Annual grains such as milo, sweet sorghum and even brown-top millet will give deer an added incentive to be where you want them come Opening Day. They will seek out the highest nutrients, and grains such as these provide the animals with exactly what they need.
"I always look at food plots as icing on the cake for deer," said Mark Hatfield, director of strategic conservation planning at the National Wild Turkey Federation. "You only want about five percent of your total acreage in food plots, and obviously, deer can't sustain on corn and grain alone, but if you give them a little something extra in their diet, they'll seek it out."
That's not to say that corn and sunflowers don't have their place in food plots, because they obviously do. If you stick with annual grains and get them planted early enough, however, there's an added bonus: dove season.
"If you plant food plots right now that have a short maturation range, they would be suitable to shoot doves over," Hatfield said. "You can plant corn and sunflowers, but with a 90- to 110-day maturation range, chances are they won't mature until after dove season is over, so you don't get that dual purpose out of them. If you plant annual grains, you're maximizing your dollar and you typically only have to spray once. Anytime you can piggyback multiple species on the same food source, you're going to have a better return on your investment."
And with diesel being as high as it is right now, stretching the dollar is key. That's not to mention that grains are typically quite a bit cheaper in bulk than corn or sunflower seed.
To get started, you must first find a good spot for your food plot. An open area near travel corridors or in pinch points is ideal. Second, bush-hog the area as low as you possibly can. Once you've bush-hogged, wait a week, then spray the area with Roundup or another herbicide. After you've sprayed, wait two weeks and go back and spot spray to make sure you've killed all the weeds. Next, you should no-till drill the seed. Of course, you can disc and turn the soil, but Hatfield suggests drilling.
"The reason you want to drill is because it doesn't expose any additional seed to germination," he said. "If you mow, then disc, all that seed left in the seed bed will be exposed and will germinate after the next rain. Even though you've sprayed and killed everything you can see, there's still seed in the seed bank, and as soon as you expose it, it's going to germinate, and all that grass you've tried to kill is going to come back."
Regardless of whether you drill or disc, the main thing is you've planted your food plot and have increased your chances before you ever step into the woods. Anytime you can up the odds, it's a good thing.To find out more about food plots and your land, check out the NWTF's Website at www.nwtf.org.