Throughout the Carolinas, September still feels like summer, and the only tasty foods available to deer are the soybeans and peanut crops on farms. With the exception of a few, short-lived, soft-mast blitzes from persimmon trees and grapevines, most natural browse available is leathery and unappealing, and the annual acorn drop is still on the horizon. For hunters ready to take control of their food availability on their lands, September is the perfect time to start covering seeds with soil and jump-start their cool-season food plot ritual.
T.J. Hallman, plantation manager at The Territories in Chappells, S.C., prepares for his fall food plots in early summer, but he makes sure to get them plots rolling around Labor Day.
“I like to plant our winter food plots in a one-week window from the last week of August to the first week of September,” Hallman said. “I want my plots established, nutritionally sound, and functional in attracting deer by September. Before I put anybody in a stand over a food plot, I want the deer patterned coming and going, and you have to start early to do that.”
Even though fall plot mixes are tolerant of cool weather temperatures, they still grow vigorously when soil temperatures are over 80 degrees. An early planting will give new plants a chance to gain mass quickly, overcompensating for the effects of browsing. But with the weather still generally hot in September, deer will not feel hunger pangs like they will when the mercury falls late in the fall. As long as the new plants get adequate soil moisture from regular rains, the biomass production will increase faster during an early season planting over an October planting when soil and air temperatures are significantly lower.
“Planting early is the way to go. It helps significantly in the long run from a growing standpoint, and most importantly, it helps you start patterning those deer coming and going before the heart of the deer season is under way,” Hallman said.