There are many things to consider for optimal results when creating food plots to attract deer and other wildlife to your property.
Here are three tips to help to improve your food plot success:
Consider soil quality and moisture, and then decide on the plot’s location. Seclusion is important, too, especially if your goal is to attract mature bucks during daylight hours. If possible, locate the plot out of sight of any road and close to heavy bedding cover to encourage deer to visit your plots during legal shooting time.
Or consider planting a sight barrier of trees and shrubs between the plot and a nearby road. I know the thought of waiting several years for the trees to grow can be a deterrent, but time flies. You can also plant a dozen or so rows of corn or sunflowers as a temporary sight barrier while you wait for your trees to reach an appropriate height.
I prefer to plant white spruce trees as sight barriers because deer usually do not graze on spruce. Plant at least two or three rows and space the trees just yards apart so you can attain your goal quicker. The trees can always be thinned if needed.
What to plant
I’ve experimented with various food plot brands and mixtures for more than 20 years. All have attracted deer. Rainfall amounts, soil type and competition from weeds all have figured in their success. Certain plant varieties attract deer only in the fall. Others supply high protein forage in spring, summer, fall and even winter to a certain degree.
Clover is the single best plant for deer food plots. I’ve had good luck with Imperial Whitetail Clover, available from the Whitetail Institute of North America.
My second choice is a brassica mix. My favorite is BioLogic Maximum. Brassicas are broad-leaved plants that look and smell like cabbage. They are extremely high in protein and palatable. The downside: Deer generally ignore the plants until after several hard frosts, and thus they do not provide nutrition for deer during spring and summer. But starting in late October, deer flock to my brassica plots. The shift is timely because by then my clover plots are usually eaten to the ground or are starting to go dormant.
Mow the plot
A mower is useful in the fight against weeds. Periodic mowing not only discourages broadleaves in a clover or chicory food plot, but also improves forage quality. The fiber content increases and the nutritional value decreases when plants such as clover mature. Occasional mowing will stimulate new growth, making the food more digestible and nourishing to deer.
However, mowing during a dry period can be damaging to clovers and other desirable plants. Normally I would mow my perennial food plots at least twice during a summer. Don’t mow after early August. Allow the plants to mature to provide the most forage during late summer and fall.
Bill Marchel is an outdoors writer and photographer. He lives near Brainerd.