Why Food Plots Fail
to weather, disease, and predation.
Management efforts that focus more on food plots than on first providing the critical habitat components of nesting, feeding, loafing and escape cover will likely yield less-than-desirable results. Food plots are best viewed as an insurance policy, guarding against infrequent and uncontrollable events such as severe winter weather.
Certainly, food plots have their place in wildlife management. For instance, annual grain food plots, by providing bare ground and high insect populations, could serve as broodrearing cover, as well as a high-energy, late-winter food source, in areas already having suitable escape and nesting cover.
The basic management principles described here for quail can be applied to other wildlife species, including deer and turkey. It's best to tailor your management efforts to the habitats most used by a particular species or group of species. For instance, improving habitat structure in and around an 80-acre woodland will yield greater long-term benefits for deer and turkey than planting a 3-acre food plot. Combining both of these practices, however, could yield results greater than either of the practices alone.
Property owners can attract and hold more quail by creating quality escape cover along woodland borders adjacent to food plots. This might include shrub plantings. They might also improve the grassland cover surrounding their food plots. This could be done by reseeding with a wildlife friendly grass-legume mixture, prescribed burning, strip disking and moderate grazing.
The next time you contemplate what food plot mixture to plant and where, ask yourself, "Is there something else that wildlife may lack?" If the answer is yes, then perhaps you should direct your management efforts toward improving habitat. Then your food plots will have the best chance of attracting wildlife.
For assistance in developing a management plan for your property, contact your local Department of Conservation or Natural Resources Conservation Service office.triangle
Foods high in usable energy for quail
- Corn Grain
|Practice||Suitable Areas||Habitat Provided||Timing|
|Prescribed burning||CRP lands, idle fields, pastures, small woodlands (40 acres or less) near nesting and brood-rearing cover||Feeding, nesting following year, stimulates beneficial grasses/forbs||Fall/spring - depends upon vegetation being burned|
|Strip Disking||CRP acres, idle fields||Feeding, roosting, and fall/winter foods||Fall/late winter|
|Edge Feathering||Woodland borders near nesting and brood-rearing cover||Escape cover and fall/winter food||Fall/winter|
|Shrub Planting||CRP lands,woodland borders, crop field borders.||Escape cover and travel lanes||Spring|
|Native Grass/Forb Establishment||CRP seedings, rotational grazing systems, field borders, buffers||Nesting, roosting, and feeding||Spring/late fall|
|Timber Stand Improvement (TSI)||Small woodlands (40 acres or less) near nesting and brood-rearing cover||Escape cover, fall foods (acorns)||Late fall/winter|
|Interseeding Forbs/legumes||CRP lands, pastures, hay fields, idle fields||Feeding and fall foods||Fall/spring|
|Field Borders and Buffers||Crop fields and hay fields adjacent to escape cover||Nesting, roosting, feeding, and travel lanes||Spring/fall - depends upon vegetation being seeded|
|Grazing||Native grass paddocks in rotational grazing system||Nesting, feeding in some instances||Summer. Short duration - high intensity grazing best|
|Food Plots||CRP fields and open areas adjacent to escape and nesting cover||Feeding, late-winter food||Spring - grain plantings best|
|Perennial Grasses*:||Cover Type Provided||Naturally Occurring Forbs/Legumes:||Cover Type Provided|
|Little bluestem||Nesting, roosting||Crotons||Feeding - fall|
|Sideoats grama||Nesting, roosting||Partridge pea||Feeding - late-winter food|
|Big bluestem||Nesting, roosting||Goldenrods||Nesting, roosting|
|Switchgrass||Nesting, roosting||Fleabanes||Nesting, roosting|
|Indiangrass||Nesting, roosting||Sunflowers||Feeding - fall/winter food|
|Timothy||Nesting, roosting||Wild beans||Feeding - fall|
|Orchard grass||Nesting, roosting|
|Annual Grasses:||Cover Type Provided||Naturally Occurring Forbs/Legumes:||Cover Type Provided|
|Foxtails||Nesting, feeding, roosting||Ragweeds||Feeding - fall and winter|
|Panic Grasses||Nesting, feeding, roosting||Lespedezas**||Feeding - fall and winter|
|Crabgrass||Feeding||Beggar-ticks||Feeding - fall|
|Tick-trefoils||Feeding - fall|
|Shrubs:||Cover Type Provided|
|Blackberry/black raspberry||Escape, loafing, feeding - summer|
|American plum||Escape, loafing|
|American hazelnut||Escape, loafing|
|Rough-leaved dogwood (north)||Escape, loafing, feeding - fall|
|Flowering dogwood (south)||Escape, loafing, feeding - fall|
|Fragrant sumac||Escape, loafing, feeding - fall|
|Smooth sumac||Escape, feeding - late-winter|
|Common elderberry||Escape, loafing, feeding - fall|
* Can provide feeding cover if mixed with forbs and legumes
** Sericea Lespedeza is an introduced invasive plant. Do not plant.