Hunting is fun–I’m sure you’ll agree with me. But the thing is, there are so many things you have to know, learn and practice to be somewhat good at it. Planting deer plots isn’t the fanciest topic to talk about but it’s especially important as it’s,
- The fundamental that cultivates a healthy breed of deer.
- Used as baits during hunting season.
Here are some common confusions when it comes to planting deer plots – Which plant is the best? Will it grow in Summer, Spring and Autumn? Will it last long?
While learning from failure is great, I always believe in learning from others’ past experiences. In hopes of helping you to focus only on the things that are important, I asked over 70+ experts on deer hunting plots this question: What are your 3 top choices of crops/plants for deer plots?
And as the title pointed out, 39 of them took the effort to come up with useful insights which I listed down below. But before that, I would like to thank them for their time and passion for the hunting community. Others wanted to contribute as well, but they are just too caught up with their personal matters which I can relate to myself.
I have gone through each and every answer and I have to say, they were nothing short of amazing.
Also, being curious myself, I did a quick summary on some of their top choices for deer plots.
Dr. Grant Woods – Growing Deer
Eagle Seed’s forage soybeans are the product of literally more than forty years of selecting traits for maximum forage and pod production. In addition, they’ve selected traits that allow their forage soybean varieties to keep growing after being browsed. This is ideal for planting soybeans in food plot sized fields. Just one look at the NRCS map of soybean production by county and the Boone and Crockett records map clearly shows the relationship between soybeans and big antlers! These and other reasons are why I plant about 90 of my food plots in Eagle Seed Forage soybeans!
Deer readily eat and prosper on the forage during the summer and the pods during the winter. Forage soybeans are truly a growing season and hunting season crop! I often broadcast Eagle’s Broadside blend over the soybeans about 60 days before the first expected frost to provide greens (the Broadside) and grains (the soybean pods) to attract and feed deer throughout the winter!
This combination has worked very well. The soybeans are a legume and produce lots of excess nitrogen and the Broadside uses the nitrogen! This rotation not only attracts and benefits deer but builds quality soil!
AJ Gall – Legendary Whitetails
My answers might be pretty similar to Grant’s seeing as I worked with him for a couple of years. But anyways, here are my 3 go to food plot choices for any given scenario.
Soybeans are my #1 recommended food plot forage. For one, they provide forage nearly all year long between the leafy greens and the pods. Secondly, they are easy to plant and maintain. A RoundUp ready bean makes it easy to manage weeds and you can yield great results by simply broadcasting and dragging the seed. I take my bean plots a step further and mix a forage type bean and a commercial ag variety to get a better pod yield here in the north, while still providing plenty of lush green forage into September. Deer will devour the greens, so if there isn’t a lot of ag around or the plot can’t handle the deer density, be prepared to plant a fall planting of turnips or other wintergreens. You can learn more about what, when, how, and where to plant soybeans here: Soybeans: King of Food Forages.
That takes me to my second favorite mix, especially for smaller plots – a brassica and turnip mix. You can even throw in a little winter wheat to give the deer some familiarity with the plot, which is one thing many hunters/land managers often struggle with. It’s extremely easy to plant and the small hardy seeds take well with the smallest amount of seed to soil contact. Plant just before a rain and you’ll be good to go, as long as the site is weed free. You can learn more about what, when, how, and where to plant the fall blend here: What to Plant in Small Food Plots?
Clover rounds out my final three. Clover is one of the first plants to green up during spring and offers deer quality forage during a critical part of the year where most of the woods is a biological desert. Clover should be an important part of your food plot program. I tend to use clover in areas that are difficult to access or prep year after year. Since it’s a perennial, once you get it established, it can be maintained with a backpack sprayer and weed whacker if necessary and it will provide quality forage for many years. You can learn more about what, when, how, and where to plant clover here: How to Frost Seed Clover?
Gordon Whittington – North American Whitetail
As editor in chief of the only Outdoor Sportsman Group magazine devoted purely to whitetail management and hunting, I’m happy to address your question.
While we all know there’s a wide range of forage plants beneficial to whitetails, we also recognize that some are extremely limited in their geographic range. But the following three are appropriate for a reasonably broad range of sites and climatic conditions. Granted, not all are easy to grow, but used properly, all produce high tonnage of great deer forage:
1. Alfalfa is probably close to the “perfect” whitetail forage and certainly the best within the perennial category. The plant is highly nutritious, highly preferred, is long-lived and can tolerate both drought and extremely cold weather. It won’t grow everywhere, and keeping it productive takes far more maintenance that some other crops require. But if you can grow alfalfa, it’s never a bad choice.
