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Favorite Quail Food Plots

Jun 08, 2009

A while back, I had a poll on food plots. The survey question asked what's your favorite type of food plot to plant for bobwhites.

The results are in, and there was a tie between milo and forage sorghum for the most popular food crops. I don't think there was any election fraud or hanging chats. I hoped no one voted twice or let their bird dog vote.

Here are the results for favorite bobwhite food plots:

•16 votes forage sorghum

•16 votes milo

•7 votes millet

•1 vote corn

•1 vote soybean

•1 vote sunflower

I thought the clear winner would have been milo with forage sorghum coming in a distant second. Either way, both are excellent choices for bobwhites. I often mix the two together to get the best of both crops.

Forage sorghum grows 6 to 9 feet tall (picture below) and does well in a variety of soil types. Forage sorghum will lodge over in the the winter. The jumbled mess of stems is excellent cover and food for rabbits, quail and pheasants. Forage sorghum will last well into late winter and is an excellent emergency food source after heavy snow or ice. Egyptian wheat is very similar to forage sorghum and tends to stay upright during the winter. Forage sorghum will not produce as much seed as milo, but more than makes up for it by providing excellent winter cover and a late winter food source. I recommend forage sorghum in areas with high deer populations. Deer will devour milo seedheads in the doughy stage, but not forage sorghum.

The other top food plot crop was milo (picture below). Grain sorghum (milo) produces large seedheads and does well in a variety of soil types. The only real downfall for milo is deer relish the seedheads during the dough stage. I've seen small milo food plots striped clean by deer. To outsmart deer, try mixing forage sorghum and milo together to get the best of both crops. The taller forage sorghum will help hide the larger milo seedheads (at least in theory). They still seem to find some of it.

I was surprised to see millet in third place. Maybe that's because I prefer milo and forage sorghum over millet. Generally, millets are good seed producers and are easy to establish. Millets can be broadcasted into July and still mature before the first frost (most varieties mature in 90 days). Whether it is proso, pearl, German or brown top, millet provides good brooding cover and food for bobwhites.

I thought sunflowers would get a few more votes since I frequently find coveys next to sunflower fields. I usually see coveys next to sunflower fields in the summer and early fall. I think quail like sunflower fields in the summer for loafing cover and brooding cover if left weedy. If left unmowed, sunflower plots can provide a good food source for bobwhites, pheasants and other wildlife. However, most sunflower fields are planted for dove hunting, so by early August the fields are mowed or disked, leaving little food or cover for bobwhites. Any seed left on the ground will germinate in September leaving little food for the long winter ahead. Sunflower fields managed for doves are usually sprayed with herbicides a few times to control weeds (annual seedy plants) and to keep the fields "clean." A weedy food plot is better for quail, but not for doves. If you want sunflowers for doves then be happy with providing some brooding and loafing cover for bobwhites in July and August. If you want the sunflower field to benefit bobwhites consider reducing the number of herbicide treatments and/or disk only the interior of the field while leaving a 30- to 60-foot strip of unmowed sunflowers around the edge.

I wasn't surprised to see corn near the bottom of the list for bobwhite food plots. Generally, corn can only be grown in fertile soils and must be drilled with a planter. Most other grains can be broadcasted. Corn has high fertility requirements, especially compared to other food plot crops. Corn is a very good food and cover source for a variety of wildlife, especially deer and turkey, and that might be one reason why corn wasn't too popular on the quail food plot poll. I've learned over the years that corn food plots must be at least 1 acre in size to feed all the deer, turkey, squirrels and raccoons. On the plus side, corn is a high energy source and provides excellent cover for bobwhites. I like to plant corn in a succotash food plot (glyphosate resistant corn and soybeans mixed together). I normally idle the plot the second year. In fact, last year's corn/soybean food plot on our farm still has quite a bit of corn left (picture below). I'll leave this plot idle until next year to provide ideal brooding cover this summer.

Also at the bottom was soybeans. Soybeans are relished by most wildlife, and that might be their downfall as a quail food plot. Small soybean plots are quickly overbrowsed by deer, groundhogs and rabbits. Experience has taught me that soybean food plots should be planted in large blocks and must be at least 1 acre (sometimes even large). Generally, we recommend long, linear food plots for bobwhites, and that usually doesn't work for soybean plots. Another problem with soybeans is the seeds often shatter on the ground and are inaccessible to quail after a heavy snow or ice storm. Soybeans aren't my favorite food plot for quail, but I usually plant some each year. Cowpeas are similar to soybeans. Cowpeas are often planted in the southeast United States for deer browse or as a grain plot for bobwhites. Soybeans do well in a variety of soil types and don't require much fertility. Quail will use soybean food plots for summer brooding cover and for roosting cover if left weedy (few herbicide treatments). I've shot a lot of quail out of weedy soybean food plots and in unharvested soybean fields. That's one reason why I still plant beans.


Thanks to those who voted for their favorite food plot. I don't think we need a recount or special election. Take a look at my new poll on what's your favorite type of covey headquarters.

Take a look at some of my older blogs on food plots and the University of Tennessee Extension publication on food plots. All 168 pages are full of great information on food plots and so much more.

The Pros and Cons to Food Plots - Think Outside the Food Plot!

What else you should consider before planting food plots.

Flip-Flop That Food Plot

Sometimes the best food plot hasn't been planted.

Food Plot Management

Good information on when and where to plant food plots.

Habitat is the Key!

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