July 14, 2021 4 min read
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If you have ample land for hunting, deer food plots are a fantastic way to keep your herd happy and healthy year-round. Hunters have long used food plots to supplement the natural food resources in their area, especially in locations where the soil isn’t ideal for growing fruit-bearing trees and other wintertime sources for deer. Deer are capable of surviving on a diet of mostly twigs if necessary. However, getting the fattest and healthiest herd possible requires a more robust diet that includes plenty of plant-based protein and a variety of nutrients. Here are the fundamentals for year-round deer food plot maintenance.
Some farmers only plant one crop per year and then use fertilizer to refresh the soil before the next year. However, planting different crops year-round helps keep the soil healthy and fertile. This is because the dead leaves and stalks from the old crop biodegrade back into the soil, providing excellent nourishment for the crops coming immediately after it. It also replenishes the nutrients lost from the soil from the previous year’s crop.
Deer eat whatever is available seasonally, so you can mix up the types of food you offer them to keep your plots’ soil healthy. You may need to leave some plots unused to rest and disrupt the pest cycle between some seasons, but you typically should be using your plots at least two seasons out of every year. Making your food plots a safe and reliable food source can also keep the deer coming back to the same area consistently, giving you the ideal place to set up your hunting blind and ensure a successful hunt.
Clover is an excellent basic food source for the spring. It grows fast, especially in regions where it rains heavily in the spring, and it is generally low-maintenance. Try a variety of clover, including perennial options, to see what your local deer prefer. Soybeans are an even better source of protein for deer and can help you bulk up your bucks. However, they require much more water than most other crops and may struggle if your spring is unusually dry. If you can’t or don’t want to grow soybeans, look into using the best deer protein feed methods to supplement your crops.
Summer is an especially important time for food sources for deer because this is when does are pregnant or feeding newborns. It is a high-stress period that can make deer less resistant to disease if they are not properly nourished. Buckwheat, corn and a lower-quality grain known as sorghum are great options for the summer. Soybeans and other spring crops may linger into the summer in cooler climates. You may even be able to sow seeds over the top of the crops already in the plots, but this will vary depending on best practices for that species.
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Food plots for fall vary depending on how long your summer crops linger and how fast winter sets in. However, wheat is usually a safe option, especially if you want a crop that survives into at least part of the winter. Brassica blend, which is mostly made up of inexpensive vegetables like kale and cabbages, is another excellent option.
Acorns are one of the biggest food sources for deer during the fall months, and they may often choose these over other favorite foods. Planting at least some of your plots near oak trees may help keep deer near your hunting blind, as the fall hunting season continues and the other food sources start to disappear.
It is more of a challenge to develop a food plot during winter because deer usually stick to shrubs, twigs, nuts and berries. Like for fall, one option is to maintain a selection of shrubs and fruit- and nut-bearing trees at the edges of your food plots. This may help the deer feel more safe and secure around your food plot since trees and shrubs are a natural source of concealment.
Alfalfa, corn and wheat are great options for the main area of your plots since deer will happily eat these. However, alfalfa can be difficult to maintain and is picky about soil conditions, so corn and wheat are the most plausible options for hunters with limited time on their hands for cultivation. Late winter is also a good time to bring the protein feeder back out. Bucks tend to lose weight during the rut, so they need extra protein to regain mass after.
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Some staples, like clover and wheat, can grow just about anywhere. However, some crops and fruit-bearing trees that are non-native to an area may struggle to survive, especially if they are perennials that are supposed to survive winters. The far northern parts of the U.S. can be particularly tricky to grow crops in, as can arid and very hot parts of the U.S.
Many parts of the U.S. have county or state agriculture offices that can advise you on realistic options for plants. They can also give you pointers on crop rotation and local soil conditions you should account for when planting. You should also check your region’s hardiness zone to determine the best time for sowing and harvesting crops.
Once you’ve figured out the best spots for your plots, it’s time to get your blind set up. Shadow Hunter Blinds is your go-to source for blinds for a variety of terrains. Our GhostBlind mirror models are made from reflective polypropylene panels and give you a 360° vantage point, as well as numerous ports for placing your gun or bow to take aim. The mirrors essentially give you thousands of camo patterns in one blind so you can make the most of the foliage around your plots.
Our durable blinds are an investment in your hard work preparing your food plot and can increase your chances of bagging a buck this season. Explore our full range of hunting blinds and accessories online.