Planting whitetail deer food plots is one of the most commonly used wildlife habitat improvement and management techniques. The most popular reason for planting deer food plots is to increase the nutritional quality and quantity of available whitetail forage, but some property owners plant food plots to improve whitetail viewing and photographing opportunities. In many cases, the presence of food plots often represents a landowner’s commitment to deer management, which can aid a landowner in marketing a deer lease to prospective hunters.
Many landowners, whitetail managers, and deer hunters get a lot of satisfaction from observing deer and enhancing their habitat.The high visibility of whitetail feeding in deer food plots can help managers check the body condition of whitetail, monitor the progress of buck antler growth, and other biological factors. However, the number one objective of planting food plots is to increase the quality and amount of forage available to deer.
The ideal size of a deer food plot for whitetail should range from about 1 to 4 acres in size. As a rule of thumb, landowners and deer managers should strive to plant at least one plot per 100 acres of tree or shrub-dominated land and devote from 1 to 5 percent of the property to deer food plots. Less food plot acreage will make the range less attractive to deer and put more foraging pressure on the native habitat.
Researchers have found that maintaining 0.5% of an area in year-round deer food plots increased whitetail body mass, number of antler points, beam circumferences, and beam lengths of white-tailed deer. Other research found that yearling (1 1/2 year old) whitetail bucks exhibited a 19% increase in live weights following establishment of winter food plots (cool season plots). But deer are not the only ones that benefit from plots. It is estimated that for each 1% of the land planted in food plots the value of a deer hunting lease could be increased from by about $1 per acre.
In closing, if you would like to improve your chances of harvesting more and better deer and turkey during the hunting season, then you should consider developing spring and winter deer food plots. Food plots should be roughly evenly distributed so that all deer can access them. In general, it is better to have a larger number of well distributed small plots than a small number of large ones. Longer, more rectangular-shaped deer food plots produce more edge when surrounded by wooded areas, and more edge means more use by wildlife!