-By Brandon Wikman
Watching a tiny seed transform into a full-fledged, antler-blooming plant has always amazed me. The essence of understanding what it takes to be a farmer, wildlife manager and patron of the forest is what I consider to be a true hunter.
Planting food plots is a critical step in response to a whitetails desire for taste variety, and nutrition. Implementing a seasonal mix of early and late season plots insures not only a healthy deer herd, but also a herd that will stay on your property, for good. Whether it’s opening weekend or the final weeks of the deer season, taking the ‘food buffet’ approach to your land will keep you and your freezer stuffed.
A few weeks ago I met with my uncle, who owns a dairy farm and the woods I grew up hunting. I simply asked what he planted and where. It is important to know what crops are going to grow, where it will be planted, and how much of it. I can take this information and relate it to what I will plant and how I can make the most out of my food plots.
Many people complain that food plots are worthless; because deer stomp right through that lush green acre of clover you busted your butt growing all summer en route to the farmer’s crops. Well, they’re right... but only to a point.
Timing is everything in the whitetail world. They’re stomach runs on a timed dinner bell, based on weather, time of year, and a list of other motives that are out of our control. Anytime we can control a variable in the deer woods, we must capitalize on it. When a farmer has grown a field covered in soybean plants during mid September, when the plant is most desired, your custom plot isn’t going to be on the top of a deer’s grocery list. Your mindset needs to be based off of what plant you can substitute after the soybean craze mellows.
In my case, all the fields planted near me are sprouting with mini-corn leaves, surfacing the soil, and supplying a tasty carbohydrate treat for deer mid-to-late season. My uncle said his crops would be harvested around November, so I will have a variety mix of chicory, and clover to supplement their diet after the corn is stripped.
For the time being, I planted a new product that is primarily comprised of soybeans, peas, and sunflowers. This will be a guaranteed hot spot for early season bow hunting. I planted several strips along my uncle’s cornfield. Not only is the soil already super charged with fertilizer, but also there’s enough light source and food availability for deer to browse. Deer will feed on the plot religiously until the corn or acorn frenzy begins. Although, once another crop competes with your own homemade honey hole, it’s still nice to have a variety of food for your herd to munch on.
We happen to forget deer eat what they want, when they crave it. And when they crave a particular plant, it is for a certain reason. Plant your plots during the time of year that deer will need it and benefit from it most!
- Plant enough seed in a big enough area so deer won’t demolish it before it has a chance to even grow to its potential!
- Use a PH Soil testing kit to determine whether you need to put lime on your plot.
- Remember to fertilize your plot for maximum plant forage.
- Use a seed spreader to cast your seed to ensure proper coverage.
- Make sure there are enough light sources; don't be afraid to trim branches or clear away trees.
- Hang your scouting camera and let the scouting begin.