(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on February 21, 2009. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to respond to your questions.)

Whether you would like to plant several food plots over a large acreage or create a small backyard habitat, drawing game birds such as turkey, pheasant, quail and duck as well as larger wildlife like deer is not a complicated process. Many of the trees, shrubs, flowers and grains planted to draw deer are the same plants which provide food and shelter for game birds.
One of the most important ingredients is providing shelter, or cover, for wildlife. If they feel exposed to predators, they will more than likely move on to an area where they can find cover near where they feed.

Bull Moose in Chugach State Park Alaska by Donna Dewhurst Bull Moose in Chugach State Park Alaska
by Donna Dewhurst {PD-USG}

Providing cover is as simple as planting a food plot near a forested area already in place. Deer and game birds can be found in pine woods and hard and softwood mixed forests. Stands of evergreen trees such as cedar should be allowed to grow. These will provide protection from cold winter winds for deer and game birds alike. You can plant the woodlot yourself keeping in mind that approximately 30% of the property should be forested. [1] It will take several years before a new woodlot will be large enough to provide shelter.

A combination of large trees and small understory trees will give the best results for cover and food. Adding fruiting bushes and vines scattered among the trees will also provide food for wildlife and cover for smaller animals. Trees listed below work well for this purpose. The lists below are plants which will draw deer and game birds.

Wheat in the Hulah valley by H2O {PD GNU FDL}

Grain Millet {PD USDA-ARS}

Wheat in the Hulah valley by H2O

Grain Millet {PD USDA-ARS}

Trees and Shrubs

(Malus angustifolia) Crabapples are enjoyed by deer, foxes, pheasants, quail, raccoons, squirrels and several other species of small birds. Crabapples are sometimes considered invasive. Native to the U.S. Sage Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus)

Sage Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus)

Dogwood (Cornus florida) Choose dogwood trees and bushes that will thrive in your area. C. florida is native to the United States. Dogwood's bright red berries provide food for fox squirrels, quail, turkey and many songbirds in the fall and winter. Deer eat the leaves and small branches from trees, especially in the spring.

Hazelnut (Corylus americana) is a small tree or large shrub typically reaching no more than 10 feet tall at maturity. Deer and moose forage the leaves and twigs of hazelnut plants. Nuts are eaten by deer, foxes, grouse, pheasants, quail, squirrels and turkeys. Catkins are eaten by turkey and ruffed grouse in the winter months. The growth habit of C. americana provides nesting and cover for small mammals. Native to the U.S.

ImageWild Turkey by Dimus {PD}

(Diospyros virginiana) are native to the United States. Blooms are fully open by late spring and tree fruits from summer till winter. Fruit is eaten by bears, deer, foxes, turkeys and many songbirds.

Pine (Pinus sylvestris) is one source of forage for whitetail deer. Choose pines that will do well in your zone. Smaller animals such as rabbits, turkeys and wild hogs can be found roaming under large stands of pine. Not native to the U.S.

Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea) is a small tree native Serviceberry (Amelanchier grandiflora) by Kurt Stueber {GNU FDL}

Serviceberry (Amelanchier grandiflora)
by Kurt Stueber {GNU FDL}

to the United States. White blooms open in spring followed by purple fruits in late spring through summer. Serviceberry provides nesting and cover for many small animals such as quail, rabbits and turkeys. The fruits are eaten by squirrels while small branches and leaves are eaten by deer and moose.

Smooth sumac (Rhus glabra) seldom grows taller than 15 feet and is considered a large shrub or possibly a small tree. The bark is eaten by rabbits and foxtail squirrels while deer enjoy the small branches and fruits. The fruits mature in late autumn and are an important winter food source for grouse, pheasants, quail and turkeys as well as plethora of songbirds. Native to the U.S.

White Oak by John Knouse {GNU FDL}White Oak by John Knouse

White Oak (Quercus alba) can reach 100 feet tall at maturity. The tree is a slow grower but lives a long time. Acorns from the white oak provide food for several species of birds including ducks, turkeys, quail and many songbirds. Raccoons, squirrels and chipmunks live in the white oak as well as forage acorns from branches. This tree is a favorite of the deer population. Native to the U.S.

Male and Female Pheasants by ChrisO {GNU FDL}

Male and Female Pheasants
by ChrisO {GNU FDL}

A few vines deer and game birds feed on are blackberry (Rubus fruticosus), fox grape (Vitis labrusca), greenbrier (Smilax spp.), Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), raspberry (Rubus strigosus) and wild briar rose (Rosa canina)*

Cover Crops:
Cover crops to consider for food throughout the year are buckwheat (Fagopyrum tataricum), white clover (Trifolium repens), field corn (Zea mays), millet (Panicum miliaceum), rye (Secale cereale), soybeans (Glycine max) and wheat (Triticum aestivum).
Sumac Fruit by Oneconscious {GNU FDL}Rosa canina by Luc Viatour {GNU FDL}Bobwhite Quail (Colinus virginianus) by BS Thurner Hof {GNU FDL}Soybeans by Scott Bauer {PD USDA-ARS}

Sumac Fruit by Oneconscious

Rosa canina by Luc
Viatour {GNU FDL}

Bobwhite Quail (Colinus
virginianus) by BS Thurner Hof

Soybeans by Scott

*Check with your local extension office concerning the vines listed. Some or all may be invasive.

You may also want to check the regulations in your area if you intend to hunt the game drawn to your property as it is illegal in some places to plant food lots for the purpose of hunting.

Happy Gardening

[1] North American Whitetail
"Planting Food Plots for Deer and Other Wildlife" by John Weiss
"Enhancing Food (Mast) Production for Woodland Wildlife in Ohio" by Dave Apsley/Natural Resources Specialist and Stan Gehrt/Wildlife Specialist OSU Extension F-60-06

Photo at top right is of a white-tailed deer and is in the public domain taken by a park employee in service to the U.S. National Park Service.