With the record-setting heat and drought like conditions plaguing the U.S. this summer, planting fall food plots is going to be important. I talk to a lot of deer hunters across the nation and no matter the location, we’re noticing the same patterns. Unless irrigated, most of the crop fields are really struggling. Yields are going to be lower, and insurance claims are already being filed in some areas to cover losses. Many of these “lost” fields will simply be tilled under or chopped at some point this fall, leaving little significant food left for deer. The mast sources of fruits and nuts aren’t doing much better either. People are reporting acorns the size of peas already dropping. I’ve noticed miniature hickory nuts falling in my area.
The intent of spring food plots is to ensure deer have proper nutrition through the summer months leading into the fall hunting season. Most spring plots are planted with nourishment in mind. This year, many well-planned spring food plots look like a wasteland, and haven’t seen deer traffic in months. Precious time and resources were wasted planting plots this spring that just never got enough rain to be sustainable, but all hope isn’t lost.
Each year, dedicated hunters and land managers also plant fall food plots aimed at attracting deer during the hunting season. Nutritional value is always nice for the deer, but the main focus of a fall plot is to attract deer during the season. It’s said that “variety is the spice of life” and deer crave choices when it comes to eating. There are several fall food sources that can still be planted in August for a productive fall hunting plot.
OATS AND WHEAT
I put oats and wheat in almost every fall food plot I create. Deer love their young, tender growth. Plus, they act as a distraction and nurse crop, for other more delicate food plot offerings. Both are hearty, healthy, grow quickly, and are cheap. Oats and wheat will grow almost anywhere. Several seed companies are now selling frost resistant breeds of oats that will grow well into the cold fall. Wheat doesn’t have a problem surviving the cold weather. No matter the location, oats and wheat are a must for an attractive fall plot.
One of my most favorite fall offerings are turnips. Turnips are great for several reasons. First, their huge, leafy greens grow big and tall, creating a high yield. All the while, the turnip itself is growing in the soil. Usually the size of a softball, a turnip is a heavy, hearty tuber. Once a few fall frosts hit, the starches in the leaves and turnip turn to sugars, and the deer can’t resist. From the point when the first frost hits, until the deer dig the frozen turnips themselves out of the late winter soil, the turnip plots will be a popular location. Another nice feature is that many shed antlers are lost each winter in turnip plots while bucks are digging for the sweet treats.
Although most people plant clover in the spring, it’s also a safe, fall food plot choice. Clover is healthy and green, delivering a high amount of protein to the deer. This fall, any existing clover plot is sure to be a popular destination among the local deer herd. Clover isn’t always easy to establish, and if planted in the fall, generally won’t live up to it’s potential until the following season. A perennial food source, clover will keep coming back year after year. In fact, healthy clover plots need to be mowed from time to time as well. Regardless of the challenges clover brings, it’s worth a shot planting this fall.
I have developed a mutually beneficial relationship with a few local farmers. I come each spring and clean out any leftover seed that they don’t need and were planning on throwing out. I then store it in a nice, dry location for later use. Soybeans are a perfect fall food plot offering. They probably won’t reach maturity, but the deer love their young, green shoots and leaves. Plus, who else in the area is offering fresh soybean plants to the deer in October?
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