Trophy Whitetail Deer: Use an Agricultural Approach

Trophy Whitetail Deer: Use an Agricultural Approach

Courtesy of Dr. Judy McFarlen author of Deer Food Plots Made Easy

When creating your deer food plots, your vision should always be to create the type of deer habitat essential for holding those trophy whitetail deer year-round. Part of that vision likely includes food plots.

Success comes from approaching the project from a farming perspective and treating the planting of food plots like an agricultural crop. Simply tilling the corner of a field and tossing some deer food plot seeds around isn't likely to result in much success for you. It is also important to use crop diversification as well which gives you variety and safety for your investment.

For example, on our ranch, we just don't rely on a single crop for our deer food plots. We generally use many different varieties such as chickory, clover, soybeans, rapeseed and brassicas as part of our annual planting and maintenance plan. Time has proven that using an agricultural approach will provide good deer habitat and hold our whitetail deer around from spring fawning through the tough winter months. So our goal is to have our whitetail on a few different locations on our ranch throughout the year.

Last year we scoped out a good location and there was an existing grass field there with nearby cover. Given our crop rotations we were also lucky enough to have a bordering field that was to be planted into corn to help us with a transition zone.

So the very first thing we did was commit that spring and early summer for strictly weed control and cultivation. In the spring we let the grass grow about three to five inches, then we sprayed the field with Roundup: in mid May.

After burndown, we tilled the field. It is important to note that the objective here is to deal with weeds and re-growth in a continued sabotage strategy so you get the best soil conditions for your crop with less weed competition.

The less time spent in this phase the weaker your outcome will be. We actually sprayed this particular field three times, but generally we get away with twice. Each time we waited a few weeks for re-growth, sprayed and then re-tilled. We are able to clean up the field with way, but every time tilling occurs there are new weed seeds exposed. This is why it may take several different treatments depending on the condition of the field you started with.

Now this is the time to get your samples for soil testing in your new deer food plot. This gives you time to apply lime and determine what your fertilizer needs are going to be. Don't overlook the benefits of a soil test. The addition of lime can sometimes mean the difference between success and failure. Inappropriate pH of your soil could mean you are putting valuable fertilizer money down the drain. On average we do a soil test every 2-4 years, depending on what has been planted etc. Due to the number of acres on our property we tend to rotate soil testing areas to make it more economical and still get the benefits.

After our weed control was done, it was the end of July and conditions were perfect. We were ready for late summer planting. Weather will always dictate how good the planting will be, but you should get weed free growth for a fall or winter food plot. There are as many opinions on what to plant as there are choices, but the thing we like the best for easy start up and rapid growth is rapeseed. This is an annual (only grows for one year). We also did brassicas around the outside edge.

You may favor chickory in your area. This is an easy one too. We like these easy crops because then next spring we can still deal with weeds before starting to putting in our perennial crop such as clover.

So, that is a taste of how you can easily get started with your deer food plot, even if you're a relative novice. We hope that has been helpful. There is always more to learn.


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