If you own property on which deer forage, you may have considered food plots as a means to give deer more nutrition and sustenance options. It is widely known that deer eat a variety of foods in order to satisfy their consumption needs and established food plots are just another way in which their nutritional needs can be fulfilled. In addition to maintaining vegetation already present to keep it available to deer, adding a food plot can go a long way towards creating overall good health amongst Missouri deer herds. This is especially useful during times when other food sources could be waning or when caloric needs are higher, such as in the case of nursing mothers or bucks growing antlers.
It has long been argued that it is more financially advisable to maintain vegetation already present as opposed to adding food plots. For many, good old fashioned labor is enough to provide a wealth of forage opportunities for deer, rendering additional food plots unnecessary. Depending on the property in question as well as the accessibility to tend to current foliage, a food plot could ultimately be less work and expense, making it the way to go. However, with food plots able to cost a couple hundred dollars per acre to create and tend to, you may find that maintenance of that which is already growing is a more efficient way to go. Both options can require heavy machinery and long days, so it is imperative that you consider if there is a true need for a food plot and base your actions upon the answer to that question.
Should you opt to add a food plot to your property, the traditional route includes buying seed and getting to work in a well thought out location. You will need to decide what to plant based on the desired growing season as well as whether you prefer to plant annual or perennial vegetation. A good guide with plentiful options for determining what to plant in Missouri based on your wants needs can be found here. Also important is to factor in the type of soil you have in comparison with the vegetation you plan to introduce as these two need be compatible to ensure optimum growth.
While planting annuals or perennials is one way to do it and can often get you years' worth of growth, why not think about something that will last even longer? Instead of clearing trees to establish a food plot, why not use trees as your food plot? The life cycle of a tree goes beyond that of ground level foliage and it, too, can provide plenty for whitetails to eat. Trees are often inexpensive to buy, but do take time to mature and bear fruit. However, if you already have deer-friendly trees on your property, all it takes is a little pruning to create an upsurge in growth to the benefit of whitetails who feed upon them. Simply clear out trees that are less useful and appealing to deer and replace them with those that are to keep your food plot going for many years to come.
Examples of trees that are known for being useful in the feeding of deer include locust, chestnut, and apple trees. If you do not have these or other deer-friendly trees presently growing and aren't game for planting them, playing host to native shrubs can also be effective and financially savvy. Instead of cutting back raspberries or honeysuckle, give them the help need to thrive by pruning and fertilizing and they will provide both a food source as well as cover for deer.
Regardless of the type of food plot you prefer, keep in mind that food plots should be typically placed near the edge of a wooded area that is far from roadways and property lines. Paying attention to topography and things such as erosion and drainage should also play a role in where you plant as you want your seed to be able to take hold without being washed away and, on the flip side, you want there to be enough water access for seed to thrive. Don't forget to take shade into consideration as well as it can inhibit growth and production.
Photo: Best Turkey Decoy
What is your favorite type of foliage for your food plots? What has proven most successful in your experience? Let us know in the comments.