2. Cowpea is perhaps the best warm-season annual for whitetail nutrition. The forage is highly preferred and can be produced in great quantity with sufficient moisture. As with most other large-seeded cotyledons, one of the keys to plot establishment is limiting deer use in the early stages of growth. This is of particular concern where deer densities are high. Fortunately, today’s portable electric fencing systems have made it much easier to beat the overbrowsing problem.
3. A cold-hardy winter oat is perhaps the best overall cool-season annual for whitetails. It is easy to grow on a wide range of sites, yields high tonnage of highly attractive forage and remains productive for a long period. It will remain lush through Southern winters; in the North, with sufficient snow cover it can tolerate extremely low temperatures for extended periods.
Kent Kammermeyer – Kent Kammermeyer Consulting
I am assuming you have a copy of our Quality Food Plots book. If not you need to get one from www.qdma.com.
My top 3 choices are Durana clover, chicory and Sunn hemp.
The first 2 are cool season perennials and the third one is a warm season annual. All of these need to be planted in a mixture with oats or wheat and Brassicas (including Trophy radishes).
I’ll give you a few that are close to the top 3: iron and clay cowpeas, buckwheat, crimson clover and arrowleaf clover.
John Barsody – Frigid Forage
Top 3 choices:
Probably no big surprise here, but perennial clover blends are a must for most any food plot situation. Clover blends are easy to get established, grow in a wide variety of climates and conditions, and are the first thing to green-up each Spring. This makes clover an important and attractive food source for deer (and turkeys) from early Spring well into hunting season.
Planting late season annuals such as brassicas and small grains. These can be seeded from early August to mid September in most areas. The later planting window allows more time to prepare your plots, less weed competition, and fresh green forage for nutrition and attraction when most other food sources are maturing and drying up. A good rule of thumb starting out is 1/3 perennials and 2/3 annuals, then customize to your particular situation based on acreage, deer density, and deer pressure.
Plot Screening. If your plan is to hunt over your food plots, then location is often more important than what you plant. Too often the best soil, equipment access, and growing conditions are not in your best hunting locations. As deer wise up and become more nocturnal, having staging areas where they can feed during shooting hours become key and mother nature doesn’t always provide you with one. Screening off edges and corners of fields along bedding areas allows hunters and land managers to create their own staging areas and influence deer movement, often making a marginal hunting location into a killer spot.
Check out Frigid Forage for more information.
Bill Winke – MidWest Whitetail
My top three food plot plants are:
1. Clover: It works great in small plots that you create either using the Poor Man’s methods or via the use of equipment. We plant a lot of these and the clover is easy to establish and easy to maintain. Also, it stands up to moderate to heavy browsing pressure from deer, something that is super important in a small plot.
2. Brassicas: I like blends so there is something that the deer want at various times of the season. If you go with straight turnips, or straight radishes, for example, there will be times when the deer aren’t using the plot. The blend we use is called Big N Beasty from Frigid Forage. It does well in a wide range of conditions. Brassicas work really well for a number of reasons including the fact that you can plant them in the summer when you typically have a wider planting window than in the spring and you can use them to rescue other food plots that dried up and died during the early months of a drought summer. I like brassicas for medium sized plots; roughly 1/2 acre to 1 one acre. They grow fast and produce a lot of forage.
3. Soybeans: I like beans for larger plots (one acre or more) because the deer will eat it during the summer and the fall and winter. The main thing with beans is being careful not to plant them in small plots in areas with high deer numbers because they will mow the beans down in the spring and you won’t have anything in the fall and winter. One option is to fence the smaller plots (with electric fence systems like Hot Zone) or going back in and drilling brassicas into the plot in late July if the deer wipe it out.
Ian Nance – Good Hunt
I would say my Top 3 for easy, productive food plots in the Southeast would be:
1. Deer vetch or Aeschynomene americana – While costly, it tolerates wet-weather conditions during the summer when it will feed lactating does and bucks developing their antlers. Excellent plots for early-season hunts. Deer love this stuff.
