With fall on the way, hunters are behind the 8-ball if they’re only just getting started with plans for the 2015 deer season. Fortunately, the Carolinas are blessed with a liberal deer season spanning several months, from the end of summer to the first few weeks of winter.
If food plots are on the agenda, as they should be, choosing a proper mixture of forage is an important consideration for developing a likable place that deer will visit on a regular basis.
Deer flock to food plots for nutrition and to quench hunger, while not too sharp on the tongue, either. For best results, fall food plots should provide season-long availability into the deep winter.
T.J. Hallman, who plants and maintains more than 40 acres of food plots on the 2,500 acres at The Territories Saluda River Preserve outside of Chappells, is a firm believer in seed mixtures. After several years of trials and adjustment, Hallman has an ideal, cool-season mix that provides wildlife with a nutritious and well used-food source.
“After partnering with Josh Guffey of Corbin Turf and Ornamental, we have a seed mix that works,” Hallman said. “We have been tweaking mix for last six years and have it figured out now.”
The type of forage that Hallman plants for his wildlife is simple; it basically consists of a mixture of brassicas, legumes and grains. The recipe provides more than enough nutrition, with copious amounts of carbohydrates and crude protein built into the mix. The percentage of each seed in the blend and the planting rate creates a perfectly balanced food plot that deer and other wildlife will use for an extended duration.
“We mix 60-percent oats, 30-percent Austrian winter peas and a 10-percent brassica blend at a combined rate of 45 pounds per acre in a no-till drill,” he said.
This mixture of grains and legumes provide wildlife with both immediate and long-term availability that is perfect for the early, peak and late-season hunter, as well as long after the season is out when food availability becomes limited.
When brassicas, legumes, and grains are planted at the same time, food becomes available immediately from the fresh green shoots of the peas and oats. Later, everything out there will produce a nutritious bounty of seeds and carbohydrate-rich, bulbous roots from the brassicas.
This mix alone provides a smorgasbord of foods for deer and other wildlife to enjoy. But planting 40 acres doesn’t come easy, either. Hallman takes advantage of the small accessory box on his Great Plains no-till drill to incorporate some slow-growing clovers into his fall planting exercises.
“We will also add four to six pounds of Durana clover to the mix to fuel the spring feed. I like to establish as much clover in the winter as possible so our winter food plots can literally feed from the second week in September all the way through July,” he said.
Even though the acorns and abundant soft mast in the fall combined with the spring green-up provides wildlife with a wide assortment of natural foods, there is always a deficient period in natural food availability, and Hallman likes to compensate with his 12-month food plot program.
“Deer are browsers and need a balanced diet on a daily basis to thrive. The more variety you can offer the herd in your food plots, the better off you will be in attracting deer, providing ample nutrition and having more opportunities to harvest more and bigger deer consistently,” he said.