Photos by J. Wayne Fears
Egyptian wheat grows to 10 feet and must be knocked down for quail, wild turkey and deer to feed on the seeds. Squirrels have no problem climbing the stalks.
Food plots for squirrels
My introduction to Egyptian wheat, a grain sorghum that grows up to 10 feet tall, had nothing to do with squirrels. It was a supplemental plant for Quail Haven soybeans. The main crop was running soybeans as a warm season wildlife food plot. However, by early fall I was watching wild turkeys going to great lengths to get to the Egyptian wheat seed heads. Deer seemed to like the seed heads also, but what was more impressive were the number of squirrels coming out of the nearby woods to feed.
I have hunted most American game animals during my writing career. While I enjoy all the hunts, I must admit I enjoy a good gray squirrel hunt with a rimfire rifle about as much as anything, and when I saw the number of squirrels coming to the Egyptian wheat, I got excited. As it got closer to the time to plow under the summer crop and plant the fall/winter crop, I left several rows of Egyptian wheat near the woods. I enjoyed one of the best squirrel seasons in recent memory.
Egyptian wheat, sometimes called chicken corn, was brought to the United States around 1890 as a high protein food crop for hogs and cattle. It never gained popularity for that purpose but game bird managers found it was a favorite food crop for quail, wild turkeys and dove.
When to plant
Egyptian wheat can be planted in spring, after the danger of frost, and throughout the summer. It takes approximately 110 days after emergence for seed heads to develop and mature. Even though the seed heads shatter at maturity, for wild turkeys, dove and quail it is best to mechanically knock down some of the plants. Squirrels will climb the stalks and fill up on the seed.
How to plant
Broadcast Egyptian wheat at a rate of 25 pounds per acre or a quarter pound per 1,000 square feet. A 50-pound sack of seed costs about $69.
For planting in rows, the rate is 10 pounds per acre in rows 36 inches apart. Plant the seed ¾-inches deep and fertilize according to the soil test results.
One of the chief reasons for poor crop development of Egyptian wheat is that the seeds are planted too deep. Seeds planted deeper than ¾ inch rarely come up. This crop needs high nitrogen fertilizer to get top seed production.
Fruits of your labor
By the time early fall rolls around the squirrels, especially if there is a poor mast crop, will be beating a path to your plot. Find these paths and take a seat for some excellent hunting. Do not give into the temptation to shoot at squirrels feeding in the stalks. They are too low for safe shooting and hunting pressure out in the food plot will cause the squirrels to seek a safer feeding area.
Most hunters study the food plot and find the travel routes the bushy tails use to get from their dens to the plot. Then they ambush them going to and from the food source. Catching the squirrels returning to their dens to rest can be a fun mid-morning hunt. Late afternoon can be an equally productive period as many squirrels return to the food plot to get their fill of wheat seeds before retiring for the evening. I have even seen squirrels feed in Egyptian wheat on bright moonlit nights.
Don’t forget an Egyptian wheat plot can be a good dove field as well. — J. Wayne Fears