Yamaha Outdoors Tips — Plotting Your Plots; Part II: Picking Plants

Specific site conditions such as the amount of sunlight reaching the ground can help determine which plant species will do best on a particular site. (Bob Humphrey photo)

By Bob Humphrey

A couple weeks back we touched on one of the first steps in building food plots.  Once you’ve chosen a location, or locations, the next step is deciding what to plant.  Recommended options often depend on intended purpose and existing conditions.

The first installment of this series (Web Tips 2/22/2010 Plotting Your Plots) discussed the basic differences between two types of food plots.  In addition to shape, size and location, feeding plots and hunting plots also have different nutritional objectives.  Hunting plots are designed primarily to attract deer in the fall and winter.  As a result, they are typically planted with annuals that grow quickly and have a relatively narrow period of attraction and peak nutrition.  Feeding plots, on the other hand, are designed either for year-round nutrition, or to fill in the gaps not met by hunting plots.  More often they’re planted with perennials, or plants with a longer period of palatability.

Once you’ve selected from one of the above groups, you can begin to narrow down your choices further based on site conditions.  Certain seed blends (see note below on blends) do better under certain conditions.  Some grow better in moist soils, others on predominantly dry sites.  Some are more tolerant to broad fluctuations in soil moisture.  Similarly, some species like sunlight while others prefer shade.  Slope and aspect should also be factored in.  

Some species require more up-front work.  Crops like corn and soy beans require a lot of care and maintenance, and are better suited to locations you can access with large equipment.  Other less demanding species, especially fall hunting blends can go in more remote places you can only access by ATV.   Save your no-till blends for the “walk-in only” spots.  

Once you decide on the general class of seed blend that’s best suited to your site, it’s time to consult the manufacturer’s recommendations.  Most reputable wildlife seed companies have detailed descriptions of and recommended applications for their blends.  Two important points here.  One: it’s best to use a seed that has been specifically designed for wildlife.  You may be able to save a few bucks buying livestock blends at the local co-op.  But they’re designed for livestock, not deer, and are less palatable to deer.  Two: with little exception, it’s usually better to use a blend rather than a single species.  Conditions such as temperature and moisture can vary considerably from one month to the next and from year to year.  With a mix, at least some species will survive regardless of conditions.