If you planted your food plots in spring—and they’re anything smaller than a full-scale production ag field—odds are pretty good that your forage has taken a serious beating by late summer/early fall. With deer season right around the corner, this is the time to charge that plot one more time.
I’m a big fan of utilizing a single plot for multiple crops throughout a season. With the exception of clover, it’s nearly impossible for a food plot to sustain even moderate browse pressure and still produce during October and November. Sure, you can wait and do a late fall planting, and that’s a great option in some situations. But you’ll almost always benefit by planting a spring crop, allowing deer to establish that food source in their daily routine throughout summer, and then replanting in late summer and early fall for maximum attraction in the fall. But what to plant? For me, the options are simple: Oats, wheat and brassicas.
The cereal grains (oats and wheat) will germinate quickly and begin drawing deer almost as soon as they sprout. Oats are a particular favorite of mine for October bowhunting here in Michigan. For whatever reason, oats outdraw any other green food source I’ve tried in October, but they get eaten quickly, and once a hard freeze hits they die out. Winter wheat is more cold-tolerant and will produce similar forage. Some of my hunting buddies swear by winter wheat. I, on the other hand, have had better luck with oats, but that could be a product of my soil type.
Along with oats or wheat, mix in your favorite blend of brassicas — turnips, kale, radishes, sugar beets, etc. The brassicas will grow more slowly than the oats or wheat, and the deer generally won’t bother the brassicas much until after a couple of good frosts.
Planting is straightforward. Spray the plot to kill any weeds and remaining vegetation from your spring planting. There’s no need to disc or till. Simply broadcast the seed using an ATV-mounted spreader, then drag the seed for good soil contact. Planting just prior to a heavy rain is wise, too.
Fertilize the seed when you plant—this will ensure that the fertilizer is available to seedling roots where it’s most needed. Hang a camera or two over the plot location and count down the days until the opener.
About the Author: Tony Hansen manages for and hunts mature whitetails in his home state of Michigan, where sweating the details is the only way to succeed. When not hunting his own properties, he can be found pursuing deer on public land throughout the whitetail’s range. Tony’s writings have appeared in Outdoor Life, Traditional Bowhunter, North American Whitetail, and Bowhunter.