Planting food plots for turkeys is a great tactic. Here are some things to know.
A large percentage of deer hunters plant food plots for Whitetails. In fact, hunters have been doing so for decades. But many of those same hunters—and even devout turkey hunters—forget that turkeys eat from food plots, too. Planting these lush fields of green can be dedicated turkey plots as well.
Here, I’ll detail some of the best food plot options for wild turkeys and how to plant them. Some of these hold turkeys at various times of the year, but the goal is to offer year-round sanctuary for turkeys. Selecting several options from this list helps accomplish just that.
All things considered, there are many different food plot species that work for turkeys, but some are better than others. Whether it be because of better nutrition, more tonnage of food per acre or convenience (such as forage at the right height) all are relevant factors. Having plots align with these needs are crucial for turkeys to adopt planted food sources.
Alfalfa isn’t an easy plant to grow, but it offers the goods. This species is high in protein (22 to 30%). Plus, it’s a legume, which promises good forage and insects in abundance. But it isn’t cheap to plant. It’s an investment. Fortunately, if properly cared for, it can last several years (up to five) between plantings.
Buckwheat is a warm-season annual that attracts wild turkeys in numbers. While this isn’t a legume or a cereal grain, it is a forb, and turkeys like those. It’s high in protein and turkeys love it. This food plot species does well in most soil types, as long as it isn’t on the really wet or dry ends of the moisture spectrum.
Not to be confused with rye grass, cereal rye grain is a solid bet for wild birds. This crop is quite simple to grow and doesn’t cost a lot to do so. It isn’t high in protein (only 15%), but it is high in carbohydrates. It’s certainly a cool-season go-to for land managers.
A great option for southern hunters is chufa. This species is a perennial sedge that birds love. It produces tubers that turkeys feed on. These nutty morsels are very nutritious and beneficial for wild turkeys. It’s 10% protein, 15% carbohydrates, 30% fiber. Turkeys love every bite.
A staple throughout much of the country, clover is a phenomenal source of food. This legume is an excellent source of grub, but it also attracts insects. Red, white and ladino clover are my personal favorites, and providing all three options (but not blended) is a great way to go. Simply offer these in separate strips or different plots. With these, protein levels shoot way up into the 20s, and being legumes, they offer foliage and insect food sources. However, clover plots do require routine maintenance to keep alive.
Another option is lespedeza. Both Korean and Kobe, among others (location depending), are quality varieties to plant. This isn’t as common as other food plot species on this list, but it is viable, and certainly not one to be overlooked.
Millet is an excellent option for turkeys. Brown top, Japanese, and pearl are great varieties to consider. They prefer this species as young shoots fresh out of the ground. Then, once the plot ages, it attracts a lot of insects, which turkeys love, too. Later in the spring, turkeys begin eating the seeds that are produced as well.
Also referred to as milo, or grain sorghum, sorghum is a seedy plant that offers a lot of wildlife value. This warm-season annual is grown throughout much of America and performs well even in areas that receive less rainfall. It even offers high levels of calcium, carbohydrates, phosphorous, potassium and protein.
The fabled oat is a cool-season food source that is great for getting the flock through fall and winter. It’s a cereal grain that’s very high in carbs, which are necessary for energy creation. It even offers 15 to 18% protein, depending on the variety.
A classic for wild turkeys, wheat is a go-to option for these birds throughout the country. This cereal grain is targeted early for its tender shoots, but also its latter-stage seeds. It also offers 18 to 20% protein and high carbs. It’s a viable option in a wide range of soil types and conditions.
Bonus: Trees for Turkeys
The permanent, long-term food plot is a tree. There are many different species that benefit turkeys. Soft mast trees, such as apple, crab apple, mulberry, pear, persimmon, plum and others are turkey magnets. Hard mast trees, such as beech, chestnut, hickory, red oak and white oak are solid bets, too. Offering these trees on the property is part of supplying a well-rounded diet for wild turkeys.