About 30 years ago when I first attempted to improve deer habitat on a worn-out Ozarks hill farm in Missouri, I began creating food plots, as suggested by the Missouri Department of Conservation. At that time, they suggested ladino clover, red clover, lespedeza and winter wheat, and those plots were fairly successful.
These days, however, a number of companies produce a wide variety of seeds for year-round white-tailed deer habitat improvement. Some products are annuals, some are perennials; some are spring planted and some are fall planted. Following are some of the outstanding products offered.
The Whitetail Institute was the first to offer a commercial deer food plot seed with its Imperial Whitetail brand clover. I've tested that product extensively almost from the beginning, and it's still one of the top "deer-producers" for me. The Whitetail Institute these days offers a wide range of products, including Imperial Whitetail Extreme, great for adverse conditions, including thin soils and drought, as I discovered in 2006, and Alfa-Rack and Alfa-Rack Plus, as well as Imperial PowerPlant, a warm-season annual with a mix of peas, beans, lab-lab and sorghums.
The Whitetail Institute also offers the new Imperial Chicory Plus, which has a mix of clovers and chicory; Imperial Whitetail "Chic" Magnet, a drought-resistant perennial chicory; and the new WinterGreens, an annual brassica planting that gets tastier as cold winter weather progresses. Visit www.whitetailinstitute.com.
Pennington Seed is one of the largest producers of both agricultural and wildlife seed products. They have a wide range of deer plot seeds, including several new ones.
BuckMasters Feeding Frenzy consists of winter-hardy small grains, brassicas, sweet winter peas and high-protein clovers. BuckMasters Ultimate is a perennial plot seed with a mix of Durana White Clover, Patriot White Clover, Choice Chicory, red clover, crimson clover and arrowleaf clover. Rackmaster Elite is a fall-planted mix that contains oats, wheat, rye, field peas, white clover, red clover, rape and chicory. Pennington Seed's Rackmaster Durana Clover is a white clover that can be planted alone or mixed with other seeds.
Other products include Choice Chicory, Deer Greens, Deluxe Fall Mixture, Deluxe Spring/Summer Mixture, and Pennington LabLab. Visit www.penningtonseed.com.
Quaker Boy's Fall Feast and 15 Plus are grown and produced in the North specifically for colder, Northern climates, although they'll grow in other areas, as well. 15 Plus contains annual rye grass; perennial rye grass; red, white, ladino and alsike clovers; alfalfa; chicory; and birdfoot trefoil. Fall feast contains rape, kale, Japanese pearl and proso millet, and stubble turnip. Visit www.quakerboygamecalls.com.
Mossy Oak Biologic also has a wide range of products. Outfitters Blend is an annual fall mix that contains wheat, oats, triticale, Berseem clover, Austrian winter field peas and brassicas. One of my favorite Biologic products is Hot Spot. This is a fall-planted seed that is designed to be planted with only a rake or hoe in remote locations -- for instance directly under your tree stand. And it comes in its own "shaker" bag that makes planting quick and easy.
Also from Mossy Oak come the new Whitetail Addiction Trophy Oats and New Zealand Clover Plus. This contains a blend of the company's popular New Zealand red and white clovers and its extremely successful varieties of chicory. Other products include: Premium Perennial, a blend of chicories, clovers and brassicas; Maximum, a high-protein, all-brassica mix; Full Draw, a fall food plot blend; Green Patch Plus, a mix of cool-season annuals and New Zealand brassicas and Whitetail Addiction Clover Patch. Visit www.mossyoakbiologic.com.
On our farm we've extensively tested the Vita-Rack seed varieties from Hunter's Specialties. Vita-Rack Spring Mix is a perennial food plot mix containing a blend of Crescendo Ladino Clover, white clover, alsike clover, Dominion Red Clover, medium red clover and crimson clover. Vita-Rack Summer Mix contains a mixture of high-protein annuals, including: forage peas, cowpeas, soybeans and certified oats. This is a great early-fall food plot mix for bowhunters.
The Fall Mix contains sugar beets, Sampson Turnips, Crescendo Ladino Clover, Hobson Rape, Dwarf Essex Rape, Dynamo Turnip, Puma Chicory and Little Burnet. Hunter's Specialties has an excellent instructional DVD on Planting Vita-Rack Seeds food plots. Visit www.hunterspec.com.
Deer always love oats, and oats are one of the easiest to plant annual seeds. Buck Forage Oats sown at 100 pounds per acre can produce over 10,000 pounds of forage per acre through the fall and winter months. The company also markets Buck Forage Chicory.
According to the company, Dr. James C. Kroll has tested every kind of seed currently on the market, and those are the only two seeds he will put his name behind, mainly because of their ability to thrive in cold weather. The company says it could offer any seed that other companies do, but it chooses not to. Visit www.buckforage.com.
Antler King has several varieties of seed using its unique seed coating, Ultra-Orange that coats each side with a fertilizer. Honey Hole is a fall-seeded mix that contains five brassicas, three rape and two turnip varieties and requires little or no tilling. Trophy Clover Mix is a mix of four perennial varieties of clover, rape and chicory.
Fall/Winter/Spring Blend consists of winter rye and a variety of rape that remains throughout the winter. Mini Mix is a perennial annual that will thrive even in soils with a low pH and minimum tillage. It contains four clovers, perennial ryegrass and a brassica and will last three to five years. Visit www.antlerking.com.
