Ask The Biologist

Variety Is the Spice of Deer Life

Variety Is the Spice of Deer Life

By Bob Humphrey

If you have the room and the means, don’t settle on one food plot seed.

QUESTION: I live in St. Lawrence County, New York. I tried planting brassicas, which did well for a few years. Then, I had several years of heavy weeds. I till every year, wait two weeks and spray with a weed killer, wait 10 days and plant. I think I might be tilling in weed seeds initially.

I planted clover at a local farmers suggestion last year. It did a good job crowding out weeds. However, I’m not sure it’s the best choice. I am going to take soil samples this spring to check pH and fertilizer/lime requirements since I have not done this before.

The hunting pressure is high in my area, and I’m only working with 130 acres, about 25 of which is woods. I’m really interested in keeping deer on the property. What would you recommend to help keep deer on our plots? — William C.

ANSWER: Overall, I’d say you’ve got things pretty well figured out and are headed in the right direction. First and foremost, take soil samples, different ones for each patch of ground you might be planting. Having the right soil conditions is key to maximizing growth.

You seem to be in a bit of a quandary over whether brassicas, clover or something else is best to plant. If I do the math correctly, you have more than 100 acres of fields. That gives you ample space to plant a variety of plots, which is really what you should be doing if your goal is to hold more deer.

Also think about year-round nutrition. Deer tend to be less inclined to enter larger plots during daylight, especially in areas of high hunting pressure. Plant larger fields with warm-season perennials, like clover that will provide nutrition throughout the summer.

Save the smaller fields for hunting plots and plant fast-growing, cool-season annuals like brassicas, annual clovers, chicory etc. If they happen to lie between bedding areas and larger feeding plots, all the better.

In any case, think blends rather than single species. Soil, moisture, slope and aspect can all influence how well one species might do in a single season, and blends will improve the odds that at least something will grow there.

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