While the debate rages on in various circles around the state including a lot of hunting camps about the population size of white-tailed deer we have in Mississippi, there are no issues with wanting to build better quality deer. I’ve yet to meet a deer hunter that is not interested in taking a bigger buck with a larger antler rack with more points. The real question remains then how to get there with the resident deer you have on your hunting property.
Of course in the larger world of wildlife management it is not all about deer believe it or not. Programs that benefit the deer can and should also be designed to help other wildlife species as well. Habitat enhancements can also create better environments for wild turkey, small game like squirrels and rabbits, upland game like quail and migratory birds like dove, ducks and geese.
Ideally every wildlife management plan involving habitat manipulation should support all species. Though fall wildlife food plots are common, hunters need to plan spring ones, too.
Spring Planting Consensus
Wildlife biologists agree that planting spring time wildlife food plots can yield great benefits as the long, hot summer unfolds. Sure, most of the lands in Mississippi supply nearly all of the natural nutrients that wildlife needs. We are indeed greatly blessed in this state with quality and quantity of natural habitat vegetations. If white-tailed deer were the universal benchmark then deer in this state could do quite well with the existing natural food supply.
However, in some areas of this state that prognosis would not quite hold up. Supplemental food resources in those areas could not only be essential to growing bigger bucks but also sustaining other wildlife at higher levels, as well.
Furthermore, even in areas of the state that have exceptional natural browse already can still benefit from supplemental spring wildlife food plantings. Just one extra source of important vitamins and minerals can make a noted difference in the quality of wildlife in your hunting areas. If you are a big buck hound then think extra-high protein supplemental crops.
First Time Spring Seedbeds
In my travels around the state looking at other hunting clubs and private lands I find a good many landowners wanting to start a spring program, but never have done so. It really isn’t difficult especially if you already have established fall plots.
By April those fall plots are already starting to grow up into native weeds and other plants. They should not be so big or tough at this point that the use of herbicide sprays would be needed to burn them down. Some judicious mowing and or disking ought to get the job done.
Spring food plot seedbeds ought to be fairly clean and firm to accept most kinds of common spring use seeds. Some crops like corn can even be no-till planted right into existing food plots where legumes and small grains had been grown over the previous winter months.
Property owners on a tight budget can get away with some light scratching disturbance of the soil surface before planting thereby avoiding the ever escalating costs of running equipment on expensive gasoline. However, nobody would deny that a quality prepared seedbed is the basis for getting good seed germination and sprouting.
New food plots of irregular size a couple acres or smaller seems to be utilized best by wildlife. The more edge space there is around the plots close to thicker cover the better.
KISS Seed Choices for Spring
If you stroll the aisles of the local farm co-op or ask for advice on spring wildlife food plot seed selections you are very likely to become quickly confused. This is no different from trying to pick the best choices for fall plantings. Today’s wildlife seed market is packed with choices of basic seeds and numerous exotic blends with prices to match.
To make it easy on yourself follow the spring seed choices recommended by groups such as Mississippi Wildlife, a Stoneville-based organization, part of the Mississippi Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Each year this group sends out a seed order form to private landowners and hunting clubs across the state. They mitigate the purchase of large quantities of seed to make the costs more affordable to landowners thus encouraging the planting of spring plots. If you want more information on this program check out their website at www.wildlifemiss.org.
Their seed choice recipes are as simple as it gets. They recommend corn, grain sorghum and soybeans for spring plantings. Corn is, of course, a warm seasonal annual providing good carbohydrate for energy. Grain sorghum is also an annual and a good seed choice for quail, doves, ducks, geese and wild turkey. Soybeans provide substantial vegetation for deer and other species of wildlife. If the soybean plants make it past the early wildlife browsing the fall beans are prime sources of protein for deer.
All else being equal these are relatively easy seeds to plant and grow. Some fertilizer added would provide an extra boost in getting the plants out of the ground and off to a good start.
In most cases these crops being grown exclusively for wildlife would not require any further attention.
Virtually every landowner, hunter, or club that plants wildlife food plots agrees they benefit the wildlife and create more opportunities for wildlife observation. Serious buck hunters know they grow bigger antlers. However, for the circle of supplemental wildlife food resource success to be complete spring plots should be planted, as well.