By Steve Bartylla
There are many things that can ruin a food plot, but overbrowsing, one of the most common, is somewhat controllable.
If a plot is otherwise healthy, overbrowsing occurs when there isn’t enough food to satisfy resident deer. When there are too many deer for the habitat to sustain, you must either decrease the number of deer or increase the available food — or both.
One way to provide more food is to create more food plots. If maximum antler growth and health are among your goals, offer nutrition the entire year, particularly through winter.
You also want maximum yield from your plots. Proper applications of fertilizer and lime helps, but you also need adequate water.
Another trick I use when acreage is limited is planting a winter rye and brassica mix. Because brassicas are generally more desirable than winter rye, the deer focus their initial feeding on the brassicas, allowing the winter rye to become well established.
Winter rye is very browse tolerant and enters dormancy only when the ground becomes frozen.
The combination allows the winter rye to replace the brassicas as they’re eaten.
Because of competition between the brassicas and winter rye, you won’t get a full yield from the brassicas. As long as both plants are seeded at three quarters of the suggested rate, increased forage tonnage is the result, as is a one-two food plot punch.
Finally, there are deer fencing options available. Although they don’t increase plant growth, keeping deer from browsing a plot until it’s become established can increase forage production.
For more information on food plots, habitat and deer management practices, visit the writer’s website at: www.food-plots-for-deer.com.