2. Cowpeas/iron peas/clay peas – These are hardy species that do well in a variety of soils and weather conditions. They have a long planting season that can supply food to deer through the summer into hunting season. These are perhaps the most popular food plot crops in this region.
3. Japanese Millet – If you’re on a limited budget or short on time but still want a productive food plot, Japanese millet is the way to roll. Bags of seed are relatively inexpensive and broadcast well. The planting season is long, and they tolerate a variety of soils and weather conditions. Plus, every animal in the woods seems to dine on millet. Just a solid addition to a food plot.
Here’s an excellent resource from UF, by the way:
A little background – Lifelong resident of Florida and have hunted the Southeast U.S. for whitetail for 25 years. Member of the Florida Outdoor Writers Association.
And a couple things I’ve written in the past:
Chris Brackett – Fear No Evil
My favorite food plot choices for the Midwest where I live is to diversify.
I make sure on every farm I hunt I leave at least one acre of standing crops, this means corn or beans.
I also concentrate on preparing in the spring and keeping kill plots that are less than an acre in size killed and dead till August 15th when I plant my Booyah Blend by Hornybuck Seed, it is made up of 3 clovers and alfalfa as a base that the deer love early in season and also contains daikon radishes that the big boys love in October. And it also has turnips, collards and rape. This is the most amazing combo because it is palatable at all times of the hunting season and then in the spring the clover and alfalfa will come back up and if you keep it mowed it will be lush and weed free all year allowing the fawns to be dropped in and around it and it will be the location of their first green food after they stop milk feeding this creates a pattern for its lifetime.
Gotta keep them mowed all summer and by controlling the weeds you have a perfect situation for year 2. That’s when I go in and till 8ft strips up around August 15th for replanting of strips of Booyah blend and that way you have less work and save on seed and time. This is a sure way to start a amazing food plot regiment for mega Giants.
Robbie Johnson – Arrow Seed
Like you said this can turn into a long discussion if a guy isn’t careful so I’ll keep “try to” keep it short.
These are in no specific order but what I feel is needed by deer if a person was to feed year round on a piece of property.
1. Full Potential is our legume mix that includes two Alfalfa cultivars and also two clovers varieties. Full potential is a high protein mix that is commonly used by deer and hunters known as a “green plot”. We have added the alfalfa to the mix for the root diversity, higher grazing potential and also for years that maybe dryer than normal or in lower rainfall areas. Full Potential is a great perennial legume to attract and keep deer on your property for the majority of the year.
2. Brassica Plus. This mixture of 4 brassica types and Annual Ryegrass is primarily used for a late season forage crop. Also a great mix for inter seeding into grain fields “corn or beans” that have been eaten out early or crop failures in the season to provide additional grazing for winter months. Again we use a diverse mixture of brassicas for different root structures but also for extended grazing options due to the mix.
3. Krunch N Munch. This Annual mixture is the most diverse product we carry that include Brassicas, Legumes and grass varieties. This mix due to the wide diversity is great from September through the winter months. This mix is also great for building soil structure in low organic areas or a variety of soil types due to the mixture. By having Annuals and Winter Annuals in the mix it is a go to product for a successful plot and hunting season while keeping a high forage quality mix that can produce an abundance of food.
Deers are just like us they don’t like to eat the same thing every day and they need food 365 days a year. So by having perennial mixes and annual mixes on a farm we are able to fulfill the year round needs and nutrition deer need.
Jason Say – Wired Outdoors
If someone asks me to list my top three food plots for deer I generally follow that up with about 20 questions like, What is the purpose of your food plot? Is it to kill a deer in the early season or help get the deer through a rough winter? What other food sources are around where you are planting? And on and on. So for just a generic answer, if someone asked me what was my favorite food plots to plant without any other info, I would list them in the following order.
1. Whitetail Institute Imperial Fusion
This is a perennial blend from Whitetail Institute that has both clover and chicory. The deer absolutely love it here in Northwest PA.
2. Whitetail Institute Pure Attraction
This is an annual blend from Whitetail Institute that is awesome not only in the early season with their Forage Oates, but also great for the late season with brassicas. This is a blend that works all hunting season long!
3. Whitetail Institute Winter Greens
This is an amazing late season annual blend that keeps the deer in your plots as soon as it gets cold out. It has brassicas and Whitetail Institutes Tall Tine Turnips
So I listed my top three blends but if you just wanted three specific plants, these would be the three.
