How Drought Affects Food Plots

by Chris Larsen

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Much of America’s Heartland is wrapped in the grips of a horrible drought. This is having a big effect on family farms and large scale agriculture. The drought is also making things difficult for food plot enthusiasts. Steve Scott from the Whitetail Institute of North America has worked in the food plot industry for decades and has plenty of experience in working with drought conditions. He recently visited with me to discuss what people can do to maximize their food plot efforts during a drought.

In many parts of the country the ground is so dry food plot plantings never germinated. Fields are either overrun with weeds or there is simply nothing coming out of the ground. If you can’t irrigate and there is no rain, Scott says there isn’t much you can do. “Pray a lot is what I would recommend. Pray for rain. Seriously, there is not a lot we can do to control it.”

Scott says food plot perennials like clover are a great option for land managers who live in areas prone to drought conditions. “Perennial plots that were established coming into this drought, some of them are going dormant but the root system is alive in those cases where people have it on good heavy soil that holds moisture… They’re not providing food for deer but they are surviving and should bounce back and be in good shape if we can get some rain.”

Corn and soybeans are a popular food plot crop. They provide large volumes of food for deer but they are also more susceptible to drought. “The (plots) that are hurt the most are plantings that were done this spring, that weren’t established before we were in this drought,“ says Scott. “Unfortunately, in those cases, despite these crops being extremely drought tolerant, the reality is they are not drought proof.”

trail cam photo of a buck in a dry fieldDrought conditions are making things difficult for everyone with crops in the ground. But Scott says if dry conditions improve, hunters can take advantage of the situation. “If the corn and bean crops are beat back, deer are going to suffer a little from an abundance of food that isn’t going to be out there for them. But that gives hunters an opportunity to make their land more attractive by doing some plantings in the late summer and early fall… It‘s going to make their property more attractive because deer are going to have less options to go these big commercial operation fields.”

If the soil is dry in your area, planting anything is a bad idea. But Scott says it is a great time to get food plot sites ready. “Let this drought break. But in the meantime we can be getting prepared by doing soil tests and by preparing the ground. When we get some moisture in the soil, I would recommend that they look at perennials, things like our Imperial Clover. It is great to plant in the fall, you get less weed and grass competition.”

According to Scott, fall and winter annuals are another good option. “Our Whitetail Forage Oats Plus, they can plant it in many areas up to the first of September and in the Deep South they can plant into October… Whitetail winter greens is another great choice. It is extremely drought tolerant. You can plant it in late summer or early fall.”

Mowing clover keeps the plot producing young, lush food for deer. But during drought conditions, Scott says mowing is only going to make things worse. “Most perennials respond very well to mowing to keep the weeds and grass controlled. But we recommend that you don’t mow in a hot, dry period.”

To hear the entire conversation with Steve Scott from Whitetail Institute of North America, press play here or at the top of the page.


Posted in: food Plots