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Carbs for deer season.

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This is a small food plot in the middle of a large stand of timber. The forage soybeans are heavily browsed by deer outside the electric fence but producing lots of pods inside the fence, where there is no browse pressure. During deer season, simply remove the fence to give deer access to a great source of carbohydrates!

Last month I wrote about The Big Switch. This was a reference to when deer have a drastic change in dietary preference from foods rich in protein to carbohydrates. This change in food preference occurs about the same time bucks shed their antler velvet.

I consider this information very valuable to hunters and land managers. Knowing what deer prefer to eat during different times of the year helps us scout, hunt and manage habitat.

Most folks consider grains, such as corn, sources of carbohydrates. Corn is a good source of carbohydrates. However, it isn't practical to be grown in many food plots. Corn is expensive to grow and doesn't provide any nutritional value for months while the grain is developing. I don't have enough acres for food plots to set aside a portion of them to only serve one purpose: produce carbohydrates to attract deer.

A Great Alternative

A great alternative to corn is forage soybeans. Deer crave the protein-rich forage during the warmer months, and the grain (soybean pods rich in oil) during the cooler periods of deer season. So unlike corn, forage soybeans attract and feed deer throughout the spring, summer, fall and winter as long as the food plot produces enough forage and grain to feed the local deer herd.

I use an electric fence to protect the beans in smaller plots or where the local deer population might damage young soybeans by over browsing. This allows pods to be saved to attract deer during the late season. I use a solar-powered electric fence that has a unique design produced by Non-Typical Wildlife Solutions. It has one strand of electric fence about 18 inches off the ground away from the crop and two strands of electric fence about eight and 24 inches off the ground next to the crop I wish to protect. The two layers of this fence are separated by three feet.

I simply take down the fence (or at least take down one side) a few days before I want to allow deer to feed on the pods. This serves as a great funnel, like a low spot in a cattle fence.

Another Option

Another option is to plant forage that isn't normally palatable to deer until the temperatures cool down. Most of the bulb-producing brassicas fit this description. Unless deer are hungry, they often won't eat brassicas until mid to late bow season. Brassicas are very easy to plant and grow in a wide range of conditions.

Brassicas also work well as part of a blend. I often use a blend that includes radishes, wheat and brassicas (Eagle Seed's Broadside blend). Deer tend to be attracted to the radish forage during the early season, then the wheat, and finally the brassicas (both forage and the tubers) during the mid to late season. Using such blends often attracts deer during both warm and cold temperatures.

This serves as a great funnel, like a low spot in a cattle fence.

Another huge advantage of using this blend has to do with improving the quality of future hunts. I simply kill whatever forage is left over during the spring and plant a warm season crop. As the brassica and wheat decompose it adds very high-quality fertilizer to the soil. Fall food plots are ideal cover crops, and cover crops are probably the hottest and most beneficial trend in row crop agriculture!

Best of Both Worlds

Now, let's modify this plan to include the best of both worlds! I often broadcast the blend of radishes, wheat and brassicas over a stand of soybeans. This provides grain during the cooler days and greens during the warmer days. This combination of grains and greens keeps deer coming to the same plot no matter the weather conditions.

The cover crop also "mines" or extracts nutrients from the soil that might leach too deep in the soil profile for the crop next year to reach. This soybean/fall blend is a win/ win/win for deer, deer hunters and improving the soil!

Many folks believe food plots are only for areas that are primarily timber and that they have limited value in areas where lots of com and soybeans are grown. It's true that food plots can allow deer to express more of their antler growth potential in areas where quality forage is limited. In fact, research has shown that as little as 3 percent of an area in quality food plots can make a noticeable difference in body weights and antler size.

But food plots can also improve deer herd health and a hunter's ability to pattern deer in an area with intensive row-crop agriculture. Most com and soybeans aren't planted until mid to late spring and are harvested during the early to mid fall. Unless there's a good cover crop, these fields don't produce much food during the winter months. This means deer can lose a lot of weight and be very difficult to pattern as they are forced to search over large areas to find spilled grain or other food sources.

Knowing what food sources deer prefer during different times of the year and conditions helps managers provide quality habitat, and hunters can scout and pattern deer much more easily!

BY DR. GRANT WOODS
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Title Annotation:WHITE TAILS
Author:Woods, Grant
Publication:Petersen's Bowhunting
Date:Aug 31, 2016
Words:936
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