Despite the fact that habitat management has the greatest potential to increase available foods for quail, dove, turkey and white-tailed deer, food plots are seasonally important to help animals meet their nutritional needs. This is especially true when talking about whitetail deer food plots. The two most stressful times each year for white-tailed deer are late summer and late winter. It is during these times that supplemental foods are of highest importance.
During the summer deer numbers are higher and native food quality is low, and during late winter both forage quality and quantity are low. Research conducted within the whitetail’s range has found food plots can drastically improve deer nutrition if at least 1 percent of a property is planted to year-round winter and summer food plots. Of course, winter or cool season plots increase hunter harvest and improve deer body condition, but hunters ignore the benefits of summer or warm season deer food plots.
Establishing spring and summer plots may be as important as planting cool season plots, especially since buck antler growth, fawn production, and lactation in does takes place at that time. Because both bucks and does face high nutritional demands during the warmer months, summer food plots definitely have there place in deer management. Seasonal comparisons indicate deer eat the most food in late summer. Research has found that deer use of plantings increases in late June, peaks during the month of August, then declines slowly through September. Plot usage then picks back up throughout winter when the energy demand of deer is high. Continue reading Whitetail Deer Food Plots
Proper deer nutrition is an essential part of growing and producing quality deer under any whitetail management program. Much of that nutrition can be met through native plants and further increased through habitat management techniques. Of course, supplemental forage also helps when natural food supplies are low. The most common methods to improve whitetail nutrition are the establishment of deer food plots during the summer and winter or through year-round supplemental protein pellets.
Food plots are good ways to maintain or increase deer body condition, but they are not a one-stop-shop for managing a deer herd. Use them in combination with other deer management techniques and your property will have a high quality herd. To provide any real nutritional benefit to a deer herd, typically at least 3% of a property must be planted in warm and cool season food plots that are properly distributed across the area. This strategy helps prevent overbrowsing and provides nutrition to the herd on a year-round basis, especially during stress periods. Continue reading Whitetail Nutrition and Deer Food Plots
Whitetail managers often turn to deer food plots as a method to provide supplemental forage throughout the year. These plots are most important during the stress periods – summer and winter – when natural foods are lacking. Food plots are not a one-size-fits-all because many variable dictate the species that can be planted on a property, or even an area of a property. Many landowners classify food plots as either summer or winter plots, but they can also be labeled as either annual or perennial. Each has certain advantages and disadvantages over the other.
There are many perennial plants that white-tailed deer love. These work great in deer food plots during the spring and summer because perennials regrow from their roots every year. Seeds of several perennial native plant species including Maximillian sunflower, Engelmann daisy, bush sunflower, and Illinois bundleflower are commercially available for planting. Perennial food plots appeal to wildlife managers since they provide permanent vegetative cover and do not have to be replanted every year, lowering the cost of planting. Continue reading Deer Food Plots: Annuals Versus Perennials