Deer hunting has been putting food on the table for centuries, but more recently white-tailed deer hunting has become a socially and economically important game animal. Landowners and hunters are now turning to deer management practices to improve their land and the deer and other wildlife found there. Deer managers realize that supplemental foods provided through pelleted feeds and deer food plots can substantially increase the productivity of a herd, so these tools have received a lot of attention over the past few years.
First and foremost, food plots should be just a part of an overall deer and habitat management program. A landowner’s top priorities should be maintaining high quality native habitat in combination with deer densities that are within the carrying capacity of the property. In addition to proper harvest rates, managers must avoid overgrazing by livestock to avoid overuse of important deer browse.
If objectives include quality deer management, sex ratios should be maintained near 1:1 and only mature bucks – those 5 1/2+ years old – should be harvested. A good rule of thumb is to harvest no more than 15 to 20% of the buck herd each year. It is important to keep in mind that the effect of food plots or any form of supplemental feeding on nutritional status, productivity, and deer quality will be diminished if all aspects of a sound management program are not implemented. Continue reading Deer Food Plots for Deer Management
There are many choices for a manager to make when it comes to planting food plots for deer. There are annual and perennial plots, winter plots and summer plots. In addition, there are “normal” plants and then there are legumes. One of the values of growing legumes is that they form a relationship with certain bacteria which live in association with the plant roots. These bacteria take nitrogen from the air and release it in a form that plants can use.
Lab lab, soybeans, cowpeas and clovers are all legumes. Their seeds must be inoculated prior to planting to deer food plots. The inoculant that is contains nitrogen fixing bacteria and ground up peat moss. The peat moss containing the bacteria is mixed with the food plot seeds before planting. Once the seedling emerges, the bacteria form growths on plant roots called nodules. Presence of these nodules indicates that the bacteria are alive and producing nitrogen.
Deer respond readily to plots planted to legume because these plants are lush and high in protein. However, legumes do take a little more planning preparation. When preparing to plant legumes to plots, inoculant should be stored in a refrigerator because the bacteria can die when exposed to excessively warm temperatures or when the peat moss dries out. Fertilizing the soil before or after planting with nitrogen may reduce nodulation. When planting food plots to legumes, fertilizers low in nitrogen and high in phosphorus should be used. Continue reading Legumes for Whitetail Deer Food Plots
Food Plot Question: “I have about 12 acres of open field with native grasses surrounded by several hundred acres of mixed hardwoods and cut-overs with pines on which I would like to establish a deer food plot. I planted some type of clover several years ago on about 2 acres with moderate success. The property is in Central Virginia. There is little deer hunting pressure and I would hope to hold the whitetail deer more in this area.
There is no agriculture on any of the surrounding habitat. I would like to plant a fall and winter food plot, but also am interested in spring forage as well. There are also turkeys in the area and holding them in the area with a suitable food plot would be a bonus. I appreciate any advice you may have.”
Continue reading Deer Food Plots in Virginia: What to Plant?