I'm surrounded by corn and soybeans, so are food plots even necessary?
QUESTION: Bob, we've managed a 400-acre hunting lease in Tennessee for ten years now are getting good results. We've captured several large bucks on trail cams and harvested some, as well. I'm struggling with whether or not to plant food plots, because a farmer works about 40 percent of the property, planting corn, soybeans or cotton. This season it's all soybeans. Is there really any need to spend the money, time and effort on food plots with that much protein available, or should we just be thankful for the agriculture and work on harvest management and genetics? - Howard J.
ANSWER: Without more information it's difficult to say what, if anything, your lease needs, so I'll offer some general guidelines to help you make that determination.
The basic elements of whitetail habitat are food, water and cover. The more you have and the closer each element is to one another, the better.
Forty percent sounds like an ideal amount of area for food plots and agriculture. If the deer have secure bedding areas and an adequate water source, you should be in pretty good shape.
The next step is looking at the availability of year-round nutrition.
Deer have different dietary needs at different times of the year. Soybeans are a great crop because they meet a deer's high protein demands in spring and summer, while providing necessary fats, carbohydrates and fiber in the fall and winter (as long as there are soybeans standing).
Depending on when and how the farmer harvests, there might or might not be enough residue remaining to support deer through the winter. This is where food plots like winter wheat or brassicas could provide an important supplement to your deer.
However, given all of the above I'd concentrate my efforts on harvest management.
Much depends on what your neighbors are doing, but with 400 acres you should be able to hold and harvest some nice bucks.
You, as well as your neighbors, just need to be willing to pass up smaller, younger bucks.
As for genetics, there's little you can do when it comes to free-ranging deer. What you have is what you have.