What to Plant for a Sure - Fire Food Plot
For the second time this spring, the subject of planting corn in a food plot came up. One plot was for a WHIP funded project that would be planted under a power line. The other was on top of a mountain on old strip-mined land. Both areas are relatively small at about an acre to an acre and a half.
As attractive as corn is to game, in non-agriculture areas, poor soils and small plots, it is a waste of time, money and effort. By the time hunting season rolls around, the corn will be all gone and fail to attract anything. Corn takes a tremendous amount of energy to make. All competition must be removed from the field; copious amounts of fertilizer are needed, especially expensive nitrogen and most of the plant is not palatable. Better to buy corn and put it in a feeder – but only if you mix in some alfalfa pellets and roasted soybeans to make it a healthy ration.
My motto is – corn is for cows.
I will talk about food plot systems in another article. For now, I will say that the most important food plot plants I put in are hybrid brassicas and forage oats. Notice I wrote hybrid brassicas and forage oats. Hybrid brassica is a cross between rape and turnip. It doesn’t make a bulb but puts more of its energy into making green tops. Sometimes deer eat turnip bulbs, but my experience is that they usually do not, so they are wasted. It also can survive browse pressure better than turnips and they are more palatable. I don’t even bother with turnips any more. They are sold in seed mixes of the major brands – t-raptor and Pasja are in my plots and I am trying a new variety this year as well as some canola.
I tried forage oats many years ago and was really impressed with the attraction on a fall plot. There were no acorns in the woods that year where I planted them and deer crowded the food plot. There are multiple varieties of these as well.
But Steve…what about clover? Clover is over-rated but still an important part of your food plot strategy. The problems with clover are: it can be tough to establish, it comes up a little late in the spring and goes dormant in the hot dry weather, then freezes out after a few hard frosts. Brassica and oats will be attractive all through hunting season. I put clover in all my plantings in case what I planted doesn’t work out due to weather or overbrowsing. Clover can sit in the soil a long time until the environment is right for it to grow. I use Alice clover since it seems to be more palatable and attractive to deer, lasts a long time and grows in marginal soil.
If you have a limited amount of space, these are your best bets. But, keep in mind that brassicas and oats are annuals. If you have more space, work grains into the system. More on that later.