Sometimes the best discoveries are totally accidental. This theory seems to apply to food plots as well. A couple of years ago, I decided to plant a few rows of sunflowers through one of my food plots in order to attract some doves for the September 1 opening day in Missouri.
Sunflowers are easy to grow and I got a good stand growing right down the middle of my clover patch. Summer evolved into July and the heads started to form on the plants and it appeared that I would have a good crop to attract doves. However, in a one week period, every head from my small plot disappeared. I did not have a single flower develop. All that remained was a few rows of headless stalks. I was stunned! I checked my game camera and discovered deer serenely walking down the rows popping off the flower heads that were just about to open. I got to thinking they must be some form of deer candy. I talked to some farmers that put out much larger plots and found they had noticed the same thing in their fields. I guess the next time I will have to plant enough for the deer and the birds!
My second epiphany came this past summer. I love pickled okra! I live in a subdivision just outside of town with lots of two to five acres. Lots of room for a garden! The subdivision is surrounded by farm land with an abundance of soybeans, corn and wheat, but for some reason the abundant deer seem to prefer my garden.
Over the years, the deer have taught me well. For instance, peas and beans are a ‘no go’ as the deer eat them right away. They aren’t particularly fond of my tomatoes and onions but do seem to enjoy my pepper plants. Gardening is a challenge with urban deer competing for your food!
I decided my urge to grow things would not be deterred. Next crop to try: okra. Those bristly spiny plants could only be appealing to a human, right? Wrong! This summer I only harvested enough okra for two small jars! The rest went to the deer. They not only ate the pods, they ate the tender young leaves as well. Okra is a hardy plant and all summer long it struggled to put out more new leaves and pods. The deer continued to eat them before they were ready to pick. With all the other succulent forage in close proximity to my property, I was confounded. Next spring, I plan on planting a big food plot of okra and sunflowers; hopefully, enough to satisfy my needs as well as the birds and the deer. If you are looking for something unconventional, give it a try!
A new wrinkle, on an old standby, is the Forage Soy Bean. I have not as yet used this myself but I have a friend that has tried it with great results. Soy beans have long been a favorite food for deer. In the early 80’s, while still a member of the Army Reserve, my summer camp project was to determine the amount of loss from deer the farmers sustained in fields that were leased to them on the Fort Campbell Kentucky military reservation. My degree in wildlife conservation and being a combat engineer got me assigned to the Engineer Battalion to conduct the study. The loss around the edges of the big fields was about 80% in a fifty foot ring around the fields. The smaller fields of 10 acres or less were practically denuded. Project Conclusion: Deer love soybeans!
Forage beans were developed to combat this predation. They will continue to put out new shoots and grow even when bitten off. They also grow quickly to overcome over browsing. There are now several varieties on the market and some grow to as much as 6 feet tall. They grow very dense and shade out weeds to cut down on herbicide use. Some of the brands available include Tyrone Forage Soybeans, Eagle Forage soybeans, Easy Plot, and several more. Check them out at www.tyroneforagesoybeans.com, www.eagleseed.com. All of these brands are readily available on the Internet and at several fine retailers.