I have already mentioned that deer need diets high in protein and minerals during the spring and summer with a greater shift toward carbohydrates in fall and winter.
OK, so we need something that produces a lot of protein and takes up key minerals from the soil very efficiently. When you lime and fertilize your plot, you want calcium, phosphorus and protein to get into the deer as efficiently as possible. Since we are focusing on food plots for spring, summer and (by default) fall, it is very hard to beat clover and alfalfa. Brassicas, as I mentioned in the last issue of this magazine, are great for late fall and winter, but are not utilized well enough in the spring and summer to replace clover and alfalfa.
The best clovers are those that will grow where you hunt. Consult with the sales department at Biologic for regional recommendations. Assuming all varieties will grow well; those with the highest crude protein levels are the best. Typically, this means white clover, which has protein levels that approach that of alfalfa but is a lot easier to establish and maintain than alfalfa. However, you will need to reestablish the clover more often.
Chicory plays a close second to clover as a user-friendly easy to maintain high protein, high mineral food source. Again, it is important to have plantings that extract minerals from the soil efficiently. That is one of the strengths of chicory. A mix of both alfalfa and chicory, exactly what you will find in Biologic Clover Plus, is a great choice for most spring and summer food plots.
If you are in a setting where you actually harvest crops from your hunting area, alfalfa is a great choice for some of these larger fields. It provides maximum spring and summer nutrition and deer will still utilize it well in the fall. Though it takes more maintenance to grow and harvest correctly, alfalfa is a super summer food source for deer and will also benefit your wallet.
I have been surprised to find that even in the Midwest, where everyone thinks the deer eat only corn and soybeans; they are still hammering clover and alfalfa fields with gusto well into December. These spring and summer foods can supplement more common grain-type fall food plots, as well, reducing the need for large amounts of these expensive plantings.