The Pros and Cons to Food Plots - Think Outside the Food Plot!
and plant food plots second. Does the food plot in the picture below improve this fescue field and tall trees for bobwhites? The answer is no. The field could easily be improved by ignoring the food plots until the fescue is eradicated and established to little bluestem and wildflowers. I'd also cut down most of the trees and leave them where they fall in the field. Then, and only then, should the food plots be planted.
•Quail will only occasionally use food plots in the middle of large grassland fields where there is little shrubby cover. Establish food plots next to good shrubby and grassland cover.
•Food plots will not provide as much food or variety as a well managed grassland. Ragweed, grass seeds, annual lespedeza, beggars lice and other seed-producing plants thrive in frequently disturbed fields. Establish only 1/4 to 4 acres of food plots on each 40 acres of habitat and focus on improving your grassland habitat around your food plots.
•Small food plots (less than 1/4 acre) or less than 30 feet wide are often over browsed by deer in the summer or early fall; well before late winter when quail and other wildlife might need a supplemental food source. Make sure your food plots are at least 1/4 acre and 30 feet wide.
•Food plots that are not fertilized usually produce little grain. Consider taking a soil test to determine the condition of the soil. Fertilize and lime if the test calls for it.
•Food plots sprayed to control “weeds” will contain very little ragweed, foxtail, prickly sida and pigweed (some of the top quail foods). You are not trying to produce 50-bushel beans or 200 bushels of corn per acre, just enough grain for the plot to be beneficial throughout the winter. The ragweed, foxtail, sida and pigweed are just as good, if not better than the grain growing in the plot. Only spray a food plot if the annual plants start to out-compete the planted grain or if you have problem weeds like Johnson grass or cocklebur (to name a few). I do spray my glyphosate resistant succotash plot, but with a light rate of glypohsate and only once in early June. I still end up with a good seedy plant crop. The picture above is a great example of a "barren food plot." There's not much brooding cover. However, there are exceptions. The picture below is of a few biologists next to a sunflower food plot they couldn't spray because of wet fields. As you can see, the Johnson grass has taken over the plot. I think these were the only sunflowers in the entire field. Not the best for attracting doves, but still decent quail cover. We had a good laugh over the "big" sunflower crop.
•Corn, soybean, milo and sunflower plots are often over-browsed in areas with high deer populations. Try forage sorghum or millet in areas with high deer populations.
Food plots do provide a dependable food source to quail but are worthless if there is not already good nesting, brooding and shrubby cover nearby. Focus on providing good nesting, brooding and shrubby cover first and then plant your food plots.
Habitat is the Key!