Exclosures are an easy way to narrow down your food plot struggles.
QUESTION: I own 10 acres and have only small area for a food plot back in the trees. It gets some shade and some sun. I planted clover in that area, but the deer ate it before it got very big. What do you think I should do? I’m just trying to draw the deer to my area.
Answer: It’s hard to offer too much detail without more information. I own a small parcel with a very small food plot, about 5,000 square feet, that I plant in clover. It does indeed attract deer, and we’ve taken several over this little plot. Furthermore, the clover persists until the frost kills is.
If the deer ate your clover, you probably have a fairly dense herd, and other food may be lacking. Depending on the size of your plot, you might try staking ribbons or line across it to discourage the deer from feeding until you want them too. You might also consider planting other food sources like hard and soft mast-producing shrubs and trees to take some of the pressure off your plot and create more variety.
It’s also possible that the clover simply didn’t germinate well. Did you do a soil test and follow the recommendations? You might consider placing a small exclosure – a circle of welded wire 3-4 feet tall where the deer can’t access the clover. If you get good growth inside but not out, then it is, indeed, the deer. As long as some clover remains, they’ll keep coming until their diet shifts to foods higher in fats and carbs.
Another option might be to plant a fast-growing annual blend containing brassicas. The deer might not feed on it too heavily until the first frosts hit and starches in the plant change to sugars. Then they’ll mow it down. If you plant something with tuberous roots, deer may continue to visit the plot well into winter when they’ll feed on the roots. — Recent Ask the Biologist Question:
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