Open in App
Center Light and Champion

Supplemental food plots add beneficial twist to a good deer management program

By News Staff,

Supplemental food plots add beneficial twist to a good deer management program News Staff Thu, 09/28/2023 - 05:14 Image
  • Supplemental food plots add beneficial twist to a good deer management program
  • Breaking up the ground with a disk or tiller helps ensure good seed contact with the soil. It’s a good idea to drag the plot site after the seeds are sown to cover them with thin layer of soil. (Photo by Matt Williams)
  • There are a number of good wildlife seed blends on the market. Those that contain a mix of preferred cereal grains and legumes are ideal for deer. (Photo by Matt Williams)
  • t Late September and early October are good times for planting food plots….. then pray for rain. Cool season food plots provide great sources of nutrition to help deer through tough times. (Photo by Jan Williams)

Deer hunting is labor of love. For hardcore whitetail junkies, the work usually begins long before the dawn of another opening day.

The clock is ticking. Texas’ Archery Only and Managed Lands Deer (MLD) season get underway on September 30 and the statewide general season begins November 4. Deer camps need to be tidied, new stands set, corn feeders filled and shooting lanes trimmed or mowed.

Another popular pre-season ploy for success is planting supplemental food plots using cereal rains and legumes. Oats, wheat, Elbon rye, clover and Austrian winter peas are among the most popular choices.

Planting food plots is dirty work, but it’s worth it. The cool weather cover crops serve a dual purpose.

They boost the odds of luring deer into the open, especially during the late season, after natural food supplies have been exhausted.

More importantly, they provide wildlife a great source of nutrition throughout the late winter and early spring, when the animals need it the most.

“This is when bred does are getting ready to have fawns and bucks are really run down after the rut,” says Rusty Wood, a wildlife biologist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “Food plots can be a huge benefit and a great tool as far as helping get deer through those tough times.”

Planting food plots isn’t difficult, but it does take some forethought and planning. Much it of revolves around timing.

Many hunters historically schedule work days around the long Labor Day weekend, but Wood says planting fall food plots that early in Texas can be risky business. Especially on the heels of a hot, dry summer like this one.

“You can get burned planting that early if you aren’t careful,” Wood said. “If plants sprout and then it turns off hot and dry you could wind up with nothing. Late September and early October planting is much more reliable, mainly due to moisture.”

Wood says it is always best get a soil sample test performed on soil from the planting site before the first seed is sown. Soil tests determine the pH level of the soil, and the necessary liming and fertilization rates required to achieve the best possible planting results.

Soil tests are cheap insurance. The test typically costs less than $20, excluding shipping of the soil sample. A local county extension agent should be able to provide supplies and directions for carrying out the process.

Site selection also is important. Food plots generally do best in places that are relatively flat and well drained, preferably away from fence boundaries.

Old logging roads, clearings, road shoulders, former log sets, pipeline crossings and powerline right-of-ways are good places to build food plots.

A food plot size goes, Wood says it best to plant green fields that are big enough to provide some nutritional value to deer, but not so large that they can’t be utilized. Having several food plots ranging from 1/2 to a couple of acres in size scattered around a lease is better than have one or two big ones.

“A 20-foot long strip out in front a bow stand isn’t going to provide much when times get tough,” Wood said.

Most planting efforts begin with light discing to break up the ground. Cereal grains will germinate when cast on unbroken soil, but Wood says the results will be significantly better if you disc first. This helps seeds make good soil contact.

Once the seed sown, it’s a good idea drag the bed lightly to cover the seed with soil. A cattle panel, piece of chain link fence or a brush top will make a good drag.

It may be necessary to add some weight to the drag. Just be careful not to cover the seed too deep. You could wind up with a very poor stand, or the plants may not reach the surface at all.


Matt Williams is a freelance writer based in Nacogdoches. He can be reached by email, mattwillwrite4u@yahoo. com.

Expand All
Comments / 0
Add a Comment
Local Texas State newsLocal Texas State
Most Popular newsMost Popular

Comments / 0