Food Plots for Thought?


Both farmers and hunters don’t always get the most positive image in today’s society, but it’s important to realize that a common goal between these two types of people is managing wildlife. Growing up I remember tagging along with my dad and older brothers when they went driving around and I quickly learned it was a good sign to see deer in the fields, especially close to hunting season. However I also learned that for farmers, seeing deer feeding in their fields is a nuisance. Not only deer, but wildlife in general can become a nuisance when they start feeding on farmers’ crops. To be a good hunter, you need to be a good conservationist as well. Hunters should be taught that managing wildlife is the main reason why there are hunting seasons. One way to manage wildlife is by planting food plots.

What are food plots and why are they so important to wildlife management?

Food plots are sections of land designed as a quality source of food for deer and wildlife to utilize year round. There’s no one way to plant a food plot. It can be a variety of legumes, grains, or wildflowers, but doesn’t have to be limited to these options.  One point to remember about planting a successful food plot is location. It needs to be in a spot where there is cover, and agricultural fields are usually out in the open where deer and other wildlife are exposed. Wildlife will more likely utilize the food plot and minimize pressure in farmer’s crops if provided with a food plot that provides nutritional value and cover year round.

Photo Credit: Ryan Tolbert

The importance of food plots to wildlife management lies in the nutritional and protein value that wildlife can benefit from. For example, hunters want to see deer at their fullest potential in body size, antler growth, and especially in prime health. To reach full potential, deer need more than the 8% protein they are getting from corn. Planting Brassicas, for example, which are cool season annuals, can provide around 30% protein. Deer are browsers by nature and a food plot is land to be browsed for it’s content.

Why do food plots benefit hunters?

Food plots are used to draw in and keep wildlife around the area that hunters use. If you don’t own land to hunt on, getting permission and access to hunting ground isn’t always easy. When they do get the opportunity, hunters want to make that ground as attractive to wildlife as possible so they can successfully participate in hunting seasons and manage the wildlife population.

Another reason food plots are beneficial to hunters is that they offer diversity to the wildlife in the area. Did you know that around 70% of a deer’s diet can come from food plots? In the Midwest, corn and soybeans are the most common crops and they have limited growing seasons starting in the spring and going through the summer months. Food plots offer diversity where crops in the Midwest can’t always offer the diversity needed to provide for the diets of wildlife . When the corn and soybean fields are harvested, wildlife will be more likely to stick around if they have the nutrition and protein source available. In turn, this provides a much more desirable animal to harvest.

Photo Credit: Ryan Tolbert

What’s in it for the farmers?

Damage to crops done by wildlife is frustrating, especially when there’s not a 100% guarantee of putting a stop to it. Ultimately, the more attracted to a separate, diverse, year round, and secure food plot wildlife are, the more likely they will want to leave the crops alone. In the spring, agricultural fields are in the early emergence stages and if provided with no other option, deer will be out in the fields feeding on the young plants.

Since food plots are meant for places with cover, it is sometimes not on tillable land. Farmers and/or landowners would like to see land being used to the most potential that it can be used, otherwise the area may become so overgrown and undesirable for any wildlife to establish and keep a habitat in that area. Farmers are often thought of as caretakers of the land, leaving it in better condition than what they started with. Allowing food plots on their land is a smart decision on managing the wildlife population on their respective farms.

Planting the Seed…

Whether you’re a hunter, farmer, landowner, or all the above, implementing food plots is beneficial to your management goals of the land. Food plots are important to meeting or exceeding the goals of wildlife management as well. Here in the Midwest, specifically Illinois, agriculture and hunting are both successful industries. It’s crucial for hunters and farmers to continue to have wildlife management as a common goal. To learn more, contact your local agronomist or state’s wildlife biologist. Start your food plots today!


marissatolbert11My name is Marissa Tolbert and I’m from Jerseyville, IL. Currently a senior at WIU, I’m studying Agriculture Business with a minor in Accounting. Since starting school at Western, I have become involved in several student organizations on campus including Sigma Alpha, Sportsman’s Club, and Ag Council. I am also a member of National Wild Turkey Federation. In my free time I love spending time with my family back home or enjoying the great outdoors whether it’s hunting, fishing, or trapshooting. I hope you enjoyed reading my blog and if you have any questions feel free to contact me at


5 thoughts on “Food Plots for Thought?

  1. ermillerwiuedu

    Marissa this was AMAZING! Never have I thought about one, wildlife hurting the crops-but it makes perfect since because what else are the deer going to eat? Second, you’ve sold me on the fact that cover crops are ideal, especially when it comes to ensuring preventation to the wildlife actually eating the crop we are trying to make a living on. Again very impressed and really opened my eyes to food plots, that they’re more than just attempting to attract deer and other wildlife.


  2. shelbieb16

    This is a great point a view. As a person that comes from a family of farmers and hunters it is great to learn more about what can be done to protect our crops while also adding value on the hunting side of things. Great read!


  3. erinr_peterson

    Wonderfully written article! A family friend owns a small section of land that is surrounded by timber and the corn was destroyed every year by deer until about five years ago when they decided to plant a food plot. It worked like a charm! The farmer got their yield back and the hunter has had more luck than ever!


  4. lisafrieders

    This article was great Marissa! As a fellow hunter and someone learning about ag, I never knew that the two would be able to correlate with eachother!


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