The very first legume I ever planted for deer was the winter pea. There are several types of field peas but, here in Oklahoma they are called Austrian winter peas. One variety that has done exceptionally well for me is the Melrose field pea. Winter planted field peas can produce up to three tons of dry matter per acre by April! Being a legume they produce their own nitrogen. If you turn it over in the spring the nitrogen the plant matter has affixed into the soil can last up to three years. It is a fairly aggressive plant with a good vine system. I’ve seen them cover a barbwire fence before April. The protein content runs anywhere from 26 to 36 percent. In my opinion, its probably the easiest and fastest growing legume you can plant here in Oklahoma.
When planting, it’s best to have a nice seed bed prepared as if you were planting wheat. I have no-tilled it and I think you get a much better stand on bare soil. The winter pea thrives in a well drained loam or sandy loam type soil. It hates wet feet! If you are drilling it use a rate of 30 pounds per acre. When broadcasting I use about 60 pounds. Those rates are for pure stands. When mixing with wheat or rye (as most of us do for food plots) you can get by with about 15 pounds per acre. It needs to be planted ,or covered if broadcasting, to around a half inch. DO NOT plant any deeper than one inch or you will have wasted your time and money. Make sure you do a soil sample. Peas need a soil ph of 6.3 to 7. There is also the matter of inoculants. Inoculants are different bacterias for use with different plants to stimulate germination. Usually they are mixed by hand just before planting. I highly recommend using them. Just make sure you check the date on the package. Plant your peas around a good rain about mid-September, give or take a couple weeks depending on the weather.
Now on where to plant it. They do best in full sun. Like inside corners of field edges or as man made travel routes across an open hay field. I have had good success a few times in half-lit woodland plots.
You will hear a few people refer to this plant as an ice cream crop. It’s easy to grow quickly and it’s super sexy to the deer. Most of your commercial fall food plot blends are around 20 percent winter pea. I know I’ll be planting mine this fall. Catch back up in a few days when I cover brassicas!