Food Plots for deer and what works in upstate NY

As usual I’ve been pounding away at my food plots and trying some new stuff here and there. Over the years I’ve tried a lot of different seeds and have experienced all kinds of results. Since I’m not being paid by anyone for my 2 cents I figured I’ll pass along some real world experiences without trying to sell you anything. Here we go ….

 I started planting years back and did what everyone does at the start – I planted what I heard of and prayed something good would happen. It usually doesn’t because what I’ve learned is what works in Alabama might not work on my property. So over the years I tried a bunch of different seeds and eventually figured out what I could count on while always leaving room to try something new just for the fun of it. If you plant or are going to start planting you already know the food plot seed business has gone nuts. There’s all kinds of stuff being produced today with all kinds of crazy promises that no one ever realizes. There is no magic seed that will do it all but like every other market in the world , some are simply better than others. Here’s my findings , opinions of what will work in the north country of NY.

Clover : so this surprises no one , but they all claim to be different & better than the other guy. I’ve planted and continue to grow a couple varieties of clover with mixed results. I can’t tell you the difference between them but I can say one seems to be more popular than the other.

Whitetail Institute Clover has been around for a long time , longer than any of the others I would guess. After years of growing this I can tell you it’s fairly easy to grow and the deer like it but don’t step over each other to get it. Don’t ask me why but for some reason the deer that hang around my land don’t seem to love clover – it’s probably the only herd in the world that doesn’t but this is what I’m seeing and have been for years. I have a great Whitetail Institute clover plot that’s completely hidden where deer can get to it from really good cover at anytime with no one knowing. Still it doesn’t get all that much attention. I know this because I have a camera set up right there and see deer walking through there everyday but only hitting the clover occasionally. Not to mention it’s pretty easy to tell if your plot is being hit just by looking at it. Anyway , I have another small clover plot about 100 yards away that’s equally hidden and growing well. That plot is Antler King clover and it is noticeably more popular than the other one. Again , I have no idea why but the deer seem to like the Antler King variety better.

Peas/beans/sunflowers etc: There’s a lot of this stuff out there today and for good reason , deer love it. My experience is deer will hit one of these plots in the summer before they even think about anything else including clover. This mix grows pretty fast ( it’s an annual BTW) and gets pretty big. When it’s mature the plot is like a jungle of food where deer could spend the whole day if they wanted. Everything in here is what they love but some are different than others in that there might be another seed in there that sets one variety apart from the competition.

Antler King has this seed called Red Zone that I’ve planted a few times. This seed has peas, beans, sunflowers & buckwheat and it grows! This stuff is really easy to grow and it gets big in a hurry. There’s a lot of sunflowers in it and I learned over the years the deer love sunflowers , later in the Summer/early Fall especially. But here’s what I don’t like , it has way too much buckwheat and the deer here don’t give a damn about it. The buckwheat comes fast and pretty much rules the plot for the 1st half of the summer. I like the idea because if the deer like it they will have a lot of food right off the bat. What I found was the deer on my property don’t care for the buckwheat at all. So if they aren’t going to eat it and it is the dominant seed in the plot then I had to do something different. This lead me to Whitetail Institute Powerplant which is growing right now. This seed has all the beans / peas and sunflowers the deer up here seem to love but doesn’t have the buckwheat. I can’t tell you how much the deer like it yet but I can offer some early observations. As an annual we want these seeds to get going and fast. Antler King does , so far the Powerplant doesn’t. It’s growing for sure but we’re at the end of June and this plot isn’t big enough to feed anything yet. I can say it looks like the germination rate of the Powerplant is really high so I’m hopeful this will be a good plot sometime soon. The worst that can happen is that it’s a pretty good plot but I’m betting by August it’s a very good one. I grew this once several years ago in the heart of the Adirondacks in some pretty lousy soil and it grew like crazy. The soil where I have it now is excellent and it gets sun all day long. I’ll let you know how it goes. So far I haven’t done a plot of strictly beans but the day is coming for sure. I like to try mixed seeds just for the safety of it , meaning there has to be something there a deer will like. I have no real competition from farms nearby so whatever I’m growing is probably the only place the deer can get it.

Fall plots / brassicas etc.  This is where I’ve spent a lot of time and money over the years and can tell you what I know works in these parts. We’ve all seen those pictures of brassica plots with the huge green leaves , plants that are thigh high and are thinking ” this looks like the answer”. It is. When it comes to Fall plots there’s a ton of stuff out there and all kinds of wild claims about who is better than who. My experience is they’re all good but some are great.

