Sitka Mountain Gear
Which brassicas to plant
Whitetail Deer
Contributors to this thread:
JSW 21-Aug-20
t-roy 21-Aug-20
B&C 22-Aug-20
Osceola 22-Aug-20
JSW 23-Aug-20
Bigsky 23-Aug-20
crowny 23-Aug-20
darralld 24-Aug-20
Schmitty78 24-Aug-20
Stressless 03-Sep-20
craigmcalvey 03-Sep-20
Catscratch 03-Sep-20
Osceola 07-Sep-20
t-roy 07-Sep-20
Osceola 08-Sep-20
t-roy 08-Sep-20
RIT 08-Sep-20
Ambush 08-Sep-20
JSW 09-Sep-20
MDW 15-Sep-20
LBshooter 18-Sep-20
JL 18-Sep-20
JSW 19-Sep-20
From: JSW
21-Aug-20
I've worked up a 3 acre alfalfa plot and will rotate in wheat this fall. I plan to add some brassicas as well. My land is in Kansas and I will probably plant it next week. I know it is too early for wheat I start hunting on 9/1 and won't get back until mid October. I've planted turnips and radishes with mixed results. Thoughts on rape, kale, radishes or turnips? Any other suggestions? FYI, it is surrounded by soybeans and milo right now.

From: t-roy
21-Aug-20
You might look at a “kitchen sink” type mix of brassicas, Jim. The biggest negative to going that route, IMO, it can be hard to determine which plants in the mix are attractive to the deer, and which ones aren’t (if trying to determine what to plant in future years)

From: B&C
22-Aug-20
I went with winfred and purple top this year. With the Winfred you can plant earlier and have a multi graze...

From: Osceola
22-Aug-20
Radishes are my go to as the tops grow fast. Given enough time, they do produce a bulb. The down side of radishes is freezing temps kill the plant and the bulb turns to mush.

I like to add Winfred Brassica to my mix as it continues to stay green with freezing temps, and becomes more palatable after the freezes. With those two plants, I feel I have both early and late season covered.

This year I am also trying Kale and Rutabaga. I have had good past luck with Kale. This is my first year with Rutabaga. With this year's dry conditions the radishes are growing, but the Winfred, Kale, and Rutabaga have not germinated and when rain comes, these plants will likely not have a have sufficient growing time reach their full potential.

From: JSW
23-Aug-20
Thanks.

I don't like to throw in a bunch of stuff because of the reasons mentioned. I want to know what works. I've had great luck with wheat, triticale, oats, alfalfa and clover. Turnips have been hit and miss. We had some bad snows 2 winters back and was real happy to have the turnips. They were easier to dig out than the wheat so the deer hit them pretty hard. Most years, they don't really go for the turnips. The price of radish seed has turned me off so far.

Peas tend to freeze out too early to really be worth the trouble plus I already have soy beans.

Any other suggestions?

From: Bigsky
23-Aug-20
grow some beets, deer will pull em out of frozen ground...man they really love the sugar in them things.

From: crowny
23-Aug-20
I have planted buck oats and rape the last two years and it really draws the bucks in. you cant go wrong with that combo and it grows fast.

From: darralld
24-Aug-20
Beets & Turnips

From: Schmitty78
24-Aug-20
Last year I planted what biologic calls Maximum, it says it’s a “New Zealand brassica” and the deer absolutely loved them!! They devoured the leaves earlier in the season and then dug the bulbs up during the late season. Just planted two more plots of it for this fall:)

From: Stressless
03-Sep-20

Stressless's DeerBuilder embedded Photo
Stressless's DeerBuilder embedded Photo

Good article from Yesterday:

Whitetail-Perrenials BY Todd Amenrud on Sep. 02, 2020

A Brassica Breakdown: Variety and Timing

From the time Toxey Haas and BioLogic first guided “whitetail deer management” into the age of planting brassicas, we have been researching, learning more about them and understanding better how to utilize different brassicas to help us accomplish a wide variety of management goals. If you have enough ground to devote to your food plot program, most managers would agree that a well-diversified food program with an assortment of plants that will offer your herd what they need regard-less of the time of the season or current conditions is the way to go. 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.

