Jul 10, 2018

Exceptional Fall Food Plots

A how-to guide for a lavish turnip mix that will consistently attract deer earlier in the season 

By Steve Jordan 

Mid-July to mid-August is turnip planting time for a great food plot in Wisconsin. Planting this mix earlier in the year makes for a mature, weedy, tough and less desirable crop going into the fall. Your goal should be a young, plush, tasty crop that can withstand the frost and cold weather. I have found that planting earlier than mid-July does not allow me to meet this goal. 

Nutritional value from turnips

A good turnip mix is high in nutrition. Deer will go into winter very healthy with a good food plot. Some areas in Wisconsin have very high deer densities. Most of those food plots are devastated by overgrazing. Even though the food source is all but gone in the fall, the deer have a nice layer of fat on their back and ribs to help them get through the winter. They would not have had this without a good food plot.

When choosing or making up your own turnip mix consider the following: the tillage radish is a great addition to the mix. About 10 to 20 percent of your mix should be the tillage radish. This plant has plush green leaves and a tuber similar to a carrot, but is yellow in color. Both the leaves and the tuber are highly desirable to deer. 

Another advantage to the tillage radish is that it has a long, strong and powerful root system that helps aerate the soil. The roots will decay in the spring and leave gaping holes in the soil which is good for aeration and hydration of the soil.

Also in this mix you should have a couple of varieties of turnips, brassicas, canola and winter rye. In high deer density areas, the deer seem to eat on the turnip mix right away even though the crop is in its early stages.

But in most areas with lower deer densities like mine, the deer don't seem interested until the sugars come up into the leaves after a good frost. I found a way to consistently get deer into these late season plots earlier.

Step-by-step approach

Here is how I plant an exceptional fall food plot. Young soybean plants are very sought after by deer. I plant a new strip every three weeks during the growing season. However, to make my exceptional fall food plot, I incorporate soybeans into my turnip mix.

Step One: Level your soil by disking, tilling or digging.

Step Two: Broadcast your fertilizer at the recommended rate from your supplier.

Step Three: Broadcast soybean seeds fairly lightly, approximately 25 pounds per acre, as not to crowd out the turnip mix. 

Step Four: Broadcast the turnip mix on to the surface of buried fertilizer and soybean seeds. Turnip mix seeds are small and can just lay on the surface. If the small seeds are covered, they may not have enough energy to reach the surface after germination. 

Step Five: Pack down the soil with 4-wheeler tires, a culti-packer or a lawn roller. This will ensure good seed-to-soil contact. 

If you follow the time period of mid-July to mid-August and these steps, you too, will have an exceptional food plot. The young soybeans in this plot will be singled out in about two weeks after planting and will remain the focus of the deer until the first hard frost.

The soybeans will freeze out and the turnip leaves will sweeten up at that same time. This is what some would call a win-win, or the perfect storm, or even an effective strategy. The little extra time and expense of this method is well worth it.

A good fertilizer for this mix is the old standby – 17-17-17 – or its equivalent. However, think about using some of the great liquid fertilizers on the market today. They are especially productive once the crop greens up. When the liquid fertilizer is applied to the leaves, the plant can start utilizing the nutrients within hours. Any of the liquid fertilizer that misses the leaves just lays on the soil until the next rain. Then it soaks in and gives the plant another boost.

With all of the food plots around the countryside today, more deer will show up to the best tasting and well-maintained food plots. A good turnip mix with a variety of choices for the deer can be compared to a well-organized plush salad bar at a popular restaurant.

Enjoy the rest of summer. Happy planting. Fall is almost here. 

Steve Jordan's passion is planting food plots for wildlife. He likes to help others with their food plots and enjoys training them on how to attract wildlife to their properties. Steve and his wife, Kim, both enjoy hunting a variety of game on their own property near New London and sharing their love of the outdoors with their grandsons. They also go to Colorado each fall to hunt elk or mule deer, and can help you book a hunt of a lifetime with this outfitter.

Steve recently received two awards from the state chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation. One was the 2017 Outdoor Writer of the Year Award, while the other was the 2017 Land Stewardship Award. If you have questions on food plots, contact Steve or Kim at skjordan1010@gmail.com.