Food plots are planted as supplemental forage for white-tailed deer, but Egyptian wheat for deer is a whole other story. Although whitetail will consume Egyptian wheat to some extent, this plant is seeded to plots primarily to increase screening cover for deer. Whether in be simply to facilitate movement across a property or as a buffer adjacent fall food plots, Egyptian wheat may be something to consider on your deer hunting property.
Egyptian Wheat (Triticum aestivum)
First, Egyptian wheat is not a variety of wheat, but rather a member of the sorghum family. The species is known for its extreme height and excellent screening cover. This plant can reach 6-10 feet in height! Since whitetail deer are only about 3 feet high at the top of the back, this plant can be used to create screening cover in areas where none exist.
The Egyptian wheat plant itself provides some food value for deer when very young or at the tassel when older, but its best use for deer management and hunting is primarily as quick way to develop thick cover. The seeds, though relatively limited, are high in protein, so it can serve as a food plot/source for dove, quail, pheasant, turkeys and even ducks.
The “wheat” prefers warm temperature and moderate rainfall and will achieve maximum height is high levels of nitrogen are applied to the plot. Egyptian wheat should be planted for deer and other wildlife (drilled or broadcast) at 8-12 pounds per acre about 1/2-inch deep after the last frost, from May through June depending on latitude. Soils should have a pH of 5.6-6.4.
Whitetail Screening Cover: Egyptian Wheat
White-tailed deer have an affinity for cover. Although whitetail are found across much of the US, they rarely venture more than 400 yards from adequate screening cover. For deer, screening cover consists of any plant that is about 4 feet tall. Most of the time this cover is comprised of trees and brush, but deer will also use crops and tall native grasses for screening cover to aid in feeding and traveling.
Planting tall herbaceous plots for whitetail cover in areas devoid of woody cover is not new, but in recent years Egyptian wheat has been getting a lot of attention as a screening cover. The grass (sorghum) does quite well under a variety of conditions and can, even while not reaching maximum height, provide plenty of cover for whitetail. It has been used for habitat management and harvest management.
When planted in 15-30 feet wide swaths across open areas Egyptian wheat can serve as corridors for deer movement in as little as 45-50 days. This annual cover allows deer access to additional foraging sites so that habitat (forbs, specifically) can be used more uniformly. This screening cover means deer have better access to high quality, protein-rich foods.
Egyptian wheat can also be used to aid in deer hunting. It can be planted adjacent or literally surrounding traditional deer food plots that are located in open areas, but near woody cover to encourage use by whitetail during daylight hours. Many hunters also use the plant to establish screening corridors that funnel deer directly past hunting stands. These corridors can be situated in such a way to use sparse, existing woody cover and can take into account prevailing winds during the fall hunting season.
Egyptian Wheat as Deer Food
As mentioned prior, this plant is not a good forage plant for whitetail food plots. Deer will nip the leaves of young plants and the tips of growing plants, but will not consume the entire plant. This is one reason Egyptian wheat for deer screening cover makes sense; it grows readily and whitetail will not eat it to the ground. The seeds can be eaten by deer, but since heads are way too high for deer to reach. Once the abundance of seeds falls to the ground, which can happen within 110 days after emergence, upland game birds and waterfowl (if flooded) will readily consume the them. When planted through quail food plots, this “wheat” also serve a good, short-term quail cover.
Planting Egyptian Wheat for Deer, Hunting & Management
White-tailed deer do well in a variety of habitat types, but they prefer an interspersion of woodlands, brush and grasslands. This creates more diversity in the types and quantity of food and cover present. The transition zone between two habitat types is referred to as an “edge.” White-tailed deer love edge, and Egyptian wheat can help create more edge for deer to use. This edge increases deer mobility, access to foods and provides hunting opportunity.
Whitetail deer, in addition to other species of wildlife, use edge and corridors heavily. If you are looking to facilitate the movement of deer within or across your property then give Egyptian wheat a shot. It’s an annual plant that must be re-seeded every year, but it’s relatively inexpensive and it can be used for years while permanent woody cover is being established. Egyptian wheat for deer screening cover is a good idea, but don’t expect them to eat it.