Here is some basic info on me and my experience with food plots.
1. Produce the show Wired Outdoors which is now entering our 9th season.
2. Host and Produce the online show, Whitetail Institute’s Food Plot TV
3. Have produced over 50 shows regarding Food Plots
4. Most all our shows are filmed and produced in Northwest PA
Mike Hanback – Mike Hanback’s Big Deer
You can never wrong with time-tested Ladino clover, which you can plant most anywhere there’s adequate soil moisture and sunlight. Ladino clover is a high-quality perennial (about 25% protein) that, once you plant it, will last for years and can be easily over-seeded from time to time. It’s low-maintenance.
Combine these two for a killer plot. Plant about 2 acres of soybeans, and leave a 20-yard strip all way around the outer perimeter of the beans next to the woods. In late August to mid-September, come back and plant that 20-yard circle strip around the beans with Buck Forage Oats. The lush, green oats will attract deer during the bow season, and the inner soybeans (20% to 25% protein) are the best food source for deer from November to January.
Plant these 3 and they will come.
Daniel E. Schmidt – Deer and Deer Hunting
Food plot crops really vary on region and purpose (destination plot vs. kill plot), but three winners that I’ve come to rely upon are white clover, cereal rye and purple top turnips.
1. White clover is easy to establish and provides an outstanding drawing card for early season hunting (September).
2. Rye is an all-around choice for feed and attraction.
3. Turnips (and other brassica strains) are fabulous for late-season plots, and they provide a good over-winter source of protein and nutrition for deer on stressed habitats.
James Gwilliam – Kentucky Deer Hunting Outfitters
I consider myself an expert food plotter because I’ve messed them up so many times. I manage 13+- 1/2 acre sized food plots at my hunting grounds. We know the Growing Deer TV is going to push Eagle Seed soybeans, but my plots are not big enough to survive the browsing of beans by my deer herd. I’ve put up the fencing, tried the human waste/milorganite type of ways to keep the deer out, but they really don’t work. I’ve hung human hair from the fencing, etc. Trust me when I say just do it yourself so you realize it’s not possible.
As far as my “Top 3 Choices for Food Plots“, they are likely going to be similar to others. Let me take a slightly different “honest” approach though. I sell deer hunts to humans. So I have to attract both “humans” and deer to my property. It does no good for me to have the best food plots in the world if I’m not able to sell hunts to people to hunt over the food plots. Hunters like to see you’ve put the time and effort into food plots because in all actuality, this does translate to the effort you put into make great hunting grounds.
#1 – Alfalfa – Ignore people who tell you these is a high maintenance plots trying to scare you away about weevils, etc. If you’re doing food plots, it’s all high maintenance and we do it for fun, not for money! I literally make maybe 10 cent an hour for my time and I’m cool with that. The hunts I sell pay for the land, seed, equipment, etc., so I’m happy.
#2 – Brassicas – The deer love the green tops. It’s easy to grow and looks impressive to both deer and humans. It’s not just a late season draw as many articles will say. The deer eat the tops as soon as they get some decent size to them. Now I’ve found mixing in “human edible radishes” really can help the store bought brassica blend for deer. The odor these plots give off can be smelled for miles! It’s a hidden secret nobody talks about.
#3 – Winter Wheat – Sure, mix in oats and cereal rye if you wish. Oats are great, easy to grow and they look good to sell hunts. I like winter wheat because not only is it a lush green food source for the deer in the late winter and early Spring, but when I’m giving free tours of my property to potential hunters. The lush green wheat not only makes me feel good, but potential paying hunters like to see it too.
This is my honest interpretation of my top 3 food plots. I take so much pride in what I do, it doesn’t do me any good if I can’t attract “humans” to come and shoot my trophy deer. I need to attract them both! $800 for 5 days/nights is a draw, but my gun hunts at 4 days/night for $1,900 is fair since we only have a 10 day gun season and my ground is only hunted by the people you come with.
Bronson Strickland – The Deer Ecology and Management Lab at Mississippi State University
One quick point for clarification… are you referring to cool-season food plots? Forages grown during Fall, Winter, and Spring? My answer below will assume these are the types of forages you are interested in.
In my neck of the woods a successful combination always includes a cereal grain, a brassica, and a clover. This type of mix ensures a steady supply of food is provided from November until April (and longer depending on the clover). My favorite mix would include Oats (the cereal grain), rape (the brassica), and balansa clover.