When it comes to annuals, many readers of this publication know that brassicas are, in my opinion, the best deer food God ever created. They are my favorite plantings, for numerous reasons; they are the most attractive, best producing (yield), most nutritious, easiest to plant and one of the hardiest growing food plot choices we have. Combine that with the fact that they’re also great for the soil. What’s not to like? Sure, I live in the north, but those in the south shouldn’t be so quick to snuff them. They work the same throughout the South, but closely examining the palatability timeframe and conditions under which each variety of brassica performs best is more important in the south than in northern climes.

At first (many years ago) we (BioLogic) ran into a couple instances of having to battle the “whitetails’ learning curve” - when you introduce a plant they’ve never seen before, one that if they tried it before the sugars had developed may have been bitter, it took them a season or two to become accustomed to it. However, that was rare and I haven’t heard of it happening in years.

Annuals, in general, are typically easy to plant and since these 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 that I call these “late summer – fall plantings.” Because if you’re waiting to plant some of these until it’s literally fall (September 22nd or 23rd 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 the plants, especially brassicas.

Many still plant their brassicas when they have traditionally always planted their cereal grains. In the northern region and into Canada, brassicas should be planted during July through early August and cereals planted from late July (in the far north around the Canadian border) through August or even September further south (IA, IL, NE, etc.). Obviously that should be adjusted a bit later the further south you go, all the way into October for 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 transform the plant into its most attractive, palatable stage. Initially, for some in the south the brassicas weren’t reaching their most appealing state until after the hunting season was over. Since then, BioLogic has introduced other types of brassicas that develop their sugars much earlier, and even in the south are likely the best attraction and nutrition you can plant – bar none.

A common progression during the hunting season would see your herd switch from legumes (both perennials like clover or alfalfa, or annuals like soybeans or cowpeas) to cereal grains (like oats, wheat or triticale) to brassicas (like radishes, turnips, rape and kale). While there are many other things we can offer our herd, with these three types of plantings your herd 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 timeframe of your plot.

To take that “variety approach” a step further, within every type of crop, by planting a different assortment of each it 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 first lay siege to the green tops, 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 & 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 as early as late August in the north and around early October further south (northern AL) – until they’re gone. So if you plant enough, they can last throughout the season.

Next, your 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, they hold a high concentration of sucrose, however it is contained mostly in the root bulb (they still eat the tops) as opposed to brassicas that have sugars contained throughout the plant, and the sugar presence is caused more by photosynthesis than cold temperatures. I usually see them hit these plants after the radishes and I use them for attraction during the months of November and December and on until they’re gone. My favorite blend is Winter Bulbs & Sugar Beets, and just like the radishes, they will consume the entire plant. First they’ll eat the greens and then the root bulbs. The radishes are easier for them to pull out of the ground to consume, so with turnips and beets you’ll often see partially eaten bulbs 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.

Lastly, they tend to hit rape, canola and kale after the radishes, turnips and beets. These last three brassica types do not produce large root bulbs or tubers like radishes, beets or turnips, but they produce an amazing yield of sweet, green forage. I tend to use these last three brassica types more as “winter nutrition” than “hunting time attraction,” but especially 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 they 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 tend to utilize kale only as winter nutrition.

Remember that the timeframe I’m suggesting for these to be their most attractive is just an estimate. 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 crops 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.”

I didn’t want to be too “northerly biased” in this piece, so I asked the “frenetic food plot scientist of Alabama,” Austin Delano, who also heads-up BioLogic’s Research and Development, “How do you notice whitetails reacting to each of these plant varieties throughout the south.” Austin said, “I definitely agree with the order. I think deer density, surrounding food sources (or lack of), a deer herd’s familiarity with the plot, weather conditions during that year are all variables that can determine how fast and when a brassica plot is consumed.” He also echoed how important it is to have a “blend” with varying maturity rates and palatability timeframes.

