There are many states that offer excellent hunting, but in this article I am going to talk a bit about food plots for deer in my home state, Texas. Great dove, quail, waterfowl turkey and, of course, white-tailed deer hunting can be found here, and hunting food plots are one way to bring the animals to the hunter. Other plots that can also be hunted on occasion are those whose sole objective are to provide supplemental forage for wildlife.
Texas is a diverse state in terms of a climatic and soils perspective. There are 10 different ecoregions and whitetail deer food plots are better situated for those found in the eastern half of the state. Don’t get me wrong, winter food plots can work just anywhere, but spring plots become more of a crap shoot as you head west.
When it comes to food plots for deer in Texas, temperature, moisture and soil must all be taken into account. Precipitation is usually limiting factor for a food plot, but a number of plants are sensitive to temperature and soil acidity. Before making the seed selection for any food plot, it is important to recognize the specific soil and climatic requirements for various species and choose only those seeds or seed mixes that can handle the micro-climate found on your property.
Generally speaking, supplemental nutrition is most beneficial to white-tailed deer during late summer and late winter, when natural foods are often lacking. Warm season, or spring/summer food plots generally provide good nutrition June through September, when rainfall is adequate. Cool season, winter food plots are typically planted in early to mid-September and are beneficial from October through April of the following year.
Successful food plots for white-tailed deer in Texas can consist of a multitude of plant species depending upon the ecoregion. As mentioned prior, winter food plots are much more dependable than summer food plots because cooler fall temperatures and more predictable rainfall patterns. But just like real estate, location is important. Properties located in the eastern half of the state can expect to get more rain than the western half of the state year-in and year-out. Below are some recommendations for simple Texas food plots:
Winter Food Plots for White-tailed Deer in Texas
Winter can severely limit deer nutrition. Even in Texas, some winters can be extremely harsh, especially those following a dry spring and summer. Small grains make good, simple food plots for whitetail because they are economical and relatively easy to establish. Preferred small grains include oats and wheat, although ryegrass can also be used.
Before planting a any food plot, first learn how to plant a food plot. Then, obtain a soil sample from the area to be planted. Use this information, if applicable, to add lime at the earliest opportunity. Also add and P and K based on the soil test recommendations. Incorporate fertilizer into the seedbed as it is prepared in mid to late summer. In early September to early October, drill small grain seed at a rate of 60 pounds per acre or broadcast at a rate of 120 pounds per acre at a depth of 3/4 to 1 inch in depth. Of course, moisture conditions will determine the exact planting date.
After seeds germinate in the food plot, but before plants reach about 4 inches in height, apply 150 pounds of 34-0-0 fertilizer per acre. This will give the plants a real boost and supply the deer on your property optimal winter forage. Apply an additional 150 pounds per acre in February or March if you want to carrying the food plot through into the spring. Check out the chart below for more winter food plot ideas.
Spring/Summer Food Plots for White-tailed Deer in Texas
Like winter, summer habitat conditions in Texas can also be nutritionally stressful for white-tailed deer, especially in areas where deer density is high. Many landowners actively involved in deer management programs find that spring and summer food plots for deer can be extremely beneficial. Cowpeas are an excellent choice for spring planting across the state, but they are sensitive to low soil pH, P, and K. Cowpeas provide a high quality whitetail food, but once again make sure to get your soil test and properly prepare the soil before planting!
Cowpeas should be planted to a firm, fine seedbed at least 50 pounds of pure live seed (PLS) per acre. Plant these seeds from 3/4 to 1 inch in depth. Cowpea seeds can also be broadcast, but if this planting method is chosen then seed at a rate of 65 pounds of PLS per acre. After broadcasting, roll or lightly disk the summer food plot.
Cowpeas come in many different varieties, but a popular one in Texas is Iron and Clay cowpea. Most cowpeas will continue to actively produce forage until the first killing frost, which sometimes in Texas can take quite some time. Iron and Clay and other cowpeas can provide excellent supplemental feed for hungry deer from spring through late summer and even early fall. Check out the chart above for more summer food plot ideas.