Spring Perennial Powerhouses for Deer

Spring Perennial Powerhouses for Deer
(Jeremy Flinn photo)

With deer seasons long behind and months before most will be thinking about full-racked, velvet bucks, it’s difficult to picture big deer unless you are picking up a shed. But it is probably never more critical to provide bucks quality food than this time of year if you want them to grow to their potential.

Why? A buck won’t really start to direct resources to growing bigger antlers until his body has recovered from a long rut and winter. It’s critical to provide the fuel to do just that, and there isn’t a better powerhouse than perennial food plots.

When thinking about food plots, most people probably think summer and fall, but creating high-quality spring perennial plots is that piece of the puzzle that can unlock some deer “magic.” Perennials can be planted during several different times of the year. The focus should be to provide great food from the end of winter to spring green-up and then again in the fall. Though usually they will never produce the pure biomass of an annual, like soybeans or brassica, they do provide a steady source throughout the entire year; whereas annuals will provide food for a shorter period.

For most, planting will occur in the early spring, yielding a nice plot for fall. In the south, planting can be successful in early fall, but the food plot development will be less than optimal for hunting season. Another option is to come in during the last few weeks of winter and frost seed them.


Spring
(Jeremy Flinn photo)


Though seed can often be a little more expensive than annuals, the longevity of a perennial food plot brings massive return on investment. There will be management required, but a perennial food plot can last four to six years.


The main threats are broadleaf weeds and grasses, which can be handled via selective herbicides and over-browsing by deer, especially in early growth stages. Because it has a long life cycle, it is slower to grow. Often, it helps to provide a little protection in the form of a cover crop such as wheat or oats. This will help attract deer away from the young clover until it is stable enough to sustain deer pressure.

When we talk perennial food plots, we usually think of the three big ones: clover, chicory and alfalfa. Each can be a great source of nutrition, but have their strengths and weaknesses. Clover is probably one of the most planted food plot species. It’s easy to establish and is highly attractive to deer. Its high digestibility and protein levels make it a super antler-boosting food. However, its shallow root system makes it susceptible to drought.

Chicory is one that is not planted very often, unless it’s in a mix. But, due to its deep taproot, it is more drought tolerant than clover. However, with its waxy feel, it can be less palatable than clover and alfalfa. It also is highly digestible and packed with crude protein.


Alfalfa is probably the most difficult to establish. Much more sensitive to pH levels than clover or chicory, alfalfa requires optimum soil to be established. But once growing, it has been linked to producing some of the biggest bucks on the continent.

When planning you food plots this year, make sure to power your herd with perennials like clover, chicory and alfalfa. They are the ones that will fill the gap during those critical times for nutritional requirements.

Recommended for You

Crankbaits mimic exactly what they eat when hungry — other fish! Bass

Baitfish for Bass: Search, Suspend or Sink Crankbaits

Jason Houser - May 21, 2019

Crankbaits mimic exactly what they eat when hungry — other fish!

Perfect for competition or a day at the range. Other Hunting

New Gear: MidwayUSA Competition Range Bag

G&F Staff

Perfect for competition or a day at the range.

You can catch bluegill faster with these strategies. Panfish

Find and Fish Bluegill Beds Efficiently

Terry Madewell - May 22, 2019

You can catch bluegill faster with these strategies.

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

MLF Pros: What

MLF Pros: What's Your Go-To Lure?

When all else fails, here's what these pros tie on.

Berkley

Berkley's Surge Shad

Major League Fishing pro Scott Suggs has relied on the Berkley Surge Shad lure concept for years, using similar designs to capture MLF titles and a $1 million dollar FLW Forrest Cup win. With new features in the Surge Shad, Suggs tells OSG's Lynn Burkhead that even he can find success out on the water!

BPT Points Champ Edwin Evers Talks New Berkley Baits

BPT Points Champ Edwin Evers Talks New Berkley Baits

After making the switch to Berkley products heading into the inaugural BPT season, Edwin Evers tells OSG's Lynn Burkhead why Berkley baits played such a key role in his recent angling success.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

          From Monksville Reservoir to Union Lake, plus five other picks, here's where you'll find Bass

7 Best Bets For New Jersey Largemouth Bass

October 04, 2010

From Monksville Reservoir to Union Lake, plus five other picks, here's where you'll...

Celebrate the start of summer with great food for your backyard BBQ or picnic with these outdoor recipes. Wild Game

10 Memorial Day Recipes for Your Outdoor BBQ

OutdoorChannel.com Staff

Celebrate the start of summer with great food for your backyard BBQ or picnic with these...

 A 7 pound giant taken on a jig during the pre-spawn transistion in the Midwest.

Although the art Bass

4 Tips When Jig Fishing For Bass

Chris Schneider - August 25, 2015

A 7 pound giant taken on a jig during the pre-spawn transistion in the Midwest. Although...

See More Stories

More Whitetail

It's not too early to think about next year; fall is a great time for planting. Whitetail

Mix Food-Plot Planting With Fall Whitetails

It's not too early to think about next year; fall is a great time for planting.

Taking deer in the early season requires specific tactics to overcome challenges that heat and humidity create. Try these tactics for hot-weather hunts. Whitetail

How to Beat the Heat for Early Season Deer

Terry Madewell - September 23, 2019

Taking deer in the early season requires specific tactics to overcome challenges that heat and...

We put the latest best in-class compound bows through their paces. Bows

Best New Compound Bows for 2019

Jace Bauserman

We put the latest best in-class compound bows through their paces.

See More Whitetail

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

×