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Food plots in extreme drought conditions

Back To "Ask The Biologist?"QUESTION: We are experiencing an extreme drought here in northeast Oklahoma. Our rainfall is well behind normal and our acorns are not producing. I hunt in cattle country where the cows are eating most of the green vegetation. The land owner will allows us to plant food plots but we can not fence out his cows. What can I plant that the deer will eat but not the cattle, if that is possible? I do not have access to any kind of equipment except my ATV and I do not have any implements. Also, how will this kind of drought affect the deer? - Jim

Ask the Biologist

ANSWER: From all I’ve heard it sounds like you folks in Oklahoma and Texas are having a tough time of it this year. You have my sympathies.

Given your constraints, I think it would be difficult to impossible to plant anything that will benefit deer if you can’t fence it in. You can’t plant anything in a drought; and if it weren’t a drought, most anything you plant the cows would eat. I would suggest you ask the landowner to reconsider allowing you to erect feeders and place fences around them. If you put the feeders on bare ground and only fence in a small area - 100 - 200 square feet - I don’t see what possible harm that could do to the cows. But it could certainly help the deer. If he does permit it, I would recommend you start small to give the deer a chance to adjust to a new diet.

To answer your other question, the drought will affect deer in several ways. Less water means less and less nutritious food. That translates to less healthy deer. Antlers will be smaller than they could be, and some research suggests this phenomenon can carry over into the following year. Body sizes will be less in both sexes and if the drought persists, does will give birth to fewer fawns next year. Deer will also likely experience higher natural mortality from disease, starvation and predation. The best thing you can do is pray for rain.

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