The Power of Winter Rye for Whitetail Food Plots

Video ryegrass food plot

3. September Rye Salvage

Have you ever grown a great food plot of brassica, soybeans or peas only to see it eaten to the dirt by Mid-September? I sure have, and when it happened over 10 years ago I was pretty bummed…until I thought of using Winter Rye to potentially fix the problem. During early September I could see that my brassica crop was being foraged on far too hard to withstand the grazing pressure until the October 1st bowseason opener. 200#s of broadasted rye and 2 weeks later…problem solved! An interesting thing occured as well: As the deer quickly turned their attention to the succulent shoots of young rye, the brassicas actually developed new growth. Whitetails absolutely love young cereal grains, and rye is no exception. The plot quickly became a favorite to the local deer herd, as well as one of my first layered food plots! The ease of simply broadcasting rye on exposed soil to experience extremely high germination rates (even in the bed of my pick-up) has become a staple to many of my current food plotting efforts…as well as a quick-salvage to correct poorly growing food plots for both myself, my clients….and maybe YOU!

4. Increased Quality Volume With Rye

To increase volume, just plant more seed-right? Although that could possibly sound good on paper, I believe the answer is “No”. Whatever forage, or combination of forage that you plant just simply grows at a similar height, matures at the same time, and has a limited potential of volume as plants are competing for the same space. Instead, try layering your plantings! By planting early, quick growth high attractants such as oats or peas you can set yourself up for immediate forage, with reinforcements soon on the way. In very simple terms, picture your first forage approaching 8″ while a 2nd layer of Winter Rye is 2″ tall. Then, as the first layer is topping out at 10-12″ and being heavily foraged on, the 2nd layer is close to 6″, and the 3rd layer of rye is 2″ and young. Deer feed typically from the top down and as the first planting is being diminished, the bottom layers are rising up to meet the browse line.

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*Check out what a layered planting looks like inLayered Food Plot Rye Pictorial

I first started purposely practicing this method for myself, and then recommending it to my clients to aid in volume and overall length of attraction within staggered plantings of rye on poor soils. The practice involves planting rye 2-3 weeks earlier in smaller amounts (50-75#s per acre), and then again at the typical planting date for your area, and then again 2-3 wees after the “typical” date. 3 plantings-3 stages of growth-3 levels of palatibility, volume and attraction! Now, I greatly enjoy using layers of oats and peas, oats and radishes…and any combination of seeds to produce the layering effect whether the food plot is being planted on great soils or poor. Of course there is probably no other forage that can be used as effectively and as predictably, as Winter Rye.

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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 >>