By Whitetail Institute Staff

 This is the second part of a two-part article addressing a question the Whitetail Institute’s in-house consultants are often asked: “Which Whitetail Institute forage product is the best?” As we said then, which is the “best” depends on your specific situation — factors such as equipment accessibility to the site, soil type and slope should all be considered. In the first part, we covered how to select the Whitetail Institute perennial that is best for your situations(s). Part 1 is available on-line at www.whitetailinstitute.com. In this article, we’ll cover Whitetail Institute annuals and the general forage selection steps that often lead to them.

While “perennials” are forages designed to last for multiple years from a single planting, “annuals” are designed to provide maximum production for part of one calendar year. The Whitetail Institute’s line of perennial forage products covers a broad range of soil types, slopes, and other factors. That’s why they are often used as the backbone plantings for food plot systems. Even so, Whitetail Institute annuals are arguably an even more versatile line of forage products in that they can boost seasonal nutrition and attraction even further — and provide the results you’re looking for even if your time and capabilities are restricted.

Annuals Can Enhance Seasonal Nutrition and Attraction Even Further

Whitetail Institute annuals are highly attractive and nutritious. Even in food plot systems that do include perennials, Whitetail Institute annuals can boost attraction, variety and nutrition even further by providing abundant sources of highly attractive, nutritious foliage at targeted times of the year, most commonly spring through summer, and fall through winter.

Spring and Summer Imperial Whitetail PowerPlant

Spring and summer are critical nutritional seasons, as bucks are growing new sets of antlers, and does are pregnant and, later, producing nutrient-rich milk for their newborn fawns. And it’s no secret that the most important nutrient during the spring and summer is protein. Imperial Whitetail PowerPlant is specifically designed to produce massive tonnage of highly palatable, protein-rich foliage during the spring and summer, right when deer need protein the most. And like all Whitetail Institute forage products, PowerPlant is designed specifically for the needs of deer. An example is the soybean in PowerPlant, a true forage soybean that, unlike agricultural soybean varieties, emphasizes foliage production. This particular vining soybean doesn’t get tough and stemmy the way agricultural soybeans do, and it can even tolerate grazing much better once it establishes. PowerPlant also includes other vining legumes, as well as small amounts of structural plants that provide a lattice for the legumes to climb and maximize production instead of growing along the ground.

Fall To Early Spring

Fall and winter are stressful times for deer due to diminishing food availability, hunting pressure, the rut and cold temperatures. It’s during these seasons that protein takes somewhat of a back seat to energy in nutritional importance. Whitetail Institute annuals are designed to establish and grow quickly, begin attracting deer right away, and then hold them through the cold months of the year. As previously mentioned, annuals are often even better than perennials for providing targeted attraction and nutrition for a specific part of the year. Let’s look at the Whitetail Institute annuals designed specifically to address your needs for fall, fall through winter, and even fall through early spring.

Whitetail Oats Plus and Pure Attraction

Whitetail Oats Plus is a premium forage planting for deer that establishes and grows quickly. The main ingredient in Whitetail Oats Plus is Whitetail Oats, a high-sugar, cold-tolerant oat that’s so attractive to deer that independent university researchers had to remove them from grain production tests and shelve them because deer grazed them so heavily. The Plus components in Whitetail Oats Plus are small amounts of specially selected triticale and wheat, which boost cold tolerance even further and provide variety. Whitetail Oats and winter peas also serve as the first stage of Pure Attraction, which is designed as an overlapping two-stage forage for fall through winter. The oats and winter peas establish and grow quickly, providing exceptional attraction from early fall into the colder months of the year. Later, as the weather turns even colder, Pure Attraction’s second stage kicks in with highly attractive, high carbohydrate WINA annual brassicas that stand tall in the snow, providing abundant, high energy food for deer during the coldest months.

Imperial Whitetail Winter-Greens and Tall Tine Tubers

If you’re looking for an all-brassica product, you won’t do better than Winter-Greens and/or Tall-Tine Tubers. They’re similar in many ways. For instance, they both establish and grow very quickly and provide tonnage right away. Both products also become even sweeter with the arrival of fall’s first frosts, and they continue to provide deer with a much needed source of high energy food during the coldest months of the year. So why does the Whitetail Institute offer two all-brassica blends instead of just one? To make sure you have access to more than just a high-quality brassica product, and that you have a high-quality brassica product that precisely meets your needs. The main difference lies in the types of brassicas that make up the lion’s share of each product. Tall Tine Tubers is designed around the Tall Tine Turnip, a new turnip variety developed by the Whitetail Institute over a six-year period specifically for deer. Tall Tine Tubers’ foliage establishes and grows quickly, providing an abundant food source for deer during the late fall and winter. The tubers (the bulbs) can grow large underground, and they’re exceptionally sweet. Deer tend to dig them up and attack them with a vengeance once cold weather settles in. Winter-Greens consists primarily of “lettuce-type” brassicas — brassicas with a vegetable genetic base that are simply the most attractive brassicas the Whitetail Institute has ever tested, even during early fall. Winter-Greens also contains a small amount of Tall Tine Turnip. Tall Tine Tubers produces more tubers (the bulbs) than Winter-Greens.

