Food plots provide an engaging opportunity for natural connections while drawing deer onto your hunting property. But choosing the ideal seeds depends upon numerous considerations based on location and soil type.
Beans, peas and alfalfa are excellent choices for southern food plots. Antler King’s PowerPlant blend is designed to attract deer throughout spring and summer by offering the right balance of grains and legumes that attract deer to your plot. Let’s have a look at the best seeds for deer food plots.
Clover provides deer with food throughout the year. It’s easy to establish, offers a generous harvest yield and offers abundant protein supplies – which whitetail deer crave most of all. Furthermore, clover stands up well even against harsh winter conditions that often kill annual plantings like brassicas, turnips, beans or carrots.
Before choosing a clover seed mixture, it is crucial to take into account both soil pH (a measure of acidity or alkalinity) and moisture levels in your area. Clover thrives best in rich, well-drained soil with low pH levels and abundant moisture content; so performing a soil test before planting should help ensure it fits these parameters.
Clover seed mixtures should include various varieties, as each offers unique advantages. Clover King contains Ladino, Dutch white and arrowleaf clovers as well as alfalfa for additional protein and palatability – this 5-year perennial blend requires no further re-seeding!
Imperial Clover is another perennial clover with great palatability and produces an acceptable tonnage of forage. This clover has proven itself resistant to deer grazing pressure, drought conditions, heavy spring and summer grazing pressure as well as harsh winter conditions by producing significant forage production even during late fall and winter before freezing hard.
Clover mixture should form the basis of any hunter’s food plot for these and many more reasons and should be planted from early September through October across much of whitetail country. Annual plants such as wheat or oats may be planted later but have a more limited window of opportunity.
As clover matures and grows, it should be regularly mown to maintain an ideal height for maximum attraction to deer. Rye, often included with clover seed mixes, continues to thrive through winter as an energy source for deer when other forages become scarcer. Rye can even be allowed to progress into its tube stage for use as fawning cover when left alone as deer may find this unpalatable and may require being left alone as its growth may lead to its unpalatability in later months.
Deer animals crave sweet, high-protein brassicas such as turnips, radishes, and kale during winter months for their sweet taste and high protein content. Brassicas provide tremendous benefits to the soil by adding nitrogen and other essential nutrients. Easy to grow with minimal fertilizer requirements and long harvest windows make brassicas particularly suitable for cool-season food plots as they tolerate intense grazing pressure while continuing to produce new growth well into spring.
Seed companies make a good living tailoring annual mixes to specific situations such as poor soils, hot dry locations or those without cultivating equipment. While these customized mixtures can be helpful, for high-protein food plots that provide winter sustenance I prefer using an average mix composed of clovers, chicories and alfalfas as my foundational components.
Many seed companies offer mixes of brassicas for deer food plots, and it is best to choose one with multiple cultivars to ensure some plants will always be at their optimal growth stage and prevent overly demanding deer from pushing a single crop off their list of priorities. A good option would be BioLogic’s Maximum, which features only the best cultivars from New Zealand deer breeding programs tested here in America.
This mix provides not only protein for deer herds but is also highly attractive to bucks hunting nearby. Another excellent choice for whitetail deer herds is Imperial Clover which was specifically genetically engineered to support muscle and antler development.
Both plantings should be planted in the fall to provide new, tender growth for hunting season. They also can withstand deep snowfall and freezing temperatures to produce right through winter to early spring.
Proper planting of any food plot crop is of vital importance, as an overabundance will result in weeds overrunning it and diminishing deer attraction. When planting brassicas with their minute seeds it is especially essential that the seeder be calibrated appropriately; too much seed could compete for water and nutrients, slowing their growth and diminishing deer herd interest in this plot.
Cereal grains should form an essential part of every cool-season food plot. Oats often dominate, followed by wheat, rye or triticale depending on soil type and location. Deer find these plants appealing and will forage on them throughout fall, winter and early spring; taking pressure off native browse species while supporting healthy herd management.
Food plotters of any experience level can quickly establish and harvest an impressive crop using cereal grains, which are easy to cultivate and highly digestible, providing warmth during colder temperatures and heavy feeding pressure pressures. Furthermore, they offer protein in spring and summer months that other crops cannot provide.
Oats can be an effective deer-attracting crop when combined with brassicas, providing an excellent alternative to soybeans which often have shorter growing seasons and may provide less nourishment in colder environments.
Biologic’s Trophy Oats is an outstanding choice among several oats varieties to consider, as an early maturing variety with higher protein levels than standard varieties at 15-25 percent. Furthermore, this oat is more tolerant to cold climates and offers superior disease resistance compared to other cereal grains varieties. Furthermore, planting them is easy and will produce good stands within three weeks!
Double planting oats with beans and corn to create an appealing field is another effective strategy that keeps deer on your property in late fall and early winter rather than roaming off looking for other sources of forage. Make sure the site you select has good drainage, without too many weeds clogging it up, to allow plants to grow fast.
Oats should be planted either late summer or early autumn depending on your climate. For optimal results, ensure your plot has been tilled and light cultipacked before sowing seed at 1/4-inch increments; cover it with straw or hay to protect from drying out too quickly before fertilizing with nitrogen to ensure a stronger crop without competing weeds.
However, some food plotters may frown upon planting cereal grains. But cereal grains have long proven themselves effective at attracting deer and providing forage over generations. Cereals such as ryegrass, wheat, and oats are easy to grow, produce high protein forage regardless of conditions, and offer additional nutrition when other plot crops don’t produce. They also help relieve native browse pressure on young or struggling plots.
No matter what crop you decide to plant in food plots, conducting a soil test should always be the starting point of any successful plot. Achieving optimal conditions for your chosen crop by adjusting its soil pH can make a considerable impactful difference both in yield and palatability.
An ideal pH range to aim for is between 6.0 and 7.0; although there may be exceptions, this will generally allow your plants to flourish.
Once you have conducted a soil test, the next step should be identifying how many nutrients your planting requires. A simple nutrient calculator found online will quickly provide the exact amounts of fertilizer necessary for optimal germination and growth; using it will also ensure adequate amounts of lime are added to ensure a thriving garden that attracts deer!
Deer hunters often opt to plant food plots with perennial clover, chicory, and rye that will serve both as a fall food source palatable to deer as well as providing excellent spring fawning cover. If including this combination in your plots, wait until late August/early September when planting it so the rye grows tall enough to provide food this fall and provide great fawning cover in early spring for your perennials – this three-in-one plot will attract deer all season long!