Using tall-growing varieties of plants will create year-long cover and screening.
Have you ever had a really nice food plot that the deer just didn’t seem to use that much, especially during the daylight?
Occasionally, I will consult with a land manager who seems to be doing everything right, but according to lack of sightings while hunting and trail camera proof, the deer just won’t consistently use the field in daylight hours.
This also includes the spring/summer period when hunting pressure is not a factor. One really easy way to encourage whitetails to use a food source is making them feel safe. The older age class of both bucks and does can be really shy of big, open fields or food plots that are void of close cover.
Whitetails are also very curious animals and love to check out something new when there is a change in the landscape. Here are a few suggestions you can try to make your food plots as effective as possible from a hunting and utilization standpoint by creating screening cover for deer.
Blind Spot Helps Deer Feel Secure
Create a screening cover for deer around the perimeter of the plot or areas that allow the plot to be seen by a road or neighbors. We have seen great results from using tall growing varieties such as Egyptian wheat to create a transition zone from woods and thickets where the deer are coming from and the food plot.
Planting a screen around the field can really help the deer have a better feeling of security and encourage daytime use. If you have food plots that are easily seen by a neighboring property or public road, plant a screen to shield the view.
You’ll be amazed how the deer know when they can’t be seen. This also serves to discourage poaching from outlaws. They are less likely to trespass on your property if they can’t see deer, turkey, or other game in your fields.
A specialized blend called Blind Spot can be used to create a hidden path to your stand. We have all had one of those stands that were in a great spot for an afternoon hunt, but almost impossible to get to without being spotted or bust deer out of the field on your way in.
The 8- to 12-feet tall variety of sorghum in Blind Spot can make a great covered path to get you to your stand unnoticed. Just a tractor-width-wide planting is all it takes.
Plant in Late Spring or Early Summer
Be creative in creating your screening cover for deer. You can use these tall-growing blends to funnel deer to a corner food plot or make them walk right by your stand for that up-close archery shot.
When deer have good tall cover to walk through, they feel safe and are more likely to use your connected plots during daylight. Whitetails love to travel using edges or transition lines between food and cover.
“Make sure to get these blends planted with enough time to grow to full maturity.”
Make sure to get these blends planted with enough time to grow to full maturity. Sorghum, millet, and Egyptian wheat seeds need a good 80 to 90 days of growth to reach full height and maturity. If you wait until a month before the deer season starts to think about planting, you’ll be too late.
Late spring through early summer is a great time to get these blends started. Fertilizer recommendations without a soil test would be 200 to 300 pounds per acre of 17-17-17. Planting depth should be about ½ inch up to one-inch deep.
Millets, sorghums, and Egyptian wheat do really well when planted with a drill or planter using a sorghum setting on the planting rate. These blends can also be broadcasted onto a well-prepared seedbed and lightly covered with a drag or culti-packer.
A major bonus from using these blends to create screens and cover is the amount of seed produced that is highly preferred by turkeys, quail, and other birds. Another ancillary benefit of using these blends is the escape cover and habitat it creates for small game and other critters as well as adding to the overall diversity of a property.
Variety of Annuals & Perennials Available
You can also utilize native warm-season grasses as a more long-term, perennial option for your screening and partitioning fields.
These also require some management and attention to ensure a good stand that meets your goals. Nativ Nurseries Barrier Blend was designed with this purpose in mind. It contains varieties such as Big Bluestem, Alamo Switchgrass, Iron Weed, Maximillian Sunflower, and White Wingstem that will average seven to 10 feet in height.
There has been a significant decrease of CRP ground, especially in the Midwest in the last decade. The native grasses and plants that inhabited these areas were heavily used by wildlife. Whether you use annuals or perennials to create your screens or travel corridors, food plot architecture can be a lot of fun.