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The Establishment of Food Plots

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The establishment of food plots for whitetailed deer is a common practice for many enthusiastic hunters and managers. Most of these food plots consist of cool season plantings targeted at attracting deer during hunting season or supplementing deer during cold winter months.

The need for food plots is debatable (NF Ag News & Views vol.13 no.10) and for good reason. Food plots often do not address the factors most limiting the population. Too often, food plots are planted without forethought in regard to timing or need.

Most deer food plots are established with cool season plants that attempt to manage deer distribution or help deer through the winter stress period. There is, however, another season of the year that white-tailed deer may be nutritionally stressed. Late summer is a time when native warm season plants mature and decline in quality.

This is a time when does are lactating, fawns are growing and being weaned, and bucks are developing antlers. All of these biological functions require a quality diet that only comes from actively growing plants. There might be situations when the summer stress period is more critical than the winter stress period.

The need to establish warm season or cool season food plots should be carefully evaluated. Many variables need to be considered. Goals, estimated deer numbers and other wildlife populations, types and relative abundance of native plants important to wildlife on your ranch, costs of establishing food plots, annual and seasonal rainfall, soil type, adaptation of plants to your area, and livestock grazing are important to know before planting food plots.

What type forage should you plant in a food plot? Most people have ideas of what to plant for the winter stress period so lets examine some possibilities for a food plot targeting the potential summer stress period. The following may be some good choices depending on your soil type and average rainfall:

Planting a mix of forage types in one food plot is often a good idea. This will increase the odds of at least one of the forage types surviving, resulting in a successful planting. Also, different forages in the same food plot will provide more value to more wildlife species in the same area.

How Much Does It Cost To Burn? is a new fact sheet that outlines some of the costs involved with prescribed burning. The fact sheet features information from the Noble Research Institute D. Joyce Coffey Ranch and the Stuart Ranch. For copies, call us at 580-223-5810 or www.noble.org.