Deer hunting season is just around the corner.

As the season draws near many hunters will be planting winter food plots. These plots generally consist of a variety of cool season crops, most often small grains and legumes. These plots are beneficial for both hunter and deer.

Food plots provide a source of nutrition for deer through the winter when green browse can become harder to find. By providing a concentrated food source in a known location, the hunter increases his or her likelihood of encountering a deer. When done correctly, winter food plots can provide the deer herd with much needed nutrition well into the spring after the end of hunting season.

There is no solid rule on how big a food plot should be. However, it should be noted that excessively large plots are often wasteful, because deer tend to stay closer to cover associated with the edge of plots, rarely venturing out into the middle of very large plots. Generally speaking, multiple smaller plots, one to five acres, are more effective. Obviously, the more total acreage devoted to food plots the more the nutrition will be provided to the deer herd.

If using a road or pine row for the plot location be sure the opening is at least 50 feet wide to ensure adequate sunshine. Areas that have very sandy soils and areas that are prone to hold standing water should be avoided if possible.

Additionally, when selecting a location for a food plot try to utilize areas where multiple types of habitats intersect. For example, where hardwoods meet planted pines or where a cutover area meets tall timber. These “edges” are frequented by a variety of wildlife species.

Assess and maximize the productivity of the soil in the area. The best way to do this is to have a soil analysis performed. Samples must be collected and sent off to a lab.

The University of Florida Extension Soils Laboratory will analyze a soil sample and send back crop specific fertilizer and liming recommendations for only $7. Contact your local UF/IFAS Extension office for details on how to correctly take soil samples and to get the forms and packaging materials need to send samples to the lab. 

Correctly following the recommendations provided by the soils laboratory will greatly affect how productive and nutritious the crops in your food plot are.

Crops being planted this time of year must be able to grow well in cooler weather. The most common crops used are small grains like oats, wheat, rye, rye grass and clovers like red, white, crimson. These crops and others can all be productive if planted correctly and varieties suited to Florida are used.

It is very important to choose varieties that have been bred and selected for production in Florida. Using crop varieties intended for use in other parts of the country will almost certainly result in crop failure.

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