Food plots provide supplemental feeding to deer in order to fulfill nutritional needs for increased body weight and antler production. When planted near cover, food plot seeds provide crops that concentrate animals in one area for viewing or hunting. Various types of seed are available from farm suppliers, co-ops and sporting good stores in both pure and mixed forms.
Deer are classified as omnivorous opportunists, meaning they will eat on any available vegetation, choosing several different types of plants if possible. As long as farmers have produced crops, deer have caused crop damage. According to Food Plots, an informational website, an influx of information on the improvement of food plots for whitetail deer has been published since 2000. An increased market for food plot seeds has introduced a wide variety of seed mixes and packaged seed brands for planting.
According to the Kentucky Habitat Improvement Program, planting food plot seed near areas of cover helps concentrate animals for viewing or hunting. In addition to conservation purposes, some farmers plant food plot seed in order to draw deer away from the cash crop. For example, a planting of clover may draw deer away from the main crop of soybeans.
Food plots help deer to maintain proper weight during the summer lactation period and severe winters. The usage of various types of food plot seed throughout the year provides a year-round nutritional supplementation for deer populations.
Suppliers offer many different varieties of deer plot seed. Not all seeds are viable or efficient for growth in all areas of the United States. The average rainfall and frost-free growing days may limit the planting of certain types of seed. Some varieties of food plot seed are only grown during the summer, while others make excellent winter food sources. Gardeners and farmers should consider the various types of seeds and the planting methods when choosing a food plot seed. For example, a mix of a spring and summer seed variety increases the function of one planting by extending it through two seasons. Types of food plot seed include corn, milo, winter wheat, rye, alfalfa, clover, soybeans, brassicas and legumes.
The planting of food plot seed for deer requires equipment and materials, such as a tractor, farming implements and fuel. As of 2010, Food Plots estimates that planting five acres in corn and clover costs $325 a year, if completely planted each year. The addition of soybeans to the acreage increases the cost to $400 a year.
Deer prefer to remain close to cover, which explains why they are often seen grazing where trees meet cropland. The ideal planting application for food plot seed is in an irregular and narrow strip of land rather than a large square field. Increasing the perimeter of the food plot and reducing the inner areas provides a greater amount of ideal grazing for deer.