Planting Oats for Whitetail Food Plots

Oats are a cool-season cereal grain that are highly preferred by deer. During the first months of growth oats are high in protein (14% to 18% protein) and easily digestible. In most cases, deer prefer oats over the other cereal grains. Oats are most often used in fall-planted hunting plots to attract deer.

Site requirements of oats
Oats have a couple drawbacks that make them unsuitable for some planting situations. First, they are the least cold tolerant of the cereal grains and they are easily killed off in extreme cold. As a result, they may not be the best choice for planting in northern regions. Second, oat plantings will often fail if planted in no-till food plots; the seeds must be covered with 1″ to 2″ of soil for proper germination. For best results, plant in well drained soils with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. Oats will not grow well on deep sands, and they will not tolerate poorly drained sites.

Winter oats best for deer food plots
Oats are available as winter oats and less commonly as spring oats. Spring oats are summer annuals and tend to have lower forage production than winter oats. Spring oats have no tolerance to cold temperatures. Winter oats will generally be your best choice for deer food plots. When selecting winter oats, choose varieties that are the most winter hardy. Buck Magnet oats is an example of a winter hardy variety. Other varieties used in deer food plots include Arkansas, Dehli Bob, and Florida 501.

Suggested forage mixtures with oats
The following are some examples of suitable forage mixtures that include oats:

winter oats, soybeans, and winter wheat
winter oats and brassicas (forage rape and turnips)
winter oats, Austrian winter peas, and forage rape or turnips
winter oats, wheat or rye, and yellow sweetclover

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