Start Planning Your Spring Food Plots Now
Along with, which we know you’re looking forward to as much as we are, you’re probably starting to get spring on the brain. Sure, there’s still to be done, but it is hard to think about whitetails and not think about getting your food plots rolling again. What will you plant? Will you start any new food plots this year? What has worked best on your property in the past? These are all questions you should think about before you start your spring food plots. Here are some tips to get you started as you count down the days toward spring green-up, even though you’re really waiting until you can get another view like this.
Planning Spring Food Plots
Luckily, you can get started on planning your spring food plots for whitetail deer right now, even if there is still several feet of snow out your front window. The biggest thing to consider is obviously what your goals and objectives are for your property. Wouldn’t you rather have a deer factory over the summer to support many new fawns and watch the development of bucks with your® optics? If so, spring food plots are probably the way to go. Or would you prefer your property to really attract deer during the fall hunting season? If that is your primary focus, fall food plots are where you should spend your time. The best of both worlds, if you have enough property and resources to support them, is to keep a good mix of both food plots for deer so you have all-season nutrition. You can do that either by rotating spring and fall crops in the same plot or keeping completely separate plots.
As you identify your property goals, consider your neighbors too. For example, it would not make much of a difference to plant a small corn plot if you live in Iowa’s corn country. Focus on planting something that deer can’t easily find in your neighborhood. In that same scenario, try focusing on clover plots for spring nutrition (before corn is available) or brassicas and turnips for late season attraction (after corn has been harvested).
You should also consider the size of the food plots you want to plant. As the size increases so does the cost and time investment. It takes longer to till, prepare, plant, and maintain larger plots, and you will have to buy more seed, herbicide, lime, and fertilizer as well. So if you are feeling a little cash or time-strapped this year, you might want to downsize your spring food plots a little. Of course, the downside to planting small or micro food plots is that they can quickly get overbrowsed. This is especially true if you would like to keep deer on your property over the summer. There are many mouths to feed that time of year for small food plots for deer to keep up.
Best Spring Food Plot Mix
Alright, you have made your plans and now you need to buy some deer food plot seeds to plant. There are probably hundreds of choices when it comes to food plot seeds, most are just different varieties of the same dozen or so plants. But you can’t talk about planning food plots without mentioning perennials versus annuals. Perennial species include long-lived species that come back year after year, which cuts back on planting costs, as long as you properly maintain them. Common perennial food plot species include clover, alfalfa, or chicory. Annual food plot species only grow for that growing season and are highly attractive. Common annuals include corn, soybeans, turnips, radishes, cereal grains, or peas. In some seed mixes, you’ll find a blend of perennial and annual seeds to get the best of both scenarios. The annuals act as a nurse crop because they grow fast and are highly attractive to draw deer attention away from the slower growing perennials, which will grow back in the following years.
Whether you decide on planting fall or spring food plots for deer and turkey,® has you covered. While they have a few spring food plot blends that would work great for you, two stand out.
Arrow Seed’s Deer Delight blend contains turnips, forage peas, forage soybeans, and two varieties of grain sorghum. This is an annual blend of seeds, and the sorghum acts as a scaffold for the forage peas and soybeans to climb on, while the turnips cover the ground surface.
Their Trophy Banquet mix is another good option, it contains orchardgrass, red clover, white clover, chicory, and two forage alfalfas. This perennial mix is high in protein and it will come back strong in the following years.
Planting Spring Food Plots
The planting process is where the hard work begins and it is a great way to. Of course, it is much more involved than simply planting. First, you need to prepare the soil, which can take some time. If it is a new plot and you are breaking new ground, it might be a better idea to use the first summer to spray it with herbicide and loosen the sod. If you have access to heavy farm equipment, you could also just till it under and have access to good soil relatively quickly.
Before planting, be sure to do a soil test, which will tell you how much fertilizer and lime to add to your plot. Without a soil test, you are just guessing (and you will probably guess wrong). Also, make sure you know the best planting method for the seeds you choose. Most large grains and seeds (e.g., corn, soybeans, etc.) need to be planted using a drill or by broadcasting and disking it into the soil. Meanwhile, small seeds (e.g., clover, brassicas, etc.) should usually just be broadcasted over the soil surface and lightly cultipacked in. It is always a good idea to plant right before a steady rain, so watch the forecasts. As far as when to plant food plots for deer, the seed you buy will have recommended planting dates based on your geography.
As long as you plant the seeds using the steps above and get enough rainfall, your spring food plots should do great. If weeds start to show up in your plots, don’t worry too much about it. Most forbs (flowering broadleaf plants like goldenrod) are preferred deer food too. If they start to take over or you notice really invasive ones (thistles, milkweed, etc.), you can mow the perennials to a height of 6 to 8 inches or spot spray the invasive ones. Don’t forget to hang a trail camera on your spring food plots to monitor the deer herd when you’re not there. Soon enough, you will be staring at a lush spring food plot and counting down the days toward autumn.