Food plots are an effective way to increase deer body condition and improve whitetail hunting in an area. However, food plots and hunting plots should not be confused. Food plots are planted primarily for providing supplemental food for deer. Hunting plots, on the other hand, are established to aid in the harvest of whitetail deer. A food plot can subsequently be used for the harvest of some deer, but a hunting plot, which is typically much smaller in size, can never really provide supplemental forage for a deer herd. Hunting plots serve more as bait.
The plant species suitable for food plots vary by region and soil type. Selecting the right forage species is very improtant if the plot is expected to be an integral part of a deer management plan. If you don’t have a plan, then how can you really expect to improve deer or the whitetail hunting in your area? Because increasing individual deer health and managing deer has become very popular over the last couple decades, much research has gone into supplemental forage, specifically food plots. There are two types of food plot for deer, warm season and cool season plots.
Warm season food plots are those that are planted during the growing season, typically from spring green up until the first frost. These plots are also referred to as spring food plots. Plant species commonly used in warm season plots includes iron and clay peas, soybeans, corn, and alfalfa. There are a variety of forage species specifically designed for whitetail deer and food plots. But simply, the best food plot is one that will grow and deer will eat.
Cool season food plots are those that grow during the fall and winter. These plots are commonly referred to as winter food plots. Species commonly planted in the fall and winter include oats, wheat, ryegrass, brassicas, and Austrian winter peas. Although oats will grow on a wet rock, they can freeze out at northern latitudes. And you would be surprised by how much deer eat in a day!In these areas, a winter mix should be planted with some mix of wheat. Cool season plots tend to me more successful than warm season plots, primarily because less rainfall is needed. In addition, winter precipitation tends to be more predictable than during the late spring and summer.
If a hunter expects to improve a deer herd using food plots, then total acreage planted must be suitable to supplemental the diet of the local whitetail deer population. On average, it is recommended that 3 to 5% of the available acreage be planted in both cool and warm season food plots. This number can be increased upward to meet the demands of the deer population, but deer numbers should be kept at or below the carrying capacity of the habitat for optimal growth and whitetail hunting. Suitable deer numbers range from 1 deer per 8 to 30 acres depending on habitat. Contact your local wildlife department to find out what suitable deer densities for your area are, and to find out more about suitable food plot species. It may take a little work, but it can help the deer and habitat found on your property. More information on food plots can be found below:
- Whitetail Food Plot Basics
- Food Plot Size for Whitetails
- Planting Rates for Food Plots
- The Nutrition of Whitetail Deer
- Planting Your Whitetail Food Plot
- Brassicas for Whitetail Food Plots
- Food Plot Options for Whitetail Deer
- Planting Food Plots for Whitetail Deer
- Rye Grass for Whitetail Deer Food Plots
- Winter Food Plot Options for Whitetail
- Whitetail Food Plots that Keep on Giving
- Planting Oats for Whitetail Food Plots
- Winter Wheat Food Plots for Whitetail Deer
- Preventing Whitetail Stress with Food Plots