Summer food plots provide important nutrients for antler growth.
By Bob Humphrey
Most wildlife managers and biologists, particularly in northern states, discourage the practice of deer feeding. The reasons are many and varied, and if you visit the web site of nearly any northern state’s wildlife agency, you can read their position statement explaining them. There are, however, exceptions.
One of the most obvious is food plots. Rather than supporting and encouraging a deer population that is in excess of what the habitat can support, food plots improve the habitat, making it capable of supporting more deer without additional negative impact on the environment.
Most of the effort expended on food plots however, goes to growing fall food so we can hunt over those plots. Summer feeding plots can be just as important. They provide year-round nutrition so your land will hold more deer year-round, and those deer will be healthier.
Some of the reason for this is related to seasonal diet. In the spring and summer, bucks are growing antlers and does are nursing fawns. They require much higher levels of protein. In spring and early summer vegetation is lush, and can provide more nutrition than deer need. But
in mid to late summer, nutritional value declines considerably.
In fact, July and August are among the most stressful periods in the deer’s dietary calendar. Does are feeding nearly-grown fawns, and bucks growing nearly-full racks. But plant protein levels are low. That’s where summer food plots really help.
Most fall food plot mixes contain plants high in carbohydrates, but low in protein. Summer forage mixes, on the other hand, offer higher protein levels - just what the deer need to grow larger antlers and bigger, healthier fawns.
Some wildlife seed companies offer summer feeding blends, often high in clover. Many others offer blends - usually perennial - that cover a wider range, mixing high-carb and high protein plants. Which you should choose depends on several things. If you have multiple plots, some for feeding and some for hunting, annual blends may be a better option, using high protein mixes for summer feeding and high carbohydrates for fall hunting. If you have one or a few all-season plots, a perennial mix with wider application is a better choice.