The Ultimate Year-Round Food Plot for Deer
Shrubs and Fruits That Attract and Feed Deer in the Summer and the Fall
Editor’s Note: If you understand the Y design of green field planting, you not only can see and take more bucks, but you'll have a hunting site for both bow and gun season. The Y-shaped green field enables the hunter to provide a smorgasbord of highly-nutritious, very-palatable food for the deer all year. You need to see and understand the components that make the Y-shaped green field the best design with the best plantings for hunting deer during bow and gun seasons.
If you plant peaches, which mature in the late spring and early summer, peaches will help you concentrate deer on your property, hunting lease or hunting club early. Too, many hunters completely overlook blackberry bushes as an early-season plant for deer. Since deer love peaches and blackberries, many nurseries recommend planting four different varieties of blackberries, including Choctaw blackberries because they ripen early, and also Arapaho, because they'll provide berries when the Choctaw quit producing. The Navajo ripen later, while the Shawnee ripen even later. By planting four varieties of blackberries, you can have berries, depending on the USDA zone you live in, from June to October. You need to fertilize these blackberries, like all other fruits and shrubs. To help the berries survive the deer grazing on them, put a cage over the berries. Many landowners have that using 2X4 wire to make an A-frame over the shrub and then boxing in both ends of the A frame with wire works well. Wire cages protect the bushes and provide food for the deer and hunting sites. As the bush continues to produce limbs and leaves that grow outside the cage, the deer can feed on them.
Although honeysuckle grows wild throughout most woods, you need to plant Japanese honeysuckle, which will feed deer all year, in the area you want to hunt. Honeysuckle grows well in partially-shaded areas. Put a cage over the honeysuckle like you do for the blackberries. Then wait 3 or 4 days before you fertilize the honeysuckle. As the honeysuckle grows outside the cage, the deer will eat it. But because the cage protects the honeysuckle's main stem and roots, the deer can't destroy the honeysuckle. If you plant a Y green field, put honeysuckle down one side of the Y and blackberries down the other side of the Y.
Wildlife planting experts know the strawberry bush, also called Heart's A Burstin, as the ice cream of the whitetails. This small, green bush produces green berries throughout the summer. In late summer, the berries turn red and yield a red-orange seed. However, you need to plant the strawberry bushes 2- to 3-feet apart and cover them with 2X4 wire to keep the deer from eating the entire bush. By building a wire cage, the deer only will eat the parts of the plant growing outside the wire.
Most hunters, especially in the South, name persimmons as one of the best soft-mast crops to hunt over to bag deer. In much of the South, persimmons begin to fall in mid-October, making them a readily-available food for deer. But a problem with wild persimmon trees is that they are either male or female. Only the female persimmon trees produce fruit. There's no way to tell the difference between the male and female trees. If you want five persimmon trees that produce fruit, plant between 10 and 15 wild persimmon trees, and hope that at least five of them are female. However, by planting the Japanese persimmon, which comes in several different varieties and produces a baseball-sized fruit, these trees will yield fruit within 3 years. Too, all of these trees produce fruit, unlike the male and females trees of the wild variety. Both deer and humans can eat the Japanese persimmons. Many landowners like the variety of Japanese persimmon called the Fuyu, which starts producing in October. Often the Fuyu will yield persimmons until Christmas in the South. So, rather than planting or hunting strictly over wild persimmons, create a Japanese persimmon hot spot that continues to produce fruit after the native wild persimmons are gone.
Always talk with your county-extension agent, no matter where you hunt, who will know the trees and shrubs that will produce best in your hunting area. You also can check the USDA zone map. Go to http://www.usna.usda.gov/Hardzone/ushzmap.html to learn more about plantings.
Tomorrow: Late-Season Shrubs and Fruits