For many deer hunters, spring is filled with shed hunting, maybe some turkey chasing, and a little R&R by the lake or on the creek bank. But spring also can be one of the most opportune times to help out your deer herd.
I know, it’s hard to start thinking about next season when this one just finished. But the fact is, if you want to have some quality deer to hunt next season, you got to make sure they have what they need to eat during the spring. With most corn and soybean fields weeks away from being productive, perennial food plots can be put in the ground now to maximize nutrition.
Perennial food plots can be planted during two time periods for most of the country: spring and fall. The exception would be in the far North where fall planting would not provide enough growing days to truly thrive. There are definitely some advantages to both timings, and even strategies to incorporate both when planting multiple perennial food plots.
The spring can be a great time to plant for most looking to provide quality nutrition during spring and summer when antlers are growing, fawn are being born, and does have extremely high energy demands. For those in the North, it may be the only time to establish a good perennial stand.
The spring also ensures, barring weather issues or deer destruction, you will have one heck of a clover, chicory or alfalfa stand come hunting season. The downfall of spring planting can be that the heat and dry of summer may take its toll on the food plot, and potentially cause a complete plot failure.
During average summer conditions, clover and chicory can produce a lot of high quality forage for deer and turkey. With proper attention, these plots can last five to six years. (Jeremy Flinn photo)
Planting during the early fall is desirable for many locations, especially in the South. By April or early May, temperatures start to soar, and dry conditions have started. Planting in September or October can catch cooler days and nights, as well as fall rains. The disadvantage is that you miss the nutritional aspect the first year.
Some perennials live for two or more years. Many white clovers, like ladino, can last up to five or six years. You also may not have as full of a plot for hunting season as you might if planted in the fall. To get around this, you could add some annual crimson or arrow-leaf clover to the mix and get a faster establishing plot, while the perennials establish.
If you are planting multiple perennial food plots, consider staggering the planting where applicable. This will provide varying levels of attractiveness and nutrition levels based on plant age. You can’t hardly ever go wrong with variety when planting food plots.
Personally, I am a big fan of planting in the spring. In other words, get out there! The nutritional boost you will give your deer the first year will be rewarding, and just keep your fingers crossed for an “average” temperature and precipitation summer.