The cereal grain will emerge first and provide the most forage biomass until the temperatures drop. After the temperatures regularly drop below freezing the brassica will become really attractive and offer a lot of nutritious forage. Finally, when Spring approaches and soil temperatures begin to warm, the clovers really start to grow. A mixture like this will provide deer forage for 6 to 7 months!
There are several clovers you could substitute here (crimson, berseem, red, arrowleaf, etc.) but if I had to pick one, it would be balansa due to the amount of biomass it produces in the typical Mississippi soils and climates. Wheat is another cereal grain that works very well. As always, to get the most from a food plot, take a soil test and follow the recommendations. It’s the best money you will spend on a food plot.
Justin Pederson – Millborn Seeds
Millborn’s Green Beast – The ability to attract and hold deer throughout the harsh winter months in the Midwest is crucial. Green Beast is an annual food plot made of a variety of brassicas that are bred to produce more leafy top growth which provides attractive forage to deer throughout the hunting season. More and more hunters are utilizing this mix in smaller “kill plots” by simply broadcasting in 1 acre and smaller areas to draw deer closer to their stand location.
Millborn’s Frosty Feed – Frosty Feed is an annual food plot blend made up of easy to establish grains that will attract and hold deer from the early fall months into the sub-freezing temperatures. Providing deer with a forage option early in the season allows your deer to become more comfortable on your property which will allow hunters time to scout accordingly. Many people will mix Frosty Feed with Green Beast to offer a valuable forage option for a more extended period of time.
Millborn’s Whitetail Premium – Whitetail Premium is an excellent choice when planning your options for a perennial food plot. Made of a variety of clovers, grazing alfalfa and even turnips, Whitetail Premium will provide the necessary protein year round that other annual plots can’t offer. With the proper maintenance, a Whitetail Premium plot will last 3 to 5 years which is a huge benefit to land manager’s when planting in those hard to reach areas.
Gregory Beckman – Military Hunting and Fishing
Deer in general like to eat Forbs. A Forb is a herbaceous flowering plant that is not a graminoid (grasses, sedges and rushes). Some examples of forbs are clover, sunflower, old man’s beard, and milkweed. Forbs are more easily digestible for deer unlike the high in fiber grasses that are difficult for deer to digest.
Although deer love forbs these are seasonal plants that cannot be located all year around.
When forbs cannot be located Whitetail Deer will rely on mast (Beach nuts, wild cherry, and acorns) during the fall months. During winter Whitetail deer will focus almost entirely on buds and twigs.
Although the amount of food that a deer needs to consume varies between region, gender, and body weight. On average a deer needs to consume about 3% of their body weight each day. A buck weighing around 125 pounds will need to consume 4,000 calories each day. 4,000 calories can be extracted from 4 to 10 pounds of grass, forbs, and twigs.
White tail deer once again are picky eaters and prefer some plants over another. White tailed deer often feed on economically valuable tree species preferring oak and maple over less digestible american beech and striped maple. (Acorns are a favorite in the winter)
White tail deer not only need the nutrition to survive, but also to thrive. A Growing buck will need an extra 16% protein in his diet to grow a big health wall hanging rack.
Lauren Piek – Farm and Fleet
What are your 3 top choices of crops/plants for deer plots?
Food plots are a great way to attract deer for hunting. Knowing what to plant is the first step of creating a successful food plot. Try these easy plants out in your own deer plot.
Fall blend (brassicas, radishes and winter wheat) – A fall blend is an easy option for a deer plot. A hardy mixture of fall staples like radishes, winter wheat, oats, turnips and rye all draw deer to forage. Most of these crops have small seeds that bloom quickly. When you plant them in the late summer or early fall, you’ll have plenty of forage for deer hunting season.
Soybeans – Soybeans, with their healthy green color, are a great addition to any deer plot. Mixed in with the fall blend, they provide an attractive color when paired with turnips, radishes and winter wheat. Deer need variety, but also some food they’re familiar with.
Clover – Clover works well in the early spring and through the fall, providing forage for the deer even before the spring planting season begins. It grows quickly and is a perennial, so you’ll have deer food for years to come. Clover is a great plant full of nutrients for bucks’ antler growth and expecting does.
