Food Plot Construction: Forage Selectionon Jul 2, 2012
Clover is probably the most popular food plot forage, and for good reason. Clover is naturally sweeter than grasses, making it very attractive to deer. The large leaves also provide a higher tonnage of plant matter per plant than most natural browse. Clovers are also high in protein, with some varieties reaching up to 44%, which is beneficial to the entire deer herd. Many clovers are also perennials, meaning they do not have to be replanted every year. Clover does require maintenance though; mowing to prevent it from getting to tall and fertilizing each spring and fall. Clovers are attractive year round, but peak usage will be summer and early fall. Closely related to clovers are alfalfas. They have many large leaves that deer love, especially during hot weather when many other plants lose their moisture. It can provide up to 30% crude protein. It must also be mowed and fertilized like clover, but will come back for many years. Other legumes popular in food plots are soybeans and peas. I'm a big fan of standing soybeans for a late season plot. They will get hit hard during late summer when the leaves are green, and then left alone until it gets cold and the bean pods dry down. The deer crave the carbs provided by the beans in col weather. When snow is on the ground, it is also easier for deer to pick the beans off the pods than dig through the snow looking for food. With most legumes, I prefer forage varieties rather than AG varieties. Agricultural clovers and alfalfas have thicker stems, fewer leaves, and grow taller, while forage varieties have bigger leaves and less stem, and don't grow as tall, which is more desirable to deer. Legumes are an important part of a food plot plan.
Heartland Wildlife has a wide variety of both annual and perennial forage blends to meet all of your food plot needs.
Brassicas get my vote for the most bang for your buck on a food plot. They are inexpensive, easy to plant, provide tons of forage, and deer love them. Brassica is a genus of plants in the mustard family. The members of the genus are collectively known as cruciferous vegetables. Crops from this genus are sometimes called cole crops, which is derived from the Latin caulis, meaning stem or cabbage. Plants such as Turnips, beets, carrots, and radishes fall into this category. Brassicas shine as a rut/late season plot. Brassicas will grow profusely throughout their 60 day grow cycle, and the deer wil not bother them much as the tops are quite bitter when young. But when a hard frost hits things change very rapidly. The plants release their sugars and become very sweet. Almost overnight the deer will begin visiting the plot. This is great if you live in an area that get freezing temperatures in November. They will continue eating the tops until none are left. Then when the weather really turns cold, they will dig up the bulbs and eat those. Over the past few years I have had a lot of success using brassica plots.