If your plot is overgrown, you may have to spray and wait a week or two before doing your fall planting. (Bob Humphrey photo)
By Bob Humphrey
Planting times vary from one crop to another but are generally some time in the spring. If you want to harvest whitetails however, the best planting time is right now.
Obviously, deer don’t spring up out of the ground, though at times they seem to be able to disappear into it. But by planting the right crops at the right time, you can draw them out into the open at a time and place of your choosing rather than theirs.
While spring forage plots often contain high-protein perennials, fall hunting plots generally consist of rapidly-growing annuals that hit their peak nutrition sometime during the hunting season. Among the most popular are brassicas, including kale, turnip and rape. Depending on the variety, most will mature generally within 60 - 90 days. However, the leaves are often bitter until hit by the first frost. Then, starches turn to sugar providing a sweeter charge of quick calories. Meanwhile, deer will often ignore the tubers until late fall and early winter.
It is best to plant seeds designed for food plots. We all want to support our local economy, but you should temper that slightly when choosing seed. Food plot seeds are generally more expensive than local co-op varieties. However, they are plant varieties selected specifically for their attractiveness to deer. Local varieties, on the other hand, are typically designed for and intended as livestock forage. You want to attract cows, buy the local seed. You want to attract deer, buy a wildlife blend. In most cases, a good local feed store will carry both.
The other advantage of food plot blends is that they are just that, blends or mixes. Regardless of temperature and moisture fluctuations, some species in the mix will grow. And many mixes are designed to be “self-protecting.” For example, they may contain peas or rye grass that grow very quickly. This gives deer something to focus on, taking the pressure off other plants that may be more sensitive to grazing early in their growth cycle or slower to mature.
If you’re starting with bare ground, you can till, spread your lime, fertilizer and seed, then pray for rain. If your plot has weeded over, you should cut it, wait several days until new growth starts, then spray it with a systemic herbicide. In a week to 10 days it should be ready for tilling and planting.
Precisely when to plant will depend on several things, including geographic location and local hunting seasons. In the north, you’ll want to start early as plants will grow a bit slower, and the growing season is shorter. You can wait a bit longer in the south. Late summer heat and drought may retard early plant growth. And once they start, plants will grow more rapidly. In either case, try to plant just before it rains. Then sit back and watch the deer sprout up.
(This photo includes after-market accessories. Vehicles will handle differently with accessories.)