If you’re going to start planting foodplots for Whitetails it’s probably because you have heard all the hype and stories about how this will change your hunting forever. Same thing happened to me and I learned an awful lot along the way. I’m going to share what I learned and hopefully keep your expectations reasonable with the big picture in mind. Let’s get started …
We have long been a “right here right now’ society , this even applies to something as ridiculous as planting foodplots for deer hunting. No one understands this better than the people who sell seeds and all the stuff that goes along with planting. We all want to get at it , start growing attractive healthy plants for the deer and see them running to it come hunting season. It won’t surprise you to hear me say it doesn’t exactly happen like that. Not to say you will see no benefit the 1st year or so but it definitely won’t be what you see on TV or read about in magazines.
My 1st year of planting I had very little equipment and even less help , I was pretty much on my own with an ATV and some contraption I dragged behind it. Having no idea what to plant or how to do it I was running out of time for the growing season so I planted a small plot of oats. I don’t know how big the plot was but it was measured in feet , not acres. So I plant these oats and they actually grew , they grew in lousy soil conditions and actually looked like a foodplot. A friend of mine killed a doe there with the muzzleloader and I was off the races! That plot is now 2+ acres in size and has turned out to be the single best place to sit for deer that I’ve ever been to in my life. It wasn’t easy and it didn’t happen over night , it won’t be for you either so keep yourself grounded and work at it.
If you’re starting off in the Springtime then you have a great advantage right off the bat. With the whole growing season ahead you have the time to plant a perennial plot like some kind of clover mix. These plants last a long time but take a while to get rooted and start producing any food. Once they get going they will pay off for years so take your time and do it right. If you have the whole growing season ahead and plant a perennial like this you will be attracting deer to that location for quite a while. As opposed to having a few weeks where you throw some brassica or oats on the ground and hope you can bring in a deer or 2 during the season. If I were starting in the Spring I would get the work done on the ground , the soil worked and lime in the ground. When it’s ready I would go with Alfa Rack Plus from the Whitetail Institute and get a plot going that will bring deer in as soon as there’s food. This seed has alfalfa , chicory and clover which is pretty much all you could hope for in one bag. Once it’s growing the deer will find it and will be there most likely right through the hunting season. The most important benefit is the deer will know there’s food there and will be back in the Spring and make it a regular stop on their search for food. Getting them accustomed to a new food source is job 1 and having a perennial plot will keep them there on a regular basis. The deer in the area need to know there’s a new place to eat and a perennial plot is the best way to keep them around. Just keep in mind , the deer you will be attracting will be the deer that are living there already. Your 1st year plot is not going to be drawing deer from a mile away so be realistic in your expectations. This plot will give you a better opportunity to see which deer are living there and a clue about how many there are. You aren’t going to turn the herd around in one year , in fact you aren’t going to have much of an impact at all. You will most likely see more deer , get an idea what they like to eat , where they’re coming from and an idea about buck/doe ratio. That’s about all you can hope for in the 1st year.
If you’re running out of time and need to get something in the ground then you pretty much have to go with some sort of annual seed mix. Not to say this is all you can plant because you can over seed a perennial seed with an annual to get the benefit of having food now and getting a perennial plot started. If you’re going to over seed some kind of clover mix I would use oats on top of it. The oats will offer food right now while the perennial gets rooted and will also keep the weeds down. Oats are the easiest plant to grow and will pretty much fit any application so if you’re desperate, plant oats and you will bring some deer in I promise. If you want to grow a brassica as a stand alone plot for the Fall you will have a million options. You can mix/match all kinds of seeds and try everything for your 1st year just to see what the deer like. If I were you, and in my 1st year, I would make sure whatever I planted it has radishes in it. There’s plenty to choose from but make sure there’s a radish somewhere and you will bring in deer and learn something also. If you want to plant something like turnips I wouldn’t blame you and would encourage you to if you have the room. If the deer are not familiar with turnips they probably won’t eat them the 1st year but they will eat the tops. The tops alone are good enough to bring deer and eventually they will figure out the turnip itself is pretty good. With only a late season plot you will most likely see more deer but your plot will only feed them right now instead of keeping them around all summer/fall on a perennial plot. Your goal has to be that you will get some clover type mix going eventually so you can attract more deer to your property all year long.
I’ve written previously about the long term benefits of foodplots and having a balance of annuals and perennials. Read this for more info on what will happen if you can offer the deer food year round instead of part of the year. My goal was to turn my property into a place the deer would spend the entire year knowing there’s plenty of food ,especially for the winter. It’s taken 8 years but I’ve finally gotten there and there’s non stop work ahead to keep it that way. It didn’t happen in 1 year and it hasn’t for anyone else either. It’s a process that’s a helluva lot of fun, takes a lot of time and a whole lot of work. The result is you will have a great herd on your property and will draw deer from neighboring properties on a regular basis. Keep those does fed all year and you can count on drawing bucks from all over year after year.
This isn’t rocket science so don’t believe this is beyond you , it isn’t. Make a plan , a long term plan , and stick to it. Your 1st year is a lot of fun for many reasons. Sitting in your stand and watching that doe come out everyday with her fawns , pounding that stuff you planted is a LOT of fun. I’ve experienced it many times and never grow tired of it. Eventually she will bring a buck with her , maybe a couple , and you will be on your way to planting , growing and drawing deer right to where you want them. If you’re looking for land where you can do all of this and more then you’re at the right place. Click , call or write and I’ll be happy to discuss land for sale in NY that I have available now. Be patient and keep at it. Thanks for stopping by and please don’t hesitate to drop me a note. Best of luck. mj