16 Reasons Why I Love Imperial Whitetail Clover

By Gerald Almy

 Are you the objective, science-driven, just-the-facts type? Or are you more of an intuitive, go-with-your-gut person who forms outlooks and beliefs based on personal experience, hunch and intuition? I would wager that many people — probably most of us — blend both approaches in developing outlooks and drawing conclusions. I place myself in the middle of that spectrum.
That became clear as I started organizing notes to tackle this topic for Whitetail News. As I began analyzing why Imperial Whitetail Clover is my favorite food plot seed, I realized there was an almost equal mixture of intuitive, subjective reasons born of personal experience but also plenty of scientific, evidence-driven ones. My initial list was even longer, but here are 16 reasons why I love Imperial Whitetail Clover. Some are based on personal experience, some on hard, proven facts. If you’re a veteran food plotter who has grown this fabulous clover, you’ll likely nod your head in agreement. If you’re new to this wonderful hobby, these reasons will give you plenty of justification for making this clover the backbone of your wildlife food plot program.

 1 It’s the first food plot seed I ever planted. After moving into a small cedar cabin our family owned on the Shenandoah River after college, I plunged full-time into the world of free-lance outdoor writing. I did plenty of traveling, gathering fishing and hunting stories. But the cabin I took over (and eventually bought) sat on four acres, and about one of those was tillable. So one of the first things I spent my checks on after selling a few articles was wildlife seed. If I was going to live in the woods and write about hunting, by golly, I wanted to see some animals. And deer were at the top of the list. That was about the time Ray Scott revolutionized the world of food plots with the unveiling of Imperial Whitetail Clover. Using a small garden tiller and Roundup, I carved out a primitive little plot of that new clover mixture. The thriving plot of Imperial Whitetail Clover became a deer magnet. And it never stopped attracting them. It’s difficult to forget your first successful food plot.

2 It tolerates drought and brutally hot weather. With checks coming in sporadically during those early writing years, I decided to skimp and save a few bucks on seed when I expanded my plantings. That’s when one of the major advantages of Imperial Whitetail Clover became obvious. It was the first of what would be many brutally hot years with almost record-low rainfalls. While my cheap co-op clover withered in the sun that July, the Imperial Clover continued to thrive. Eventually, when I moved, bought more land and planted more forages, I turned to the Whitetail Institute’s clover-chicory mix (now called Fusion) for the driest areas. But the Imperial Whitetail Clover still performs incredibly well in drought even when planted by itself. And the Rainbond coating on each seed helps get new plantings established even in times of pathetic rainfall.

3 It thrives in less-than-perfect soils. You can do a lot to improve your soils by soil-testing, adding lime and fertilizer, eradicating weeds and tilling to create a smooth, fine-textured seed bed. But let’s face it. Some of us are stuck with growing plots on just mediocre dirt. After I moved to a bigger parcel, in the western part of Shenandoah County, Virginia, I found that to be the case for some of my plots. I had more ground, and it’s a beautiful tract of land. But the soil, with a few exceptions, is mostly mediocre. Yet with enough fertilizer and lime applications, the ground churns out impressive stands of Imperial Whitetail Clover that last three to five years before I plow them under and plant an annual such as PowerPlant or Winter-Greens for a year or two. Sure, heavy, rich bottomland soil will produce the ultimate clover plots. But most of us can do pretty well with just average soil if we put in the effort, adding the lime and nutrients the soil needs.

4 Deer love it. Since my first bumbling attempts at scratching out food plots in the 1980s, I’ve experimented with about every type of forage that’s come out for deer and wildlife. A few have turned out to be pretty good (mostly Whitetail Institute products). And deer are attracted to almost all of them. But the plant that gets hammered? Imperial Whitetail Clover.

5 It spreads naturally. It’s a battler. Maybe sometimes you don’t get a perfect, even spread of seeds when you plant a plot. Or a sudden downpour washes out one area before the plants take root. With some forages, those areas would remain barren or soon fill in with unwanted weeds from seeds blowing in or buried in the sub-soil. With my clover plots, those strong growing legumes typically expand and fill those areas on their own before many weeds take hold. They do it by stolon growth. Those are above-ground plant stems or runners that spread horizontally and then take root, creating new plants in open areas.

6 I killed my first buck heading toward an Imperial Whitetail Clover plot. Do you remember your first buck? I doubt any hunter will forget that important day in their development as a sportsman. I shot my first buck with a .35-caliber lever-action as it angled down the knife-sharp slopes of the Massanutten Mountain toward a plot of Imperial Whitetail Clover I had planted many years ago. Acorns were scarce that year, and most farm crops were already plowed under that cold November day. The buck knew where he wanted to go — the only nutritious green plot around. And by luck, I had taken a stand on a fallen oak along the switch-backing route he took down the mountain to reach it. That deer was not only a milestone in my development as a hunter, but the story of taking it also inspired my first contribution to the prestigious Gray’s Sporting Journal magazine.

