April 23, 2020
By Brian Strickland
As I was preparing a fall food plot a few years back, a good buddy of mine who has been involved in various whitetail circles over the years insisted that managing habitat for whitetails is like a good marriage. Although it can be hard at times and there are setbacks, if you’re willing to put in the work, paydirt will ultimately come. After 25 years of marriage and nearly as long chasing whitetails, I’ve learned that there is a lot of truth to that.
Much has changed in the whitetail world since I arrowed my first buck nearly two decades ago. Not only have we evolved into better bowhunters, but the practices in both habitat and whitetail management have also seen dramatic improvements since the turn of the century. It wasn’t that long ago that the term “food plot” became a part of our whitetail vocabulary. But now, if you own or control hunting land, you end up spending far more time and money managing it than you do in a treestand.
That being said, there’s more to enhancing deer habitat than just flinging some seeds and hoping for the best. I should know; I’ve tried that a few times with iffy success. Instead, it’s about developing goals and long-term plans on how to achieve them.
For example, on a 160-acre chunk of dirt we own in southeast Kansas, we planted our first food plot over a decade ago. I argued at the time that it really wasn’t needed, since the creekbottom habitat that snaked through the property was surrounded by winter wheat, beans, milo, and native grasses. But with food plots being the latest craze at the time, we jumped on the bandwagon.
Success was marginal at first. Mast trees died, plots failed, and does and young bucks seemed to be the only ones interested. But with each mistake came some success. Today, the three-acre plot is a whitetail hub in the middle of the property.
Mineral supplements are a good place to start when it comes to deer health. They’re super easy to apply, and if your property lacks in this area, mineral supplements are a great springboard toward deer health. The new  Total Rack ($29.95) from C’Mere Deer contains proprietary attractants and minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, iron, manganese, and zinc, which maximize intake while also providing important nutrients for recovery, nursing, and antler growth.
Hunters Specialties teamed up with the folks at Rackology to develop the new  Nfuze Protein-Mineral-Vitamin Block ($14.99). Scientifically blended for maximum efficiency, this 20-lb. block of whitetail magic provides premium ingredients with optimum ratios of vitamins, minerals, and protein to dramatically increase overall herd health, immune system, antler growth, and reproduction.
Another mineral option worth looking at is  Mineral Dirt ($10.99) from Ani-Logics. Available in liquid, granular, or block forms, Ani-Logics incorporates their Ani-Shield TX4 technology to ensure your deer herd is lapping up all the necessary vitamins, essential oils, probiotics, and chelated minerals, which have an absorption rate up to 70%. Also, if you really want to scientifically know your deer herd’s health, Ani-Logics also offers a Deer Liver Analysis ($129.99) test kit.
While minerals provide a great foundation for deer health, food plots are also a must. For over 30 years, Whitetail Institute has been developing products geared toward deer nutrition, making them the Who’s Who of the food-plot industry. Their new  Destination ($29.95) mix is an annual seed blend that is highly palatable, rich in protein, and designed to hold deer all season long. Living up to its name, Destination contains their proprietary blend of peas, Whitetail Oats, radishes, Alex Berseem, and kale that establishes quickly and is so easy to plant, your hunting buddies will be green with envy.
One of my first successful food plots several years back was a Mossy Oak BioLogic blend, and it was a deer magnet once fall rolled around. Although BioLogic has several seed blends to choose from, their  New Zealand Clover Plus ($17.99) is hard to beat. Planted spring or fall, it is a blend of both red and white clovers, with two types of mineral-rich chicories for an extra nutritional boost when needed most. Hardy and drought resistant, it produces larger leaves and thinner stems for higher nutritional value and improved digestibility, and also provides up to 35% protein.
Another option is the new  5 Card Draw ($19.99) from Evolved Harvest. Evolved has been around the block more than once, and they have had their complete line of seed blends, minerals, and attractants dialed-in for a long time. To ensure your plot will draw whitetails throughout the year, 5 Card Draw is an annual/perennial mix of oats, wheat, perennial white clover, barkant turnip, and chicory. Planted spring, summer, or fall, it’s highly palatable, adjusts to a variety of soil conditions, and is high in protein and minerals to ensure whitetails are getting what they need, when they need it.
Looking to provide a food plot in a remote location or short on equipment to plant one? Then consider Boss Buck’s  No-Till Seed Blend ($14.99). With no soil prep required, this blend features select annual ryegrass, rape, radish, and red clover that will grow in high, moderate, and even low-shade areas. Just simply sling it on top of exposed ground and pray for rain.
Although their name may throw you off guard at first glance and even make you chuckle, Little Whiskey Girl is serious about their food-plot blends. Their popular Lucky Leaf ($35) is a protein-rich smorgasbord of clovers to include galliant, red, jumbo ladino, mammoth, white, alsike, and forage. Prepare the soil after the last frost, and watch it grow this spring. Their  Fall Frenzy ($35) is also popular. It contains a blend of brassicas, rape, radishes, turnips, and beets, making it an attractive draw during those early season hunts, but also just as effective once the snow flies and the sugar-rich bulbs become prime.
Although seed blends and minerals seem to get most of the attention when it comes to whitetail nutrition, natural attractants like soft and hard mast trees also deserve a seat at the table. Chestnut Hill Outdoors is a leader in such attractants, and they offer a variety of mast-producing options. Although food plots yield quicker returns, once established, soft mast requires less effort to maintain and adds diversity to your property. Depending on the variety, Chestnut Hill’s  Crabapple, Pear, and Persimmon trees (prices vary) often begin producing fruit within a couple of years.
Big&J’s  Pour-It-On ($29.99) is both an attractant and supplement that provides complete nutrition on a cellular level. The concentrated granular is made with a proprietary refining process that not only creates a strong aroma to draw deer in, but the organic trace minerals and protein are better absorbed to provide overall deer health and antler growth. Its energy converting amino acids also provide the ingredients deer need post-rut, and during the winter recovery period.
Although some may cringe at the thought of using a feeder, I’m not one of them. I guess that’s because of my Texas roots, where feeders outnumber residents in some counties. Moultrie’s  30-Gal. Gravity Tripod Feeder ($159.99) is great for dispensing protein supplements by using an adjustable-flow gravity dispenser, with three feeder funnels that eliminate the need for a power source. Simply fill the hopper with up to 200 lbs. of your favorite supplement or feed, and the deer will figure out the rest.
Fertilizers are an often-overlooked element to a healthy plot, but not all are created equal. Unlike most fertilizers on the market that offer you just the basic N-P-K formulations, Rackology takes food-plot fertilizer to the next level with their premium  Food Plot Fertilizer & Supplement blend ($19.99). Their proprietary formulation adds many of the nutrients deer need directly to the soil, while at the same time creating the healthiest soil possible to produce maximum plant nutrition and health. Having deer supplements delivered directly to the forage deer eat provides better overall absorption and long-term benefits to your deer herd.
Lastly, whether you want a whitetail attractant just during bow season, or a nutritional treat all year long, Rack One adds the new  PB&J ($9.99) to their expanding line of attractants. Mix it with other food sources, or use it as a stand-alone supplement. PB&J is made using shelled Georgia peanuts to deliver a rich aroma, and an even better taste. Also, with 22% protein and 40% fat content, it’s an excellent supplement during the rut and winter recovery period.