Choosing the right food plot can often make or break a hunting season. Hunters often put a lot of work into making what they think is the best food plot only to have it ignored by deer.
Sugar beets and turnips are two great choices for deer. Generally, turnips are easier to plant and more affordable. However, sugar beets are more attractive to deer.
Sugar Beets vs Turnips for Deer
One old-time favorite that works well are brassicas, these are tried and tested. Turnips in particular are the staple choice of almost every deer hunter.
However, there is something out there that can give turnips a run for their money, and it’s not brassicas.
Sugar beets are similar to turnips and are another great choice for deer. A quick overview is that sugar beets are more attractive to deer than turnips, but turnips are easier and cheaper to grow.
Attraction for deer
One of the most important things a food plot for deer needs to do is attract deer. After all, this is the main purpose of the plot.
When looking at which plot is more attractive to deer between sugar beet and turnips, sugar beet comes out on top by a considerable amount.
The reason for this is in the name. Deer are attracted to sweet things later in the year which they use for energy. Think of when you are using bait piles, most things that work well contain a high concentration of sugar, like Kool-Aid.
Sugar beets contain more than twice the amount of sugar than turnips. Sugar beets are grown for the purpose of making sugar, whereas turnips are grown for either human or animal consumption.
On average, sugar beets are about 18% sugar and can get as high as 30% sugar content, whereas turnips are about 5% sugar.
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Hunters that plant both crops often find that the sugar beets are readily eaten by deer, while the turnips are ignored.
Another noticeable trait with both of these crops is the part in which the deer choose to eat first.
With sugar beets, deer eat the tops first as this is where the sugar content is highest at first. Afterward, the deer will dig down for the roots, which by then, will hold a huge amount of sugar.
The opposite is true for turnips. Deer will ignore the leaves at first and eat the root; this is because the younger leaves are bitter. Often this can dissuade new deer and it takes them a few weeks to come around to the idea of eating turnips.
Generally, you will find deer still eating turnip leaves in winter which is a great source of nutrition but not doing much for attracting deer.
Conversely, almost all sugar beets will be eaten by then, due to them being more attractive.
Costs for sugar beet and turnips vary quite a lot depending on the type you are buying, where you are buying it from, and the availability.
However, sugar beet seeds are generally harder to come by and for that reason, are typically more expensive.
At the time of writing, sugar beet seeds are about ten dollars more expensive than turnip seeds per pound.
Ease of planting
When considering the price of the seeds, it’s also worth taking into consideration the ease of planting. If the crops don’t take well, it is wasted money.
Brassicas are nearly always easy to grow. However, the same can’t be said for sugar beets.
The biggest difference between growing sugar beets and turnips is the growth duration.
Sugar beets take a lot longer to grow than turnips. This means planting them much earlier in the year.
One problem that comes with that is keeping the deer off before it’s even close to season.
Sugar beets also struggle with weed competition and need constant weeding and herbicide.
On the other hand, turnips are easy to plant and can be planted as late as late summer or early fall.
They require less fertilizer than sugar beets and grow considerably faster.
For most hunters, the nutritional value of these crops will be an after-the-fact consideration. The main concern is to attract big bucks first and provide nutrition second.
However, the nutritional value is a worthwhile consideration, a) because deer are attracted to nutritionally dense foods, and b) because it’s good herd management and will leave you with a better herd next year.
Both crops offer excellent nutrition for deer but in different areas. Turnips are a great source of protein for deer, with about 15 to 20 percent protein between leaves and roots.
Sugar beets, on the other hand, only contain about 10 percent protein.
Where sugar beets come into favor is later in the year when deer are looking for high-energy food sources.
Sugar beets contain considerably more sugar than turnips and are a fast source of easily digestible energy.
It isn’t easy to choose between sugar beets and turnips. However, if you have suitable soil, the best approach is to plant both.
If this is not an option for you then choose which you need more. If you are struggling to attract or hold deer, then go with sugar beets.
If you have poor soil or no time to put into the plot, then turnips are for you.