A Practical Guide to Food Plots in the Southern Great Plains
Many landowners wish to understand the role of food plots in wildlife management. Therefore, we created this guide to provide basic ecology for select game species, as well as science-based and realistic information on how food plots may relate. This guide is not intended to be a complete list of plants that wildlife may consume as that is covered in many other documents.
Food plots have been shown to have positive impacts for some species under some conditions, but they often have no impact. As typically used, food plots rarely improve animal survival, body condition, or antler development. Food plots primarily impact wildlife distribution which can aid in harvest and population management. Food, cover, water, space, and arrangement are all required for quality wildlife habitat. Therefore, landowners should not rely solely on food plots for maximizing the wildlife potential of their property. When any of these habitat requirements are not met for a wildlife species, they become limiting factors. Therefore, managers should determine limiting factors for desired wildlife species on a property before implementing any management practice. When too many animals are present and sharing limited resources, food may appear to be limiting, but population reduction may be the best management practice rather than trying to increase food. Even when food is limiting, management of native plant communities is typically more practical and cost effective for improving wildlife nutrition than are cultivated food plots. The importance of cover for wildlife cannot be overstated. When the appropriate native vegetation is not present on a site, cover may be established with a planting, such as establishment of grassy field buffers. Often these plantings provide both food and cover. While cover establishment is an important aspect of wildlife management, it is beyond the scope of this food plot document and therefore we will focus primarily on planting plots or manipulating vegetation for wildlife food value. Water can also be a limiting factor, however many wildlife species get the majority of their water requirements from their food.
Finally, while this guide primarily addresses food production (either by food
plots or disturbance), it does briefly discuss population management and cover as
all of these factors are interrelated.