Food plots serve as a big part of what I do each season. They can be used to feed deer. They can be used to kill deer. It all depends on location, orientation and design. But one thing remains constant regardless of the purpose of the plot: You need the right seed for your goals.
Most people think of sunflowers as a great dove field plot. And it is. But it’s also good for deer. In climates where sunflowers will grow, plant them. They’re very high in protein and offer deer a unique food source that your neighbors likely won’t have. That’s the name of the game. Give deer foods to eat they can’t get elsewhere.
This warm-season plan is highly attractive for deer and other wildlife. I’ve planted sunflowers and experienced incredible luck with them. Even small plots draw deer like magnets. Beware of over-browsing. I recommend planting at least 1 to 2 acres at a time, especially if there aren’t many early season food sources already available.
How to Plant
Begin with a soil test. Sunflowers can be difficult to grow without adequate soil nutrients. If you opt out of a soil test, spread roughly 200 pounds of 10-10-10 or 13-13-13 per acre. Spray and bush hog if drilling. Spray, bush hog and disc if broadcasting. Good seed-to-soil contact is key.
Don’t plant too thick, as too many plants will grow and competition will result in a lesser plot. Sunflowers seeds run approximately $25 per 10 pounds of seed. If broadcasting, plant about 25 pounds per acre. If drilling, plant approximately 20 pounds per acre.
Plant seeds and then use a cultipacker to put them at the appropriate depth. Don’t put them too deep. But not covering them well enough will inhibit germination and allow birds and other animals to consume the seeds before they have a chance to grow.
When to Plant
This plant needs anywhere from 100 to 125 days to fully mature. Because of that, I recommend planting them between late April and late May. Essentially, plant as early as you can without fear of frost killing your seedlings.
Where to Plant
This plant species does very well throughout the eastern half of the country. You can find good success with the plant in the Midwest and even the western states, too. It’s a fairly hardy plant species.
Don’t plant in shaded areas. Sunflowers need full sun to do well. I prefer planting in areas that have rich, well-drained soil, too. Furthermore, doing so close to a bedding or staging area can really enhance the amount of daylight deer activity you see.