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Creating food plots for wildlife

Plant native forages
Photo courtesy of University of Missouri

People create food plots for wildlife for different reasons. Maybe it’s to attract deer to harvest, or just to keep the wildlife fed and healthy.

Becky McPeake is an Extension wildlife expert at the University of Arkansas. She says when you’re selecting a site for a food plot, look for something close to cover, or a wooded area. Make it as large as you can, but design the plot long and narrow so a creature can quickly slip in and out if it needs to.

"We often like to have food plots that are larger than an acre or more because what will happen with a small food plot is deer will eat it down to the ground. To prevent that from happening, it sounds kind of odd, but you can put up an electric fence or other barrier to keep them out until the plants grow to a certain height," says McPeake. "Then we remove that fence and let the deer graze."

Reseeding every year gets expensive, so walk through the area and take note of the native plants that animals are browsing on. Include those plants in your food plot, and let it go for two-to-three years before reseeding. McPeake says it’ll save you money.

"The advantage is that you’ve already put lime and fertilizer out there for those plants. After that first year your plants that you have put out there typically have been consumed or they’re annual plants and they’re gone," she says. "But the second and third year, that fertilizer and lime is still in the soil, and that is beneficial to the deer because whatever native plants grow up, they have that fertilizer and lime advantage, and that tends to be very attractive to deer and other wildlife."

She also recommends putting out an “exclosure” cage that will allow you to monitor plant growth but prevent the animals from eating it.

Learn more about creating food plots for wildlife

Here's how to put in a food plot browse exclosure cage

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