Delano continued, “As far as a north/south comparison, I do think deer consume brassicas earlier in the fall the further north you go. Not just because the onset of cold weather changes the plants, but it also changes a deer’s metabolism and increases their need for heavier carbohydrate foods like brassicas. I also believe that brassica consumption (regardless of type) increases over time and gets earlier in the year when they are planted in the same area every year. In other words deer that have several generations of exposure to brassicas typically use them earlier and more often.” Basically he’s also talking about a “learning curve,” but now it’s working in the opposite direction, in the deer’s favor…I guess it’s in our favor too.

The other great thing about brassicas is not only are they the best attraction I have ever seen, they are without a doubt the absolute best nutrition you can provide for your herd. With an average crude protein content of 32% to 38% (depending on the cultivar and stage of growth) and a TDN of over 80% (Total Digestible Nutrients) that would suit me fine, but add to it they yield more than any other planting AND they are great for the soil (radishes especially) – check mate, brassicas win! As I said, 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 like Full Draw, Last Bite, Green Patch, or Winter Grass Plus provide brassicas mixed with cereal grains. An annual or biannual clover is sometimes added to provide extra nutrition or a flush of nutritious forage reemerging after dormancy the following spring.

Delano also told me, in his home state of Alabama, he likes to mix Trophy Oats with Deer Radish. He said, “It’s an easy to do, “one and then you’re done” hunting plot. 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 food plot options than Austin, or many who know as much about deer management, so 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, but as a simple plan for an uncomplicated, yet diverse hunting plot I would consider this.

Think about all the options we have to plant for whitetails, we’ve only partially covered brassicas (and one beet type). We didn’t even talk about spring planted crops that can also be very attractive to whitetails like corn, buckwheat or clover. Or other late summer / fall planted annuals like winter peas, which are amazingly appealing to whitetails – probably too attractive.

One important thing to mention is that brassicas can also be planted with perennials. In the north they traditionally plant perennials during the spring, but in the south this can be a great way to kill two birds with one planting. If you’re in the transitional region or north and habitually have problems with weeds in your perennials, planting a brassica/perennial blend during the late summer can produce a great start to a perennial plot. Blends like 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 to 60 days of growth so they can establish their root systems, which will ensure their survival and reemergence after winter dormancy.

With the perennial/brassica option since obviously the brassicas are annuals and won’t come back, I would suggest that you over-seed with a pure perennial like Clover Plus or Non-Typical the following 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 wise to plant a variety if you have enough acreage to devote.

From: craigmcalvey
03-Sep-20
Here in mid Michigan we have good luck with forage radishes and rape. Turnips were not utilized when I planted them

From: Catscratch
03-Sep-20
I'm in KS. No luck with turnips. Planted them many times, deer tried them but never took to them. I have great luck with radishes as they like the tops. The never eat the root though.

Wheat, Austian Winter Peas, radishes, clovers, alfalfa, chicory, etc. are my go-to for plots.

From: Osceola
07-Sep-20
Well, we have a good chance of rain tonight for the first time in about 30 to 40 days. Pretty much a severe drought...I went out and broadcasted Rutabaga, Winfred Brassica and Kale this afternoon on about 5 acres some of which was planted with clover at the beginning of August, but with no moisture, the clover has not germinated.

The top soil is about 1/2 inch powder. Today, I did not roller pack after broadcasting as the soil is powder and won't compact anyway. I am going to have to let the rain put the seed in at the right depth. I likely will only get 30-40 days growth at best planting this late, but at least there will be some green.

Here is hoping Mother Nature drops some much needed precipitation. I will try to let you know how the plot fairs.

