Beginner Tips for Food Plotting for Deer

The two best beginner tips for food plotting for deer are use a commercial pasture mix seed with clover in it and aim to feed the deer all year.

A food plot for deer isn’t baiting. It also shouldn’t be expensive. If you have the land available, and that area can be pretty small, why not feed the deer all year, spend a tiny fraction of the money typically spent on deer food plots, and have an attractive landscape all at the same the time?

Food Plotting for Deer
Clover, deer and turkeys love it. Photo Watson

Food plotting for deer.

The best food plotting for deer involves planting a commercial-grade pasture mix that contains clover. Clover seed mixes are easy to establish, locally available throughout the United States, cheap, grow in almost any soil, and deer travel great distances to consume it.

When it comes to establishing a food plot for deer, you can be cheap, but you can’t be lazy.

Be cheap. Shop only at your local grass seed company. My local grass seed dealer sells tons of seed to companies who need to make hundreds of acres look like golf courses. However, Amazon has folks selling to deer hunters with extra money. My dealer charges me 75 cents a pound for pasture mix with clover. Amazon sellers will gladly charge you over $6 a pound for the same result. 

My local grass seed dealer doesn’t want me to walk into their store. Yeah, some deer hunter wanting to spend less than $80 to seed two acres—that customer is a waste of time. You may have to ignore their efforts to keep you out of their business. My dealer even had a sign warning me not to come in! Ignore such warnings; walk in, and you’ll have access to folks who know exactly what the soil in your region needs to grow grass.

Do not be lazy. You have a lot of work to do to keep the deer living there locally all year. You must figure out where the plot should be (think about a safe shooting location). You also have to prepare the ground for the seed, and you have to plant early enough to have a harvest for the deer during the deer hunting season.

Food plotting for deer.
Gotcha! 7 years later and still taking bucks over this clover choked deer food plot.

Author’s note: Yeah, I wear hearing protection when hunting. Protect yourself, not just from hearing loss, but tinnitus.

Clover, the secret to food plotting for deer.

Confession time! I accidentally planted a pasture mix that had clover in it. I did it only to save money and make the field look pretty. Today, over a decade later, my field is always full of deer and turkeys.

Oh, I know! I’m supposed to impress you with years of trying different seeds and stories of how I failed, learned, and tried something new. But I was a cheapskate one day and lucked into the perfect seed. My local deer, well, they live here. Even when it snows, the ground is scraped clean by deer trying to get to the snow-covered vegetation.

I researched the perfect time of the day to hunt deer, how to bait deer, and even the three best calibers to use to hunt deer, but food plots for deer? Pure cheapness and luck. I do not even have a product to sell you—pasture mix seed is cheapest when bought locally. However, I got two articles out of it—check out my turkey food plot story if you don’t believe me.

What I did not know then, but do know now, is that planting two acres of pasture mix seed with clover produces nearly 16,000 pounds of delicious, sweet-tasting, nutrient-dense forage for local turkeys and deer. That’s plenty enough to keep eight adult deer well fed and happy each year. And to think I only did it to save a few hundred dollars to build a lawn.

Honestly, although I watched the antlers grow on my local deer, I never considered associating that growth with the clover in my field. It took years before I realized that clover has three times the minerals of some mixes—and that was promoting the larger racks I was seeing.

Related: Does your deer harvest have warts? Or, does your buck have antlers?

Deer food plot
Even my fawns started getting larger when I planted a pasture mix with clover in it.

Author’s note: If you haven’t tried it yet, buy bow and get into archery. My shot on this fawn was a bit low, but the angle was perfect.

The best time to plant a deer food plot.

The best time to plant a deer food plot is last year. The second best time is this fall or this spring. Sorry, but not everything is immediately fixable.

On the bright side, your efforts will pay off for many years. Clover can take a hell of beating, and next spring it will return without any help from you.

Ten years after planting pasture mix seed on the ground, and in the middle of a drought, there are three hens in my field feeding– and I don’t know how many poults—right this minute. Some fall nights, I’ve seen as many as 17 deer grazing on less than 2 acres.

During deer hunting season, I’ve watched bucks crash into each other and sprinkled the ground with their blood shortly after. All this turkey and deer activity and I have never so much as walked on that plot since the day it was planted.

Related: Do you need to track a wounded deer? How old are those deer tracks you found?

Deer food plotting
A nice 1.5 year old buck That’s what’s for dinner!

How to plant your deer food plot.

The best advice for when and how to plant your deer food plot (pasture mix) will be found at your local grass seed dealer. The most critical questions will relate to your soil type and when (spring or fall) to start your plot.

As for the seeding itself, I have found simply spreading the seed at double the suggested rate works wonders. I double the suggested rate to give the clover a place to take root among the other contents (usually oats, wheat, barley, turnips, rapeseed, and annual ryegrass). Add some hay, to keep rainfall from splashing it away, and just leave it alone.

Two things have affected my deer food plot, drought conditions and too many deer and turkeys. During droughts, the height of my clover is lower, but this only seems to aid the gobblers in attracting mates in the spring. And when too many turkeys and deer got at it, I added two more acres to the plot. An excellent problem for a deer and turkey hunter, eh?

Related: Do not waste your money on a deer whistle for you car—they don’t work.

Dennis V. Gilmore Jr.

Dennis V. Gilmore Jr. is a former Marine Sergeant and the author of several books, including two on night hunting coyotes and red and gray fox. He has written several hundred articles on predator hunting for

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