To Bag Big Bucks ? Plant it and They Will Come! All across the country, many hunters are starting to realize the benefits to about planting food plots on the lands they either lease or own these days in order to attract and hold more deer in their area. It is also part of creating a healthier deer herd with bucks that have larger antlers, too. Traditionally, most hunters planning to plant food plots think first of planting the many different types of clover blends. Any of the wide variety of commercially available clovers will improve the soil and provide it with extra nitrogen and can be used in pasturage, green chop, hay, and nitrogen-enhancing crop in between other rotational crops. The high nitrogen content does not allow the full-time pasturage of clover alone because of the problem of bloating. Sustainable pastures should contain a 30% clover to 70% grass average for the best utilization of nitrogen producing plants.
A few more things to keep in mind about planting the different types of clover in food plots are that a clover food plot requires a lot of attention. It has to be fertilized and limed properly to grow hardy. By taking soil samples prior to planting a field of clover you can save yourself a lot of headaches. The soil sample analysis will determine exactly what mix of fertilizer to use (5-10-10 or 10-10-10, etc.) and how much fertilization and lime is needed to grow a healthy and long-lasting food plot. For those who may not know, the NPP numbers represent the nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium content within the fertilizer mix.
Clover also has to be inoculated at planting to eliminate less desired seeds from growing within the clover crop. There are several types of clovers from which to choose. Most provide a high concentration of protein for deer and other wildlife. Some of the more popular clover plants include Alyceclover, Berseem Clover, Durana Clover, Barkey Subterranean Clover, Osceola Ladino Clover, Patriot Clover, Regal Ladino Clover, and Yuchi Arrowleaf Clover. Each will grow hardily in the areas for which they were designed. Most of these will grow well in the northeast.
While the many varieties of clover are good choices, many hunters forget the more traditional seed options that provide wildlife forage and high protein for deer, turkey, and other wildlife. On my farm, I use a variety of large (10 acres or more), medium (a minimum of 5 acres) or small fields (2 acres or less) to plant a wide variety of clover and traditional and non-traditional crops to attract and hold deer, turkey, ducks, and upland birds.
I plant both feed and sweet corn, Timothy hay, two varieties of Alfalfa meant especially for deer, Birdsfoot Trefoil (one of the longest living perennial legumes), and Brown Top Millet (which is one of the few plantings that can be flooded for ducks and also planted in dry areas for deer, turkey, and upland birds). I also plant Chufa seed in small plots (which are meant to be grown especially for wild turkey who love to eat this plant), dwarf corn which I plant around my ponds and waterholes for waterfowl (deer also happen to love it) and Japanese Millet which is strictly for ducks. Japanese millet is a fast-growing plant in muddy areas, near water, or in areas that are to be flooded. This year I also planted over ten acres of soybeans too. Soybeans are a high- quality protein plant. They require fertilization and inoculation to grow best. Soybeans should be planted in rows. If you don?t have a tractor (I have a Kubota L3400 ) with a seeder, use a PlotmasterTM to plant your soybeans in rows. Many sport shops are renting PlotmastersTM as well as selling them. My local Gander Mountain store in Middletown, New York, rents PlotmastersTM ? check out your local sporting goods store. Soybeans will germinate quickly as long as there is moisture present. Deer and other wildlife eat the soybeans in the foliage stage and after the beans have matured, too. What I really like about soybeans is that they reseed themselves after the seed falls to the ground and they end up producing even more plants! I like planting soybeans in mid-July (as long as it isn?t a drought year) so they will provide foliage and beans into October and sometimes November. Soybeans are hardy and will last up until the first couple of frosts. They are ideal to plant with other food plot crops and can be planted from April to July at the rate of 20 to 35 pounds to the acre.
I also have a plan to plant some native grasses as well. These grasses are also known as Tallgrass. They provide a wide variety of wildlife cover, food, and shelter. I plant several rows deep along a field that borders my neighbor?s farm. By doing so, I prevent other hunters from seeing into my food plot fields. The Tallgrass can grow up to eight feet in height! It is a natural border that keeps other hunters? peering eyes from watching the wildlife on your property. It also provides an ecological benefit to the soil and is a distinct ornamental plant as well. Along side of a wooded ten-acre sanctuary I posted on my land, I have a four-acre field of hay, which borders another four acres of corn, which lies next to a road. To prevent unwanted eyes from spotting the field at night, or be tempted to poach from a vehicle (which has been reported in the area), I decided to keep the corn crop standing until after deer season. To further help conceal the deer and to add to the effectiveness of the sanctuary, I also decided not to cut the hay along side of the corn. Instead, I will let it grow thick and tall. It will provide an extra buffer zone from the road and also give the deer more cover to hide in along side of the corn and the wooded sanctuary. The deer can also sneak off unseen from the cornfield, to the overgrown hay field and into the woods in case of unwanted trespassing. This is just another way to use crops to provide cover, food, and prying eyes from seeing deer on your land.
Lastly, I am going to plant sunflowers in several areas on the farm in July, too. Black sunflowers are highly sought-after by all types of birds and game birds. Sunflowers are a good partner crop to grow in and around food plots of other types. Like Chufa, they are a good source of high quality oil which is needed for the healthy development of all species. They are a particular added benefit to attract ducks and, more important, larger migrating fowl like geese that traditionally require a large amount of calories during their migration flights.
Finding seed companies on the web are not difficult. Just make sure they are reliable plant companies that supply quality feed, minerals, and vitamins. I plan to use a variety of seed from Plot Spike in my plantings this spring. They can be found at http://www.plotspike.com or by calling 1-800-264-5281 for the nearest dealer in your area. This company offers a wide line of seed and other products including Chufas, oats, clovers, and minerals and vitamins.
The key is to make sure that any crop you grow is well taken care of. It must be fertilized, limed, and occasionally cut to have a healthy food source for deer to eat over long periods of time. You should also plan your crops so that they will provide winter feed as well (Winter Wheat etc.). No matter what type of food plot you grow remember not to place too much hunting pressure over it. I generally hunt my plots on a rotational basis in order to provide ?rest? to the plots I?ve hunted and thereby giving the deer access to the food without having to worry about constant pressure. If you only have one food plot make sure you don?t hunt it every day. Instead hunt it every three days. By doing this you will have more success in attracting deer to it, especially mature bucks.
I can tell you through my years of experience planting a wide variety of food plots — if you grow it ? they will come!