Food Plots

  • Should be integrated with an overall habitat management plan for best results
  • Site selection and plant selection is important
  • Size of the plot is dependent upon the species you are trying to attract

Wildlife Food Plots or Supplemental Plantings

Planting food supplements or forages can benefit many species including turkey, mourning doves, bobwhite quail and white-tailed deer. Knowing which forage to plant and when to plant is essential when seeking to benefit wildlife in an area.

Food plots must be located near where wildlife seek cover. Prime locations include near brushy areas, corners of shrubby fence rows and wooded area edges. Ideal plot sizes are 1/4 to 1 acre for small game plots, and up to 5 acres for deer and turkey. Larger plots help protect from predators because the wildlife will not be concentrated in a small area. Plots should be long and at least 50 feet wide. Irregular shapes are preferable as they provide more edge.

Plantings should be chosen based on the type of wildlife landowners want to attract. For example, turkeys feed on soybeans, clovers and wheat while rabbits prefer warm season grass mixtures. Food plots should be carefully managed. Grain crops may need broadleaf weed control and legume plantings may require clipping and periodic reseeding.

Mississippi State University Publications
Planting Warm-season Forages for White-tailed Deer

Planting Warm-season Forages for White-tailed Deer (PDF)
Mississippi State University Extension Service

Overpopulation of deer, especially in the southeast, causes unhealthy herds due to insufficient food supplies. Nothing can replace native vegetation management, but food plantings can help meet the deer’s seasonal needs. This publication describes how to create warm season plantings including where to plant, what soil to use, and the food that should be planted. Detailed information about specific plants deer feed on is given.

Supplemental Wildlife Food Planting Manual for the Southeast

Supplemental Wildlife Food Planting Manual for the Southeast (PDF)
Department of Forestry, Mississippi State University

This guide provides information on food plots and habitat management practices including disking, mowing and prescribed burning. The importance of openings is also discussed. A combination of supplemental forages in food planting is often necessary, as well as testing soil quality, fertilizing and liming. The location, size and shape of food plots as well as how to prepare them and which plants to use is included. An extensive guide on planting materials is given.

Soil Tests for Wildlife Food Plots

Soil Tests for Wildlife Food Plots (PDF)
Mississippi State University Extension Service

Having the proper fertility and type of soil affects the population, distribution and quality of wildlife. Testing of soil is necessary for landowners. This publication tells landowners where they can pick up and send soil testing kits and how to use them.

Native Warm-season Grass Restoration in Mississippi

Native Warm-season Grass Restoration in Mississippi (PDF)
Mississippi State University Forest and Wildlife Research Center

This publication defines native warm season grasses, lists examples of the types of warm season grasses and provides labeled drawings of the types. It describes the benefits of restoring native grasses and how to do so. Information is provided on keeping different non-native grass species under control. Information is also given on choosing and planting grass species in a way that restores ecosystems and is advantageous to wildlife or creates livestock forage. Use of periodic disturbances is also covered along with contact information for organizations that assist with management of warm season grasses.

Managing the Family Forest in Mississippi

Managing the Family Forest in Mississippi (PDF)
Mississippi State University Extension Service

This table shows the type of crop, forage class, varieties, planting dates and rates, and wildlife species for different type of plantings.

Mourning Dove Management for Landowners

Mourning Dove Management for Landowners (PDF)
Mississippi State University Extension Service, Natural Resource Enterprises

Managing fields for mourning dove hunting is a relatively cost effective natural-resource based enterprise that does not require large amounts of land. This publication discusses the population, mating habits and life history of mourning doves. Habitat requirements and food needs are covered as well planting food plots. Information on purchasing liability insurance and hunting regulations is provided as well as appropriate fees for hunting leases.

Other Publications

Supplemental Forage Management for East Texas White-tailed Deer (PDF)
Texas A&M University

Supplemental food plots should be used to improve the nutrition of deer and add critical minerals to the diet of a deer herd. This publication discusses the ecological regions of East Texas, how to plan, select a site, and select species for a food plot. It also covers the size and shape of food plots.

