Getting Started With Whitetail Deer Food Plots: Part 2

<-- PART 1

Preparing A Plot

Once property is lined up and secured, the next step in creating whitetail deer food plots involves actually preparing the land. To make sure this is done right to promote growth take the time to:

Carefully consider the seeds to plant

It’s a simple fact that certain crops grow better in certain areas. Research what types of seeds to plant for your particular type of terrain before making a final decision. Keep in mind deer will eat what is available, but do have a particular penchant for such things as clover, corn, wheat, sunflowers, rye, alfalfa and buckwheat. The plants for deer food plots are basically selected by the season in which you want to plant: warm season or cool season. In other words, do you want to plant in spring or summer or in late fall or winter.

Then you can choose from annuals and perennials. Annuals are seeded every year and perennials tend to reseed themselves for two to five years on average. There are distinct advantages and disadvantages to each type, it all depends on your needs and the time you have to manage your food plot.

Look at local plants

Before making a final selection in the type of plant to put in the ground, do pay attention to what else is growing in the area. If your plot is on the edge of a farmer’s field, for example, and wheat is grown there, a different crop would make more sense. To gain a lot of deer traffic, a plot should offer something different for whitetail to chew on. Looking at local plants can also give you an idea of what grows well in your area. It is best to consider planting something that is known to grow well in the area which hopefully doesn't require a lot of soil amendments first. So, to summarize, look at what is grown in your area so you know what type of plant is best suited there, but try to pick a different variety within group to offer some attractant to deer that is different than what the neighbour has planted.

Have the soil tested

Once crops are selected for the area and the growing season, make sure to take soil samples from a number of different locations within the plot. Have them tested by a local extension office or other similar source for the nutrient content. Make sure the extension knows the type of crops that will be grown. If you’re still not sure on what to grow, ask the extension office for suggestions on deer attracting plants.

Make any alterations that are required

Before planting, it might be necessary to clear some of the land or upgrade the soil. Do this right and the plot should grow nicely. Standard farming practice generally apply here. There are a few basic concepts that are important here. The vast majority of land has soils tending towards acidic, so lime applications are likely to be necessary to ammend soil to a pH of between 5.5 and 7.0. Most plants we are interested in for plants grow best in this pH range, with some exceptions. Also lime has to have particle to particle contact, so just dusting it over the top of the plot just won't cut it. As far as tillage goes, this can be a somewhat complicated issue but remember these few things. You have to have good soil to seed contact and if you are going to use a low till or no till method of planting, you still have to have this contact. Dead thatch has to be removed somehow or tilled in. The type of seed bed you need to prepare depends on the seed chosen. Small seeds need very little soil coverage often 1/8 to 1/4 inch and therefore are often used for no plow mixes. Large seeds are buried deeper and are often used when heavier tillage is available.

Follow directions closely

No matter what type of seed or program you choose to follow, do pay attention to the instructions closely. Remember, food-based crops, just like landscaping plants, have different watering, nutritional and sunlight requirements. For the greatest chances of growing success, pay attention to these things and try to give the plants what they need to thrive. Even products specifically formulated for Whitetail Deer, for example Whitetail Institutes brands, are made to attract deer, but will not perform well if specific instructions are not followed.

Prepare a water source

When seeds are first put down, it will be necessary to water frequently. If the plot is located close to running water, set up a portable sprinkler or hose system. If it is not, consider making arrangements to get water to the site. The only alternative is to plant immediately before or shortly after a rain or when the soil is know to have enough moisture to allow for proper germination. There are some drought tolerant plants available, but even these require moisture to germinate.

Preparing a site correctly for deer food plots can make all the difference in the world. With a little effort, a plot can produce a good yield and pull in a lot of deer in the process.

Keeping Up With Plots Once They Are Created

Once a plot is planted and the seedlings are growing, it is still important to keep up with them. The amount of maintenance that will be required will depend on the type of crop planted. Depending on this, it is possible maintenance will require such things as:

Weed Control

This is by far the most important component of good plot management once germination has occured. Time spent here is time well spent. This can be done through mechanical means, chemical and enviromental means. Mechanical weed control refers to using of mowing, burning, or manually removing the weeds. Chemical control refers to sprays available to use against grasses in your plots when you are growing non grass species or controlling broad leaf plants in your grass type plots.


Some crops, like clover, may require occasional mowing to keep fresh, new shoots readily available for deer. Alfalfa is another crops that is sometimes used and if mowed twice yearly will often keep forage softer and more tasty to deer. Native grasses can also be an important part of habitat management and can be burned or mowed to keep quality and taste at a better level.

When approaching planted whitetail deer food plots, use caution. It is important to make sure deer are as comfortable as possible. With this in mind, try to frequent the spot for maintenance when deer are not expected to be present and clear out as quickly as possible.

Other Tips For Pulling In Deer

There are things you can do to augment the ability of a plot to pull in the local deer population. Beyond growing crops that are appealing to whitetail, consider:

Making certain drinking water is available

If your plot does not have a natural drinking source on it, consider creating one. Fresh water can be very appealing to deer as they pass through the feeding area.

Scattering other foods

Throwing out other types of feed that attract deer can make a particular piece of land even more enticing. This can augment crops as they are coming in, as well. Check with local authorities as this is considered baiting and will be illegal in some states.

Position mineral sites/pits every 20 acres or so, also only if legal in your area.

Enjoy The Journey

If you’re ready to embark on creating your own whitetail deer food plots, you will find the journey is hard, but offers great rewards. deer food plots can be extremely successful in attracting deer to a set feeding location. This can be incredible for hunters and enthusiasts alike.

Approach the project with care and do make sure you have a grasp of the legalities in the area you are considering planting within. Taking your time before jumping into this venture is essential for the eventual outcome.

While you can expect to have to put in some serious elbow grease, at least initially, you can rest assured your efforts will provide a valuable resource for the local deer population. When the job is tackled carefully, you will not only attract an elusive quarry, but you can feel good in the fact that your plot will provide valuable nutrients throughout the season for wildlife, as well. With the right touches, your deer food plot can become a regular place for deer to congregate season after season.

Dr. Judy McFarlen Veterinarian, Alberta Rancher, and publisher of Deer Food Plots Made Easy, Dr. Judy McFarlen has helped a large number of novice and experienced deer food plotters establish and improve their whitetail deer food plots.

From deer food plot location strategies to seed selection, this text is a nuts and bolts kind of reading. It is guaranteed to make sense to even to the most inexperienced grower.