Now is the time for deer enthusiasts in the state to gear up for hunting season.
Dwayne Elmore, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension wildlife specialist, said planting a food plot is one tool deer hunters should consider to increase the number of deer on their property.
“A food plot is an agricultural planting that is done to attract wildlife,” said Elmore.
Some of the misconceptions are that food plots will produce bigger antler size or better body condition. However, under only rare situations will this be the case.
“Because the food plots are not so effective in increasing body condition and animal health, except in certain circumstances, we don’t really emphasize summer food plots as much as we do winter food plots,” Elmore said. “If you’re trying to harvest more does on your property, then winter food plots are really effective.”
Planting annuals like winter wheat or rye are very cost-effective and are well-adapted to the Oklahoma climate. Perennials, such as clover or other legumes, are more expensive but last for several years.
“If you’re objective is to only attract animals for harvest the plot probably doesn’t need to be very large, maybe an acre or two acres, at the most,” said Elmore.
Animals can consume plots smaller in size very rapidly. Bare ground will cause people to think their plot was unsuccessful, but that is not always the truth.
“When planting, put a small cage (woven wire mesh about 3-feet by 3-feet) around some forage to keep out deer and rabbits to see how well it grows,” he said. “A lot of times you will see the bare ground is caused by the deer and rabbits consuming the forage.”
Elmore said there is not necessarily a need for a lot of plots on the landscape if the habitat is in good condition. Also, if the habitat is not in the best shape, there are different options, other than simply planting a bunch of plots.
“I would advise people to spend the vast majority of their resources, time and money, on prescribed fire and thinning their forest, and use food plots as a tool in the tool box but not the primary tool to manage for whitetails,” Elmore said.