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Spring Planting Combinations for Deer and Turkey

Spring Planting Combinations for Deer and Turkey

Don Dietz

 

 

 

     Many hunters and wildlife enthusiasts fail to recognize the importance of spring food plots for deer and turkey.  Furthermore, those that do, fail to appreciate seed combinations that enhance nutrition for both species.  Granted, it is hard to beat fall/winter clover plantings for deer and turkey!  However, creative combinations of spring seeds will improve food stores in times of need, especially during the dog days of summer.  These plantings provide greenery for both deer and turkey as well as produce seeds and attract insects that are relished by adult turkeys and their poults.

     I like to use at least three kinds of seeds in my spring planting combinations.  Remember, regardless of the combination, always include at least one legume in the mix.  My favorite spring combination for deer and turkey is also beneficial to northern bobwhite.  That combination is catjang cowpea (iron and clay cowpea will also work), browntop millet, and buckwheat.  If I can’t get catjang, I go to my close second choice of Alyceclover. There are other great plants available for spring crops if the above are unavailable in your area.  Wildlife pea or turkey pea is another of the cowpeas that benefits deer, turkey and quail.  American jointvetch, another legume, is a great addition to spring food plots.

     You can plant as soon as all chance of frost is over and the ground is dry enough to work.  Depending on the region and weather this can range from late April to the first of June. If at all possible plant as early as you can to avoid summer droughts.  Although all of the plants are tough, they still need time to produce a strong root system in order to endure dry conditions.

Seeding rates alone can be reduced when planted in combination.  Here are my per acre recommendations: Catjang Cowpea – 15 lbs., Browntop millet – 20 lbs., Buckwheat – 40 lbs., Alyceclover – 30 lbs., Wildlife pea – 30 lbs., and American jointvetch – 20 lbs.

 

     Remember, Spring is the season when hungry fawns and poults first enter the world.  Their mothers’ food requirements are high this time of year as well.  Spring and summer is also the time of year bucks develop their antlers. The efforts you put forth in spring food plots will benefit them all! 

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Browntop millet (Panicum ramosum)              

 Browntop millet is a leafy, fine-stemmed, warm season annual that produces a small grass seed that is readily consumed by dove, quail, and turkeys.  It is also not uncommon for white-tailed deer to strip the seed heads once ripe.  Browntop millet is a tough drought resistant plant that can also be planted as a cover or nurse crop for more sensitive legumes like cowpeas.  Normally planted for game birds and waterfowl, browntop serves a whole other purpose when planted in combination with catjang cowpeas.

Catjang cowpea (Vigna unguiculata cylindrical)    

Catjang cowpea is an outstanding legume and is actually a bean not a pea. Catjang is very high in protein content and is relished by deer and gamebirds alike.  This is a late maturing cowpea that produces abundant forage.  It is much more resistant to grazing than other cowpeas because of its tendency to vine, climb and crawl.  However, when planted alone it can still be overgrazed.  That’s where the browntop comes in. 

When browntop millet and catjang cowpea are planted in combination you get the perfect spring food plot.  Browntop is fast growing and produces heavy seed in 45 -60 days.  It rapidly reaches 18”-24” tall and serves as a nurse crop to the slower growing, less deer resistant catjang.  As the catjang cowpeas grow they have a tendency to vine into the browntop stalks, thus somewhat protecting themselves from overgrazing.  Once they produce bean pods they hang like grapes from the vines where they are easily consumed by wildlife.

You should plant this combination any time after the chance of frost is over and the ground is dry enough to work.  They can be planted in a variety of soil types from uplands to bottomlands on a well-disked seed bed at a rate 20-30 lbs. per acre.  Fertilize with 13-13-13 fertilizer and lightly cover.  This is a great spring food plot for a variety of game species.  Adding additional plant types like Alyceclover, buckwheat, or American Jointvetch will further enhance your food plot. 

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