Click, read, study, and take advantage of the information this link provides you with. (Courtesy of QDMA and Jeff Sturgis)
Food plots are much more than spreading seed over an area of cleared land. In order to have a successful food plot it must be constructed in a natural shape and have easy in and out access with little disturbances. If you follow these guidelines, the sky is the limit with your deer heard.
That being said, there 2 things that this article does not mention when it comes to food plots: when and what to plant.
In regards to WHEN to plant: It depends on where you are geographically. For me, I hunt in South Alabama, and generally speaking it is a rule of thumb to plant the day after the first rain in October. History shows us there is always a sufficient amount of rain every year during the first week of October. We have logged rainfall during the first week of October for the past couple of years, and without fail it always rains during that first week. If your elsewhere geographically, talk to near by hunters and collaborate. Sometimes this is the quickest way to learning when to plant.
In regards to WHAT to plant: Depends on your deer herd. The fact of the matter is all whitetail deer are genetically different based on their geographical location. Deer in north Alabama have undergone natural selection in order obtain more fat to keep themselves warmer for their colder winters. On the other hand, you find smaller bodied deer in the southern half of Alabama. Southern Alabama winters are cold too, but usually not as brutal. Taking all this into consideration, some whitetail populations prefer different food plots. Some techniques that I use to determine what the deer prefer are as follows; Plant different kinds of seeds in different fields to see what the deer prefer. Another tactic that may be a little more efficient is to plant half a field in one crop and the other half in another and see which side gets eaten down the fastest.
If you can determine what you deer herd prefers to eat and when the best time to plant is you will get the most bang for your buck (no pun intended). Once you figure this out and take into account the guidelines this link provides you with, your deer herd will reach its maximum potential and your hunting success will sky rocket.