Whitetail Love Food Plots
Nothing makes for better fall hunting that a lush cool season food plot for white-tailed deer in Louisiana. Food plots are a good idea when native habitat is short on adequate food for deer, but both spring and fall plots should be considered as supplemental forages for whitetail. It’s also important to note that plantings should always be part of managing for high quality native foods, not as a replacement. At southern latitudes, planting 3 to 10 percent of an area in different types of forage plots could be considered a management option. Planting less than 2 percent of an area may benefit whitetail, but this size food plot is more for attraction and harvest, which is also an important part of management.
So, what species make for good food plots in Louisiana? This is a major consideration when starting a food plot program. Successful plantings that are available for whitetail throughout the year is best, but most species tend to thrive during the cooler months of the year. This means both cool (fall-winter) and warm (spring-early summer) season plots. When properly prepared, this ensures food is available to whitetail deer during the two most critical times of the year, summer and winter. Typical Louisiana weather provides little rainfall during late summer, but proper plot preparation will ensure healthy, deep-rooted plants.
The goal of food plots is provide supplemental nutrition for deer during stress periods. High quality forage is necessary during warmer months for nursing does and bucks in the later stages of antler development. Bucks need quality food for maximum body performance at this time of the year to reach their genetic potential. Winter conditions finds some deer habitat low on good foods Food plots at this time of the year in Louisiana may provide whitetail with the necessary energy to carry them through until spring green-up.
Cowpeas for Spring Food Plots in Louisiana
When it comes to food plots, cowpeas are hard to beat. They are among the most preferred food items that whitetail will use where they are available. Cowpeas can be row planted or broadcast at the rate of 10-20 pounds per acre. There are several varieties available commercially, and all have maturity dates ranging from mid September to late October. Maturity dates are not of tremendous importance, however. Cowpeas are planted to food plots for their leafy forage. Cowpeas are tops, but keep in mind that very small plots have little chance for establishment on areas with high deer densities.
Lab Lab in Louisiana: Warm Season Plots
Lab Lab is a legume that can be planted to spring and summer food plots for whitetail. Lab lab is known for its tolerance to tough conditions, namely extremely dry conditions. It is a fast-growing perennial species, although it does not readily reseed. Newly established lab lab plants are sensitive to competition, so weed control is necessary if weeds are an issue in your part of Louisiana. Lab lab seeds can be drilled to food plots for deer at 5-10 pounds per acre or broadcast at 10-20 pounds per acre. Soil pH should be 6.5-7.0. It is also recommended that lab lab food plots be fertilized at a rate of 250 pounds per acre with 0-20-20. White-tailed deer love lab lab, which offers great protein levels. That says it all.
Clover for Winter Whitetail Plots
Crimson is not the most celebrated color in Louisiana, but crimson clover works well for deer food plots across the state. This clover serves as a high protein food source during the fall and winter. For this reason, it makes for great deer hunting plots when properly prepared. Typically, crimson clover is seeded in a food plot mixes throughout Louisiana with other cool season annuals. A little clover seed goes a long way. It may be high on a cost per pound basis, but it takes only a small amount of seed to cover an area.
The big advantage of crimson clover in Louisiana is its high tolerance to acidic soils, but try to maintain a soil pH of 6.5-7.5. Managers can help the reseeding of crimson clover by disking or mowing the plot in the fall after initial establishment. After soil disturbance, apply 0-20-20 fertilizer at about 250 pounds per acre. As with any clover, crimson clover seed should be inoculated before planting. Drill at 15 pounds per acre or broadcast at 20 pounds per acre.
Planting Food Plots in Your Corner of Louisiana
It’s been said that food plots are not a cure-all for deer management. This is true, but nothing beats have a lush, green food plot on your property during the antler growing season or during the deer hunting season. Food plots, especially fertilized ones, are magnets for whitetail throughout Louisiana. Although there are numerous seed choices available when it comes to spring and winter food plots for white-tailed deer, land managers must decide what species to buy and plant to achieve desired results.
For food plots in Louisiana, it’s hard to beat cowpeas, lab lab and crimson clover. Cowpeas and lab lab can be planted to spring or winter plots. Although forage production will be limited during the fall for both species, cowpeas and lab lab will provide high quality forage and attract deer. Crimson clover is a great choice for fall and winter plots, especially when mixed in with another species or two, such as oats or turnips.
Combining various seeds is a solid way to provide whitetail with a variety of plants to choose from. Avoid the urge to throw in “everything but the kitchen sink.” Too many seeds will mean that none of the plants do very well. Stick with combinations of 2-4 species in each of your food plots. When thinking about what to plant for deer in your area, consider cowpeas, lab lab and crimson clover.