How Quail Habitat Management Can Help Your Deer Season

Published on: Nov. 5, 2009

The next time you visit the local feed store, take a look at the back shelf. I bet the shelf is full of deer clover mixes, big buck oats and turkey chufa. As popular as deer forages have become, they might be on the front shelf--no surprise since nearly every hunting show says something about deer forages and food plots. In the United States, deer food plot mixes have grown into a multimillion-dollar business. To no surprise, landowners work feverishly to plant new food plots each. Many landowners plant wheat, clover or turnips. Some go to great lengths to plant Roundup Read corn and soybeans, alfalfa, chicory, lablab, cowpeas or other interesting seed mixes. Unfortunately, this is usually the extent of their management plan when they could be doing so much more for deer and other wildlife.

After nine years of college, I finally graduated from the University of Missouri - Columbia with a M.S. in Fisheries and Wildlife Management. My thesis was on the value of food plots and habitat management for white-tailed deer in the Missouri Ozarks. My job was to plant a variety of different food plots and then sit in a deer stand for 10 evenings a month for three years (life was tough). When in the deer stand I listened to a lot of Cardinals baseball games and tracked which forage plots deer preferred (ladino or white clover and wheat were the best choices).

We also conducted prescribed burns in old fields and woodlands to compare the nutritional value of native green browse like blueberry, asters and native lespedezas. We also compared the nutritional value of browse in burned areas to unburned areas. We found native forbs and legumes and some woody browse had good crude protein levels (above 15 percent) and were highly digestible during the spring and summer, especially in areas that were recent treated with prescribed fire--no surprise here since fire will stimulate new plant growth. In summary, we could produce good browse and a lot more deer food in well managed old fields and woodlands than in food plots.

So after three years, what did I learn? First, I learned you can't drive very far on tractor with two flat tires, never weld when wearing shorts, never underestimate how fast crabgrass can burn, four-wheel drive doesn't mean you can drive through everything, and don’t forget bug spray when walking in

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