I have often heard many deer hunters say that there is no reason why they should plant a food plot in Iowa. After all there is already plenty of food, with the over abundance of corn and soybean fields in our state. Half of that statement is true; the part about our state has a large amount of grain producing crops. The part about no reason to plant a food plot, well that is wrong in my opinion.
We all know Iowa is arguably the best place to hunt whitetails in the nation and corn and soybeans are part of that reason. So why on earth would you ever want to plant a food plot in Iowa, since we already have it so good they way it is? The answer to that is food plots can offer your deer the ability to be even bigger, more plentiful, and healthier, along with giving you a more controllable hunting experience. The last time I checked that is what most deer hunters nowadays are after…bigger, healthier, and more deer. The fact of the matter is having food plots incorporated into your hunting property will do just that, take your land and the deer that inhabit it to the next level.
Below I will go through all those benefits of food plots one by one and discuss why you should seriously think about implementing food plots onto your property
Benefits of Food Plots:
Improve Lands Carrying Capacity
A lands carrying capacity simply means how much life that land can sustain at any given time. Any piece of property only has so many resources to go around, which in return will limit the amount of wildlife that can survive on that property. By planting a food plot in addition to the food already available on your land you will be increasing the carrying capacity of your land. In return your land can essentially hold more deer, while providing optimum nutrition to the herd. It’s a pretty simple equation; more food equals more deer.
Take note that if you want to increase the carrying capacity of your land you can’t replace a food source with a food source. What I mean by this is that you shouldn’t remove an already existing food source, such as a corn or soybean field, or any mast producing trees, in order to plant a food plot.
To increase your lands carrying capacity you really need to put in a fairly good size plot or several smaller plots. At a minimum I would suggest at least one plot that is 2 acres in size. Not many lands afford this type of plot so it may be wise to break these plots up into several smaller sections, which can be placed where larger plots can’t.
Varieties of Food Hold Deer on Your Land
Deer are natural browsers, meaning they crave and need a variety of different foods in their diet in order to get optimal nutrition for different seasons of the year. If you have land that only has one food source, corn or soybeans, then your land doesn’t have many options for a browsing deer to stick around for when food is scarce or more nutrition is needed.
Now if your neighboring property is set up with a crop field, mast producing timber, and several food plots with different variety of plants then guess where the majority of the deer will end up when they are feeding? Not on your land!
For example, during late November or early December all the corn and soybeans will be long gone for the year. If your land doesn’t have any remaining food available other than brush or twig browse your land will not be as attractable to deer. The result will be increased home ranges as the deer in the area venture out to find other food sources. If you want to shrink this home range then you need to add some diversity in the food your land offers…a food plot will do just that.
Give optimal nutrition throughout the year
Grain crops are a good food for deer, but they are not necessarily the best food sources during certain times of the year.
Lets take corn for example. Corn in some extent is a good food source, as well as a quality cover option for deer, but it doesn’t provide everything a deer needs as far as nutrition goes. Corn offers two varieties of food for deer, the plant itself and the kernel on the ear. However the plant is only palatable to deer for a short amount of time when it is young and basically provides no nutritional value in the spring and early summer months, which also happens to be prime antler growing season.
The kernel on the other hand does have some value to it in the form of carbohydrates, which equals energy, making corn highly sought after in the winter months. The problem is that corn isn’t readily available here in Iowa during those months because the farmer has harvested his crop by that time. Yes, some of the grain ends up on the ground, but in today’s farming technological advancements most of that grain ends up in a grain bin and not on the ground. Another nock against corn is that during the antler growing months, early spring and summer, deer derive very little nutrition from corn because it doesn’t provide a lot of protein, a main nutrient in antler growth.
Soybeans are the other grain crop in Iowa, and contrary to corn both the bean and plant itself are readily consumed by deer. The foliage of soybeans is relished in its early stages and provides good protein for deer during the antler growing season. However as the plant begins to mature it becomes harder to digest and less palatable, which results in a narrow timeframe for nutritional value. When the actual bean of the plant is formed deer will once again start consuming soybeans again. The downfall? Soybeans, just like corn, will be swept away by the combine come fall, leaving a major nutrition gap in the life of a deer.
With all that said corn and soybeans are vital to a deer’s health…no doubt about it, but they are not always palatable, available, and don’t give deer the best nutritional value during certain times of the year. So if you want to give deer optimal nutrition all year round the only alternative you have is food plots. Implementing a few plots onto your land will give deer the certain nutrients they require throughout the year and give them a chance to reach their true genetic potential.
Control hunting parameters
As important as food plots are to increasing a lands carrying capacity, providing nutrition, and diversifying your food selection they are just as important to your overall hunting success.
Hunting in farm country is great all by itself. We have already covered that soybeans and corn do provide some nutrition to deer, as well as cover, however we are limited to where these fields are planted in return we are limited to how and where we can hunt them.
If you were to invest in some food plots you can optimize your hunting and have more control. With food plots you can place them in ideal deer locations on your land that allow for correct wind direction, stand placement, as well as shaping food plots to permit deer to funnel into them.
Above all else food plots are extremely beneficial because of the attractiveness they have to deer. Remember corn and beans can give you only so much nutrition, if you have something different for the deer on your land to consume you are upping your odds dramatically as deer will come in to browse on a different food.
So are food plots necessary in Iowa? I would say yes if you want to take your land and deer management efforts to the next level. As stated Iowa already has tremendous deer hunting, there is no arguing that, but if you want to maximize the potential of your land to produce bigger and healthier deer all while giving you more favorable hunting situations then food plots are most certainly necessary.
Turn some dirt and sow some seed this spring!