Food Plots: Why I’m Finished Planting Soybeans

The author has planted soybeans for many years in his Midwest food plots, but that stops in 2020.

Food Plots: Why I’m Finished Planting Soybeans

The author checks out his best forage soybean food plot, a 5-acre field in western Wisconsin during summer 2011.

DIY land managers have many decisions to make each year, and the most important ones will happen during the next couple months. Late winter and early spring is the time to buy seed that will soon go in the ground for whitetails, and if you make a poor decision, it will negatively affect your deer hunting for the remainder of the year.

I’ve planted various types of soybeans — including the heavily promoted forage soybeans designed specifically for whitetails — for many years in my food plots, but that stops this spring. The reason isn’t because deer don’t like soybeans. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite: whitetails like them too much. 

A bit of background: In eastern South Dakota, I’ve planted soybeans on a 5-acre field and a half-acre field on a 160-acre property. Both food plots border a river-bottom that is home to a lot of whitetails. The surrounding properties are primarily ag fields of soybeans and corn, with a bit of alfalfa, as well as pastures with cattle and CRP fields.

In western Wisconsin, I’ve planted soybeans on food plots ranging in size from 3 acres to a quarter-acre. The property is 160 acres of forest, and it is bordered by larger blocks of timber, with ag fields about a quarter-mile away. The deer population is high.

When I’ve planted soybeans, the food plots received plenty of moisture, and I followed all the planting instructions to the letter. The soybean food plots grew very well in both states. The problem was whitetails began hammering the fields after the plants grew leaves.

In South Dakota, my soybean fields would grow to about 12 inches tall, then the deer would consume every green leaf that grew. By late August, the feeds would be nothing but 12-inch soybean stalks; no leaves and certainly no beans. And you know how soybean fields turn color in the fall from brilliant green to yellow to brown? Not my SoDak fields; I didn’t have any leaves remaining to change color.

My luck in Wisconsin was better, but only slightly. On any fields measuring less than 5 acres, the soybean leaves were nearly gone (eaten by whitetails) by mid-September when they should be changing to yellow. Of course, these fields produced almost no bean pods, which means they didn’t provide any late-season food for whitetails. One year, forage soybeans grew up to my chest on a 5-acre food plot (top photo), and it provided decent hunting during the late season when whitetails visited it to consume the bean pods.

The author’s soybean food plots in Wisconsin drew many whitetails during summer, including some big bucks, but because the plots were small (quarter-acre to half-acre), deer consumed nearly all the soybean leaves before archery opener.
The author’s soybean food plots in Wisconsin drew many whitetails during summer, including some big bucks, but because the plots were small (quarter-acre to half-acre), deer consumed nearly all the soybean leaves before archery opener.

In total, when I look back at the time, effort and money spent planting soybeans in South Dakota and Wisconsin, the return on my food plot investment simply wasn’t worth it. Soybeans worked well for me once — and I’ve planted them close to 20 times. Note: I tried fencing off small soybean fields once and it worked fair; again, in my opinion it wasn't worth the effort and money.

This spring I’ll plant a variety of seeds in South Dakota and Wisconsin on my many food plots, but soybeans won’t be part of the mix. Look for a follow-up article soon on Whitetail Journal where I’ll detail my 2020 food plot plan.

As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.


Discussion

Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.