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Getting Your Fall Food Plot Ready for Deer Season

Two whitetail deer in a food plot. On the right, a buck is eating while the other buck is looking out into the forest.

Food plots are a great way to attract and hold deer on your property and can be planted in the spring, summer and fall. Knowing what to plant and when can be boiled down to a few simple strategies. Spring and summer plots are great for the nutritional needs of nursing does and bucks growing their antlers. High protein food plots such as clover, alfalfa, soybeans, etc. are perfect for spring and summertime. As the season begins to change, so do the nutritional needs of deer. The habits of hunters also begin to change. Hunters have spent all year preparing for the fall hunting season and now it’s time to capitalize. When temperatures start to drop, deer will transition to food with higher carbohydrate content, ie. acorns, grains, brassicas, etc. Knowing what to plant and when will help hunters be in the right place at the right time.

What to Plant?

KZone setup a Spartan GoLive M in a food plot.

Image of the Spartan GoLive M

Since this blog is hitting at the perfect time to plant fall plots, let’s start there. A couple of strategies are at play with the ideal fall plot. You want attraction during hunting season and nutrition to carry the deer through winter. Then, you’ll want to transition as the needs of the deer change in the spring. Fall plots: I have 3 go-to fall plots. 2 are annuals, meaning they have to be replanted each year, and one is perennial, meaning the plant comes back year after year.

#1 consists of annual clovers and cereal grains.

Throughout much of the country, crimson clover is known as a favorite among deer and turkeys alike. Adding cereal grains such as wheat and oats to your crimson clover will have your plot attracting deer through the fall, winter and well into the next summer. If managed properly, the crimson clover will reseed itself and can be overseeded with more wheat the following fall for an easily maintained yearly plot.

#2 is a brassica blend that includes purple top turnips, and daikon radish.

Radishes seem to be preferred by deer and are attractive in the fall, but will not persist through hard winter. As winter wears on, it’s inevitable that the deer will target the turnips which provide late-season attraction and high-carb nutrition. I usually add wheat to this mix to extend the attractiveness on through winter.

#3 is an old-timer’s favorite. Perennial clover such as Ladino white clover and medium red clover.

These 2 varieties mature at different times of the year and only have to be established once. If maintained properly they will last 5+ years. When establishing, include wheat as a nurse crop to help protect the young clover plants and to provide attraction the first fall as the perennial plants develop their deep roots that help them survive year after year.

When should I start Planting my fall food plot?

Arming the trail camera in the food plot.

Image of the Spartan GoLive M

Late July to early or mid-September is ideal for states in the northern or mid zones. This guarantees that there is enough time before the weather changes for the seeds to germinate and get established. Southern states have a bit more time to start planning their plots out. The ideal growing period in Georgia, where the Spartan Camera offices are located, is right around mid-August to early or mid-November.

Spring Plots: I’m not a fan of spring-planted food plots. Weed competition is too great to overcome many times. A few options for spring-planted plots would be Round-up ready Alfalfa and corn. Alfalfa is highly attractive in summer and early fall as well as super high in protein, but it loses its attractiveness and nutritional value after frost. It’s also very expensive to establish and maintain. Corn…. well it’s like candy to a deer in the fall. It’s high in carbohydrates but has little to any nutritional value in the growing season. It’s also very expensive to plant and manage and is an annual so it has to be replanted each year.

Summer Plots: In most of the country the primary summer plots will consist of beans, peas, and possibly buckwheat with some exotic type plantings such as sun hemp. These summer planted plots typically are very high in protein and highly attractive during the growing season. Soybeans are very popular and roundup varieties planted in large enough plots can be kept weed free, persist through browse pressure and provide wintertime (hunting season) attraction from the actual bean pods.

Taking out the GoLive 2 in Realtree Edge from a storage case for the deer season.

Now that your plots are planted, it’s time to monitor them for growth, pests such as armyworms, groundhogs, etc, as well as scouting so you know what deer are using the plots and how they're coming and going. However, I don’t mean visiting the plots for all of that. With fuel prices where they are, I visit my farm less and less it seems. I also believe in providing the deer with a stress-free environment to maximize their growth potential. This is where Spartan Camera comes in. The Spartan GoLive 2 is a great way to monitor your fall food plots. With all the classic features of our GoLive, the GoLive 2 gives you live streaming and features an all-new 96° wide-angle lens. Never miss an inch when you set up a GoLive 2 on your food plot. Looking for a multicarrier trail camera? The GoLive 2M is our multicarrier series model. Get all the same features from the GoLive 2 without being tied down to a specific carrier.

Your next job is simple, plan the attack! Once the conditions are right and that trophy buck you’ve been growing for several years starts showing up in daylight you are able to slip in and capitalize on all the hard work!

Good luck this fall.

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