Photo by Charles Alsheimer
You can have too much of a good thing. Too many deer devouring your food plots early in the season, for example, can leave you with anemic, overgrazed feeding areas that are devoid of deer when the late season rolls around. Here’s how to revitalize those plots and bring the bucks back.
Problem: Your food plot worked too well. Deer have flooded in and devoured the crop.
Diagnosis: There are too many deer in the area for the available food. Especially in years with poor acorn crops, deer may overwhelm small food plots, chewing them down to nubbins. Cereal grains can bounce back, but the deer may leave your property in the meantime. Overgrazing will kill other plants, too, such as winter peas and lablab.
Rx: You still have time to put in another plot or replant the destroyed one. Oats, rye, and wheat will come up quickly even this late and attract deer within a week or two. The new growth will continue to provide nourishment and keep deer on your property throughout winter. Disk lightly, then till in the seed 1⁄2 to 1 inch deep for wheat and oats, 1⁄4 inch for rye; or simply overseed rye into the wiped-out plot. In spring, you can mow and plow plots under or allow them to go to seed, providing more food that deer, turkeys, and doves relish.
Preventive Medicine: Harvest more does during the next few seasons to bring the deer population in balance with the habitat and reduce pressure on your plots. Devote more acreage to plots and avoid putting in plants that are especially vulnerable to heavy grazing. Also plant some brassicas that grow underground bulbs, such as turnips and radishes. If the visible forage gets consumed, deer can dig down with their hooves and eat the nutritious roots.