Food Plots: Sweeten Your Cereal, Keep Deer Coming

Follow these tips to keep your grain plots producing the green, tender forage that draws shooter bucks through the late season

grain plot

If your plot's grains look like this, they're not drawing deer.

Problem: Wheat, oats, and rye have yellowed or grown tall and tough.

Diagnosis: Cereal grains can make terrific late-fall and winter plots, but deer want young, tender, green shoots. The problem behind yellowed plants is likely in the soil. Unless you previously grew clover in the plot, which provides nitrogen, your ground is probably low in this vital nutrient. If you planted too much cereal grain, or the deer ignored the plot because alfalfa, corn, or soybeans were available, it might also have grown tall—past the prime palatability stage of 2 to 5 inches.

Rx: Both problems are easily solved. Remedy the yellowing with an application of 34-0-0 or a similar pure nitrogen fertilizer. If your grains are tall, and the deer won't keep the crop mowed down and continuously producing fresh young shoots, do it yourself. Mow it back to 2 or 3 inches. Cut in sections or strips five to 10 days apart so there are always fresh wheat, oat, or rye shoots emerging.

Preventative M****edicine: Grow clover in the plot before planting cereal grains to boost the nitrogen content. Then add 19-19-19 or a similar fertilizer when planting grains to keep the soil balance right. Monitor and apply extra nitrogen at the first sign of yellowing—generally once or twice each winter. Optionally, mix in annual clovers such as arrowleaf, crimson, or berseem with the cereal grains to boost nitrogen content and enhance the taste appeal. The more animals you have foraging in your plots, the less likely your crops are to grow tall and tough—and get skipped over by shooter bucks.