Mote: Start planting now for successful deer season

April 16, 2014 

Turkey season is in full swing and the fish are biting, but now is also a good time to start planning for a successful deer season. Many hunters will plant a fall food plot of rye, oats or some type of clover and/or winter peas. These areas will usually help increase the chance of seeing a deer and harvesting that trophy buck, but now is the time of year when nutrition is essential for deer growth and antler development. A diet of 13 percent to 16 percent protein is optimal for antler development.

There are a wide variety of food plot mixtures to choose from. Some are a mixture of small grains and a legume, while others contain a mixture of legumes. Be wary of “miracle in a bag” mixes. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

The first thing you need to consider before planting is site selection and soil preparation. A narrow strip among tall pine trees will probably result in an unproductive food plot due to low light levels. Legumes such as alfalfa and most clover seeds are very small and require a very well prepared seed bed. Other important factors are soil type, fertility and pH. Proper pH and light are probably the biggest limiting factors in producing quality forage in a food plot. Now is a good time to get a soil sample and apply lime if needed. Lime takes about three months to fully affect the soil. Applying lime at the time of planting will not help what you have just planted for at least three months. Weeds can also cause a major problem in food plots.

When it comes to the size of your food plot, it should be large enough to eliminate overgrazing but also should be shaped, so the deer use the entire plot. Deer prefer irregularly shaped fields with lots of edges.

There are several seed mixtures available that produce quality forage and are suited to our area. Clovers and clover mixes tend to do fairly well. Other legumes such as lablab and beans can produce quality deer forage, but weed control is often difficult or virtually impossible. One option for easy weed control forage is Roundup Ready soybeans. These are a variety of soybeans that are modified to be resistant to glyphosate, which is the active ingredient in Round Up. One drawback to soybeans and some of the other annual legumes is overgrazing. For this reason, it is not recommended to plant these types of plants in areas that have high deer pressure or in food plots less than one acre.

If you have a large area or low grazing pressure, this is a great way for you to provide high quality food for your herd and keep weeds out of your summer food plot.

Following these tips for planting a spring food plot should help provide essential nutrition for deer growth and antler development and increase your chances of bagging that trophy buck this fall.

Source: www.caes.uga.edu/publications

Dates to remember:

April 26: Localicious, Warner Robins

April 30: Totally Tomatoes, 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m., Perry

May 14: Egg Candling Certification Class, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Perry

May 15: 4-H Luau

May 22: Healthy Lawns Class, 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m., Perry

May 26: Office closed for Memorial Day

Charlotte Mote is the Houston County agricultural and natural resources agent. Contact her at 478-987-2028 or cmote1@uga.edu.

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