Okay, let me tell you right up front: forage rape (brassica napus) is my brassica of choice in the deer food plot mix on my ranch. It’s not just the fact that the plant contains 30% crude protein—but that’s certainly a good selling point.
First of all, remember: forage rape is different than oilseed rape. You won’t be able to utilize the oilseed varieties in your deer food plot like the forage varieties.
Second, there are also different kinds of forage rape out there. There are “giant” varieties, which are often used to graze cattle and sheep and “dwarf” varieties which are used in the sheep industry as a forage in lamb production.
If you’re using your food plot to also attract deer for the early fall hunting season, be sure to use a “dwarf” variety, which will naturally mature when the plant is shorter.
Forage rape is often regarded as a little easier to manage for grazing than kale and turnips. At my location, forage rape will be seeded in early August to begin being available to deer in September or October, after our first hard frost.
Honestly, the thing I love about forage rape is that it can offer a forage food source well into the winter. It’s ready for grazing about 60 days after planting; I like to plant in early August so it’s ready for the deer by October. After the first grazing, forage rape will regrow in about a month—an ideal addition to the fall deer food plot crop mixture.
As for all brassicas, forage rape will be more attractive to whitetail deer after frost. It is also not a one-size-fits-all wonder crop for your deer food plot. But if you’re looking for a winter-hardy, nutrient laden grazing crop of choice for deer—especially in regions of harder winters—forage rape is my brassica deer food plot crop of choice.