Food Plot Seed: How to Plant Oats

By author of Brow Tines and Backstrap

What’s Your Preferred Food Plot Seed for Wildlife

Have you ever planted oats for deer? (Bill Konway photo)

Oats. Come fall and winter, it’s what’s for dinner. This cool-season food source is extremely attractive during colder late-fall and winter days. This is an excellent choice for deer hunters who like to plant cereal grains.

This plant species is very high in carbohydrates — which is what helps deer generate energy to stay warm during colder months. Plus, oats will have 15 to 18 percent protein depending on the specific variety you choose to plant. Some are higher than others.

Like many winter-based food sources, oats are a target due to their sweet-tasting flavor. But some oat varieties have higher glucose levels. Shop around until you find the one you want.

While deer will hit oats during a large window, they especially love them early in the growing phase. The first two months following germination are key times to focus on oats.

How to Plant

As always, begin with a soil test. That’s priority No. 1 regardless of what you’re planting. Next, go ahead and spray for weeds while you’re waiting on the test results from the lab. Then, once you have those in hand, apply fertilizer and lime as needed.

Oats require well-tilled soil. Because of this, it’s more difficult to plant them in areas where you can’t get larger implements. I also recommend cutting the soil in two different directions. This will break up the soil more and allow it to drain better.

If broadcasting, seed at a rate of 100 to 125 pounds per acre. If drilling, plant at a rate of 80 to 100 pounds per acre. Put seeds approximately ½-inch deep. Run over the planted area with a drag or cultipacker to ensure good seed-to-soil contact.

When to Plant

Those in northern states should plant in early September to mid-September. This will allow enough time for optimal growth. It will also produce enough forage to have a food plot to hunt over for bow season being that most northern seasons open in early October. Moving southward, planting later into mid- to late-September — even early October — will suit you just fine, especially those dealing with ruts that fall in December and January.

Where to Plant

Deer seem to hit oats better in the North, but plenty of hunters have success with them in the South. The Midwest, Northeast and Mid-South seem to be the best locations to grow it soil-wise, though.

Planting oats near areas you know deer frequent in October, November and December is key. Or, plant them where you want them to be during that timeframe (and on into late winter).

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