Planting a food plot doesn't guarantee a hunter will kill a 200-inch deer, but it will increase his chances.
While food plots are not a substitute for good native habitat, they are an important part of wildlife management in Oklahoma, said Heath Herje, agriculture educator for the Cleveland County Cooperative Extension, a branch of Oklahoma State University.
More land traditionally used for agriculture in Oklahoma is being bought for the purposes of recreation, mostly hunting and fishing, Herje said.
“That's the trend we are seeing more and more,” Herje said.
And as more land is being bought for hunting, more landowners are planting food plots to attract wildlife, especially deer and turkey.
“A lot of the soil samples I look at are for food plots,” Herje said. “It's a hot topic. I get calls about it all the time.”
For that reason, the Cleveland County Cooperative Extension is holding a deer food plot workshop on Friday near Slaughterville on the property of one landowner who is using food plots in deer management.
Many landowners plant both cool and warm season food plots for wildlife. The lean times of late winter and late summer are the most important times to provide food for deer, but Herje recommends food plots year-round.
In the fall, food plots are important to attract does to the area if landowners need to increase the doe harvest on their property, Herje said.
From a nutritional standpoint, the most important time for bucks to have food plots is from April through September during the antler growing period, he said.
Food plots can help increase the body size of a buck and improve antler growth. For does, the food plots can help ensure healthy fawns.
Food plots also benefit other species of wildlife such as turkeys, ducks and geese, Herje said.
Herje recommends 5 to 10 percent of a landowner's property be planted in food plots. What to plant depends on what works best in the area.
“Not all soils are created equal,” Herje said.
A combination of grasses, forbs and legumes provide a diverse food source for wildlife and reduce the risk of losing entire plots to weather, insects or disease.
There are many commercially available food plot mixes that provide nutritious and preferred deer foods, Herje said.
Those attending Friday's workshop can learn more about seed blends as officials from local and wildlife seed companies will be there to answer questions. Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation biologists also will be attending to talk about the agency's deer management assistance program.
Even with food plots, landowners should still manage their deer herd by harvesting more does, not shooting young bucks, conducting controlled burns and managing the native habitat, Herje said.
But food plots are an important management tool, he said.
The vast majority of people who are buying and leasing property for hunting are planting food plots, Herje said.
“It seems like almost everybody you talk to is. It's a beneficial thing to do.”