Skip to main content

Dr. Deer: How to Protect Your Food Plot Using Electric Fences

Dr. Deer: How to Protect Your Food Plot Using Electric Fences

A few years back I presented our revolutionary findings about using electric fencing to manage food plots for whitetails.

The study took place in three locations: south Texas, east Texas and the northern portion of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan at the Turtle Lake Club.

We found our three-wire fence design increased survival of forage species, crop yields and availability of an attractive food source.


When it comes to whitetail management strategy, one of the most frequent inquiries I receive involves summer food plots. More often than not, the average land manager is going to plant a food plot in the spring, hoping to improve the nutritional plane of the resident deer and perhaps still have something growing in the plot for early-season hunting.


Unfortunately, spring plots are often reduced to weeds and dust by October, making spring plantings not worth the effort. That is, until electric fences came along.

Dr. James Kroll's research into the use of electric fences has changed how land managers view food plots in their blueprint for whitetail management. Photo by Gordon Whittington.

When it comes to whitetail food plots, there really are two seasons to consider: cool season and warm season. In the north, the "cool" season occurs in early spring and again in early fall.

In the South, however, cool season refers to the periods between early fall and early spring since southern winters seldom are cold enough to prevent some growth by food plot varieties such as cereal grains, clovers and chicory.


The "warm" season in the north ranges from late June to mid-August, and mild summers permit managers to grow crops considered "cool-season" varieties in the South.

Again, cereal grains, clover and chicory do well in these climates. In the South, warm season occurs from May to October, much longer than in the North.

Hence, food plot strategies for these two geographic areas can be quite different. Yet, there still is another factor to consider.


The physiological needs of deer vary with age, sex and season. Nutritional factors generally break down into protein, energy and minerals. Whitetails certainly require all three most of the year, but in varying amounts.

We once conducted a study in which we allowed deer to "assemble" their own diets through the year. We erected feeders, each with a different feed component, and the deer confirmed what we suspected. Does and bucks during much of the year might as well be different species!

There were significant sex-related differences in preferences for feed components, but one factor seemed to hold for all segments of the herd — digestible energy.

So, feeds high in carbohydrates and digestible plant compounds rich in energy are preferred. That is why cereal grains are so popular with your deer. They are highly digestible forms of energy.

Using this information, we decided to organize our electric fence management program to take advantage of these needs.

Why not plant crops in the spring, keep deer out of the plots most of the warm season, then open them up when the deer really need them?

By fencing deer out of the warm-season plots, we then can make better use of native forages, while "banking" our food plot for the late summer and early fall.

Osmun conducted some great experiments. At our research facility in Nacogdoches, Texas, we planted iron-and-clay cowpeas in April within electric fences. At about the same time, we planted Roundup-ready soybeans and corn at the Turtle Lake Club in Michigan, again inside fences.

In both locations, we managed to grow crops we never had been able to grow!

At Turtle Lake, we also managed to exclude bears from our food plots. By late summer, we had banked tons of high quality, high-energy foods at both sites.

By late summer, it was time to let our deer start enjoying the nutrition we had banked for them. Therein lies the greatest benefit of electric fencing for whitetail hunters.

Imagine that you are a bowhunter with a highly nutritious food source on your property when your neighbors' plots have been reduced to dust!

While your neighbor is busy planting his fall crops, deer are flocking to your plot! At the same time, you are doing something good for the deer. It is a "win-win" to me.

When coupled with whitetail management strategies such as rotation grazing and forage banking, you can see why this system is one of our best ideas since the infrared-triggered camera.

Graduate student Adam Osmun displays the difference between a food plot contained within an electric fence (left) and one open to browsing by deer and other wildlife (right). Photo courtesy of Dr. James C. Kroll.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

How to Control Predators on Deer Hunting Property

How to Control Predators on Deer Hunting Property

Dr. James Kroll and Pat Hogan discuss ways to help control predators on deer hunting property.

Deer Dog: Puppy Pitfalls

Deer Dog: Puppy Pitfalls

On this edition of "Deer Dog," Jeremy Moore explores the pitfalls of puppy training.

Alternative Season Whitetail Hunt

Alternative Season Whitetail Hunt

Mike Clerkin is hunting the alternative weapon whitetail season in Missouri with his S&W revolver.

On Target: Tips for Handgun Hunting Accuracy

On Target: Tips for Handgun Hunting Accuracy

Dr. James Kroll provides tips for hunting whitetails with a handgun.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

You can generally take as many does as bucks in a healthy heard, how many is too many?Balancing The Deer Herd Deer Behavior & Facts

Balancing The Deer Herd

Dr. James C. Kroll

You can generally take as many does as bucks in a healthy heard, how many is too many?

Knowing your bullet drop at various ranges, having a good rangefinder and spending the time to practice with your rifle can the difference between success and eating deer-tag sandwiches. Here's why.Know Your Bullet Drop and Range When Hunting Whitetails How-To

Know Your Bullet Drop and Range When Hunting Whitetails

Travis Faulkner

Knowing your bullet drop at various ranges, having a good rangefinder and spending the time to...

Fill your quiver with the right ammo this season.The Best Arrows for Deer Hunting Bowhunting

The Best Arrows for Deer Hunting

Tony J. Peterson - June 10, 2019

Fill your quiver with the right ammo this season.

See More Trending Articles

More Land Management

Most hunters don't fully understand what it means to be a small-scale farmer.5 Food Plot Realities for Deer Hunters Land Management

5 Food Plot Realities for Deer Hunters

Tony J. Peterson

Most hunters don't fully understand what it means to be a small-scale farmer.

Want to improve the deer herd but don't have much of a budget? Here's how to max out your results.Food Plots on a Shoestring Budget Land Management

Food Plots on a Shoestring Budget

Steve Bartylla

Want to improve the deer herd but don't have much of a budget? Here's how to max out your...

See More Land Management

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the North American Whitetail App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All North American Whitetail subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now