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With much of the country in the midst of a drought, fall food plots are going to be more important than ever. Many Midwest cornfields, which often sit until well into October or later, have already been cut and made into silage. This type of harvest leaves behind very little for deer to browse. Soybeans will no doubt turn yellow early and be picked ahead of schedule as well. Food sources will be at a premium this fall. If you have food plots on your property and your neighbors don’t, it won’t take much to figure out where the deer will be.
The drought has devastated millions of acres of farm land and taken a toll on spring food plot planting as well. The good news is that many of the driest areas are finally receiving some much needed rain. It is probably too late for farmers and spring plantings. But if things continue to improve, fall food plots will flourish. Here are some of the best crops for fall food plots.
Oats may be the best fall food plot crop you can grow. Young, tender fall growth acts as a magnet for deer. Oats grow quickly and don’t require high quality soil to flourish. Food plot aficionados often talk about “tonnage”. Growing tonnage basically means the plant produces a lot of forage. If you’re looking for tonnage, look no further than oats. Oats are also one of the most frost resistant crops you can put in the ground.
Much like oats, wheat is incredibly frost tolerant and doesn’t require high quality soil to be successful. In fact, as homesteaders settled the prairie states in the early 1800s, wheat was the first thing they put in the ground. Wheat is also a great nurse crop for beans. Deer will utilize wheat during it’s early growth and when it begins to produce grain. Best of all, you don’t need a drill to effectively plant wheat. Broadcast seeding works just fine.
Most soybeans are planted in the spring and are either yellowed or harvested by the time opening day rolls around. An August planting is probably not going to make it to maturity. However, young forage soybeans are a favorite food for deer. If your neighbor’s soybeans are dried out or already picked, your late soybean planting will serve as a deer magnet.
This is another crop that offers plenty of tonnage. The leafy plant portion of the turnip is very appealing to browsing deer while below the ground a large tuber is growing. The real magic happens after the first frost. The starches in the plant turn to sugars and the deer begin hitting turnip plantings hard. Deer will eat the greens first, then they dig the turnips out of the ground later in the year. Turnips will provide a great food source all winter long. Thus, hunting stands near turnip fields make great late season spots.
95% of clover is planted in the spring. However, it is a great crop for fall plantings because young clover growth offers a high protein diet to deer when they need it most. Clover doesn’t grow as well in the fall as it will if planted in the spring. However, since clover is a perennial, your late season planting will give you a head start on next year’s food plots.
Remember, deer are a lot like humans when it comes to food. They like variety and prefer foods that are either at peak or young and tender. Old plantings are not as appealing as young plants. A good mixture of several different crops will make sure your food plots are always attracting deer. If you know your neighbor put in a bunch of soybeans, try something different. Offer the deer in your area something they can’t get anywhere else.