Whether you want to hunt them or marvel in their beauty, food plots are an excellent way to attract more whitetail deer. The trick is knowing what to plant in your deer food plots, how to plant them, and when you’ll have the best chance of spotting a deer herd.
It all comes down to contributing to the health and comfort of the deer. You can plant a variety of plots, depending on the season, that offers nutritious food and tasty treats that they enjoy.
Let’s dig into the types of deer food plots you can choose from, and the best ways to plant them.
Types of Deer Food Plots
The best food plot for deer will vary by the season, and act as a great food source for deer. The type of plot you choose will also depend on what your goals are. Do you want to attract deer for your viewing pleasure? For the hunt? To provide nutrition for their health during gestation seasons and antler growth? For all of the above?
If you have multiple reasons for wanting to plant deer food plots, you’re going to have to plant in preparation for the seasons and changing needs of the deer. Here’s a quick breakdown of the types of deer food plots you can plant:
Fruit trees will offer a special treat that will attract the big Bucks like moths to a flame. The best part about planting fruit trees is that you don’t have to worry about planting the most attractive ones—the deer aren’t concerned with aesthetics.
They care about getting ready for the winter season by filling up on the sugar and starches the ripening fruit provides. That means you can plant whichever variety of fruit trees would grow naturally in your area, such as apple, plum, and pear trees.
You can also add new trees yearly to attract a larger number of deer.
Annuals such as grains, seeds, soybeans, and corn, are the nutritious type of food plots that have a single life cycle. That means they must be replanted each growing season, and they’re most beneficial when grown as row crops.
The purpose behind row crops versus scattered seeds is to ensure that the combination of sunlight and irrigation will allow a higher percentage of seeds to grow in healthy and hearty plants.
Perennials and Brassicas
Perennials refer to shrub-like plants and flowers that regrow on their own for at least two years. That means that unlike annuals, you don’t have to re-sow their seeds each season. You’ll find that plants like clovers and chicory fall into the perennial category.
Brassicas are cruciferous and root vegetables, including cabbage, radishes, cauliflower, and turnips. Perennials and Brassicas tend to overlap in terms of their growth cycles. However, Brassicas benefit more when planted as row crops, while perennials have a better scatter rate. These also make great fall food plots.
When, How, and Where to Plant Your Plots
Many factors will go into how you plant your deer food plots, like your acreage, how many deer you want to attract, and so on. The central idea is to maximize your given space enough to attract a healthy amount of deer that want to stay.
First, you need to decide how many plots you’ll need for maximum attraction. The rule of thumb is to put down at least three to five percent of your total acreage into food plots if you plant to hunt only.
If you plan to hunt and feed, you’ll need to put down ten percent.
The location of your food plots is crucial. Not just for optimal growth, but also the deers’ comfort. Like any animal, deer need to feel secure while they feed because it’s when they’re at their most vulnerable. This also means you should keep your feeding plots and hunting plots from overlapping.
The location, of course, will vary depending on your property. In general, it’s ideal to have your plots centrally located. Additionally, planting your plots around a water source, if possible, is also beneficial.
Other things to consider: Plant evergreens around your plots to shield them from public view, and give your deer something to hide behind if they become startled. You’ll also want to take the wind into account. Plant your plots in a position that will be downwind from your stand the majority of the time.
It’s critical to plant the right plots for the cooler and warmer seasons. Annuals and especially perennials do well when planted for the cool season because their roots enable them to survive and provide nutrition during the scarcer months.
Cool-season food plots include:
- Chicory root
- Cereal rye
Warm-season food plots are more common since they’re utilized in preparation for hunting season. Annuals and fruit trees are most often planted during this time to provide nutrition for pregnant females and their fawns and aid in antler growth.
Warm-season plots include:
- Grain Sorghum
Remember, your fruit trees are an additional tasty treat. You should vary them and add a few each year, depending on your acreage.
If you’re planting for hunting, make sure you check out our guide to the best deer hunting blinds.
The Best Food Plot For Deer
The best food plot for deer comes with the right variety between cooler and warmer months. You need the right mixture of nutrition, treats, and wooded areas to attract the most deer to your property, and increase your odds of successful deer hunting.