Get your fall food plot planted

Deer will feast on the foliage of beans and other plants that may never grow to maturity when planted this month.

October is an interesting time of year where the weather can be 80 one day and 38 the next.

Hunters and land managers plant all kinds of stuff for the fall hunting season. From turnips and rape to oats, wheat, and various legumes, deer will have a buffet of food options on some properties to consume. But what is the perfect food plot seed to plant in October?

The answer depends on so many factors, including soil type, available sun, soil pH, moisture availability, and geographic location around the state. The best October food plot is going to be the one that grows the best under the site-specific conditions.

Starting from a cleared area with weed-free soil is always a good start to a healthy food plot.

Fall food plots generally consist of brassicas, cereal grains, or legumes. Deer will eat all of it especially when the new tender plants are busting through the soil surface, with some exceptions. Most brassica varieties aren’t very palatable until after the first freeze. And it is just too late for planting brassicas in October for maturation during hunting season unless specific conditions exist.

New plantings of clovers, beans, peas, wheat and oats are excellent forage options for October plots. The beans and peas will not have time to grow to maturity if planted in October. But remember, deer will still feast on the foliage especially when new and tender. And the nutritional value of the foliage by itself still ranks high on the scale. Conversely, wheat and oats are the most attractive to deer when new shoots are busting out of the soil surface. As wheat and oat foliage matures, the green stalks become less appealing.

Clover never really becomes unappealing at any stage of its life cycle. As long as the little three-leaved morsels of goodness are growing above the soil surface, deer will go out of their way to consume it. And that is true from both perennial and annual clovers. Most perennial clovers are planted in the fall, but annual clovers can also be planted in the fall because deer will still eat these plants as they erupt from the ground.

Plant a mix

A wide range of plants can be planted at once and in the same food plot. However, site conditions and planting requirements will differ between the various food plot options. And it can be vastly different. The major differences are planting depths and the ability to use certain herbicides. Some food plot species are grasses and some are broadleaf plants with each requiring a different type of herbicide to control competition. However, competition in fall plots is less of an issue than spring plots. So herbicides are not always needed for fall plots. Disking up the plot can suppress competition enough to get almost any of the fall food plot varieties off to a good start.

Disking up an area before planting is a great way to suppress competition from other plants, and is essential before planting an October food plot.
(Photo by Jeff Burleson)

Even though site conditions can be different for various food plot plantings, the end result can be the same. Hunters and land managers that plant in October typically want to plant something to provide an immediate food source for deer season that will hopefully last until Christmas, or at least until after the Thanksgiving holiday. Some types of seed may grow better with the specific site conditions than others due to the drainage type, soil type, soil pH, sunlight availability, or which soil elements are available for growth. So, planting a mixture of food plot seeds in October can be a solid method to understand what seeds do the best on a specific site. And it will also provide deer with a variety of forage types to eat.

Typically these types of mixtures for a fall plot are only going to provide a seasonal benefit, which will be temporary. As a result, perennial seeds aren’t recommended with this type of planting regime and annuals should be selected.

Just about any fall mix of seeds can be beneficial to deer when planted in October. But a good mixture to guarantee use by deer would be crimson clover, iron-clay peas, sunflower, wheat, and oats. This mixture will provide immediate forage availability and some of these seed varieties will provide a more lasting effect as they will resprout after heavy foraging pressure.

Time is ticking away. Disk up the plots well before planting, generously apply a general-purpose fertilizer, and get those seeds lightly covered up. Get that October food plot established now.

About Jeff Burleson 1310 Articles
Jeff Burleson is a native of Lumberton, N.C., who lives in Myrtle Beach, S.C. He graduated from N.C. State University with a degree in fisheries and wildlife sciences and is a certified biologist and professional forester for Southern Palmetto Environmental Consulting.

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