White Tail Buffet: Wildlife Food Plot Mixes

Complimenting livestock operations with game hunting leases is not a new concept. With the popularity of hunting wild game like white tail deer, wild hogs, and other large game, farmers and ranchers can prepare wildlife feeding areas (wildlife food plots) to attract game to specific locations. Also, feed them and ensure that they acquire the necessary nutrition for later harvest in the year. Other advantages to establishing a food plot during the fall and winter months are:

Lactating does will require higher quality forage in order to maintain the metabolic demands of feeding a fawn in the winter time. Picture credit: Jonael Bosques, UF/IFAS Extension Hardee County.
  • Providing nutrition for weaned fawns that are still growing.
  • Providing energy deer need to prepare for winter.
  • Replacing energy lost during the rut or breeding period.
  • Providing female deer adequate nutrition while they are pregnant.
  • Providing a source of food for wild turkeys, quail and non-game wildlife species.

Before you plant consider the following: 1. is your food plot located in the right place? 2. Does the soil have the capacity to feed the crops you will plant? 3. Do I need to prepare the soil differently than I regularly do? 4. Are my forage options the correct ones for this location?

White tail deer feeding at night on food plot. Picture Credit: Jonael Bosques, UF/IFAS Extension Hardee County.

 

Choose a good location.

The location of a food plot determines its size and growing conditions, as well as the likelihood it will be utilized by deer. Deer like food plots located close to cover where they can hide from predators. Therefore, plots should be established near natural cover regularly frequented by deer. Other considerations when establishing a food plot should include its proximity to water and distance from areas of high human activity. If the primary purpose of the food plot is to attract deer for hunting, it may also be desirable to consider wind direction when deciding on location. Deer will often avoid plots upwind of escape cover. Lower elevation sites should also be avoided as flooding will make foods less available and inhibit establishment. Establishment costs are typically minimized if deer food plots are located in existing openings, e.g., natural meadows, fallow fields, road edges, utility rights of way, and firelanes.

Take a soil sample and amend your soil.

Flatwood soils are usually acid (low pH). Soil acidity can have an impact in your crop’s ability to feed from nutrients in the ground. Ideal pH for most crops falls in the 5.8-6.8 range. Bringing your soil pH up will take 2 to 3 months after applying lime.

Soil test equipment. You can check out a soil test probe at your local Extension office. Picture caption: Jonael Bosques, UF/IFAS Extension Hardee County.

Replenishing nutrients for the plant will also have a big impact in forage yield. Nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) are known as macro-nutrients. Unless indicated by the soil analysis, use a complete fertilizer that supplies your soil with secondary and micro-nutrients when preparing your food plot.

Prepare your plot area for planting.

Disk the site to prepare for planting. After disking, you can broadcast or drill the seed in the ground with a grain drill. If using a seed mix of varied sizes, the most efficient way to plant would be to broadcast your seed. After the seed is in the ground light disk or roll the seed to increase soil contact and improve the chances of germination. Do not disk small seeds in too deep.

Hairy vetch planted on clean seed bed. Picture credit: Jonael Bosques, UF/IFAS Extension Hardee County.

 

 

 

 

Consider your forage options.

Forage MixesBlending different types of forage will provide variety to your plot. Using proven varieties specific for your region can ensure good yields and optimal gains for your game. Here are your options:
Legumes

If using legumes, don’t forget to inoculate seeds if these do not come with inoculant in the package. Inoculants are bacteria packages that will help seeds develop nodules that can provide the plant with nitrogen from the air. Good inoculation will provide you with free N for your system as plant roots decay in the future.

For cool season – alfalfa, red clover, crimson clover, white clover, berseem clover, hairy vetch, Austrian winter peas.

White Clover. Durana cultivar. Picture Credit: Jonael Bosques, UF/IFAS Extension Hardee County.

 

For warm season – cowpeas, forage soybeans, Sunn hemp, and partridge pea.

