August 2017
Talkin’ Huntin’

The Candy Man Can

Late-Summer Annuals for Attracting Whitetails


Some brassicas such as radishes and turnips will grow large root bulbs or tubers that whitetail relish along with the plant’s green tops.

It’s time to get those fall food plot seeds in the ground. If you have enough ground to devote to your food plot program, most managers would agree that a well-diversified plot program with an assortment of plants to offer the herd is the way to go. You want to give them what they need regardless of the time of the season or current conditions. Some of the plants you choose would likely be perennials, but for the best in attraction during the hunting season it’s hard to beat a food plot full of luscious, late-summer-/fall-planted annuals.

Annuals are typically easy to plant and because they are a late-summer/fall planting, the summer weed cycle should be over – for the most part. While always called a “fall planting,” you’ll see I call these “late-summer/fall plantings.” If you’re waiting to plant some of these until it’s literally fall (Sept. 22 or 23, depending on the year and your location), in some areas you may end up with a failure; or at the very least you’re not getting the most out of some of your plants, especially your brassicas.

The two primary late-summer/fall plantings when it comes to annuals are cereal grains and brassicas. In the Southern states, brassicas should be planted anywhere from early to mid-August (in the transitional states), late August in the northern part of our Southern states, all the way through mid-September in the far south. Cereals should be planted anywhere from the first part of September in states such as Kentucky and Tennessee, or even farther South if you have a high deer density, through to around the first part of October in the Deep South.

Years ago when Toxey Haas and Grant Woods first introduced brassicas to the food plot market, rape was the primary type of brassica used. As most of you probably know, brassicas require cold temperatures to convert the plants’ high levels of starch into sugar and turn the plant into its most attractive palatable stage. Initially, for some here in the South, the plants weren’t reaching their most attractive phase until after the hunting season was over. Some of this was due to a learning curve. When you introduce a new plant, it can sometimes take several years for whitetails to realize what it is and whether or not it’s a viable food source. And in some instances the plants really weren’t turning palatable early enough in the season. Since then, BioLogic has introduced other types of brassicas that develop their sugars much earlier. Even in the South, they are possibly the best attraction you can plant – bar none.

A common progression during the hunting season would see the herd switch from legumes (both perennials such as clover or alfalfa, or annuals such as soybeans or cowpeas) to cereal grains (such as oats, wheat or triticale) to brassicas (such as radishes, turnips, rape and kale). While there are many other things we can offer a herd, with these three types of plantings, you should have a palatable food choice throughout most of the hunting season or until each type of food runs out. Different crops will dramatically extend the palatability time frame of your plot.

To take that variety approach, within every type of crop, a step further, planting a different assortment of each will also extend the amount of time your plot will remain attractive, especially when it comes to brassicas.

From my experience, they will attack radishes first. Whitetails will lay siege to the green tops first, then finish by devouring every bit of the long root tubers. These aren’t your auntie’s dinner radishes; these are large tubers that resemble a huge, white carrot rather than our more familiar small, round, red and white radishes. My favorite blend is BioLogic’s Deer Radish. It’s not just my preferred brassica planting, it’s my favorite planting – period. From my experience, they will begin eating these radishes around early October (northern Alabama) until they’re gone. If you plant enough, they can last throughout the season.

Next, whitetails will typically set their sights on various turnips and beets. While sugar beets are actually in a different plant family and are not a brassica, they are very similar. Just like turnips, cold temperatures cause the plant’s high levels of starch to convert to sugar. I usually see them hit these plants after the radishes and I use them for attraction for the months of November and December, and on, until they’re gone. My favorite blend is Winter Bulbs & Sugar Beets. Just like the radishes, they will consume the entire plant. The radishes are easier for them to pull out of the ground and consume. With turnips and beets, often you’ll see them partially eaten or they’ll scoop out the top and inside of the turnip or beet so it looks like a beet bowl left in the soil.

