Perennial food plots: nutritional building blocks for fawns

Judging by the five-plus inches of rain we’ve been blessed and cursed with over the past three days, I’d say that spring has definitely sprung. As I mentioned last week, spring is a vital time in the deer woods, primarily because it kicks off fawning season.

Sometimes, as hunters and wildlife managers, I think we put so much emphasis on bucks, and what we can put into our food plots that will help them grow bigger and better, that we tend to overlook something far more crucial.

Building blocks.

It all begins with doe health, because healthy does produce and rear healthy fawns. In turn, healthy fawns mean high fawn-recruitment numbers. Spring food plots can be a tremendous asset.

I love self-regenerating perennials. They may be a bit more expensive to start, but in the end, they’re not only more cost-efficient, but generally require less field work than annuals. For instance, this spring has been exceptionally rainy, making it difficult to get out to the timber, let alone planting anything, especially for those plots within timber areas that don’t see as much sun or get the amount of wind required to dry them out efficiently enough to prepare them for seed to soil. Thankfully, a couple of our plots utilize perennials. I guess you could say that, in a way, they plant themselves.

Another benefit of perennials is their hardiness. Most are engineered specifically to withstand extreme weather conditions and fluctuations. Many can also flourish in less than optimal soil PH, which describes a lot of timber soil, where little can be done to neutralize the soil. Additionally, perennial root systems can be quite extensive. This helps prevent soil erosion, and can even positively impact annuals that you might choose to incorporate within a perennial plot. Their strong root systems can provide a solid base for annuals with lesser systems and can even generate necessary nutritional value for the more temperamental annuals to thrive.

One of my personal favorites, especially for pregnant and lactating does, and young fawns, is clover. And I know I’m not alone. We use Mossy Oak Clover Plus, which is a blend of New Zealand red and white clovers and chicory. But there are many other brands that work great as well.

Clover is considered a high-yield food source and establishes quickly. Because it’s also winter-hardy, deer will continue to hit the clover sources into the winter months provided they can access them. One thing to remember when initially planting clover is that it only requires a planting depth of less than a half-inch. Frost seeding very early in the spring is a great planting method. Clover can also be sensitive to most types of weed and grass control, and fertilizers, so it’s crucial to do your homework and exercise caution before applying anything.

It’s worth noting that clover does best when it’s trimmed every now and again and not allowed to go to seed. Keeping it mowed to around 6 to 8 inches helps ensure regrowth and prosperity.

Next week, I’ll discuss what nutritional benefits clover and other spring plantings have on deer and what they have that natural and agricultural sustenance doesn’t.

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