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Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

Fail to prepare for deer season, and prepare to fail

STILLWATER, Okla. – For deer hunters across the state and beyond, now is not the time to sit around and do nothing. Yea, it’s hot, and it’s true hunting season isn’t for a couple more months. But, now is the time to get ready.

There are several things hunters should consider doing to help increase the likelihood of packing their freezers full of their favorite cuts of venison. Sighting in a bow or rifle, and clearing sight lines of tree branches is a good place to start, but Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension specialists suggest altering the landscape to make it more appealing to deer.

Some of the most cost effective management tactics include thinning forested areas with selective herbicide to improve stand composition, spot spraying invasive plants and conducting a prescribed burn.

“As most wildlife reproduction has slowed by this time of year, a growing season fire is one of the best ways to get your land in good shape for hunting season,” said Dwayne Elmore, OSU Cooperative Extension wildlife specialist. “Also, it is the perfect time to burn for woody plant suppression.”

As August winds down and we head into September, the weather will begin to cool, making it a great time to prepare sites for cool season food plots.

“A food plot is an agricultural planting that is done to attract wildlife,” said Elmore. “They can be effective at concentrating game for hunting and providing additional nutrition.”

Wildlife App.pngOSU recently developed an app to help fill in the blanks for anyone interested in wildlife management through food plots.

“The OSU Food Plot app includes information regarding white-tailed deer, wild turkey, northern bobwhite, mourning dove, ring-necked pheasant and waterfowl,” said Brian Arnall, associate professor in OSU’s Department of Plant and Soil Sciences. “Over 30 agronomic plants are described, including planting dates, planting rates, fertility requirements and wildlife species benefited.”

The app is free and available on any iOS device by searching for “wildlife food plots” in the app store. Future versions will be compatible with Android.

The app will help hunters use food plots wisely with full knowledge of the limitations and costs. Planting annuals like winter wheat or rye are very cost-effective and are well-adapted to the Oklahoma climate. Perennials, such as clover or other legumes, are more expensive but last for several years.

If the objective is to only attract animals for harvest, the plot does not need to be very large, about an acre or two acres. However, animals can consume plots smaller in size very rapidly. Bare ground will cause people to think their plot was unsuccessful, but that is not always the truth.

“When planting, put a small woven-wire mesh cage about 3-feet by 3-feet around some forage to keep out deer and rabbits to see how well it grows,” he said. “A lot of times you will see the bare ground is caused by the deer and rabbits consuming the forage.”

Elmore said there is not necessarily a need for a lot of plots on the landscape if the habitat is in good condition. Also, if the habitat is not in the best shape, there are different options, other than simply planting a bunch of plots.

“I would advise people to spend the vast majority of their resources, time and money on prescribed fire and thinning their forest. Use food plots as a tool in the tool box but not the primary tool to manage for whitetails,” Elmore said. “They are one of the most expensive practices wildlife managers use and also take intensive management to reach full potential and often fail due to lack of proper management or weather constraints.”

Any method chosen, and executed properly, to prepare for deer season will increase the chances of harvest.

Archery season begins Oct. 1, while gun season is slated Nov. 18 through Dec. 3, but don’t wait much longer to get started.




Sean Hubbard
Communications Specialist
Agricultural Communications Services
157 Agriculture North
Oklahoma State University
Stillwater, OK 74078
Phone: 405-744-4490
Fax: 405-744-5739

Oklahoma State University - Stillwater, OK 74078

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