David Holder – Raised Hunting
When it comes to food plots we are just like most of you. No big tracks of ground which means no big machinery and no huge food plots either. Our largest plot is just under 3 acres and our smallest is right at a quarter of an acre.
We do this intentionally so that we can generally hunt an entire food plot from two stand locations, each located for a different wind.
Our first choice for our hunting plots is the Brassica Plus mix from ArrowSeed that includes, Hybrid Forage Brassicas, Rapeseed, Radish, and annual Ryegrass.
Here in our home state we find that turnip mixes work great for the time of year when we are doing the majority of our deer hunting, which is November through January.
If you’re going to be targeting deer in the early season we use a Forage Peas, Forage Soy bean and Sorghum mix known as Deer Delight.
For our perennial plots where we want to help the deer year round we plant a premium white clover, premium red clover, and high quality alfalfa blend known as Full Potential.
Biggest tip I think we can offer, is don’t be afraid to try anything, when you find the right plant for your area it will pay off big.
Good luck and good hunting!
Doug Kostreva – Horny Buck Seed
This is the way I put it when I’m speaking in our seminars.
I’m more of a deer grower than just a seed company that makes plots as an attractant! Most of our blends have many different varieties to keep the deer pallet level and coming back.
Protein is key along with our Booner Max Mineral in keeping the does and their fawn along with the bucks healthy. Healthy Bucks build bone!
So alfalfa, clover’ chicory and beans do great for protein and as for carbs such as rape, turnips, radishes and sugar beets for late fall and winter. I could talk for an hour on research I’ve done on this and it would all make sense.
H.R. Carver – Bioplots
What’s the best plot for deer? That is the one question that I get more than any other. Unfortunately, this is never a black and white answer. It depends on what other forage is available locally and what time of year is it available. It depends on the your deer density and most importantly it depends on the acreage that you have to work with. Soybeans may fit the summer and winter stress periods for your deer perfectly, but planting them on a half acre is a recipe for failure due to overgrazing. With that said, you want an answer so I’ll tell you what I do the most of. Deer do not need to trained to eat these 3 things like some of the seed that is marketed as deer plots. If you plant these, they will come.
#1 White Clover
White clover is a popular choice for deer plots because deer like it, it grows well on small plots, and it is perennial. The timing of peak preference for clover plots is spring and fall, which makes it a good choice in the hidey hole type kill plots. It also provides forage up to 10 months a year. Durana Clover is the most persistent variety of white clover, and I use it exclusively. Other notable varieties include Kopu II and Ladino.
Clover is great, but it is strongest when deer have plenty of other forage to eat. Soybeans fit a deer nutritional needs in summer (forage) and winter (beans) when they really need it. Be warned that you need a few acres to make a soybean plot to overcome grazing pressure. Temporary fences and specialty forage varieties like Eagle forage soybeans can help overcome these issues on borderline plots. Cowpeas can make a reasonable substitution in smaller plots.
Standing corn is my all-time favorite plot. It provides the ultimate in fall attraction, while offering deer a sense of security that no other plot offers. The combination of cover and deer candy make standing corn an incredible food plot. The cost of seed and fertilizer can make it an investment, but well worth it.
Steve Elmy – Rack Stacker
For the northern climates it’s important to have diversity throughout the year and with that comes a very simple plan.
Spring of the year, Rack Stacker’s Walk N Toss is a great start to the season as it can grow just about anywhere and perfect for the beginner.
Then, we plant Sweet Success, this will work fantastic for both deer and turkey as it provides food and cover at the same spot. You plant this in late May into June.
Then for the first of August, you plant Rack Stacker’s Field Edge Forage mixture. This have 5 hybrids of Brassica that grow very quickly and can produce up to 40,000 lbs of food per acre and only take 70 days to do it.
This is a winning combination that will keep the deer fed throughout the year and into the winter months.
Good Luck, from the Rack Stacker Guy, Steve Elmy.
John O’Brion – Grandpa Ray Outdoors
Here are my 3 preferred forages I recommend to food plotters.
The first I want people to look at is Daikon Radish. I like radishes for their top growth and high protein values for the forage. The deep taproot helps loosen the soil, reducing compaction. Radish also is good for nitrogen scavenging. The daikon radish uptakes nutrients in the fall and re-releases them in the spring when the roots decompose.
