Planting for Other Species

Sponsored by: Heartland Wildlife Institute

By: Bob Humphrey

Tom King, CEO of Bighorn Outdoors TV & Bighorn Outdoors Youth Adventure Program and I were creeping along a woods road in our electric ATV, commiserating about our lack of success on a morning turkey hunt when he stopped in mid sentence, then spoke a single word that made me jam on the brakes and hit the kill switch, “Turkeys!”

From our distant vantage, all we could see were two red heads jutting out of the sparse but tall grass in a nearby food plot. Fortunately, the birds didn’t see us; or if they did, they paid us little mind. When the heads disappeared I baled out, grabbed my shotgun from the bed and hastily loaded up. Meanwhile, Tom turned on his camera to record the action.

Using some brush as cover, I crawled to the field edge and, peeked up over the shrubbery – nothing in sight. I uttered a few soft calls but got no response. Not sure whether the birds had spooked, or merely gone over the rise, we paused to hastily formulate a new plan. “Rush ‘em,” was Tom’s suggestion. I agreed, and began a steady walk across the field to where we’d last seen the birds.

“There, hen!” Tom said in a loud whisper. I saw her just as she saw me, then vaulted skyward. Then I turned just in time to see two toms running off to our right. Instinctively, I shouldered the gun and fired, dropping one of the two birds. It was a welcome reward after suffering several days of inclement weather.

I took this Ohio bid in a food plot planted primarily for deer, but secondarily for turkeys.

The location of our hunt was Fox Hollow Farm in Southeast Ohio. Owner by Jeff Neal, of Heartland Wildlife Institute (HWI) had graciously invited us down for a spring turkey hunt in and around the numerous lush food plots that dominate the farm. The food plot where I shot my bird had already produced two other birds that season. Though it was planted primarily for deer hunting the previous fall, it was also a prime spot for spring turkeys and a prime example of how food plots can benefit multiple species. With little or no extra effort, you can significantly increase your food plot’s utility, often without modifying your primary objective. Let me explain.

Seed blends for warm season and early fall plots often contain clover. Deer love clover, but so do turkeys. HWI’s Hi Pro Forage contains a blend of annual brassicas, perennial clovers and birdsfoot trefoil that grow rapidly, reaching maximum palatability when deer need and want it most, in the late summer and early fall. The clovers will also persist over the winter and sprout again in the spring, reaching peak palatability just in time for turkey season.

Even if you prefer a conventional cool weather annual blend like HWI’s Buck Buster Extreme – a blend of winter oats, winter rye and forage soybeans and three brassicas: a hybrid turnip, forage rape and purple top turnips – you can supplement your plots with something like HWI’s Topseed Trophy Clover, which contains white and Ladino clovers that will compliment and coexist with other clovers.

My son Ben (left) and I both took nice birds on Heartland food plots last spring.

Or, you could opt to plant something with a broader range of applications. HWI’s Annual Wildlife Mix contains plants – hybrid sorghum, forage peas and beans, millets, high oil sunflowers and buckwheat – that grow and ripen at different rates providing a quick, attractive food source for deer, as well as a long term source of both food and cover for turkeys, pheasant, quail and rabbits. Another option is HWI’s Winter Survival Mix, with pumpkins, high oil sunflowers, corn, big bulb turnip and beets. In addition to being a great late season attractant, it provides a source of both food and cover through the winter and into the following spring.

If you’re like most folks, the primary goal of your food plots is to feed and attract deer in the fall and winter. But you can also build those plots to attract and benefit a variety of other species, often with little or no modification of your principal objective, turning your ground into a productive, multi-season paradise.

For the best please go to: Heartland Wildlife Institute

One Response to "Planting for Other Species"

  1. Tom King   2012/05/29 at 10:41 am

    Great article and information Bob. I have planted some HWI Forrested Trail, Hi Pro Forage and Winter Survival this spring. The plots look great. I will hate to disc them up and plant HWI Buck Buster Extreme this fall. What do you think about drilling the Buck Bustr Extreme into these other mostly clover plots?