Balance is Key:
I actually recommend soybeans to my clients often, if, they are able to plant a variety of forages along side. Soybeans should rarely be your only planting, in fact in over 600 client plans I have yet to recommend that a landowner do so. If you can estimate that your planting of soybeans for deer will last until the middle of the season, and that they are merely a piece of the pie of a diverse food plot program that already includes various greens and possibly corn, than I would consider planting them.
Another consideration is what your surrounding neighbors offer. For example, if you hold the majority of the quality bedding opportunity on your land, and your neighbors have beans and corn, deer will hammer green when they leave their bedding areas. Deer feed on acorns and woody regen for the majority of the day, so by offering a green food source of brassicas, oats, peas, rye, wheat and clover, you can offer a highly defined afternoon deer movement. By controlling the afternoon movement as well as daytime bedding, you can then send the deer to neighboring corn and bean fields all night, after dark. Greens are highly digestive and contain high moisture levels, which can create ravenous feeding patterns during the afternoon hours, that your neighbors with corn and beans can’t compete with. If you have enough room to plant beans, then you can expect to hold deer even longer to insure the highest level of control for pinpoint, daily movements.
Soybeans can be an outstanding planting for deer, but a host of considerations should be analyzed first. And why should you avoid planting soybeans if they are a great Summer food source but have been eaten down to the dirt by the beginning of bowseason? Because deer herds are built during the hunting season, and not before the season even begins.
Summary of Experiences When Planting Beans for Deer:
Maybe you should plant beans for deer, maybe not. The same goes for creating buck beds and mock scrapes, or planting clover, corn, brassicas and rye, and even installing waterholes or other habitat practices. Each practice or seed variety has its place, but only a portion of the time.
I had Southern OH clients who converted their entire inner, idle ag land back to purely beans for 2014. They then lost an entire deer herd for the hunting season. They fell for the soybean craze and it cost them dearly. That could have been an appropriate decison for another parcel, but it was obvious it was not for them. When I designed their land, in the Spring of 2015, I recommended that they stop having the farmer plant beans, pay him for his time to clear and lime the 35 acres the previous year, and then plant switchgrass in portions of the field, allow for native regen to take place in other areas, get rid of the beans and then replace an inner portion with various greens. In the Fall of 2015 they had their best number of bucks, and mature bucks, that they had ever had. Even the rest of the deer herd came back too. In 2016 their season was even better, while harvesting three bucks in the 150s and two bucks in the 160s. No beans – No problem!
The point is that there are huge extremes with beans, from great results on small plots and incredible deer herds for the size of land, to plots and lands much larger with either fields of dirt by October, to standing beans, unused, by March. No one result is false, instead each is very real, and so very few understand exactly why.
So, I will try to help educate folks so they can make informed, unbiased decisions, whether it is for beans, brassicas, corn, clover, rye, buck beds, waterholes, mock scrapes, and any other planting or habitat improvement. There is a time and place for them all but, but while each one of those may be an end-all planting or habitat improvement on one parcel, they can be completely ignored on a nieghbors, for good reason. And those reasons I enjoy experiencing for my career, and then report back to readers.
As someone who is paid to make accurate prescriptions for success on dozens of lands per year across 10-12 states or more, per year, I am in a unique position to experience that what is good for one neighbor, may not be good for another. Folks are just fooling themselves if they think their way is the only way, for everyone else.
I find that on every parcel I learn something new. And at over 600 parcels visited in 22 states since 2005, I am still learning on every parcel I visit. One of the greatest things I have learned is that there are zero absolutes, and that balance is key, even if the same “balance” for one person’s success, is someone else’s extreme failure. It doesn’t make one situation more right than the other, instead just that each prescription was the right balance for their individual set of circumstances. There are many circumstances for maybe planting beans for deer, or maybe not, so it pays to consider each of the variables mentioned, before you proceed.