Deer plots can enhance herd management

Todd Amenrud told an audience of about 75 persons that harvesting has a big role in managing area deer herds. But there are many techniques that may be used in addition to hunting to foster healthier whitetails, create a better ratio of bucks to ...

Todd Amenrud told an audience of about 75 persons that harvesting has a big role in managing area deer herds.

But there are many techniques that may be used in addition to hunting to foster healthier whitetails, create a better ratio of bucks to does, and build a genetically stronger species while enhancing the animals nutrition.

The April 9 meeting was at the Bluffton Community Center. Amenrud, an outdoorsman and author, is a BioLogic territory manager and habitat consultant. His seminar on Planting Food Plots and Whitetail Management was sponsored by Klinnert Seeds, New York Mills.

Deer herds can be managed through hunting especially in determining the age of animals and the adult sex ratio but also through proper nutrition and by strengthening genetics, Amenrud told his listeners.

He has written three books, in addition to being a contributor to other publications.


Plantings can provide

year-round feed for deer

Development of deer plots will offer whitetails forage year-round if clover, grains and other plants are planted in proper blends, the author explained.

But he focused initially on the aspect of harvesting, saying: Selective harvest&is one of the hardest details to convince the average hunter to practice.

Harvesting plays a very large part in producing more and bigger bucks, he continued, noting that hunters should take more does to improve herd quality and at the same time making more trophy animals available.

Amenrud pointed out that deer go through periods of stress, which has an effect on genetic potential along with nutrition and social ranking.

He said it is a myth that spike bucks cannot mature, thus many hunters shoot the young ones thinking they are enhancing growth of other animals. The outdoor expert noted that studies have shown a significant portion of nutrients simply go into skeletal growth for the first three years. The studies showed that disparities in racks disappeared after time had elapsed between the first and final measurement of antlers.

Food plots do not have to be large, he continued. They can be narrow strips along logging roads or trails, between fields, or they can be much larger indeed. It is often beneficial to cut down a canopy tree here and there to afford forage needed sunlight.


Amenrud said such plantings decrease the home range of the whitetails and increase the lands forage carrying capacity.

Native vegetation

produces forage

The average native vegetation only produces about 250 pounds of forage per acre, thus a typical animal needs four acres or more to survive, he emphasized.

There are several points to be considered, the speaker pointed out, in trying to do the best job of managing deer population. He listed them as: predation, disease transmission, legal points, aesthetics, the amount of food consumed by non-target animals, and the dollars a person can spend.

Amenrud told the audience that sportsmen-farmers should establish a plan that encompasses goals, a budget, site evaluation, a timeline, and equipment access. The latter means that a person must be able to get available equipment to the potential sites, which isnt always easy.

Planting food plots depends on primary aspects such as moisture, soil temperature and the late frost date. In addition, site specific information is needed as well concerning altitude, drainage, soil color and soil type.

The author of many magazine articles said it is not good to plant near public roads or in largely agricultural areas.


Perennials often comprise the largest part of blends when forage seeds are planted, he said, but many mixes need annuals, as well. He has concentrated on laying out long, skinny plots on his land, which make it easy to play the wind when hunting. He is an avid bowhunter living in the Ham Lake area near the Twin Cities.

Soil samples should be analyzed to determine pH levels, Amenrud said, and weed control is essential.

New Zealand practices are ahead of America

Blends of many types of seeds can be planted, and are preferred to single crops, the author noted. Varieties of brassica are very good for plots, having been developed in New Zealand.

Amenrud said that country is way ahead of us, adding that tons of forage is grown from brassica varieties. However, he noted that non-native plants such as chicory also serve plots well during dry times.

Food plant maintenance is a must, with mowing, fertilizing, addition of lime and overseeding proving to be beneficial. The latter can be as simple a process as hand broadcasting annuals to a predominately perennial plot.

Amenrud also told the audience that selective logging can enhance the management of whitetails because it can help create cover and food. Cutting some trees enables browse to grow better, and deer need that part of the food supply no matter how much forage is available, he added.

Planting of cover varieties is helpful, and Amenrud mentioned fast-growing types that can stand up to wind and snow as preferred. Moreover, deer need places to be secure, including a sanctuary portion within an acreage that is not violated by intruders.


You need to establish (a sanctuary)&where they are left alone, the passionate outdoorsman stressed.

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