Crimson Clover for Deer Food Plots


There is no doubt that whitetail deer love legumes, so clovers make for excellent winter deer food plots. Crimson clover is a hardy clover makes for a good cover during the late spring and is also more heat tolerant than many clover varieties. Deer will readily consume clovers, but another great thing about them as a food plot candidate is that they add nitrogen into the soil, thereby enhancing future plots. Crimson clover is also a reliable germinator, so you are almost guaranteed that it will get off to a decent start

Crimson Clover Food Plots for Whitetail

Source: “Crimson clover looks very typical of clovers and has three relatively dark, rounded leaves and can grow to heights of over two feet. This clover gets its name from the brilliant crimson flowers it produces in the spring (it’s easy to confuse it by name with “red” clover, which is a perennial, and has flowers that are more pink than red). Like other clovers, crimson is highly attractive, nutritious and extremely digestible to deer. Although an annual, it often reseeds itself and can persist for several years in this manner.

While crimson clover is more forgiving of poor soils, it still prefers a well-drained loamy soil. It can handle a pH as low as 5.7 but prefers soil with a pH from 6.0 to 6.7. Soil testing is the best way to determine if lime needs to be added to adjust the pH. Because clover is a legume, the seed should be inoculated with the correct strain of Rhizobium bacteria (strain R) before it is planted. In many commercial blends, the seed is pre-inoculated.

Seedbed preparation is critical when planting small-seeded crops such as crimson clover because you want to avoid burying the seed more than a quarter inch deep. Disk or till and then smooth the seed bed by cultipacking to prepare for ideal planting conditions. Seeds can be drilled in at a rate of 10 to 15 lbs./acre. Broadcast seed at a rate of 20 lbs./acre for a pure stand of crimson clover. It is best to cultipack both before and after the seed is planted to ensure good soil contact.”

Crimson Clover for Deer Food Plots

Planting Clover Plots for Deer

Ideally, food plots for deer that expect to provide supplemental nutrition should constitute about 2 to 5 percent of property. This should include a mixture of warm and cool-season forage plots and grain plots incorporated into a food plot program. However, research has shown that as little as one percent of the land area in high-quality forage plots produces measurable benefit ts to deer.

It is important to plant warm- and cool-season plots, such as crimson clover, in different fields or different sections of a field. That is, don’t take away available food in preparation to plant something else. For example, iron-clay cowpeas provide nutritious forage until the first frost, which is usually in mid-October. If the plot is mowed, disced and planted to clovers in early September, forage is taken away when it is needed most (late summer). Likewise, arrowleaf clover provides quality forage through late June. If a plot of crimson clover is disced in May to plant jointvetch and/or cowpeas, a prime food source is removed during a period when it is really needed (just before fawning and during early antler development).

Limitations of Crimson Clover Food Plots

The only negative about crimson clover for whitetail deer is that it is a relatively short season annual which produces well from November through April, except for mid-winter, in the South and April through June in the North. However, the wildlife manager can take advantage of this short season in several ways, especially in the South.

Crimson clover plots can be disced under before developing a summer crop of grain sorghum, corn, millet or any grass, which can then use the nitrogen fixed by the clover. Using minimum tillage, these same crops can be planted into crimson clover soil treated or partially treated by herbicides. The crimson clover food plots can deposit up to 70 pounds per acre of nitrogen for use by summer food plots consisting of grain sorghum, corn or anything deer will readily eat.

Crimson Clover: A Solid Choice for Deer Management

Clover can be planted for cool-season production in southern states in early September to October and for summer production in northern states in spring. Crimson clover is not tolerant of extreme drought, heat or cold, but does well in most parts of the whitetail’s range. I always include some in my food plot mix because it is a good germinator and it’s a relatively cheap supplemental forage for our deer management program. It also works well with other clovers in a mix to use as an extender to give better, more even coverage with the more expensive clovers.

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The best information on deer food plots for producing high quality summer and winter deer food plots for optimal antler growth and hunting!