Sandy Soil

It is common for landowners to supplement deer diets through protein feeding and food plots for whitetail deer. It has been shown that supplemental forage will increase body condition, fawn recruitment, and antler growth in deer. However, one problem that managers encounter is finding the proper food plot seed or plant species for their soil type. Although there are many species that can be planted into plots, identifying the proper deer food plots for sandy soil are one of the more common problems that persons interested in deer management encounter.

Most landowners know that the most fertile and productive soils produce the highest yielding deer food plots. However, these soils usually support the best native habitat. When possible, food plots should be established on sites where the native habitat has previously been degraded, yet the soil is good. That being said, sometimes the only soil available is sandy soil. There is nothing wrong with sandy soil because it does provide some advantages, but deer food plots on sandy soils will face certain issues.

Whitetail Deer Food Plots for Sandy Soil

That being said, many properties that have deer are typically in areas where soils are not conducive to producing agricultural crops, so most deer food plots face soil issues of some sort. Soils often are too saline, rocky or sandy for normal cultivation so they end up becoming forested or wooded and holding white-tailed deer. To identify the best soils on any property for planting seed, make sure to check out the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s published soil surveys that contain information on the suitability of particular soils for developing deer food plots and the value of the soils for wildlife habitat.

Let me add that converting good quality native habitat into food plots is not a wise management decision because the abundance and condition of wildlife are related directly to soil fertility.Of course, soil fertility will usually vary widely within a given area. Soils with higher fertility are typically better suited to spring food plots (warm season) since these areas are both fertile and generally hold moisture better during the summer months.

The deer food plots that work best on sandy soils are cool season or winter food plots. This is because the water holding capacity of sandy soils is much lower than that of soils with a heavy clay content. In addition, sandy soils and loamy soils will lack nutrients, so make sure to fertilize any food plot planted on sandy soil. Proper fertilization will dramatically increase the amount of forage produce and is critical for whitetail deer use.

Liming, if recommended, will bring the pH up and dramatically increase the efficiency of fertilizer and forage production. To be effective at the time of seed germination, lime generally requires application 3 months before deer food plot seed planting. In addition, legume seeds must be treated with the proper innoculant at the time of planting and will produce their own nitrogen. The right deer food plot for sandy soil is the one that will grow. This means most plots found on sandy soils are limited to cool season plots. Check out this link for recommended winter food plot species.