The wildlife industry and most food plotters focus on the fall when it comes to food plots. "They just want to kill a big deer." Even though this period is a time of attraction, in my opinion this season is not the most important season for your wildlife nutrition needs. Let's explore this more.
My most important season is spring. The does are dropping fawns. That doe needs to produce as much quality milk as possible, especially if she has twins or triplets. The doe's milk is composed of a high amount of calcium. This is where annual clovers, perennial clovers, forbs and alfalfa are a great way to get a higher plain of calcium into that doe. So many people have bare ground until they are able to get things planted. People should always consider maintaining at least 1/3 of their plots as perennials. For those who want to kill a "big deer," The fawns growth curve is affected early on in their life. Getting them off to a great start carries on into the future. A deer that is of larger body size and better body condition will be able to handle that first winter better. The next season they will not be going through as much "compensatory gain" and that can carry on through their life.
The winter would be my 2nd most important season. It's rare that I ever am on a property where someone has too much winter feed. The goal would be to reduce the pressure of over browse of our forests. We want our deer to not lose much body condition. This is important for those who want to grow and kill big deer. When a deer loses too much body condition during the winter, they use a higher amount of that spring growth on replenishing their bodies. That is not to say they will not be still putting inches of antlers on. It means that a higher amount of nutrients are going to body growth and not maintenance. There are many overlooked sources of winter feed and winter forages. My clients rely on overlooked forages. This is my focus on education in 2019.
The fall. Yes, we need quality forage during the fall to attract and hold deer. The way I look at it is this. If you have deer browsing on your land during spring and summer, they will more likely already be on your properties and establishing a routine. There are many options for fall attraction. Deer eat what they eat, when they eat it for many reasons.
The summer. During this time we tend to see many farm fields with a lot of nearby browse in the forms of corn, soybeans and in some cases hay fields. On our lands we might have native forbs, weeds and other browse sources that are in their prime. On the G.R.O. farm, it is like clockwork every summer. There is that 10 day period in July where Giant ragweed is a preferred browse. It is rare that people would have little to no quality browse during this time. There are many warm season annuals that come into play.
Step back and ponder my words. What are the most effective forages and browse during each of these time periods. You want to kill a big deer? If so, every season is important. Deer are not bears, they do not hibernate.