Sometimes an oddball plant species is the best option for your plot
Food plots are all common in the modern deer hunting world. That wasn’t always the case, though. Up until the mid- to late-1900s, it wasn’t really a thing. Then, a few food plot companies took off, and the rest was history.
After several decades, certain plant species became pretty popular food plot seed options. Beets, brassicas (radishes, turnips, etc.), buckwheat, cereal rye, chicory, clover, corn, oats, sorghum, soybeans, wheat and others took the majority of the market share. Still, there are other things hunters can plant, and having something different can set your hunting land apart from surrounding tracts. These are some seed options to accomplish that.
Commonly planted as a hay crop for cattle, it’s also an excellent deer food. This perennial isn’t easy to grow nor keep alive, but those who have the skill and time to nurture alfalfa will enjoy the rewards and increased deer usage. When properly maintained, and when adequate rainfall is received, it can last up to four or five years without replanting.
This isn’t a true clover, or even a member of the clover family. It’s actually from Asia, but still can serve as a viable food plot plant. This high-protein legume is also high in glucose, which certainly gets whitetails’ attention during the summer and early fall. Interestingly, it can grow as tall as 30 inches or more, if deer don’t keep it mowed down.
Iron Clay Peas
Those who love legumes will likely go for iron clay peas. Whitetails love it, and can actually over-browse it when provided in small plantings. Those who want something different than what’s likely located on neighboring lands should keep this one in mind.
While kale is technically a member of the brassicas family, it’s also the most overlooked one. It’s way underrated, though, especially given that it’s easy to grow, is high in protein, and is very cold tolerant. It’s hard to beat this fall and winter food source.
Those who want a phenomenal early-season food source should look no further than lablab. This annual contains approximately 25 to 30% protein, produces up to 8,000 pounds of dry forage per acre, and attracts deer like no other. It’s a wonderful early-season food source.
Most people think of Halloween and pie when pumpkins are brought up. These make for great deer feed, too. While it is a learned behavior for deer to start targeting these, once they figure it out, they’ll keep coming back. These big orange bulbs shouldn’t go to waste.
Commonly touted as a great dove plot, sunflowers make great deer food, too. The odds of your neighbors having these are very low, so it gives your property a unique edge that can help draw deer during the late summer and early fall. That can make a difference.
While grasses and legumes are great early-successional food sources, they aren’t the only food plots hunters can provide. Trees are great for this, too. These are often overlooked by land managers.
Soft mast, such as apples, pears, persimmons, and plums, are great options for hunting properties. These can serve as influential late-summer and early-fall food sources, especially in areas that lack nutrients at that time of year. Even areas that don’t lack food can benefit from the added variety.
Hard mast, such as beech nuts, chestnuts, hickory nuts, oak acorns (including the red and white families), and pecans, are important members of healthy deer habitat. Ensuring an appropriate number of these are on the landscape is part of managing a property for wildlife. Mast crops won’t sustain deer the entire year, but they certainly help bridge the gap between fall and spring.
Article by Josh Honeycutt