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Q & A: Food plot advice from Texas Wildlife Unlimited Biologists

       
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Our Texas Wildlife Unlimited Biologists are often being asked for advice concerning the food plots on their hunting properties. Here are a few examples of questions I have recieved, along with their coresponding answers.  If you have any questions or comments please send them to landownerservices@texaswildlifeunlimited.com.

Q:  My family has a small place in D'Hanis, TX, which is west of Hondo. I was just wondering what would be a good deer plot for that area, just to draw in a few more deer. I am thinking about putting a few plots in a small field and a few senderos. I have heard of clover and some others but would just like an opinion from someone who knows what they are talking about. If you could send me back an answer it would be greatly appreciated. 
 
Thank you for your time, 
Brandon Wiemers 

A:  Clover is a great food plot species, but I would not recommendit for your neck of the woods.  Clover seed is expensive and can be tricky to plant.  It is a perennial which is why it is worth paying extra for and if planted right will last several years.  However in drier regions there is little chance of most clovers surviving more than one season.  It is also a high protein deer forage which means it is more valuable in the spring in larger nutrition plots.  If your goal is to simply draw deer into an area for harvest I would recommend planting cold hardy oats (most oat varieties today are cold hardy).   There are few forage crops that attract deer better than oats.  In addition to being a highly palatable nutrition source for white-tailed deer oats are less costly to plant and require less maintenance to ensure growth throughout the hunting season.  Just for good measure I would also plant rye in with your oats.  Make sure not to plant your rye to deep.  While oats will do well when planted to up to 3/4"; deep all you need to do when planting rye is too make sure there is good seed to soil contact.   There are three issues normally encountered when planting food plots in your region.  One is bermudagrass invasion and since you are planting in the fall we don't have to worry about that.  Another is dry weather.  This is often out of our control but try your best to find a low area with deep soil that is somewhat prone to holding water for a planting site.  Lastly is over browsing.  You are a little west of what is traditionally thought of as the hill country where deer numbers are higher than anywhere else in the country, and east of Bracketville where since an out break of anthrax less than a decade ago deer numbers have not been what they used to be, so I'm not sure exactly what to expect as far as deer densities in D'Hanis go, but I would imagine it is still higher than most areas of the state.   Oats are resistant to heavy grazing, but this can still be a problem with food plots in that area.  To adjust for high deer densities one can plant bigger plots and double the recommended seeding rate (if you do so be sure to also double the recommended amount of fertilizer as well).

 Without seeing exactly what you have to work with, I would recommend planting a mixture of oats and rye in a low lying area using aggressiveseeding/ fertilization rates.  See how it goes and make adjustments for next year, but if your goal is strictly deer attraction do not waste money on clover.  If you have any other questions let me know. 

-Texas Wildlife Unlimited Biologists

 

 

Q:     It’s almost June and I was wondering if it is too late to plant sunflowers for dove food plots.  I was also wondering if you had any advice for waterfowl plantings.  We have a few small ponds on our property which is in Winnie, TX.    Thanks  

A:  It is not too late to plant Peredovik Black oil sunflower, but it is getting close.  If you can plant in the next 2-3 weeks I say go ahead and plant, but order your seed ASAP.   The peredovik sunflower seeds that are sold for germination and not bird feed will become hard to find as the planting season comes to an end.  Devillier's seed in Winnie is a supplier that I have done business with and probably can help you out.  Do not buy native perennial sunflower seed for this fall.  These seeds contain a germination inhibitor that is worn down only after being planted in the fall and subjected to the cold wet weather of winter, which allows for germination the following spring.  I would also recommend planting milo in with your sunflowers. If you are not able to plant within the next few weeks Japanese/ Brown top millet is an excellent choice that grows rapidly and can be planted in mid summer for September dove plots.The extent to which you can plant a waterfowl food plot depends on your ability to adjust the water depth of your pond.  If you can draw down the water level to 6 in or less broadcast Japanese millet over the pond liberally.  If you can completely drain your pond plant the millet the same as you would on dry ground.  The ducks will love it. As far as planting the edges of your pond I would recommend planting types of vegetation that will maximize the amount of cover surrounding the pond.  Tall thick plants such as switch grass will make ducks feel concealed and safe when they land in your pond. 

