It isn’t very often a topic requires little thought and no research, this is one of them. Having planted for deer many times over the years I find there is one plant I always go back to no matter what. We all get distracted by the “latest and greatest” from time to time but usually end up right back where we started. I’m done being distracted and will always have the absolute easiest plant somewhere on my property and will end up spending more time around it than any others. I’ll tell ya why ….
When I started planting food plots many years ago I was just like everyone else. I had almost no equipment, even less knowledge but endless energy. I read, I asked questions, l learned and I planted. The very 1st plot I ever planted is the picture above, that plot is nothing but oats. It was maybe 1/4 acre in the middle of nowhere, on soil that had not been hardly prepared but it seemed like the greatest plot in history. Well it wasn’t but it drew deer and I learned more that 1st year than at any time. So why oats?
When I started out I was reading and gathering as much info as possible. One thing I learned before I ever hit the ground is that I was limited. By that I mean I didn’t have the equipment to plant a lot of that stuff out there today and my soil was in no condition to grow most of it. I kept reading and always seemed to end up in the same place. Oats seemed to be my only option and it was going to have to be good enough. At the time I didn’t even know what oats looked like and had no idea if deer around here had ever seen it before, let alone had eaten it. So I dumped some lime on the ground, dragged the hell out of it with some chain thing off the back of my ATV and planted seeds. It was the worst prepared food plot ever and my plants grew. I never forgot that and never will.
In the following years I bought a tractor and some equipment to work the ground. Then I started planting all that cool stuff I saw in magazines, on tv shows and had some success. The most important lesson I learned during these years is that I could grow just about anything sometimes, but I could grow oats ALL the time. I strayed from planting them for a couple years while I was busy setting the plotting world on fire. That fire didn’t last long which led me back to oats again. I’ve been planting them every year since and will never have a year when I don’t have oats growing somewhere. So what makes them so easy to grow?
Our 1st concerns when planting any plot is what is the soil PH. Nearly every seed you buy requires the PH to be somewhere between 6-7. Ok no problem except our soil is nowhere near that neutral, so where does that leave us? Oats will grow in nearly any soil and I’m not the only one to prove it. Another consideration is the depth we need to get the seeds for the best germination results. Oats are best planted 1/2″ deep which can be much easier said than done. What I did at the beginning was drag the ground as much as I could and started throwing seeds. Then I drove over that plot on my ATV and packed the soil as good as I could. Those seeds were not 1/2″ deep but they grew pretty well and I ended up with a decent little plot. When you can get the seeds at that depth and rolled into the soil you will find a nearly 100% germination rate. You won’t find another plant on the market that will germinate like this stuff does, I guarantee it.
Maybe the most significant factor when planting oats is the timing, when you put the seeds in the ground. I can’t help anyone in the south because I don’t know your weather at all. In the north I do know and have figured it out by screwing up a time or 2 along the way. What you don’t want is to have your plants growing too high before the cold weather comes. I had a plot years ago that grew to 18+” prior to hunting season and the deer never touched it. The ideal height for oats would be around 10-12″ when the 1st frost of the year comes. For me this means I plant on Sept.1 every year and I never vary from it. These plants grow FAST and don’t need much growing time to get to that ideal height. 4 weeks is more than enough for your plants to get to where you want them and if they’re smaller than that it’s still ok.
As far as planting locations, sunshine per day etc. I have found oats have basically no limitations. My plots are open with lots of sun, in the middle of the woods where there’s little sun, hillsides and everything else in-between. I’ve yet to find a situation they won’t grow in and believe me I’ve tried. People have asked me many times over the years about where they can plant and I’ve often said oats can be grown on a sidewalk.
If you’re new to food plotting or have been at it for years I would tell you the same thing, make oats a part of your plan and keep planting them every year. We can’t control weather and a lot of other factors so sometimes our other plots don’t preform like we hoped. You gotta have that one plot you can count on no matter what and that plot is the one where the oats are. Thanks for stopping by, I hope this was worth your time. Best of luck and please write any time. mj