Imperial Whitetail Winter Peas Plus

Winter Peas Plus is an exciting new offering from the Whitetail Institute. Put simply, Winter Peas Plus is the best winter-pea forage product the Whitetail Institute could make. And you don’t have to take our word for it. The evidence is right there on the federally-required ingredient tag on the bag. First, Winter Peas Plus is more than 80 percent winter peas, unlike some so-called “winter-pea” food plot products that contain only a comparatively tiny amount of winter peas. The two winter pea varieties in Winter Peas Plus have been selected by the Whitetail Institute for their outstanding attractiveness to deer over all other winter pea varieties the Whitetail Institute has ever tested. Second, Winter Peas Plus doesn’t make up the rest of the bag with inferior plant varieties the way some other “winter pea” products do. Instead, the Plus components in Winter Peas Plus are Whitetail Oats, the highly attractive, cold-tolerant oat that serves as the backbone for Whitetail Oats Plus, and a new winter lettuce and forage radish. Whitetail Oats are added to enhance early-season attraction even further and to provide a cover crop for the peas. The winter lettuce and radish also act as cover crops, and they provide additional forage once the weather turns colder.

Imperial Whitetail No-Plow, Secret Spot XL, Secret Spot and Bow-Stand

All four products consist primarily of three main forage groups: forage grains and grasses, annual clovers, and brassica. Deer tend to hit the forage grains and annual clovers the hardest during the early season, and then transition to the brassicas once the weather turns colder. After winter, the annual clovers green up in early spring, providing a much-needed food source to help deer recover their winter health losses so that bucks can turn the nutrition provided to antler growth as quickly as possible. All these products are designed to perform extremely well even with minimal ground tillage, and they can perform even better if planted in a fully prepared seedbed. From a practical standpoint, the biggest issue that would steer you to one of these four products more than the others is plot size. No-Plow is packaged in 1/2-acre quantities and larger. Secret Spot XL is packaged for plots up to 1/4-acre. Secret Spot and Bow-Stand are packaged for plots up to 1/10th acre (4,500 sq. ft.) Earlier, we mentioned that Whitetail Institute perennials are an excellent option as the backbone plantings for a food plot system. Taking that one step further, a good rule of thumb for folks who want to plant both perennials and annuals is to try to plant about 50-75 percent of your food plots in perennials and the rest in annuals. Again, though, that is a rule of thumb — merely a starting point from which you have to look at your specific situation. It does not mean you must plant perennials at all. With Whitetail Institute annuals, you can provide your deer with the attraction and nutrition you want, seasonally or on a year-round basis. With that being the case, the next question is obvious: should I plant annuals in addition to my perennials, or alone? And if so, which annuals do I choose? Let’s look at some of the big the factors that affect this decision.

Annuals Provide Top Performance Even If Your Time and Capabilities are Limited Equipment Issues.

Again, perennials should be planted in a seedbed that has been prepared with ground-tillage equipment, and they should be periodically mowed during the spring and summer and, if appropriate, sprayed in the spring to keep grass and weeds in check. If you can’t access the site with equipment, then plant No- Plow, Secret Spot, Secret Spot XL or Bow-Stand. They’re made to flourish even with minimal seedbed preparation. They’re also an excellent option if you’ve waited too long, are now at the end of the Whitetail Institute’s published planting dates, or if you simply don’t have time to work the seedbed up properly before planting. Whitetail Institute annuals are also an excellent option for folks who can access the site with equipment, but who live so far away from their hunting properties that they aren’t going to travel all the way to it each spring to spray and mow perennial food plots. If that’s the case, then stick with Whitetail Institute annuals, which generally don’t require maintenance after initial fertilization and planting.

The Other Important Issue

There’s another, often overlooked factor to consider when selecting forage products for your hunting sites: fun. When you step back and look at the Whitetail Institute’s entire line of perennial and annual forage products, you start to see a clear picture. That picture is a lineup of forage products that have been developed individually to be the best the Whitetail Institute can make them, and as a product line to cover virtually any planting situation you might have. That’s why with the exception of equipment accessibility, the biggest factor in selecting Whitetail Institute forages is the limits of your imagination. For example, instead of planting one acre in a single WINA forage product, consider planting a half acre of two products. Plant similar blends such as Winter-Greens on one side of your food plot and Tall Tine Tubers on the other so you can observe which one your deer hit harder at different times during the fall and winter. Or go the opposite way and plant blends that are completely different, such as Whitetail Oats Plus beside Winter-Greens. Splitting things up like that can offer some real benefits such as adding variety that can increase attraction of the site even further. Another option we’ve mentioned before (and that works like gangbusters) is to plant a larger field in PowerPlant in the spring, mow lanes through it in the fall in line with the most common wind direction during fall, and then plant the lanes in a fall annual. That can be a deadly setup during the early season, as deer often step from the PowerPlant into the lanes all during the day. If you have any questions about Whitetail Institute forage products, remember that the Whitetail Institute’s highly knowledgeable inhouse consultants are just a phone call away at (800) 688-3030. The call and the service are free.