Over the course of a year, I receive many questions from people interested in what I think is the perfect food plot seed to plant for deer in their own whitetail food plots. Some of these individuals are well-seasoned at planting food plots for deer and have many years of experience while others are as green as the leaves on my soybean food plots, looking for answers and not wanting to be left behind on the food plot planting bandwagon. To be perfectly honest with the person, I always answer that I have yet to find the perfect stand alone food plot seed for deer that will attract and hold whitetails for an entire year. Its safe to say that growing up in the Midwest and spending countless hours observing whitetails while either bowhunting, or preseason scouting food plots has shown me that all commercially manufactured food plot seed today has a certain drawback to consistently attracting whitetail deer on your food plot for the duration of the year. However, if I had to choose one food plot seed choice to plant it would be soybeans. While scouting food plots during the late summer months when bucks are still in velvet but nearing the end of their antler growing cycles, on my farms, I watch in amazement as both does and bucks walk right through a perfectly lush green clover food plot while rarely stopping to nibble on the clover/chicory blend, before heading directly towards the soybean food plots. On my farm, we sustain an active population of both whitetail and mule deer and both species can be actively seen grazing on the soybean leaves during those late summer nights. In my opinion, in my area of the country, few if any food plot seed plantings can compete with the versatility and pure attractiveness to deer than what soybeans do. Deer absolutely love them! Whitetail deer are no dummies, when it comes to high quality food, they will seek out and find the most nutritious diet consisting of high protein food sources that are available to them at any given time of the year whether it be an agricultural field or one of your properly prepared food plot plantings planted with soybeans.
Soybeans are very easy to grow and maintain in a whitetail deer food plot and I highly recommend a variety such as Eagle Forage Soybeans, or Real World Soybeans that are bred with Round-up Ready technology. When planting food plots, and especially new plot plantings, the overwhelming abundance of weeds that show up would make a person think that someone had sabotaged your food plot seed with weed seed. It’s nice to know that you have the option of applying 1 to 1 ½ qts per acre of glyphosate to take care of them. Soybeans are an annual food plot forage which means they have to be replanted year after year. Soybeans are classified in the legume plant family along with other popular food plot choices such as clovers, chicory, alfalfa and peas. A legume is a plant species that extracts and makes its own nitrogen by extracting it from the air. Soybeans extract N from the air with the help of a common type of bacteria called Rhizobium which infects all legume plants, basically it aids in helping the legume draw nitrogen from the air, convert it, and than store it in the plants roots producing what is called a nitrogen nodule. Thus heavy applications of N fertilizer on your soybean or other legume food plot will do nothing but accelerate invasive plant species growth such as grasses and weeds. A quick and cost-effective tip when planting heavy N using food plot varieties such as corn or brassicas is to plant these food plot seeds on expired or worn out legume plantings consisting of alfalfa, clovers, and soybeans. Basically you are taking advantage of the free N that is being released by the decomposing legumes that were disked or tilled under prior to planting your corn or brassica food plot seed. Planting soybeans on my farm and on my clients farms here in Nebraska usually starts around the middle to later part of May but is dependant on several factors which include weather conditions, soil conditions and soil temperature. When your Nebraska custom food plot business revolves around weather conditions, I am constantly checking the upcoming days forecast for the right opportunity to plant food plots when favorable conditions exist for rain shortly after seed is in the ground. Soil condition when planting soybeans in deer food plots is also an important issue that needs to be evaluated before your food plot gets planted. Mudding in is a term which comes to mind and can be a real problem for beginnings planting their first soybean food plot. This occurs when soil conditions are too damp during planting which results in heavy compaction of the soil causing low germination rates of the soybean seedlings trying to push through the compacted soil. Soil temperature monitoring prior to planting soybeans for deer food plots is also vitally important. I prefer to plant soybeans in my Nebraska food plots when soil temps reach the 60 degree mark. Any cooler than that and soybeans sit dormant in the soil possibly taking weeks to sprout.
A typical soybean food plot planted with eagle soybeans for deer that is well maintained and properly fertilized can easily yield in excess of 6 tons of high protein antler building forage per acre. Compare that to a clover food plot which is nearly impossible to establish in my sandier soils and generally produces only 4 to 5 tons of forage per acre. Soybean food plots are generally very cost effective for the return of the immense amount of high quality forage that beans produce. The costs associated with planting an acre of soybeans in a food plot will vary considerably from location but here in north central Nebraska where the majority of my custom food plot plantings occur, the average price is usually around that $200 to $225 dollar range. That price range is figured by using approximately 300 lbs of fertilizer per acre, at roughly $75, Eagle Forage Soybean seed at $80 per bag, and a small application of lime which varies considerably by price depending on whether pelletized or ag lime is used. Some individuals may think that is quite a bit of cash for a one acre food plot planting consisting of soybeans, but what it all comes down to, is that you are getting roughly 12,000 lbs of high-protein deer feed at a cost of less than .02 cents per pound. Although baiting is now illegal in the state of Nebraska, many individuals still supplemental feed whitetails throughout the year. It doesn’t take a real smart person to realize with a 50 lb bag of corn going for about $7 bucks and high protein pellets costing a lot more, that in the long run food plots are a more cost effective way to supply not only your deer herd with a quality food source, but also several other species of wildlife will benefit from your food plots as well.
Soybean plantings for deer food plots make up almost 60% of the total amount of food plots that I plant on my own property and which are also custom plant for individuals in the state of Nebraska. The only 2 downsides that I have found with soybean plantings in food plots is that #1 if above normal deer densities exist are your hunting property, you cannot plant a ¼ acre soybean food plot and expect it to feed many deer for very long. Deer will literally grub it down to the dirt. I feel it is very important to get an understanding of the number of deer that inhabit your property before any type of food plot installation occurs. I generally recommend planting a food plot with soybeans to no smaller than an acre if possible. Food plot protecting products such as electric fencing and the Plotsaver have yielded fair results but are a pain to properly maintain especially if you live a long distance from your hunting property. The best advice I can give any whitetail hunter is to keep deer numbers in check. The majority of my tags each year get attached to does. Less mouths at the dinner table result in bigger bucks and an overall healthier deer herd. The 2nd and final disadvantage to growing soybeans in your food plot is that during the early fall, and especially right after a hard killing frost, the plants will die, thus turning the once preferred green leaves brown and turning the deer off of your beans and onto another food source and potentially leaving your property and onto your neighbors. This is why I cannot stress enough the importance of having multiple food plot plantings on your property, preferably in the same plot next to each other, to fill in the gap when one whitetail food source goes stale. Many of my food plot clients that I work with can relate to this by seeing how my food plot plantings on their property unfold with the variety of food plot seed that I put in the ground and when it is planted. However, with the drawing power of soybeans, the non-use gap is very short lived. Once weather conditions start to cool off, deer will be back in your food plot feeding on the high-fat soybean pods during the late-season. In closing, if you have never tried planting soybeans in a food plot before, I strongly urge you to give them a try. The results that I have achieved on my own farms as well as the success that my clients have witnessed with my custom food plot planting service has proven that soybeans are almost the perfect food plot seed for whitetail deer.