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Big-N-Beasty plot

Whitetail Institute has a seed they call Winter Greens. It’s a big leaf brassica that looks kinda like a turnip plant without the turnip. The deer love it and it’s easy as hell to grow. I’ve been planting it for years and can’t even tell you how many deer I’ve seen hammering this stuff at all hours of the day. It’s as attractive to deer as anything you will put in the ground. You could expect in good soil you will have plants a foot high in 3 weeks or so. I plant them around July 15 – 20 every year and have plants that are over my knees and huge by the middle of September. Keep in mind the deer are not going to hit this until after a real hard frost or 2. After the frost the starch in this plant turns to sugar and the deer can’t leave it alone. By late in the season this plot that is covered with all these huge plants will have nothing but these little white stems barely sticking out of the ground. So what don’t I like about this ? The germination rate is not as good as other brassicas. After years of planting this it’s easy to see the germination rate is not as high as it should be. It could be the seeds are so small that some can get “lost” in the soil and are too deep to germinate. I don’t really know but I do know the other brassicas I plant do much better than Winter Greens.

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Whitetail Institute Wintergreens

This leads me to Antler King Honey Hole Mix which is basically a turnip plot. These plants grow fast and produce turnips like you can’t believe. When mature you will walk through the plot and it will be like walking on baseballs because there are turnips everywhere. The leaves are huge , plants are strong and the deer love them. The germination rate is fantastic and it’s very easy to grow. If you plant this you will not regret it I promise. One thing you have to be aware of is the deer may not go after the turnips much the 1st year or so if they haven’t been exposed to them before. They will devour the plant but the turnips may sit there on top of the ground mostly untouched. The 2nd year I planted turnips the deer started going after them with vengeance. Don’t worry because the leaves alone are worth the effort.

So now we come to the grand daddy of all when it comes to brassicas. For the deer on my land there is nothing in the Fall that gets their attention like Frigid Forage Big-N-Beasty. This is as good as it gets for a Fall / cold weather plot. This seed is mostly turnips and sugar beets. It grows faster than anything I’ve ever put in the ground and the germination rate is easily the highest I’ve ever experienced. My plots produce turnips the size of softballs and lots of them. I’m not kidding when I say this plot is so good it looks fake. The deer love all the brassicas I plant but the Big-N-Beasty is the absolute best. If you are going to plant brassicas the most important consideration to keep in mind is the size of the plot. If you plant a small plot around a treestand for instance ,you will be disappointed. These plants do not regenerate like clover or something like that. When it’s eaten , it’s over. A couple deer can completely wipe out a small plot in one night and will do it before you ever hunt it. My smallest brassica plot is about an acre and that plot lasts all season long. An acre isn’t all that big but I have other plots not too far away so the deer get spread out and they all last throughout the season.

One other plant I consider the stand by of sorts in that if all else fails plant oats. If you’ve ever planted oats you know this is probably the easiest plant to grow. I’ve often said a person can grow oats on a sidewalk if they wanted. That might not be true but it’s pretty easy to grow. It grows fast which can be good or not so good. Up here I plant oats very late in August or even early September. You don’t want these plants to get over 6 – 8″ if you want deer to eat this stuff. If you plant too early the plants are knee high before you know it and the deer won’t touch it. Oats basically look like grass but it’s much more attractive to deer than grass. Just don’t plant too early or you’ve wasted money. My recommendation is Buck Forage Oats seed if you’re going to plant this. They have a good product and it’s very inexpensive compared to most seed varieties out there. Oats in general don’t cost much but Buck Forage is real affordable and has worked better for me than any other oat mix I’ve planted. I have tried the Whitetail Institute oats and they grow well but I prefer Buck Forage.

Later this summer I’m going to try a new Fall plant that Whitetail Institute has come out with. It’s called Winter Peas Plus I think and it looks like good stuff. Once it’s growing I’ll let you know how it’s going and what the deer think of it. Thanks to all of you for stopping by  , I hope you have time to write and let me know of your experiences with your plots. Just remember , what works in one place may not work in another place. Mix it up and try some different varieties and see what the deer in your area like. Please share my blog with your buddies and SIGN UP right here to get all the latest on land ownership opportunities I have for sale and all the latest on North Country hunting and outdoors stuff.     mj

2 thoughts on “Food Plots for deer and what works in upstate NY

  1. Your deer aren’t the only ones who don’t love clover, the deer on my property ate my entire nurse crop of winter rye and left the ladino clover I mixed with it untouched. They then went to my second foodplot and are eating the rye and leaving the clover untouched just like they did in my first plot.

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