Whitetail Food Groups: Greens vs. Grains

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Learn when, where and why deer prefer different food sources

Throughout the years, I’ve planted just about everything you can plant in a food plot. Some of the experiments have been successful, making it into my long-term strategies, while others haven’t fared so well.

There have been notable failures. For example, our deer don’t seem to care one bit for chicory. And there have been some learning experiences, such as how deer relate to sorghum, both the forage and the grain varieties. My best successes have been clover, soybeans and corn. All said, I could write a short book on this topic, but to keep this quick and useful, let’s jump right to the No. 1 tradeoff that I’ve found: greens vs. grains.

Green food sources are more attractive during warmer spells. (Midwest Whitetail photo)

Greens and Grains Defined

Typical greens include clover and brassicas. Common cereal grains include winter wheat, oats, soybeans and corn. As mentioned, typical grains on my farm include soybeans and corn. Others might add sorghum to that list.

Temperature Typically Dictates Preference

When it’s really cold, the grains attract more deer than the greens. Normally, corn is more attractive than soybeans or sorghum. But when the temperatures are moderate, the greens seem to attract more deer.

During October, November and most of December, the deer pile into these green plots. Later in winter, they spread out and search harvested grain fields. During the late season, an acre of unharvested corn (or soybeans) translates to great hunting.

Grains are more attractive during colder spells. (Midwest Whitetail photo)

Plant Both for Season-Long Attraction

It’s ideal to have both grains and greens in your hunting area. If you have a hard time getting your grain plots past the deer during the summer, consider investing in an exclusion fence. This will protect the crop until it can handle browsing pressure. Having both greens and grains will also give you the right mix for all parts of the season.

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