The Best Food Plots for Turkeys

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Planting food plots for turkeys is a great tactic. Here are some things to know.

A large percentage of deer hunters plant food plots for Whitetails. In fact, hunters have been doing so for decades. But many of those same hunters—and even devout turkey hunters—forget that turkeys eat from food plots, too. Planting these lush fields of green can be dedicated turkey plots as well.

Here, I’ll detail some of the best food plot options for wild turkeys and how to plant them. Some of these hold turkeys at various times of the year, but the goal is to offer year-round sanctuary for turkeys. Selecting several options from this list helps accomplish just that.

Prerequisites

All things considered, there are many different food plot species that work for turkeys, but some are better than others. Whether it be because of better nutrition, more tonnage of food per acre or convenience (such as forage at the right height) all are relevant factors. Having plots align with these needs are crucial for turkeys to adopt planted food sources.

Alfalfa

This tends to lead to significant numbers of hunters in and around the food plots, and minimal use by turkeys, especially mature longbeards. It is sometimes better to hunt back away from the food plots and focus on overlooked areas that hunters avoid and where birds eventually flock.

Alfalfa isn’t an easy plant to grow, but it offers the goods. This species is high in protein (22 to 30%). Plus, it’s a legume, which promises good forage and insects in abundance. But it isn’t cheap to plant. It’s an investment. Fortunately, if properly cared for, it can last several years (up to five) between plantings.

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Buckwheat

Buckwheat is a warm-season annual that attracts wild turkeys in numbers. While this isn’t a legume or a cereal grain, it is a forb, and turkeys like those. It’s high in protein and turkeys love it. This food plot species does well in most soil types, as long as it isn’t on the really wet or dry ends of the moisture spectrum.

turkey
Plant enough of an area, and disc the seed in, so that turkeys and other animals won’t pick up what you sow before it can grow.

Cereal Rye

Not to be confused with rye grass, cereal rye grain is a solid bet for wild birds. This crop is quite simple to grow and doesn’t cost a lot to do so. It isn’t high in protein (only 15%), but it is high in carbohydrates. It’s certainly a cool-season go-to for land managers.

Chufa

  • Take a good, reliable soil sample.
  • Apply lime and fertilize as needed.
  • Eliminate weedy competition.
  • Locate food plots where birds will use them.
  • Don’t make plots visible from roads and highly-traveled areas.

A great option for southern hunters is chufa. This species is a perennial sedge that birds love. It produces tubers that turkeys feed on. These nutty morsels are very nutritious and beneficial for wild turkeys. It’s 10% protein, 15% carbohydrates, 30% fiber. Turkeys love every bite.

Clover

A staple throughout much of the country, clover is a phenomenal source of food. This legume is an excellent source of grub, but it also attracts insects. Red, white and ladino clover are my personal favorites, and providing all three options (but not blended) is a great way to go. Simply offer these in separate strips or different plots. With these, protein levels shoot way up into the 20s, and being legumes, they offer foliage and insect food sources. However, clover plots do require routine maintenance to keep alive.

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Lespedeza

Another option is lespedeza. Both Korean and Kobe, among others (location depending), are quality varieties to plant. This isn’t as common as other food plot species on this list, but it is viable, and certainly not one to be overlooked.

fertilizer
Use the proper amounts of fertilizer and lime.

Millet

Millet is an excellent option for turkeys. Brown top, Japanese, and pearl are great varieties to consider. They prefer this species as young shoots fresh out of the ground. Then, once the plot ages, it attracts a lot of insects, which turkeys love, too. Later in the spring, turkeys begin eating the seeds that are produced as well.

Sorghum

  • Selecting the wrong location.
  • Failing to take a soil sample.
  • Planting at incorrect soil depths.
  • Working without a properly prepared seed bed.
  • Using plant species that don’t work for the soil type or conditions.
  • Planting species that are out of reach of turkeys.
  • Seeding plots outside of the species’ planting window.
  • Spreading seed too thick or too thin.
  • Planting incompatible mixes.
  • Creating plots in spots without enough sunlight.
  • Foregoing fertilizer and lime (when needed).
  • Not keeping the weeds knocked back.
  • Using the wrong herbicide for the job.
  • Letting plots get over-browsed.
  • Using the wrong equipment for the task at hand.
  • Spending too much money on food plots.
  • Putting too much or too little acreage into food plot production.
  • Placing food plots next to property lines.

Also referred to as milo, or grain sorghum, sorghum is a seedy plant that offers a lot of wildlife value. This warm-season annual is grown throughout much of America and performs well even in areas that receive less rainfall. It even offers high levels of calcium, carbohydrates, phosphorous, potassium and protein.

See also  Northern Pikeminnow

Oats

The fabled oat is a cool-season food source that is great for getting the flock through fall and winter. It’s a cereal grain that’s very high in carbs, which are necessary for energy creation. It even offers 15 to 18% protein, depending on the variety.

Wheat

A classic for wild turkeys, wheat is a go-to option for these birds throughout the country. This cereal grain is targeted early for its tender shoots, but also its latter-stage seeds. It also offers 18 to 20% protein and high carbs. It’s a viable option in a wide range of soil types and conditions.

Bonus: Trees for Turkeys

The permanent, long-term food plot is a tree. There are many different species that benefit turkeys. Soft mast trees, such as apple, crab apple, mulberry, pear, persimmon, plum and others are turkey magnets. Hard mast trees, such as beech, chestnut, hickory, red oak and white oak are solid bets, too. Offering these trees on the property is part of supplying a well-rounded diet for wild turkeys.

locate
Locate food plots along commonly traveled areas, such as roost sites and nesting areas.
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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>