The Season for Planting Fall Food Plots has Arrived...
Just a little over a month ago there were still fields that were being planted with corn and soybeans here in Southern Iowa. With such a late arrival of summer this year and lingering spring rains, local farmers and food plant planters alike really struggled to get crops planted. So it is really hard to imagine that the time to plant fall food plots is already here. Never the less, here we are. I spent the majority of last weekend working with friends to get food plots in the ground and I know several other hunting buddies that worked hard all week getting their plots planted.
If you are planting any variety of brassicas in your fall plots, now is the optimal time to get the seed in the ground. These plants grow rapidly during the hot temperatures of late-summer, as long as they get adequate moisture. So if turnips, radishes, rape seed, kale, etc. are on your grocery list for the fall you need to get to work. This is also a great time to plant some forage soybeans and cow peas. You will not get a high yield on your pods but the deer will readily consume the new green growth.
If cereal grains such as oats, rye, and wheat are what you intend to plant it is my personal opinion that you should wait a few more weeks. These plants grow very quickly under the right conditions. When planted too early the forage will be very tall come the fall hunting season. My observations have led me to believe that deer prefer these plants when they are young and tender. Once they approach 12 inches in height they begin to get a little more fibrous and less palatable. If I were to pick an ideal time for planting these grains for hunting purposes in the Midwest it would be right before the last rain in August or the first rain in September. Just keep your fingers crossed for a well timed rain.
The last plant variety that I will discuss for the fall is clover. The fall is a great time to establish a perennial food plot such as clover or a clover blend. I would use the same timeframe as stated for the cereal grains to plant. The cool temperatures and increased rainfall before winter will provide great conditions for the plot to take root with minimal risk of “burning up” that can occur with a spring planting. The downside of planting clover this time of year is that perennial plants are usually slow starters. So if you are relying on them for a fall hunting food source you may be stuck with a plot that produces a small volume of feed. To mitigate this issue I always use an annual cover crop of brassicas and/or cereal grains. The cover crop will help protect your loose soil, take pressure off of your young perennial plants that are trying to establish, and give you a good supply of food to hunt over.
Fall food plots are a great addition to any property and will greatly increase your odds of catching a glimpse of a trophy whitetail. If you have not yet begun planning your fall plantings here is your reminder. The window for planting a successful fall plot will be closing fairly soon so time to put some ideas into action. With the majority of our plots in the ground I will be spending the remainder of my summer watching the weather and hoping for rain.
Corey J. Wilkinson