Summer Food Plots for a Successful Fall Whitetail Deer Hunt
Planting a food plot in the spring or summer can be a great way to increase whitetail foot traffic on your property and a great way to increase the chances of a successful hunt in the fall. Not only do these plots attract deer they provide high-protein forage, which is valuable for antler development in bucks and fawn development in does. Summer food plots grow thick and lush in the summer sun and provide valuable nutrients for the deer heard frequenting your property. Maintained properly this forage will continue to grow well into the fall and give you the opportunity on that deer you have been waiting for all year.
What to plant?
Being born and raised in the Midwest I was and am fortunate to be able to hunt right next to abundant corn and soybean fields. These forages are a great food source for the white tail deer. Corn fields tend to hold many deer not only for the sustenance, but corn fields also provide heavy cover for deer to hide in allowing them to feel safe while browsing the lush fields. Soybeans are extremely nutritious containing up to 25 or 30 percent crude protein in fields with mineral rich soils. This is above the sufficient amount for whitetails to have good body and antler development. These plants are a good candidate for preparing a mixture and growing specifically for deer in a separate location. Clover, alfalfa, oats, and chicory are other great choices when deciding what to plant. These species grow better through the season in the north as the hot summers in the south tend to dwindle these resources. There are many companies out there now making some great premade bags of food plot mixes. These work great if you need to add a quick addition to your hunting spot in the summer and work even better for the convenience to plant in those hard to reach areas where using anything other then hand tools is out of the question.
Where to Plant?
This is a subject you may want to do a little thinking on. Food plots should be generally located in a centralized part of your hunting property. You want to choose a place where the deer are going to feel safe. The more safe they feel the more likely they are to visit it during shooting hours. Try to find a place with lots of cover surrounding it like on the edge or between heavily wooded areas or thickets somewhere they think they could dart into if feeling threatened. Planting on the edge of a field line next to downed trees and or overgrowth is a good place. I have done well planting in clearings in a hardwood area or even fence rows and old unused logging trails through the woods. Its not always a good idea to hunt directly on your plot. Less pressure on these the better, sure sometimes it may be just the thing you need to do so long as you have a clean entrance and exit strategy as to not disturb the movement. Instead you may do better off setting a stand between a suspected bedding area and the food source as to catch them in transit between the two and not disturb the area itself. At this point you may need to start looking into the wind factor. Try to stay downwind of the food plot and the area you have decide to hunt around it.
How to Plant?
How to correctly plant the plot you have decided on can be relative to the species you had decided to use. Some plot blends are great for back country hard to reach spots and take little more then a hard rake to break the surface tension of the ground. Others will take a little more equipment or farm implements when planting larger feeding areas for whitetail deer. Whatever your choice is do your research and make sure you are preparing the area correctly and planting in a way to get the best yield and results from your investment.
While the summer sun is great for growing this plot your looking forward to taking advantage of in the fall its also great for weed growth. Broadleaf weed and grasses are often the number one headache after your crop has begun to take off. There are options out there to use sprayers and other types of herbicides to keep your food plot growing to its full potential. Not always necessary as I’ve had plenty of luck without the use, but it can be very advantageous after all that hard work you have put into plant your feeding area. The weed competition tends to die down as summer comes to a close and fall sets in for those planting closer to the fall this can be advantageous, but it doesn’t give the dear herd as long to establish your plot a key feeding zone.
As you can see warm summer planting doesn’t come without some hard work the biggest reason for food plot failure is weed competition and over browsing and a lot of times it can be both. When it comes to food plots you will get your best results by sticking to the basics. Go step by step. Chose what to plant, where to plant, and prepare the area correctly. No matter if your hunting property is large or small these steps can take you from no food plots to high performing food plots for a successful fall whitetail deer hunt.