The next forage I prefer is Winfred Brassica. Winfred handles most soil types and is high yielding, with high protein and nutrients levels. Winfred brassica handles temperatures down to 10 degrees and is a very palatable brassica source.
Lastly, I love Balansa Clover. It is a highly nutritious annual clover that can be planted just about anywhere. It stays green down to 10 degrees, fixates a lot of nitrogen and is the #1 preferred forage in my educational plot and other research plots.
John Sloan – The Wilson Post
First, crop should be dictated by soil composition and time of year you plan to make available for browse. That said, there is one other major question. Are you going to hunt it?
For hunting, I prefer a mixture 60% ryegrass, 40% winter wheat.
For late winter, hard to beat, forage turnips.
If you are not going to hunt, plant six rows corn, six rows soybeans and an equal space of clover. Do it in strips, do not harvest, just run over it and knock it down. We did this in IL on seven acres and usage was unbelievable.
Now, understand this: If you are doing research, plant check strips-that is strips where you do no planting, allowing it comeback in natural growth. If you time the amount of time deer spend in each crop section, they spend the most time in the check strip. No matter what you do, step one is soil analysis and step two is fertilizer.
Skylar Christensen – Nature’s Finest Seed
Here in the West we are all about mule deer, and when it comes to mule deer food plots I recommend perennial legumes and forbs that can handle the hot, arid climate of the West.
Out of all the perennial legumes, my top choice is sainfoin. Sainfoin attracts the deer like nothing I’ve ever seen. It’s also easy to establish and drought/heat tolerant. I grow 24 acres of sainfoin in northern Utah and it’s interesting to see the deer crossing over the alfalfa fields to get to my sainfoin. In fact, the first deer I ever harvested had made it a habit to come down from the mountains in the evening, graze on my sainfoin all night, and return to the mountains in the morning. This predictable behavior made it easy for me to know where this buck would be at any given time and ultimately led to him ending up in my freezer. This is when I first realized the potential of sainfoin food plots for mule deer in the West.
Anthony Dickson – Triggers & Bows
Because of the unique soil and climate conditions in my area of southwestern Ontario, my three top choices of food plot crops for deer are generally mixtures of perennials, alfalfa blended in varying proportions with red and white clovers such as durana, and patriot white.
Ladino also seems to be a good choice; however, we must bear in mind that clovers tend to be sensitive to pH. Levels should be 6.0 or above for good production. A small amount of alsike is a good choice as it grows naturally here, encouraging deer and turkeys to taste test the other varieties and develop a liking for them. This and several of the commercial mixes work well for small secluded hideaway plots, but always start with a good soil test.
William Yancy – Ranew’s/The Firminator
Here are my three choices for what to plant in deer plots.
1. Clover – High in protein, high in total digestible nutrients. Once you get your plots established they can last up to 5 years or longer by over seeding them.
2. Chicory – Has high nutritional value and is very palatable for deer and is drought tolerant
3. Soybeans – Very high in protein for antler growth and lactating does. Can last from June well into October in some regions. Produces a lot of tonnage per acre of food.
Andy Whitaker – Wildlife Trends Journal
There are as many opinions about what to plant for food plots as there are deer in the woods! And there are lots of questions to ask before planting such as what type of soil you have, is the plot for summer or fall, how much money do you want to spend, etc. But for general discussion, here are my top three plantings for deer food plots:
1. Clover – There are several types of clovers to plant but we’ve found one of the best is Durana White Clover by Pennington Seed Co. Durana Clover is a relatively easy perennial legume to plant and maintain , providing 20 to 30 percent protein levels and up to 80 percent digestibility. And turkeys love clover as well.
2. Lablab – Lablab is a warm-season annual legume providing 22 to 27 percent protein for deer during the summer antler-growing season. You’ll need to plant a large amount of this food source because when the deer discover it they will wear it out!
3. Wheat – Although there are dozens of varieties of wheat to plant for your food plots, I include this crop because it is one of the easiest and cheapest things to plant for deer. And you can mix wheat with many other crops to give your plots a smorgasbord effect.
Jessica DeLorenzo – Delorenzo Photography/OnXmaps Hunt GPS
While I do not consider myself an expert by any means and am still learning a lot about food plots, I can give you an answer to the best of my knowledge.
