Question: “I’m getting ready to go out and put a small whitetail deer food plot in for my father. His property is 270 acres in size and is located Northeast of Richland Springs in San Saba County. We have a small tractor with a tiller. Soil is somewhat sandy but has seemingly adequate water retention. Food plot size is going to be about one to one and a half acres in size.
Last spring I did three test areas to what might work. I seeded iron and clay cow peas in one area and they took off like crazy. I am talking up to my waist in height. They grew well, but it did not seem that the deer really took to it all that well. I understand it may take a year or two to get them accustomed to new food sources, so I guess we will see what happens this year.
Two other food plot spots were done in basic pre-mix, branded varieties. They did somewhat well, but not as good as the iron and clay peas. I think will plant the cow peas again since they seemed to work really well. Maybe a second year being there the deer will take to them a start munching on them. Now, for the other areas, should I go with an individual seed, maybe two, and see what comes up? Or just go back to Turner and try my luck again with a food plot seed mix? Any advice is greatly appreciated.”
Response: It sounds like you are on the right track at least. You did not put all of your eggs into one basket! For hunters and wildlife managers, food plots are where it is at. With an increased interest in whitetail deer management, food plots are expanding everywhere, including Texas. Successful food plots provide a source of nutrition that corn from feeders cannot. In addition, food plots aren’t just for deer. When planted both in the spring and fall, food plots provide a year-round nutritional source for whitetail, turkeys and other game and non-game wildlife species.
Food plot location is important, but you are on the right track with seed type, as well. Plants are not created equal. In fact, plant varieties are developed and marketed according to growing season and planting zone. Since different plants grow best in different climates, it’s best to research and determine which plant varieties work best in your part of Texas. You are doing your own experiments, and that may lead you to the best results.
For Spring plots, look for moist soils surrounded by large trees to shade the food plots during the dry summer months. Forage plots are an investment, so treat your plot like an agricultural planting. Plant plots in areas with loam and clay soils and avoid sandy ones. You and the deer in your area will only get out of it what you put into it.
My recommendation would be to go with a mix of seeds and see which species performs best. You can buy the branded mixes and pay more or examine the label and buy the same seeds at your local feed store. It’s your call. Most pre-formulated seed mixes usually contain six or fewer species, so plants can be identified post germination by a process of elimination. If you buy individual seeds, then you can plant them in separate areas or also use the process of elimination if you mix them together.
Lastly, iron and clay cowpeas make excellent whitetail deer food plots and they performed well for you last Spring in your part of Texas. The cowpeas grew well for you last year so I would definitely give them another go. If they deer take to them then I don’t know if you really need to plant anything else to achieve your objective of providing supplemental foods. If they do not consume the cowpeas, then maybe there is enough natural forage in your area and the food plots are just extra work for you.