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Planning a Food Plot for Deer and Wild Turkeys

Properly prepare the soil before planting
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Hunting season is just around the corner, so it's time to start planning those fall and winter food plots that so many of us use to bring game onto our property.

Food plots excellent provide food and cover for wildlife, and are great for hunting. However, knowing how and what to plant for your area can really improve your chances for success.

Use these tips from the NWTF to optimize your hunting food plots this fall.

Three steps for Planning Your Deer and Turkey Food Plots

1. Evaluate your Resources
Don't get stuck halfway through a planting and find out you don't have enough money or the right tools to finish the job. Figure out what resources you have available to work with before you start. Asking the following questions will help:

  • How much land do I own or lease, and how much I can afford to plant?

  • How much money can I spend on seed, lime, fertilizer and equipment?

  • Am I going to need special equipment like a tractor or a rototiller?

  • Can I rent this equipment or contract with a local farmer to help me plow and disc my fields, or am I going to have to purchase equipment and prepare my fields myself?

  • How much time can I afford to spend working on my food plots?

2. Set your Goals
Now that you know what resources you're working with, you should start figuring out what you want your food plots to do for the local deer and turkey populations. Do you want your food plots to provide winter forage or do you want to attract game primarily in the spring and fall? Are you interested in long-term enhancements like improving turkey brood habitat, or are you focusing mainly on bringing in a big buck for next fall?

3. Choose your Plants
Once you've set your goals and evaluated your resources, you can begin choosing what crops to plant. Plant crops that fill a need for the wildlife in your area. You can plant annual crops, perennial mixes or a combination of the two.

Test your soil
You need to know what plants will grow best on your land and what kinds of fertilizer you might need. You should also research how much rain the area receives each year, when that rain typically falls and the length of the growing season.

Annual crops

Annual crops attract turkeys and deer to your property quickly, but require maintenance and re-planting on a regular basis.

Among the best annual crops for wildlife are corn, sorghum, buckwheat, chufa, winter wheat, sunflowers and soybeans.

  • Corn provides one of the best winter foods wildlife. If you have a good number of deer in your area, plant at least two acres of corn.

  • Wheat and oats planted in September will enhance your bowhunting and attract turkeys in both fall and spring. Buckwheat should be planted in June to make sure that the seed is falling in September and October.

  • Planted at the right time (July), sorghum is a great early-season attractant for deer.

  • Beans don't hold up well in tough winter weather, but they will help provide food in the fall. Soybeans are highly sought after by deer.

Many local NWTF chapters offer annual crop seeds through the NWTF's Conservation Seed Program for just a few dollars per bag. Seed such as corn, sunflower, wheat and sorghum are commonly offered. Seed treatments help seeds germinate and grow off. Contact your local NWTF chapter for details.

Perennial Plantings

A perennial planting will last for a number of years. The NWTF sells Strut and Rut in a variety of mixes. If you have questions about what to plant when, contact our conservation experts at (800) THE-NWTF.



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