East Texas Ag News: Planting winter food plot for wildlife

Published: Sep. 3, 2021 at 4:20 PM CDT
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LUFKIN, Texas (KTRE) - For most of the state of Texas, dove hunting season has begun and wildlife enthusiasts, both watchers and hunters, would do well to plant a winter food plot for the upcoming opening seasons later this fall.

Whether you hunt or not, this late summer/early fall planting can do several things: attract wildlife, enrich your soil, and beautify your place. For deer, dove, quail and even waterfowl, planting a food plot provides a nutritious choice that will bridge the lean time between acorn availability and spring green-up.

It’s an interesting affair, hunters becoming farmers by planting crops to increase their success of harvest. When speaking to members of deer hunting clubs about having a successful food plot, very few are gardeners, let alone farmers. But to get a successful food plot, many sportsmen chose to do some gardening to be successful.

And it can all do with the options one chooses to plant.

There is all manner of new and special seed combinations sold to bring in white-tailed deer as well as some old favorites that shouldn’t be overlooked. While there are a lot more exotic seed choices out there, consider the tried-and-true ones.

Small grains are a term applied to rye, wheat, and oats. Unlike less desirable grasses such as ryegrass, these grains make early, nutritious growth and can produce an abundance of nutrient-dense seed (grains). Each hunter tends to have a strong preference, but the important thing is to get it planted in a timely manner.

For clovers, try Arrowleaf, Crimson, or Red. Crimson gives the showiest and darkest colors and will bloom earlier in spring. Arrowleaf on the other hand will grow the most forage but can last into early summer and compete with early summer grasses. Winter pea varieties include vetch, Singletary pea and Austrian winter peas.

Greens can include turnip, mustard, rape, and others. If you study the contents of many commercially available wildlife seed blends, they will list a “brassica” seed variety. Brassica is simply the scientific name for the species that includes turnip, mustard, and collard greens! Every local feed store will have these for sale for the fall gardener and you can use them on your food plot just as well.

Clovers and greens are certainly easiest to establish as you can broadcast the seed with minimal soil preparation. They are small seeds and don’t need to be planted deep. Peas and grains on the other hand have a much larger seed and will greatly benefit from heavy disking and being covered one-inch-deep in the ground.

Timing of plantings is critical for successful wildlife food plantings. Many wildlife food plants have differing optimum planting times that are typically only a few weeks in length. Scheduling planting during the range of best planting dates often means the difference between a successful food plot and one that is doomed to failure. For the recommended varieties listed above, a late September to early October planting should work well.

Seeding rates are important. If seeding rates, measured in pounds per acre, are too low, weed competition and germination problems can cause a wildlife food plot to fail. As a rule of thumb, seeding rates for establishing wildlife food plots should be higher than the rates recommended for commercial production of the same variety. Higher seeding rates help to ensure that a significant portion of the seeds germinates and grows.

Nutrient deficiencies in the soil can be corrected by applying the proper rates of fertilizers and lime. The only way to really know how much fertilizer and lime to apply is to have the soil tested.

Proper seed selection and site preparation won’t guarantee a big buck this season but will certainly enhance the nutrient availability and will benefit a variety of wildlife.

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