Plants That Will Keep Deer On Your Property Year Round

Deer are attracted to land that is rich with abundant natural resources, including water, food, and shelter. If you own property and want to keep deer on it year round, planting deer food plots can help. Deer are food motivated creatures, and they cannot resist a properly planned and executed deer food plot. Here’s how to make that happen on your land.

Food Plots for Year Round Deer

The best deer food plots consist of a mix of plants that include:

  • Annual plants
  • Perennial crops
  • Row crops
  • Trees

Each of these has their own schedule for planting and proper management.

Annual Plants

Like humans, deer prefer some variety in their diet. Annual plants can help provide this and keep deer on your land.

Consider “candy” crops such as:

  • Corn
  • Winter peas
  • Beets
  • Brassicas (broccoli, turnips, radishes etc)
  • Cowpeas
  • Sunflower

Planting these crops will keep deer out of your kitchen garden, too!

When to Plant

When you plant annuals for deer depends on the weather in your growing region. Brassicas, beets, and winter peas tolerate frost and can generally be sown directly in the ground in early spring or late fall, but corn may need to wait until the soil is much warmer. Cowpeas and sunflowers also typically require more sunny warmth.

How to Manage

As with the crops you grow in your kitchen garden, you’ll need to make sure that the annual plants in your deer food plot have plenty of water and adequate sunshine. Keep an eye out for pests that will get to your food before the deer do, and consider rotating in a winter cover crop of clover to keep the soil healthy.

Perennial Crops

Looking at what plants deer eat most commonly from your lawn can help you decide which perennial crops to grow. Clover food plots for deer are sure to attract them, but there is other perennial forage to choose from.


  • White and red clovers
  • Alsike clover
  • Alfalfa
  • Chicory

When to Plant

Perennial crops should be started early spring or late fall for lush, abundant fields of forage for deer. In the spring, you’ll need to wait until daily high temperatures reach 63 degrees. For fall plantings, you’ll need plenty of moisture in the ground, but fall rains can wash seeds away. Plant between one and two months before the average first frost date to give seeds a chance to germinate and take hold.

How to Manage

Once good stands of perennial crops are established, you may not need to seed every year. After that, high mowing and pest management, plus fertilizer left behind by grazing deer, should be all you need to keep the land healthy.

If you would like to go one step further, rotating perennial crops with row crops can help replenish soil, which can become depleted by these crops over time.

Row Crops

Row crops provide an excess of stable food that can be planned for better irrigation and movement. These crops include:

  • Oats
  • Wheat
  • Triticale
  • Rye

When to Plant

These are typically planted in early fall, but your exact planting date may vary. Check with your local extension office.

How to Manage

Disc seeds into healthy soil, then make sure irrigation matches the needs of the crop. Definitely control for weeds and watch for pests.


When you are learning how to create deer habitat, trees are critical. They provide both shelter and food and can be the deciding factor on whether or not deer stick around.

A tree plot for deer should include a good mix of the following types of trees.

Fruit Trees

  • Apple trees
  • Pear trees
  • Persimmon trees
  • Plum trees


  • Honey locust
  • White and red oak
  • Hickory
  • Pecan
  • Beech
  • Chestnut
  • Eastern red cedar

When to Plant

You know the old saying, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today”?

If your property is missing trees to keep deer on your property year round, plant as soon as you can. Many fruit trees can take five or more years to begin producing fruit.

That said, wait until after the last hard freeze of spring to put your fruit trees in the ground. This makes for easier digging and reduces the risk of trees dying in a hard frost. Pay close attention to trees that require two or more for proper pollination.

Hardwood trees take even longer to reach maturity. But don’t be discouraged. Get them in the ground as soon as you can while you make other improvements to your property.

How to Manage

If you do have existing fruit and hardwood trees on your property, make sure to manage them for their health.

  • Prune trees regularly according to specification for each tree, and remove diseased trees as soon as possible.
  • Avoid using pesticides for pest control.
  • Thin hardwood trees to encourage healthy growth.

Other Ways to Build Deer Habitat

Once you have your food plots in place, you’ll need to make sure that you have other amenities that are attractive to deer.

Water Source

All of life requires water, and deer are no different. If your property does not have a natural water source, such as a spring, permanent stream, or pond, you have a few options. Digging a pond is one of the most costly choices, but a simpler way is to construct a catchment basin. This is a simple depression created in a low-lying area of your property that will fill with water when it rains and hold enough of it to provide ample water.


It doesn’t matter which hunting land improvements you make. If deer do not feel secure on your property, they won’t stick around. Even if your primary motivation is to eventually hunt the deer you attract, providing them with a peaceful and secure existence is a more humane way to approach this type of recreation.

Provide more security by ensuring that deer have safe places to nest, sleep, and bed their young fawns while they browse for forage during the day. Plenty of properly managed timber stands, native grasses, and brush cover will provide deer with a wide variety of habitats to keep them feeling safe.


When you find the perfect property and want to attract deer year round, adding deer food plots is the best way to do it.

Explore the Blog

Sorry, nothing found.

Back to top