The Tecomate Seed Company has a wide range of products available from Bass Pro Shops, many of which I've tested. These include Max-Attract, a mixture of triticale, peas, vetch red and Madrid clovers and chicory. Monster Mix is a do-it-all perennial mix of ladino clover, red clover, Madrid clover and chicory. Ultra Forage Mix is a fast-growing annu
al mix for small woodland hunting spots and includes turnip, vetch red clover, Madrid clover, chicory and rape. In addition, the company has LabLab Plus, Alfa-Feast Trophy Mix and Buckbeans. Visit www.tecomate.com.
Evolved Harvest carries a line of seed for deer forage, including: ShotPlot, an annual forage blend that contains turnips and rape. EasyPlot has clovers, rape and annual clovers and does not require disking. MegaPlot is a mix of triticale and a forage grain hybrid best planted in early fall. MegaPlot is formulated specifically for the soil and weather conditions in Texas. These products are also available from Bass Pro. Visit www.ehoutdoors.com.
PlotSpike Seed has a wide range of products, including Clover Blend, New Zealand Blend, Premium Blend, Quick Stand Blend, PlotSpike Forage Oats, Forage Feast and Shade Blend. Most seeds don't do well in total shade; however, Shade Blend will work even with as little as four hours of sunlight per day. Visit www.plotspike.com.
Deer feeders, where legal, have become very important to deer management, and a wide range of feeders are available. What's more, they can be a great help in providing needed nutrients, as we discovered during the great ice storm and late-season hard freeze during the winter/early spring of 2007.
Personally, I'm becoming more and more attracted to self, do-nothing feeders. Just fill them with corn or pellets and let the deer do the work. I've used the Knight & Hale Wildlife Feeder for many years. It's a relatively small cylinder you tie to a tree and fill with corn. Visit www.knightandhale.com.
Other self-feeders I've tested include the Moultrie 30-gallon Dinner Plate Gravity Feeder. It solves the problem of most gravity feeders as the feed falls down onto a metal plate located just off the ground. Visit www.moultriefeeders.com.
The Vita-Rack Feeder from Hunter's Specialties is designed for feeding turkeys, but we've learned that our deer simply can't resist it! Visit www.hunterspec.com.
Tecomate has a portable 48x24x12-inch feed trough that works extremely well. Visit www.tecomate.com.
I've also tested two excellent BigAz feeders. No winches, ladders, batteries or electronics are needed; the BigAz feeders are ground-level gravity-fed. The design stores feed above ground in tough polyethylene tubs. Two models are available: The BigAz 2 will hold 250 pounds, and the new BigAz Jr. weighs just 15 pounds and holds 65 pounds of feed. A patented three-way divider in the latter allows you to dispense three separate feeds if desired. Visit www.BigAzFeeders.com.
A wide range of electronic dispensing feeders is also available, including tripod and hanging models. Moultrie carries a full range, including their new E-Z Fill Tripod, which is filled from ground level and has a built-in varmint guard. Also new from the company is the All in One Feeder Kit, with everything you need to get started feeding, including feeder, bucket, funnel and batteries. All are available from Bass Pro. Visit www.basspro.com.
American Hunter offers both tripod and hanging feeders. The SunSlinger Feeder Timer Kit is a solar-powered feeder timer with a digital clock. It's also available from Bass Pro.
FeederMax feeders can be used to custom-build the feeder to suit your situation in both sizes and with four feed-dispensing systems: trough, trough regulated, spin and flat tray.
These feeders are completely galvanized and have no painted surfaces to rust. The Periscope Lid System makes them easy to fill. Visit www.feedermax.com.
On-Time offers its Fat Boy 3 Hanging Feeder and Tripod Feeder. Both feature a polyethylene conical 32-gallon barrel holding 200 pounds of feed. The timer can feed up to 12 times a day, broadcasting feed up to 40-feet away with a run time of 3 to 16 seconds. Available from Bass Pro.
Also available from Bass Pro is the Remington 40-gallon Digital Tripod Feeder. It comes with a polyethylene 40-gallon barrel and Digital Power Control unit that feeds one to four times per day for 1 to 20 seconds. Visit www.basspro.com.
Cabela's carries a full line of feeders, including its Complete Game Feeder Kits. These range from a 5-gallon feeder to a 225-pound hanging or tripod game feeder, and they come with six programmable feeding times so you can match them to your situation. Visit www.cabelas.com.
Kenco Collapsible Cyclone feeders and Tecomate Twister feeders both have collapsible barrels, making them easy to store and transport. Kenco's Smart Timer automatically programs itself to dispense feed at sunrise and one hour before sunset, and it automatically adjusts as the days get shorter. Visit www.flambeauoutdoors.com.
Warwick Game Manager systems include a tripod and a Hoist Feeder. I tested the Hoist System and found it one of the easiest to use feeders on the market. A support system with a winch is strapped to a tree and a heavy-duty, corrosion-resistant hopper capable of holding 275 pounds of feed is easily hoisted in place. A Snap Lock Lid makes it easy to remove and replace for filling the feeder. A chain lock prevents theft. The feeder is controlled by Remington Digital control with up to four daily available feed times. Visit www.myGameManager.com.
Texas Hunter Products has developed and patented a new feeder that makes feeding protein pellets easy and cost effective. The feeder features a patented two-part funnel system that doesn't require any moving parts, but always keeps the high-protein food fresh. The design provides deer with clean, dry supplemental feed -- on demand. Visit www.texashunterproducts.com.