My top three plots for deer in Eastern Pennsylvania would have to be clover because it tolerates a decent amount of shade in the denser deciduous areas and is a deer magnet. Turnips and radishes are great for late season after local farmers harvest their crops and the deer are looking for new food sources. They are hardy and can handle tougher growing conditions. Rye is great cover crop and if established well the first time and you can let is reseed itself the following year.
Patrick M. Reed
Mine would be:
1. Brassica, preferably one bred for forage
2. Ladino clover elite variety
3. Winter grain: wheat, late oat, maybe rye
If I had to put 3 species together across the Corn Belt that would attract deer, I would go with alfalfa, ladino clover, and perhaps a forage type brassica. If I was trying to put together a plan for a year around food plot or foot source, I would include strips of alfalfa, soybeans, and a forage oat. Those three options would always give deer an outlet for food and protein.
I would always recommend planting options in strips next to one another–which does a few things:
1. Enables you to easily see germination, establishment of the species
2. Allows you to gauge animal acceptance of the individual species
3. If herbicide applications are needed, you can do that by leaving the species separate
Blaine Burley – Plotmaster Systems
My favorite warm season food plot for deer is a mix of LabLab, Cowpeas, and Grain Sorghum. The LabLab and Cowpeas are very productive, very attractive, very high in protein and very drought tolerant. Grain Sorghum is very drought tolerant and provides a great screening crop for the young vulnerable LabLab and Cowpeas plants and provides something for these two plants to grow on when they reach maturity.
My favorite cool season annual mix is Oats, Wheat, Winter Peas, Arrowleaf or Crimson Clover, and small amount of brassicas such as turnips and/or rape.
My favorite cool season perennial mix is premium White Clover and Chicory!
Austin Delano – Mossy Oak BioLogic
For spring and summer nutrition Lablab is my top pick. Great browse tolerance, thrives in hot and dry climates, and provides excellent high protein forage for optimum antler growth and body development. Can be sprayed with herbicides for weed control including Weed Reaper Grass control.
Non Typical Clover is the best all around clover I have ever tested for multiple types of wildlife, but especially whitetails. Non Typical has very good browse tolerance, palatability, insect and disease resistance, and is much later to flower than typical white clovers which means more forage during those critical spring and summer months. Very tolerant of the correct herbicides to keep the plot clean and productive for several years.
For hunting season my go to blend is Last Bite. Tender cereal grains, forage rape, white clover, and late season cold tolerant turnips make it a killer all around blend. Great to use for the north, south, and everywhere in between. Last Bite has the right ingredients and ratio to provide early season attraction as well as late season cold tolerance.
Terry – Deer Creek Seed
It’s very hard to list just three, as many factors determine the best food plot crop or mix based site location, hunting goals, etc. Deer Creek’s short and sweet answer for top three crops would be:
Purple Top Turnips
Daikon Oilseed Forage Radish
#1 choice is Soybeans provides food for deer almost 9 months out of year. Provides lots protein
#2 choice is Clover similar, in our area provides food about 8-9 months out of year. Lots protein
#3 choice is Fall mix of cereal rye/brassicas.
Andrea – Seed Ranch
Our top sellers are the buck forage oats, Imperial No Plow, Pennington Rackmaster Elite and Pennington Trophy Radishes.
Visit our website to see detailed information on these food plot seeds. Good Luck!
Byron Pace – The Pace Brothers
So we don’t do much of this here in terms of cover crops tending to supplementary feed if required. However if I were to sow a feed block, stubble neeps which is otherwise a stubble turnip are great to pull in deer in hard weather, but buckwheat, and a sweet grass ‘deer lawn’ mix is about as complicated as it needs to be for us, especially towards the less fertile hill areas where grasses are poor.
1. Biologic Non Typ Clover
Easy to grow and maintain yet very economical
2. Asgrow Soybeans
Best high protein winter food source and deadly throughout season
3. Biologic Winter Bulbs and Sugar Beat
Easy to grow and incredible Fall plot
Thanks and best of luck!
Orin – BassPro
The most common food plots choices in our area will be; turnips, clover, and alfalfa.
There are tons of great choices of crops/plants to take away from this massive post–6000+ words of content from 39 amazing experts. If you know anyone that could benefit from these advices here, don’t hesitate to share it with them.
Also, I am pretty sure that there are some experienced experts in deer plots reading this post and I have the same question for you, what are your 3 top choices of crops/plants for deer plots? See you in the comment area below!