From: t-roy
07-Sep-20
Same here, Osceola. We’ve had a grand total of of 1.5” in the past 90 days, including .2” from June 10th till till August 10th. Planted brassicas the end of July, but only got enough rain to get them sprouted, then burned up. We’re supposed to get the same weather system that you guys are supposed to get. They better NOT be lying this time!! I seeded a bunch of rye along with some brassicas and fertilized today. Should at least, get some tops from the brassicas if we get some extended warm fall weather.

Hope you get plenty of rain!......And I do too! ;-)

From: Osceola
08-Sep-20
Got about an inch so far. No puddles to be found as it is coming slowly and soaking up completely. I think you will have a nice rain. Still good chances for more rain in the next few days.

From: t-roy
08-Sep-20
8/10ths here so far! Ran out of rye yesterday, so I had run up to the co-op and get a couple bags of oats to finish up this morning, before the rain got here. It was sprinkling on me while I was culti-mulching the oats in.

From: RIT
08-Sep-20
It has been miserable here as well. I had some grand illusions of a great buckwheat stand to broadcast fall plots into. That never materialized and the clover I killed and broadcast into pretty much decomposed. I had a lot of bare soil which is never a good thing. I did get some germination of peas, beans, sunflowers, and radish. What did germinate hasn’t been able to sustain the browse pressure. I did broadcast sunn hemp, winter wheat and rye three days ago. We finally received some rain the last few days but it looks bleak. Hopefully the recent rain and a cool down will allow for a fall grain plot. Starting to get some grass and weed pressure but at least I have something growing. I’ll take the weeds over bare dirt.

From: Ambush
08-Sep-20
It's been so cool and super wet here in BC that my plot is a dismal failure. I was three weeks late planting because of rain. Couldn't Roundup because of rain. I got good germination but then the turnips, radishes and beets just stunted and many are turning yellow. Lots of fresh weeds and grass though. Probably got about a week of sunny warm days now before it starts freezing at night, then the little bit that's there will be gobbled up in a couple of days. Not sure what to do now.

From: JSW
09-Sep-20
Thanks everyone for the advice. I ended up just going with wheat and turnips on 4 plots totaling about 4.5 acres. It had been extremely dry so I just did the planting and expected things would come up after the next rain. It rained 2" that same night so lucky me. I should have tried something different but I was pressed for time and my supplier only had turnips and wheat.

From: MDW
15-Sep-20
Got my ground worked for the 2nd time, yesterday, after 2 inches of rain last week. Planted winter wheat & radishes. It took a couple of years, but the deer usually eat the radishes, before touching the wheat. Funny as heck to watch a doe pull a radish, flip it, grab the root and chew it like a cigar. Going back today to mow the clover and a couple of trails. It's funny that deer are just like people and will travel the easiest route.

From: LBshooter
18-Sep-20
Instead of messing around with all the different options, why not just leave corn or beans or both standing. Up north nothing beats a standing corn field in late season.

From: JL
18-Sep-20
^...some truth to that. In my "up north", snow will cover most of the plots and taller plants are need to hopefully stay above the snow level. I did 6 plots and most are sugar beets and purple tops which I had good luck with last year and they are getting hit hard this year. I do have some corn mixed in on one plot and the deer are not hitting that too hard yet. However the corn will still be showing once the snow shows up.

A turnip and beet plot.

This is the plot with a mix in it. Leftover clover, beets, turnips and corn. I'm hoping this plot will have stuff showing when the snow starts.

Straight clover for the last 2 years. I recently mowed it again to knock down some weeds. This buck has velvet hanging off his antlers. This plot will be covered by the snow and the deer didn't use it after that last year.

From: JSW
19-Sep-20
The ag crops belong to my farmer so I won't ask him to leave anything standing. I don't have any corn this year anyway. That's why I have a few food plots set aside that I maintain. I've been really happy with wheat, clover and alfalfa.

I wanted to try something different to see how it does. My main focus on my food plots is to keep the deer on my property and happy through the winter months. They have everything they need the rest of the time.

Thanks for all the advice.

  • Sitka Gear