Try These Cool-Season Food Plot Mixes

August 6, 2012 By: Craig Harper


There are a myriad of combinations that can be used with cool-season food plots. Many contain grasses, leguminous forbs (such as clovers and alfalfa), and non-leguminous forbs (such as chicory and brassicas). This can be challenging when coming up with herbicide control options. In my previous article “Weed Control Primer” in Quality Whitetails magazine, I shared strategies for effective weed control, as well as several food plot mixtures and matching weed-control methods I have used successfully. What follows is a sample of some of the mixtures I shared in the article.

There is nothing magical about these mixtures, but after years of testing, I guarantee these work very well. With regard to variety, choose the one that is best suited to your location. Always read and follow the label of any herbicides you use.

Mix 1

Wheat or oats 40 lbs./acre
Crimson clover 15 lbs./acre
Arrowleaf clover 5 lbs./acre




This is the best annual mixture I have ever used. It grows nearly everywhere – sandy soils, clay soils, down South, up North as far as Pennsylvania and southern Michigan – and deer and turkeys absolutely love it. We spray 2 to 3 quarts of Butyrac 200 (per acre) postemergence with a non-ionic surfactant before cool-season weeds reach 3 inches in height. Once the arrowleaf dies in summer, we spray incoming warm-season weeds with a glyphosate herbicide. When planted in early to mid-September, we have lush, highly digestible forage from October through July with this mixture. By July, the deer are concentrating on our soybean plots. It’s that easy! No mowing whatsoever, and relatively little spraying. We have tested and used several variations of this mixture. Results of these tests will be provided in a future issue of Quality Whitetails. (See a photo of this mixture in the Gallery below).


Mix 2

Wheat 40 lbs./acre
Austrian winter peas 20 lbs./acre
Forage brassica 4 lbs./acre

If you want to plant a mixture up North, as opposed to a single species plot, this one works well. We preplant incorporate 2 pints of Treflan HFP or Trifluralin 4EC per acre, then plant our seed.

Mix 3

Wheat or oats 40 lbs./acre
Red clover 7 lbs./acre
Berseem clover 5 lbs./acre
Ladino clover 4 lbs./acre
Chicory 2 lbs./acre
Forage brassica 1 lb./acre







This is a highly nutritious and attractive perennial mixture. If you’re up North, don’t include the berseem clover, and you might want to use wheat instead of oats unless you use a good winter-hardy variety of oats. We usually include annuals with all our perennial forages because they germinate quicker and provide good forage in the fall and winter after planting. When the annuals die, you are left with a perennial plot of ladino and red clovers and chicory. And don’t let anyone tell you that you shouldn’t use red clover. It’s one of the most attractive clovers for deer, is more drought tolerant than ladino white clovers, and, nutritionally, compares very well to ladino white clovers. There is no preemergence herbicide to use with most perennial mixtures. We spray 4 ounces of Pursuit and 12 ounces of Clethodim (tank mixed, per acre) postemergence with a non-ionic surfactant once the crimson produces seed and the wheat or oats bolt. We generally mow this mixture in August and spray again in October to control incoming cool-season weeds. (See a photo of this mixture in the Gallery below).

Mix 4

Wheat or oats 40 lbs./acre
Alfalfa 10 lbs./acre
Red clover 5 lbs./acre
Chicory 3 lbs./acre





This is another exceptional perennial mixture that even performs well on relatively dry sites. We spray/manage this mixture the same as the one above. (See a photo of this mixture in the Gallery below).

About Craig Harper:

Dr. Craig Harper is a Professor of Wildlife Management and the Extension Wildlife Specialist at the University of Tennessee. Craig is a regular contributor to the NDA website and a Life Member of the NDA. Dr. Harper and his graduate students concentrate their work on applied management issues, including forest management, early succession management, food plot applications, and the effects of quality deer management.