There are dozens of questions in the deer-hunting world that revolve around food plots. What to plant? Where to plant it? When to plant? Annuals or perennials? And the list goes on and one with no end in sight. One question we need to ask ourselves is whether or not a food plot is a necessity on your property
The answer is not as straightforward as you might imagine. Whether or not a food plot is necessary essentially depends on what your goal is on your property, how your property is set up, and if you have the time to manage it. Food plots take time, effort, and money to plant, maintain, and monitor. Even though some forages may say that you can sow the seeds and walk away, I can assure you that for best results that’s something you don’t want to do. Also, factor in that not all properties have open areas suitable for tilling and planting. In this instance, lanes and tillable areas need to be cleared. This is another expense that also takes time and money.
However, food plots are absolutely worth it if you have the time and money to put into them. They provide nutrients and forages that are not always available naturally. It’s no doubt that these forages have been scientifically proven to benefit whitetail deer, as well as other game and non-game species. A food plot is not always for hunting purposes. The primary goal is to provide nutrients to the herd and provide a benefit for the bucks, does, and fawns. This includes skeletal growth and milk production. In some instances food plots can be hunted over but you can easily spook deer from using these areas. The goal is to provide nutrients so you don’t want the deer herd to be shy about visiting your plots.
If you’re someone who only has a couple of weekends a year to hunt and is only able to spend a limited amount of time working on your property, then you may be better off implementing another type of habitat management that takes less time, such removing “trash trees” like sweet gums and ash trees. This will open up the tree canopy allowing more sunlight to penetrate to the forest floor and more nutrients to be absorbed by mast producing trees such as white and red oaks. Mineral sites, trail camera surveys, and other types of management can be conducted as well. While food plots are incredibly beneficial, it’s important to note that there is more to wildlife and habitat management than just food plots.
So to come full circle, food plots are not necessary to grow and manage wildlife on your property but they are certainly worth it if you can make it happen. I would recommend doing anything within reason to plant food plots. Whether or not you’re able to plant food plots shouldn’t sway you from making improvements on your property to enhance the habitat and the overall hunting on your property. I’ve yet to speak with anyone who has implemented a management plan on their property and regretted it.