Well-managed deer plots – also called hunting, feeding, food or harvest plots, depending on their purpose – can help keep deer healthy and enable them to reach their full physical potential. With appropriate care, such plots become ideal habitats for deer to visit season after season. So in this post, we'll take a look at why you might want to plant a deer plot and how you can make sure yours gets off to the best start.
Why Deer Plots Work
An adult deer can eat up to six pounds of food per day, and even a small herd can quickly strip a fairly large area of its best, most nutritious plants. Because deer are constant browsers, they're always on the move, searching for more nutrition. But they will return to rich forage areas time and again as plants regrow.
That's the idea behind a deer plot. You want to provide a relatively low-maintenance place rich with nutrition during times when deer will have trouble finding those same nutrients elsewhere. Because deer remain in the same general territory, they will return to the plot frequently as long as it continues to offer fresh, delicious forage for them to sample. This provides an important supplement to simple feed programs involving protein pellets and corn because naturally growing plants offer more balanced nutrition and tend to attract more deer than processed feeds will on their own.
To Make the Best Deer Plot
It's easy to make a deer plot with just a few steps…
Know the law. Texas law tends to be pretty permissive when it comes to deer plots on private land, but each state and local jurisdiction has its own rules about plot size, location, and what constitutes illegal "baiting." Be sure to consult with local wildlife officials before beginning any significant project if you aren't sure of the regulations in your area.
Choose a good location. The best plots will be in relatively level, open areas with plentiful sunlight but adjacent cover for the deer to feel safe. In wooded areas, for instance, you might look for a protected clearing where a fallen tree has organically made space for more sunlight to reach the ground. The soil should be rich and moist to support good plant growth. And you'll want to look for nearby game trails, as this will ensure the animals discover the plot more quickly and can use it conveniently.
Plan the size. Size is an important consideration, since a small plot will not support as many deer and risks being overgrazed to the point of destruction if the herd is too large. On the other hand, a larger plot requires more time to develop and a greater budget to care for. You'll want to consider where your plot fits in with your overall supplemental nutrition program and plan the size accordingly.
Time your planting. Young seedlings are more nutritious and attractive to deer, and it is best to plan deer plots to provide rich, nutritious growth at the proper times. Generally speaking, there are two varieties of food plot seed: cool-season, and warm-season. Cool-season seeds are planted in the early Fall and reach maturity in the Spring, while warm-season seeds are planted in the Spring and reach maturity in the summer. Keep in mind that it will take time for existing weeds in the plot to die so that new plants can take over, and you may want to coordinate your germination and growing times with the hunting season.
Prep the ground. Seeds need to make good contact with the soil in order to germinate. That doesn't mean you need bare ground, but clearing away brush and fallen leaves can help widen the plot for a better crop. If weeds are a significant problem, apply an appropriately labeled herbicide well before any new planting. You might also consider working some compost into the top few inches of the soil to improve its quality.
Plant seeds. A good plot may consist of a single crop or a mix of several different types of plants. When you're ready to plant, give us a call or stop by and we'll be happy to help you select an appropriate variety for your particular application. Generally, you'll want to carefully scatter and very gently rake seeds into the top layer of soil for best results. But you'll also want to follow package instructions closely to avoid planting too deep, as this can slow or prevent germination.
- Fertilize regularly. Gently fertilizing the plot will not only help seeds grow more quickly and create a more lush crop for deer to enjoy, but it will improve the soil and surrounding vegetation, making the area even more attractive to deer.
Properly planned and cared for, a deer plot can be a great way to support the local deer population, concentrate hunting efforts, and enjoy better interactions with deer. And we're here to help! With Fall right around the corner, feel free to call or stop by anytime and let our experts take care of you.