As a consultant and avid land and deer manager, I often get the question, \u201cWhat is the best thing to plant for deer during the spring?\u201dMy answer is simple and the same for everyone \u2013 SOYBEANS.\u00a0 Even though my answer is the same for everyone, doesn\u2019t mean it\u2019s right for everyone.\u00a0 There are plenty of instances where soybeans may not be ideal for you, which I\u2019ll cover further down, but first, here\u2019s why nothing matches the power of soybean food plots.Soybeans provide quality forage nearly year-roundCompared to most other food plot varieties, soybeans trump them in terms of longevity.\u00a0 First, from the time they start poking their stems out of the Earth, soybeans are the go-to forage for\u00a0deer.\u00a0 Nothing matches the nutritional quality of green soybeans.\u00a0 The green forage boasts crude protein levels upwards of 30%, which helps produce healthy fawns and big antlers throughout the summer.\u00a0 Bottom line is deer devour the forage of soybeans as long as they are green.\u00a0 If you want to scout summer bucks, soybean fields are where you need to be glassing during the evenings.Depending on the length of maturity, and forage vs. grain-type beans, some varieties like Eagle Seeds Forage Beans will still be producing green forage into the early stages of the hunting season – up until the first hard frost.\u00a0 If green, hunt the beans.\u00a0 Eventually all beans will brown out and lose their leaves.\u00a0 Typically, there is a bit of a lull once the beans begin to yellow and brown until temperatures start to dip. \u00a0But once the lose their leaves and dry out a bit, deer will start hammering the actual bean pods left on the stalk for the rest of winter or until the pods are gone.\u00a0 Thus, if the deer herd is in-check and an adequate amount of acreage was planted, soybeans have the potential to be producing high quality forage for nearly the entire year.Weed ControlAnother huge advantage soybean plots have is that many varieties are RR or \u201cRoundUp Ready\u201d, meaning you can control invading weeds by spraying herbicide right over the growing beans with no harm done.\u00a0 This is especially beneficial in first time food plot areas where weeds are often difficult to control.\u00a0 Even if it\u2019s a small area, beans are a great tool to use for site prep of an area during the first year because they provide forage for deer while giving you the ability to control weeds.\u00a0 Any first time plot I make, I plant with beans just to get a handle on weeds while still providing a food source for the deer.\u00a0 Doing this makes it much easier to establish the plot with a different forage later in the summer or the following spring.Bonus: Soybeans are a legume, meaning they fix their own nitrogen from the atmosphere, thus reducing fertilizer costs.Forage and Grain VarietiesThese are the two broad categories soybeans can be placed.\u00a0 Which type you plant depends upon your objectives.\u00a0 For example, here in Wisconsin (farm country) I typically plant 50% of my soybean plots with a forage bean and the other 50% with a conventional agricultural grain bean. The reasoning? We have pretty rough winters with cold weather and snow during much of the late-season, thus I plant 50% grain beans because I want the deer to have a high energy food source during these times of stress. The 50% forage variety can better tolerate browsing pressure throughout the summer and will be extremely attractive during the early part of bow season when the agriculture grain type beans have long since browned out (depending upon maturation and date planted).The above picture illustrates the difference in color between a longer maturing forage bean (left) and a conventional ag type bean (right) during the same time of year. \u00a0Deer would still be hitting the nutritious green plot until temperatures begin to drop.Forage varieties are developed to withstand grazing pressure, thus they are generally more viney and bushy,have slightly fewer pods, but more leaves and longer maturity.\u00a0 Grain varieties are what you typically see farmers planting and are shorter, stouter, and have fewer stems and leaves, but more pods.\u00a0 They put their energy into growing pods, not forage.Bonus Tip: If you hold off and plant a grain type bean until late spring to early summer (beginning of June here in WI), there\u2019s a good chance the beans will still be green during a portion of the early season.\u00a0 The key is to look at the maturation period of the seed and plan accordingly. \u00a0On the flipside, you will risk the chance of limited pod production if they get hit with an early frost and\/or drier growing conditions.DownfallsJust because soybeans are king, doesn\u2019t mean they are magical.\u00a0 There are a few scenarios where I would highly advise against planting beans in your food plots.Size of plotSince deer love soybeans from the moment they poke their little heads out of the ground, areas under an acre in size typically get wiped out very quickly.\u00a0 Of course, the severity depends upon the surrounding food resources and local deer herd.\u00a0 For instance, browse pressure on a bean plot will be less in ag country where there are acres upon acres of bean fields planted by farmers, compared to plots planted in big timber country.\u00a0 Thus, a smaller plot can survive in ag country, whereas you may need a plot closer to 4+ acres to survive in big timber country where agriculture is nonexistent.If you don\u2019t have the size, I\u2019d advise you plant something that will still be around come hunting season like a clover plot or a brassica\/winter wheat plot. \u00a0Better yet, do a double planting – soybeans in the spring and brassica\/wheat mix in the late summer if it looks like the soybean plot isn’t going to make it.Bonus Tip: Try fencing off your plot during the growing season with a solar electric fence to protect it until hunting season. Then, once hunting season arrives, open it up and you will have a hunting hot spot!Site LocationSite location includes factors like soil type and fertility, amount of shade vs. sunlight, and soil moisture to name a few.\u00a0 Generally speaking, beans are pretty tolerant, but they won\u2019t do so well in saturated soils, shade, and\/or acidic soils.\u00a0 The biggest thing is to make sure you take a soil sample and apply the appropriate lime and fertilizer recommendations. Find out how to collect soil samples HERE.Collecting soil samples from your food plots is the first and single most important thing you should do to ensure a productive crop.Size of deer herdThere have been plenty of times where I\u2019ve had people tell me that they tried planting soybeans, but they never grew.\u00a0 My response, \u201cDid you have a utilization or deer exclosure cage in your plot?\u201d\u00a0 Most say no and ask what the cage is and what it has to do with the beans not growing.\u00a0 Well folks, a utilization cage is simply a four foot tall cylindrical fence about three feet in diameter staked down in a random spot of the plot to prevent deer from browsing anything inside.\u00a0 The purpose of these is to illustrate the browse pressure happening within the plot.\u00a0 I can guarantee you that had the \u201cmy soybeans never grew\u201d individuals had a utilization cage, they would have likely had good growth inside the fence.\u00a0 However, without the fence it appeared as if the beans never grew, when in reality they were getting mowed down by deer.In conclusion, the size of any given deer herd should determine your harvest goals and how much food you need to plant for deer.\u00a0 Just remember, if you have the acreage and right site conditions, nothing grows bigger bucks than soybeans.