Food Plots for White-tailed Deer (PDF)
Purdue University Forestry and Natural Resources

When preparing food plots for white-tailed deer, be aware of their nutritional requirements. This paper discusses the nutritional needs of white-tailed deer, the factors that influence these nutritional requirements, and the use of mineral licks. A discussion of food plot design, establishment, and plant selection are provided.

Establishing and Maintaining Wildlife Food Sources (PDF)
University of Florida IFAS Extension

Methods of increasing the production of different wildlife food sources are discussed including mast, food plantings and openings, and using forest management practices to increase food production in existing forests.

A Guide to Successful Wildlife Food Plots: Blending Science With Common Sense (PDF)
University of Tennessee Extension

Food plots can enhance wildlife habitat by improving available nutrition and thus increase the nutritional carrying capacity of a property for wildlife. Food plots can also increase wildlife viewing opportunities and hunting. Planting and managing food plots should be integrated with other habitat management practices for wildlife for best results. This publication covers the initial considerations for planting a food plot, soil conditions, preparing and planting food plots, and food plots targeting specific species.

Planting a Wild Turkey Food Plot (PDF)
University of Illinois Extension

Specific instructions for planting a food plot for Wild Turkey is given including size and shape, nearby habitats, plants to use, and strategies.

Establishing Wildlife Food Plots (PDF)
University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture

Food plots are often used to attract wildlife for viewing. Food plots can supplement wildlife nutrition when part of an overall wildlife management plan. This publication discusses how to get started with a food plot, the selection of plants, the nutritional needs of wildlife, types of plantings, seed mixtures, and where to plant.

Food Plots for White-tailed Deer (PDF)
Texas A&M University-Kingsville

Food plots may increase the value of hunting leases, make deer more visible for viewing opportunities, and improve the diet quality of deer. However, planting food plots is not a replacement for poor habitat management. Maintaining deer densities within the carrying capacity of the habitat, sound livestock grazing management, and maintaining quality habitat should be the first priorities of any management program. The basics of growing food plots is covered in this publication including what to plant, deciding between perennial versus annual food plots, fencing food plots, number and size of food plots, shape of food plots, selecting proper soils, inoculating legumes, and more.

Concepts of Soil Fertility for Hunter Food Plots (PDF)
Louisiana State University

Managing soil fertility affects how well plants grow and how nutritious they are. Testing your soil prior to planting a soil plot can make a difference in the quality and productivity of your plots. This publication covers how to take a soil sample, interpreting the results, adjusting pH, and applying fertilizer.

White-tailed Deer Food Plot Considerations (PDF)
University of Illinois Extension

Food plots can attract deer for watching, hunting, or photography. This publication discusses the decisions to make prior to planting a food plot, deciding where to plant, testing soil fertility, types of forage to plant, and size and shape of the plot.

Food Plot Management Year Round (PDF)
The South Carolina Forest Steward, Spring 2010, Clemson University

An article in this newsletter discusses why and how to manage food plots year round for multiple wildlife species.

Seeding and Fertilization Rate Conversions for Wildlife Food Plots and Small Acres (PDF)
University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture

While traditional seeding and fertilization rates are given by the acre, most food plots are much smaller in size. This publication provides conversions of seeding and fertilizer rates from acre-sized fields to sub-acre fields per 1,000 square feet.

Planting Chart for Wildlife Food Plots in Tennessee (PDF)
University of Illinois Extension

A table of crop species, seeding rates, planting dates and depths is provided as well as a chart for crop species, optimum pH and preferred soil type. A short discussion of food plots for white-tailed deer, mourning doves, waterfowl, and wild turkey is given.

Wildlife Food Plantings (PDF)
Clemson University, Forestry and Natural Resources Fact Sheet

Land managers should include the protection and enhancement of native wildlife foods in their management plans as well as supplemental plantings for the best results. This publication covers the categories of wildlife food plants, nutritional needs of wildlife, wildlife planting considerations, selecting a site, choosing the right plants, size, shape and distribution of plantings, land preparation, planting dates, seeding rates, fertilization and liming, inoculation of legumes, companion plants and maintenance and management.