There was one particular food plot deer always used in daylight. The rest of my food plots looked like a vacant motel scene. But I couldn’t quite figure out why this one particular food plot produced so much daytime action. What did that one have that the others didn’t? All were close to bedding areas. All had water nearby. Deer populations were good near each. Then it clicked — there was a fairly sizeable strip of native grass that ran around the perimeter of the food plot. It had that buffer of habitat between the tree line and the food plot. Furthermore, the grass was tall and thick enough the deer couldn’t see passed it into the timber.
And so, I began planting food plot screens.
Implementing food plot screens is one of the best habitat decisions I ever made. There are several reasons why:
It shields the view of prying eyes from people and predators.
It provides quality habitat cover deer need.
Done strategically, some deer might even bed in it.
It allows deer to feel safe and secluded while feeding.
More deer will use a hidden food plot during daylight.
There are more advantages that come with planting food plot screens, but those five are my top five reasons for doing so.
When planting food plot screens, it’s important to plant (or position) the right thing on your property. Choose one of these. Choose one of your own. Either way, the key is to use something deer don’t commonly feed on. You don’t want deer to consume your screening cover. If it is edible (like standing corn) planting such will limit plant growth due to browsing; will put deer on your entry and exit routes (screens are good for hiding your approach and departure); and will dampen the wanted effects of a plot screen — which is to increase daylight activity, not decrease it.
Egyptian Wheat: This is a fairly hardy plant. It grows pretty well and can reach heights of 6 to 8 feet tall (and taller) in a short amount of time. It’s only downfall — it isn’t as sturdy as some plants, so planting sorghum sedan grass in with it can help provide support.
Sorghum Sudan Grass: This and Egyptian wheat go together like peas and carrots. But they can be planted independently, though. Just make sure it’s suited for the climate you’re planting in.
Switchgrass: This warm-season grass is a mainstay in the whitetail world. This works really well as a plot screen. The best part — it’s a native species.
Prairie Cordgrass: A lot of people will advise you to plant Miscanthus grass. Prairie cordgrass is a better (native) alternative, though.
Little or Big Bluestem: These are also great options. However, which one you choose will depend on your goals and the specific roll the area you plant will serve.
Poplars: Now on to bigger things. If you own a place, or have long-term access, planting trees and shrubs can really increase your screening effectiveness and will be more effective in the long run. It just takes longer to achieve the objective. My advice is to plant this and a grass species next to each other to achieve short- and long-term goals.
Cedars: This is another solid option that provides thick cover. Furthermore, deer will often rub on these trees and bed amidst them, too. And remember, having multiple stages of habitat (i.e.: timber, then grass, then food plot) will encourage more daylight movement.
Spruce: Much like cedars and other evergreens, spruce trees sprawl and create year-round cover. Some varieties of evergreens grow faster and are hardier than others, so choose your tree species carefully.
Natural Barriers and Soil Berms: There’s no better large-scale screen than a natural barrier (i.e.: rock bluff, steep hillside, etc.) or soil berm (i.e.: along waterways). That said, you still want to incorporate a grassy buffer around the inside edges of the natural barrier to receive the best results. Deer love the security such edges provide.
Hinge Cutting and Brush Piles: Hinge cutting trees or piling brush around open food plots also provides another buffer layer that will help deer feel safe enough to use food plots before the sun goes down. But do so effectively and make sure you leave openings in strategic locations where you want deer to enter and exit.