 

-Texas Wildlife Unlimited Biologists

 Q:        Help: I am hunting in East Texas for the first time in many years on my dads 60 acre ranch. And I am going to plant a small oat patch. I was wanting to know what else would be good to plant with the oats, maybe peas or peanuts I don't know. Also when is the best time to plant? Oh we have had this place for 30 yeas and there aint a lot of deer on it. What I would really like to start doing is trying to hunt here every year not just on the years that I don't have the money to get on a southwest Texas lease.

Thanks for any help I can get.   -Randy 

 

 A:       Randy,

 My favorite mix for fall planting in east Texas consists of oats, chicory, and clover.  However, I recommend you stick to oats for the first season in order to judge the success of your food plot.  Chicory and clover are perennials and should come back each fall and spring for several years if properly planted, but are comparatively expensive seeds.  

Oats are relatively easy to plant and will be very effective when it comes to drawing deer into a specific area for harvest.  Be sure to purchase a cold hardy variety of oats to ensure they last through out the winter (most varieties these days are cold hardy).  

 Use this oat patch to test for potential problems so that in coming years if you decide to plant perennials you will know what to expect.  For example: if hogs completely destroy your food plot soon after planting you will need to come up with some sort of exclusion fencing before planting perennials (which when it comes to hogs can be quite difficult).  If at the first signs of warmer temperatures bermuda grass chokes out your oats you will need to cultivate the field with herbicide or using mechanical methods before planting clover and chicory or they won't have a chance the spring after you plant.

Clover and chicory are basicly buffers between warm and cool season plantings.  Each spring clover will be the first to green up providing a high protein food source for deer while chicory will last into early summer and green up again in the fall.  These plants both are high protein sources, but in the fall and winter are not necessary for deer nutrition.  During the cool season deer need high energy food sources (fats and carbohydrates).  

If you are only looking to attract deer for harvest save your money and stick to oats, maybe mix in some rye grass or triticale for good measure.  If you would like to create year round superior nutrition for resident dear, then plant oats this season and take note of the problems that occur with your plot and make the necessary adjustments before investing in perennial plantings.  Any problems that occur when planting oats will be more troublesome when trying to maintain long term plantings.

As for the time of year to plant, wait until temperatures begin to cool off in the fall before sowing your seed.  If the average highs are still in the 90s wait to plant even if it takes until the end of October. 

-Texas Wildlife Unlimited Biologists

 

Q: I read an article on dove strips on www.texashuntfish.com and thought you gave some excellent advice.  I was wondering if I could run some ideas past you and you just tell me what you think.  I am planning on planting a combination of millet, millo, and black sunflower at my property in east Texas, and stagering the plantings so they come up at different times.  I also was planning on keeping each plant species seperate from each other, or should I blend them all together like a mix?

 Also my planting site is on sloping terrain, any suggestions?

 

A: Staggering your plantings is not a bad idea as long as you give each species enough time to mature by dove season.  In most cases I say combine the seeds to make a mix, but in your situation I would recommend utilizing the slopping terrain of your property by planting the millo and millet in low lying areas as the are more siuted for wet conditions, than sunflower.

 

-Texas Wildlife Unlimited Biologists

Comments:

Author:duckwhacker Comment Left:12/20/2006 09:37
This is a really good resource, thanks.
Author:BryceJr Comment Left:08/17/2008 19:29

Im looking for a high protein food source 15 min. from Kerrville. We have a high fence around our food plots,so early grazing isnt a problem. This is my first stab at a food plot and im conserned about getting proper depth with all the rocks. What would you plant to get the most protein and quantity for this area?

Author:EARL GRIFFIN Comment Left:03/08/2009 15:19
I HAVE LAND IN COTTLE CO. WHAT WOULD BE GOOD TO PLANT FOR FOOD PLOTS I HAVE BEEN PLANTING WHEAT
Author:rayrod Comment Left:01/25/2010 13:21

We have a small ranch in Pipes Creek TX near Bandera, we want to plant a small food plot, just to keep the dear around by offering something to eat. What do you think is the best thing to plant in this area? What is the best time for planting?

Author:Lupe Lopez Comment Left:06/30/2011 15:12

Navarro County Texas west of Corsicana Texas,  what would be a good deer plot for that area, just to draw in a few more deer.  I have heard of clover and some others but would just like an opinion from someone who knows what they are talking about. If you could send me back an answer it would be greatly appreciated. 
Thanks Lupe