Whitetail Food: Food Plots

White-tailed deer can be attracted to food plots. The establishment and maintenance of food plots can be a component of any wildlife management plan. When used in conjunction with other habitat management techniques, food plots are useful for attracting wildlife. However, landowners may have unrealistic expectations about the utility and function of food plots. Food plots are not a replacement for habitat management. They can enhance your property for wildlife by increasing the numbers that frequent your property at different times of the year. Food plots can also be a supplemental food source during harsh weather conditions when they are a part of a comprehensive wildlife management plan.

Much of the current literature regarding the use and necessity of food plots originates from the southeastern United States. Soil fertility and water abundance in the southeast are relatively poor compared to those found in Indiana. Research confirms that the presence and condition of many wildlife species are correlated to soil. Soil fertility is an indicator of food quality and quantity. Food supplementation can be important for managing wildlife in the Southeast; however, in the Midwest, wildlife populations are not as dependent upon supplemental food plots, although they will use supplements if available. Productive glaciated soils found in the Midwest support a bounty of food for white-tailed deer and other wildlife in areas with a mixture of agricultural crops, woodlots, and old fields.

Establishing food plots can be a costly endeavor. Therefore, it is important to understand what food plots can do. Food plots can potentially attract more deer to an area, they increase the chance of seeing one or more mature deer that have large racks, and they can potentially concentrate deer during the hunting season, especially if the food plot is planted to a winter crop such as winter oats, wheat, or rye. In addition, food plots can provide a supplemental food source for deer that might be important during harsh winters or when hard mast failures occur. This is true for corn in particular, but also for winter wheat and sometimes grain sorghum.