 

Grasses

Annual grasses are usually digestible before they go to seed. At this stage, they can supply game with energy. Annual grasses can provide habitat for turkey as well as food for both, quail, turkey and deer. Clumping grasses can provide nesting habitat for wild game birds.

Oats grown in Hardee Coutny. Cultivar Legend 567 Oat. Picture credit: Jonael Bosques, UF/IFAS Extension Hardee County.

 

For cool season – Oats, ryegrass, wheat, rye.

For warm season – Indian corn, Japanese millet, pearl millet.

Attain Ryegrass cultivar. Picture credit: Jonael Bosques, UF/IFAS Extension Hardee County.

 

Other crops

Forbs – These provide lots of energy during the cool season. Some of the cultivars need to be tested in our area and may require colder climate. Some examples of these are: radishes, and turnips.

Sunflowers – these warm season summer annuals can serve as food for doves and deer.

Buckwheat – early maturing warm season crop. It is a high producer of seed and tender plant material that may be a good addition to the mix. Its fast growing nature helps manage unwanted weeds in the plot.

 

 

Start planning for this year’s white-tailed buffet

Implementing a good wildlife food plot system needs to start from the ground up: investing in a good seedbed. You can maintain game attracted to one place that serves as a monitoring station, while at the same time providing good nutrition during winter months where food may be few and far between. After winter is over, your spot can continue to be managed and monitored for later game hunting.

Turkeys feeding on wildlife food plot crops. Picture credit: Jonael Bosques, UF/IFAS Extension Hardee County.

 

For more information on wildlife food plot options, contact the UF/IFAS Extension Hardee County Office at 863-773-2164.

 

Further reading:

http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/FR/FR16700.pdf

http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw262

 

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Posted: January 30, 2018


Category: Agriculture, Crops, Forests, Natural Resources, UF/IFAS Extension, Wildlife
Tags: Agriculture, Crops, Food Plots, Forages, Grains, Legumes, Natural Resources, Soils, White Tailed Deer, Wildlife


Comments:

Jonael

March 8, 2022

During the time they require the brooder they do not need a run. Constant temperature and protection from drafts is the most critical part for their development at this point.

Donna Castro
February 18, 2022

Thank you for this! I am in the process of obtaining my first little backyard flock and am feeling a bit intimidated by this whole brooder issue. This really helped me feel more confident! I have a coop set up and ready, but also wanted to provide a run. Do these have to be connected? Can I train the birds to go into it and then back to the coop at night? Thank you for your help.

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September 21, 2021

I have two acres of land dappled with shade from trees. Right now it is mostly weeds and I'd like to plant a grass seed - can you recommend one. The ph is about '5'. The seed needs to be something I can afford. I am more interested in replacing the weeds than having a 'lawn' and just want a grass of some kind.

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April 24, 2021

I have a 15 month old Male goat that pretty much over night, maybe a day or 2 has developed 2 lumps, swellings, in the same spot on left and right sides of his lower jaw. We are very concerned that it may be CL. None of the other 3 have anything wrong other than coughing every once and a while.

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December 14, 2020

Not that I am aware. Maybe watch weather pattern differences because these can affect the germination time.

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December 13, 2020

any special requirements or things to be extra aware of in zone 9B-10, im right on the cusp?

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November 10, 2020

Corto y conciso, francamente maravilloso el post. Mas que nada porque para mi, familiarizarse con los requerimientos particulares de cada animal es sin dudas lo mas esencial en la cría.

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March 29, 2019

Saludos: espero estar traduciendo todos mis "blogs" para el beneficio de todos! Gracias

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August 9, 2018

UF has also released flies to manage fire ants. Bottom line: there is nothing more effective right now than chemical control right now.

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July 25, 2018

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March 9, 2018

I was thinking it would be fun to have a food plot for the local wildlife. It makes sense that a good location would be important! I'll be sure to find a place that deer have access to.

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