Food Plot Management

Missouri bobwhites usually start whistling in late April or early May. In fact, I heard some birds last week while turkey hunting.

The clear whistle of a bobwhite is an alarm clock for some landowners to start work on this year's food plots. In fact, I finished work on a 1-acre sunflower plot two weeks ago. Over the next two months, landowners will frantically spend their weekends preparing food plots for quail and other wildlife. Unfortunately, this flurry of work is at the expense of more important quail habitat work like maintaining shrub plantings, spraying invasive plants, conducting late spring prescribed burns or edge feathering. Spring rains and muddy fields only exaggerate the hysteria.

Most landowners who are already doing a good job of managing their farm for bobwhites don't really need to stress out over planting food plots. If you've done a good job of creating shrubby, nesting and brooding cover for bobwhites then adding food plots will only enhance your management efforts. Food plots alone can’t make poor habitat into good habitat. In well managed habitat, quail and other wildlife can find adequate food. The only exception might be during extended periods of ice or snow. During these times, food plots can be beneficial to quail and other wildlife.

Now let's be realistic. Planting food plots is a fun activity. I love getting on the tractor each spring and working the soil. I like watching the plots grow and mature over the summer. However, food plots should not take the place of good habitat management on the rest of the farm. I spend more time conducting prescribed burns, spraying fescue and improving woody cover for bobwhites. Only after you have taken the time to create good nesting, brooding and shrubby cover should you start to think about planting food plots.

This spring when get the itch to plant a food plot, make sure you do something to improve nesting, brooding or shrubby cover first. When you are ready to plant this year's food plots or establish a new food plot consider some of the following tips:

Site Selection

•Food plots for quail must be close to shrubby cover. Place your food plots next to edge feathering or create covey headquarters along the edge of your food plots. Try to keep your food plots within 70 feet of woody cover.

 

•Create long linear food plots to divide