stems, which tend to clog my implements.
By the mid-September archery deer opener, my oats food plot will resemble a lawn. Deer relish the new green growth and will gravitate to the oats. Sure, oats don't provide the year-round nutrition that a food plot of, say, clover would. But remember, this is only a temporary fix due to the wet weather. I hope to plant more perennials next year in addition to my usual annuals under better conditions.
Another late-summer remedy for a failed food plot is to plant brassicas. Brassicas, such as rapeseed, grow quickly and stay green into the winter. The large leaves are more palatable to deer after a few hard frosts. Brassica food plots make excellent spots for late-season bow or muzzleloader hunts.
It's true that a plot planted with brassicas in late July or early August will not produce the same amount of vegetation as an earlier planting, but it's still a fine solution for this year.
A number of commercial seed products are designed for August planting. Check out options by the Whitetail Institute of North America, Biologic and Frigid Forage, to name a few.
Bill Marchel, an outdoors writer and photographer, lives near Brainerd.