Fall Food Plot Planting | The Time Is Now – by Weston Schrank
With fall just around the corner, every whitetail hunter is getting that itch. We are out checking trail cameras, scouting new areas, hanging new stand sets, and strategizing for fall. The weeks before deer season can make or break your success. If you’re planning to hunt over a food plot this fall the time to get it in the ground is now! Anytime between late July and mid-September, is the time to plant food plots to attract deer during the actual hunting season. These plots and the species that you choose to plant in your plot can be an essential part to your hunting season. Planting the right species at the right time can pull and hold deer on your property and hopefully under your stand!
Late summer through early fall is perfect for planting brassicas. These include turnips, kale, canola, forage rape, and radishes. Planting these cool season food plots in late July, early August is perfect timing for developing roots and plenty of forage for the deer season in the North, while summer climates may not plant until September or later. This makes for a perfect mid to late season kill plot. How? Usually unattractive until a couple hard frosts, brassicas will replace bitter starches with sweet sugars. These brassicas will produce protein-packed, sweet forage available for mid-season (November- December), then you’re left with a substantial root available to dig up in the late season (December-January), and some remnant foliage. These species make for a perfect kill plot during the late season, when the surviving bucks are again somewhat on a pattern feeding on late available food sources.
On one particular property we had very little success with brassicas. They were planted right, given the right soil conditions, grew great, but the deer just didn’t touch them. On other properties, especially a property containing more than 50% of its land in early succession, the deer didn’t touch them hardly at all. It seems as if they had enough natural and woody browse, along with other food sources to select against foraging on my plot. In my experience it can take a couple years for the deer to get “hooked.” On the other end of the spectrum I have seen great bucks harvested in the late season out of first brassica plot. I suggest trying them out to see if they work, it’s worth it if they do! And in rare occurrences like on the Midwest Whitetail farm, Bill Winke sees them consumed as soon as they start growing in August!
Early august planting of Brassicas give them enough time to mature, before the first hard frost making them very attractive to deer. Weston Schrank
Usually I like to plant my brassicas with a mix of other species. The right mix plots can become attractive the entire season, protect other species, and even work with a symbiotic relationship. Diversity is usually a good thing! This year I seeded ladino clover (8-10lbs/acre) and rape and turnips (2lbs/acre). Keeping the brassicas at a lower rate to insure they don’t outcompete the clover. The clover will actually fix more Nitrogen in the soil which the brassica will thrive off of. Another mix that I like a lot and have had held attractiveness throughout the hunting season is again a mix of a white clover (durano/ladino), brassicas, and buckwheat.
August planting of ladino clover and brassicas. Weston Schrank
With the buckwheat growing rapidly along with the clover species and taking on browsing pressure, the brassicas will produce the succulent sweet leaves that will provide forage after the clover and buckwheat are gone. Mixing in oats, triticale, or wheat with your clovers and brassicas also is a mix that can yield great results during the early part of the hunting season. Austrian winter peas is another species you might want to think about throwing in some mixes, I have seen a medium-sized plot of winter peas destroyed standing in a monoculture, however. I suggest throwing them into your cool season mix. An example would be ladino clover (5-7lbs. /acre), wheat or triticale (50lbs. /acre), and winter peas (20-25lbs. /acre). Try some different mixes in a couple fall plots this year, put out a trail camera and an exclusion/food plot cage to find out what your deer like!
The key word here that I am trying to get across is attraction! Deer are picky customers. First pick a species or a mix of species to plant that will attract deer to your kill plot. Then give it a good start by amending the soil. The healthier the plant, the more nutrients it will be able to absorb, the more likely deer are to eat it, and the more likely you will have success this fall! If your fall food plot lacks nutrients, it will lack the ability to pull and hold deer. Do it right this year and release your fall food plots. Products like PlotStart™ and PlotBoost™ by DeerGro™, can take your food plot to the next level, give it the attraction you desire, and ultimately increase the chance to put the big buck under your stand!