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The Ultimate Guide to the Best Fall Food Plot Mixes for Deer in North Carolina

June 29, 2023

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When it comes to managing deer populations, whether you’re a hunter, wildlife enthusiast, or landowner, food plots play a pivotal role. Providing high-quality forage during the fall can improve deer health and attract more deer to your property. In North Carolina, a variety of food plot mixes are suitable for fall planting. This article will explore some of the best choices and discuss tips for successful food plot management.

I. Understanding the Importance of Fall Food Plots

Fall food plots provide crucial nutrients that help deer prepare for the harsh winter months. A well-managed food plot can support better body condition, antler growth, and overall herd health. Additionally, food plots can serve as a strategic tool for deer hunters, attracting deer to specific locations and improving hunting success.

II. Selecting the Right Food Plot Mix

Different food plot mixes offer varying nutrients and are attractive to deer at different times of the fall and winter. When selecting a mix, consider the soil type and condition, the local climate, and the preferences of local deer populations.

Here are some top choices for fall food plots in North Carolina:

  1. Brassicas: Brassicas, such as turnips, radishes, and rape, are a favorite among deer. They offer high nutritional value and are particularly attractive to deer after the first frost, which causes the plants’ starches to turn into sugars.
  2. Clover: Clover is another excellent choice for fall food plots. It’s highly nutritious and palatable to deer. While some clover varieties are perennial, annual types like crimson and arrowleaf can be planted in the fall.
  3. Cereal Grains: Cereal grains like oats, rye, and wheat are easy to grow and provide both forage and cover for deer. These grains stay green into the winter, providing a consistent food source when other forages may be scarce.
  4. Specialty Deer Mixes: Many companies offer specialty deer mixes designed to provide balanced nutrition and attract deer. These mixes often contain a combination of brassicas, legumes, and cereal grains.

III. Planting and Managing Your Food Plot

Once you’ve chosen your food plot mix, it’s time to plant. Here are some general guidelines:

  1. Soil Testing: Conduct a soil test to determine the pH and nutrient levels of your plot. This can guide your fertilization and liming practices to create optimal soil conditions for your chosen mix.
  2. Timing: For fall food plots in North Carolina, planting typically takes place in late summer or early fall. This gives the plants enough time to establish before winter.
  3. Maintenance: Monitor your food plot regularly to check for signs of disease or pest issues. Consider fencing off the plot until plants are well-established if over-browsing is a problem.
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IV. Tailoring Your Food Plot Mix to Your Planting Method

The method you use to plant your food plot can influence which seed mix you choose. Some seeds are better suited to planting with a drill, while others can perform well in a no-till setup. Here are some recommendations for both methods:

A. Food Plot Mix for Planting with a Drill

When you’re using a drill to plant your food plot, you can opt for a mix that includes larger seeds, as the drill will ensure they get the proper soil contact and planting depth. A good combination mix might include cereal grains and legumes.

  1. Cereal Grains: Wheat, oats, and rye are larger seeds that drill planters handle well. These grains are attractive to deer and provide a steady food source into the winter.
  2. Legumes: Adding a legume like Austrian winter peas can provide an additional source of nutrition. Winter peas are palatable to deer and can withstand cooler temperatures.

An example mix might be 60% cereal grains (a mix of wheat, oats, and rye) and 40% Austrian winter peas. This mix will offer both immediate forage from the grains and later-maturing forage from the peas.

B. Food Plot Mix for No-Till Planting

No-till planting can be a great option if you have limited equipment or want to minimize soil disruption. In this case, opt for a seed mix with smaller seeds that can germinate without being buried too deep in the soil.

  1. Clover: Clover seeds are small and can germinate well with minimal soil contact. Consider using a mix of clover varieties to extend the attractiveness of the plot throughout the fall and winter.
  2. Brassicas: Brassicas like turnips and radishes can also do well with no-till planting. Their seeds are small enough to establish without deep soil incorporation.
  3. Annual Ryegrass: While not as nutritious as some other options, annual ryegrass can be a good addition to a no-till plot because of its aggressive growth and ability to thrive with minimal soil contact.

An example no-till mix might be 40% clover, 40% brassicas, and 20% annual ryegrass. This mix offers a range of forages that will attract deer from early fall through the winter.

Remember, the success of any food plot depends not just on the seed mix you choose but also on proper preparation and maintenance. Tailoring your seed mix to your planting method can help ensure a productive food plot that supports the local deer population.

V. Conclusion

Fall food plots play a crucial role in deer management and hunting strategy. The right mix can provide essential nutrition for deer and attract them to your property. Brassicas, clover, cereal grains, and specialty deer mixes all offer valuable benefits and can be successful choices for fall food plots in North Carolina.

However, remember that a successful food plot goes beyond just planting the right seeds. Proper soil preparation, planting timing, and ongoing plot management are all vital components of the process.

By creating and managing a fall food plot, you’re investing in the health of the local deer population and increasing your chances of a successful hunting season.

Note: Always check with local wildlife management or Extension Service professionals for specific recommendations and regulations related to food plots and deer management in your area.