Just because winter is over, don't forget about planting food plots for wildlife. Planting plots now will provide food for wildlife throughout summer and fall and can provide cover for some species, according to Jim Armstrong, Alabama Extension wildlife specialist and associate professor of Forest and wildlife services, Auburn University.
“Wildlife needs both forage high in protein and grains high in carbohydrates,” he notes.
“Warm-season forages eaten by deer, rabbits and groundhogs include alyceclover, American jointvetch, buckwheat, cowpeas, essex rape and forage-type turnips. Deer love soybeans, but soybeans don't do well under browsing pressure, especially in small plots less than two acres.”
Combination plots are recommended over single-species plantings; such plots lengthen the foraging period, and if diseases or insects impact one crop, other crops will remain.
Brooding wild turkeys and bobwhite quail benefit from warm-season forage plots by feeding on insects throughout spring and summer, says Armstrong.
Preferred grains by bobwhite quail, doves, wild turkeys and deer include corn, grain sorghum (milo) and millets (browntop, foxtail and white proso). Grain from these crops provide energy from late summer through winter.
Deer and turkeys can get to food when the plant is erect, but doves cannot. Bushhogging several strips through the plots will make grain available to these birds throughout fall and winter.
“Make sure wildlife food plots are not visible from roads,” Armstrong says. “This reduces poaching and may help keep wildlife away from traffic.”
Before planting food plots, have the soil tested and follow soil-test recommendations for lime and fertilizer. Liming corrects soil acidity, improves availability of nutrients and improves nitrogen fixation by legumes.
Nitrogen is necessary for high-protein levels, while phosphorus, potassium, sulfur and other nutrients enable plants to use nitrogen efficiently.
“To allow nitrogen fixation, inoculate legumes with species-specific inoculant prior to planting,” Armstsrong says. Properly inoculated seeds may produce more than 100 pounds of nitrogen per acre.
“Don't drill or cover seeds too deeply. Drill or cover grains by disking 1 inch deep. Cover small-seeded species no more than one-fourth inch. After sowing these seeds, cultipack the seedbed again to insure firm seed-to-seed contact.”