Last, they tend to hit rape, canola and kale. These last three brassica types do not produce large root bulbs or tubers but they do produce an amazing yield of green forage. I tend to use them more as winter nutrition than hunting-time attraction.

When it comes to the blend Maximum, you may want to also plant some for hunting attraction. Maximum produces a yield of more succulent, nutritious forage than any other planting I’ve ever seen.

While the deer certainly may hit these brassicas as soon as cold temperatures convert the plants’ huge green tops to become sweet, if you have radishes and turnips also planted, they’ll typically consume rape after the other two brassica types.

Kale is especially cold hardy. Kale’s large leaves will stay green and attractive long into the winter, even if covered by several feet of snow. I would only use kale as winter nutrition.

The time frame I’m suggesting for these to be their most attractive is just a guess. It can vary from year to year and region to region. As an example, in the big woods where there isn’t a lot of agriculture or other foods to back up your food plots, they may eat any of these as fast as they come out of the ground. Or, if we have an unseasonably warm fall, it may take the brassicas longer to develop their sugars, pushing back the entire attraction calendar.

While there is a succession in which whitetails will typically consume assorted brassica varieties, in different areas or under distinct conditions, you can scrap the theory. As an example, in a big woods scenario, they may eat any variety as fast as you can grow them.


The other great thing about brassicas is not only are they the best attraction I have ever seen but they are, without a doubt, the absolute best nutrition you can provide for a herd. With an average crude protein content of 32-38 percent (depending on the cultivar and stage of growth) and total digestible nutrients of over 80 percent that would suit me fine. Also, add that they yield more than any other planting. I believe they are the best deer food God has ever created.

More often than not, I plant my cereals and brassicas separately, for several reasons. However, if a manager wants a fast, simple, one-and-done plot, a blend of cereals and brassicas (and sometimes other plants) together may be your ticket. Blends such as Full Draw, Last Bite, Green Patch or Winter Grass Plus provide brassicas mixed with cereal grains. An annual or biennial clover is sometimes added to provide extra nutrition or a flush of nutritious forage re-emerging after dormancy the next spring.

BioLogic’s Head of Research and Development Austin Delano told me, for his home state of Alabama, he likes to mix Trophy Oats with Deer Radish.

“It’s an easy-to-do, one-and-then-you’re-done hunting plot,” he said. “Provided you plant enough, this can keep them coming back for more throughout the entire hunting season.”

I don’t know anyone who tests more than Delano or many who know as much about deer management. When he says so, I take it as fact. There are several reasons why a manager may choose to plant each (oats and radishes) separately. As a simple plan for a simple, yet diverse, hunting plot, I would consider this.

We didn’t even talk about spring-planted crops that can also be very attractive to whitetails such as corn, buckwheat or clover. Or about other late-summer-planted annuals such as winter peas that are amazingly appealing to whitetails – probably too attractive. With winter peas, you need to plant enough to overwhelm the amount of mouths you’re feeding or they’ll be promptly wiped out.

One important thing to mention is that brassicas can also be planted with perennials. In the North, they traditionally plant perennials during the spring. In the South, this can be a great way to kill two birds with one planting. Blends such as Perfect Plot or Premium Perennial are my go-to products for this. You just need to make certain when planted you give the perennials 50-60 days of growth so they can establish their root systems. This will ensure their survival and re-emergence after winter dormancy. Because the brassicas won’t come back, I would suggest you overseed with a pure perennial such as Clover Plus or Non-Typical the next spring to fill in any spaces vacated by the annual brassicas growing there the previous year.

In a very roundabout way, I guess I’ve tried to convey that variety in a food plot program is important and brassicas are my favorite food plot crop. All of the plants mentioned are great choices for a food plot, but they’re eaten at different times or under different conditions – exactly why it is smart to plant a variety if you have enough acreage.


Todd Amenrud is the director of Public Relations for Mossy Oak BioLogic, Editor-in-chief of Gamekeepers, Farming for Wildlife magazine and a habitat consultant.