7 It’s high in protein. At up to 35 percent, Imperial Clover has one of the highest protein levels of any major deer forage. That’s vital for growing muscle mass, bone structure and, when a deer’s body needs are met, bigger antlers. It’s also crucial for lactating does. Although deer only require 16 to 20 percent protein, the clover’s higher protein levels help balance out the lower percentage of many natural forbs and twigs the animals also feed on.

8 I killed my heaviest-antlered buck ever on my land as it moved between two clover plots. This was not the highestscoring buck I’ve seen on my 117 acres, but his mass was awesome. And I knew from watching him multiple seasons that he was older than five. I caught him right before dusk making one last check of an Imperial Whitetail Clover plot tucked in a small valley between two cedar-choked knolls. I watched him drink from the adjoining pond, and then squeezed the .30/06 trigger when he stepped onto higher ground. His bases measured more than six inches. I can’t document it scientifically, but I’ve noticed that the more Imperial Whitetail Clover plots I plant, the more antler mass seems to increase. And no measurement of a rack intrigues me like mass, which almost always corresponds directly with age until a buck reaches its peak at seven or eight years.

9 I killed my biggest bucks in Iowa, Pennsylvania, Nebraska, Maryland and West Virginia as they fed on or moved toward Imperial Whitetail Clover plots outfitters had planted. I’ve been fortunate to travel widely as an outdoor writer, and I’ve seen this product planted on thousands of acres. There’s a reason — rather, three reasons — for that. It attracts deer. It grows healthier, bigger animals. And it produces happy clients — like I was on those hunts.

10 It doesn’t need protection. If you’ve planted a field of soybeans, cowpeas or lablab and had it almost obliterated overnight by hungry, overabundant whitetails, you’ll appreciate that characteristic. Unless you plant just one tiny plot in an area heavily overpopulated with animals, you should never have to worry about deer overbrowsing your crop of clover. The more they eat, the more Imperial Whitetail Clover comes back with new, more palatable growth.

11 It benefits from mowing. Regarding reason No. 10, deer usually can’t even keep clover eaten down sufficiently in most plots. In that case, the forage can benefit from mowing. Of all food plot activities, this is one of my favorites. Trim down the plot when blossoms start to become abundant or weeds and grasses grow several inches taller than the clover. By just clipping the tops of the weeds and most flowers, you can invigorate a plot and produce more tender, lush growth by mowing — one of the greatest ways I know to spend a sunny summer day.

12 Weeds and grasses can be easily controlled. Mowing will go a long way toward controlling unwanted weeds and grasses, but treatment with the herbicides Slay, for broadleaf weeds, and Arrest Max, for grasses, is simple. It will let you keep your plot almost free of unwanted competition with one or two applications per year. Not only will your plots look better, but they’ll provide more and higher-quality forage without weeds and grasses competing for nutrients, sunlight and moisture.

13 It lasts many years and persists throughout the seasons. Sure, I love the excitement of planting and watching annuals such as Tall Tine Tubers or PowerPlant almost shoot up from the ground. But there’s also something to be said for a forage that lasts three to five years and doesn’t require much work every year. That’s typical for Imperial Whitetail Clover. I stretched that to six years in one memorable case. This product has a long life and also produces forage almost 12 months per year. In many regions, deer actually feed year-round on Imperial Whitetail Clover. For more northern climates, 10 months is typical, with a brief dormant period in January and February.

14 It was created specifically for deer and is continuously being improved. Dr. Wiley Johnson spent more than seven years developing Insight, the first genetically new species of clover invented for deer, and included in Imperial Whitetail Clover. Following in his footsteps, Dr. Wayne Hanna, current director of forage research, has improved and developed still more new varieties by selecting the hardiest plants that offered the best benefits for deer after extensive testing, cross-breeding and culling. More than 30,000 plants were studied in recent tests, finally being narrowed down to 50. Eventually, a small fraction of those will go into Imperial Whitetail Clover.

15 It’s aesthetically attractive. This one might not matter to everyone. But I look out from my office at food plots every day, and the beauty of clover shimmering in shafts of golden morning sunlight or sparkling with silver dew after a rain offers a joy I’ll never tire of. I don’t know a lot about art, but looking at a field of clover provides the kind of aesthetics I can appreciate. Backlit by sunlight, the clover sometimes seems to glow with an inner light and vibrant green hue that no oils or watercolors can ever match.

16 It creates hubs of rutting activity during breeding season. Throughout much of the year, does typically claim the best forage a parcel offers and bed in nearby brushy or grassy areas. Bucks cede that choice habitat to the ladies and choose more remote, isolated spots with thicker cover. That changes when the rut kicks in. Bucks abandon their summer core hideouts at this time and gravitate to areas with doe concentrations. I’ve found that one of the most consistent places they visit to locate does is an Imperial Whitetail Clover plot or, better, a cluster of several such plots with brushy cover between them. These areas become hubs of breeding activity as mature bucks search for concentrations of does near prime feeding spots. And they become killer locations for an all-day sit when November arrives. Sure, we hunting writers come up with all kinds of complicated formulas and detailed advice for hunting the rut and dealing with lockdown. But you can do far worse than setting up and watching a brushy edge or funnel of cover between a brace of Imperial Whitetail Clover plots.

It’s a simple formula. Simple, but deadly.