Why You Shouldn’t Plant Every Clearing
Ever noticed how deer browse on just about all the vegetation around a food plot? You stand there wondering just why the heck they’d choose pokeweed when there’s a luscious patch of clover five feet away. Well, they’re not really choosing one over the other. Rather, they’re simply eating the specific one that their body needs right then.
Whitetail deer rely on natural weeds for nutrition just like they do soybeans. In fact, deer need certain nutrients from common ragweed, pokeweed (which is 30% protein, same as alfalfa and clover), horse weeds and other weeds you might not expect. They don't choose one over the other; they eat both, meaning it’s just as important to manage the natural plant community for forage and cover as it is planted plots.
DEER LIKE DIVERSITY
Nurture your natural vegetation. Don’t kill off every bit weed you can find unless it’s thistle. Spray thistle with RoundUp and then spray it again. Learn to identify common weeds that deer eat for sustenance. If you’re not sure, just take a minute to look around and see what plants have been nipped off, especially on the borders of your food plots. Or, if you’ve already killed those plants and the deer aren’t using the food plot, now you know why.
ENHANCE THE NATURAL CAPACITY
Generally, wildlife in good condition have higher reproduction rates, are more resistant to diseases and can escape predators better than animals in poor condition. Nutrition affects birth and death rates and is important in the overall survival of any wild animal population. So, if your farm is already more open land than hardwoods and thickets and you’re considering more clearing, don’t. If there’s no cover, there won’t be anywhere for wildlife to take bed. And if there’s nowhere for them to bed, they aren’t going to stay on your property.
NOW IS THE TIME
It’s summer; the dry season in most parts of the country. It’s hot too. The combination of heat and dryness doesn’t help with plants you’ve introduced to the property. But the native foliage, which has been there for many seasons, continues to survive. If a deer is going to suffer from malnutrition, it’s likely going to be in peak summer. We’d go so far to say help the native vegetation with a low-potency fertilizer if you can.
The basis for sound wildlife management is to provide every element game needs to survive and even thrive. Make sure your property is the one where they receive those needs. It’s going to increase your hunting success and the potential for resale should you choose to do so. Most importantly, quit killing native weeds that you think impede on a food plot’s success. In other words, deer need diversity in their diet just like you and me. Even steak and lobster would get old after about 20 consecutive meals. Or would it?