March 20, 2017
There are many ways to improve white-tailed deer habitat. One of those ways is planting agricultural crops in food plots. Food plots are only one component of deer habitat management. Other components include prescribed fire, thinning pines, and promote diversity of trees, shrubs, and grasses. Food plots are used as either attractants or supplemental nutrition. Most food plots are cool-season food plots. Cool season food plots are typically used as attractants, primarily, although they do provide some supplemental nutrition in one critical nutritional time for deer. Cool season plants chosen are highly desirable by deer. Warm season food plots are typically used as supplemental nutrition to the deer population, providing nutrition when population numbers are highest and deer are nutritionally stressed due to antler growth and fawn rearing. Plants are chosen for their nutritional value as well as palatability. When selecting plants, we should look at Crude Protein (CP). White-tailed deer need a minimum of 17% CP for maximum body and antler growth and browse in Florida flatwood habitats only average 7.7% CP.
Site selection and soil prep
Warm season plots are typically larger in size than cool season plots. Three acres or more are desirable to provide adequate nutrition. Depending on deer densities in areas, 5-10 acre plots may be needed. Site selection is important. An area should be chosen where soils will hold moisture but not be saturated during wet weather periods.
Soil tests should be performed months in advance to planting. Soil pH will take time to adjust. To take a soil sample, obtain the following items:
- One non-metal bucket
- A soil probe, soil auger or shovel
- Newspaper or paper towels
- Soil sample bag or plastic bag
Using the soil probe, auger or shovel, take 10-20 subsamples per plot from the top 6-8 inches of topsoil. Mix these subsamples in the bucket. Spread the sample onto newspaper or paper towels to dry. When dry, fill the soil sample bag and ship to a trusted commercial lab or contact your local Extension Agent for instructions on sending it to the University of Florida Extension Soils Testing Lab for analysis. For more information about soil fertility, see EDIS pub SL248, Soil Fertility Management in Wildlife Food Plots(http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/SS/SS46800.pdf).
There are a lot of options for plants that can be used. It is important to choose plants that are best suited for your unique situation. You will need to evaluate your soils, your time and your money and decide what you are willing to invest into the food plots.
|Forage||Lb/ac||Planting Dates||Planting Depth|
|Perennial Peanut||80 bu/ac||February-May||1 ½ – 2-inch|
|Alyceclover||15-20 broadcast15-17 drilled||April-June||¼ to ½-inch|
|Jointvetch||20-25 broadcast5-8 drilled||March -June||½ to ¾ -inch|
|Forage Soybeans||50-70 broadcast30-50 drilled||April -June||½ to 1-inch|
|Iron Clay Peas||100-120 broadcast30-40 drilled||May-June||¼ to ½-inch|
|Brown Top Millet||25-30 broadcast15-20 drilled||May-Aug||½-inch|
|Lablab||20 broadcast||April -June||½ to 1-inch|