As many of you have read on the site, Mike Lee has been our go-to guy at Tecomate Seed throughout the Food Plot Journey and he also spoke at our ?Hunter?s Night Out?. Mike has been great throughout the whole process and he has endured my elementary level of knowledge of all things food plot related. Mike is now transitioning into a new role with the company and we wish him well in his new role. When you wear many hats at an organization this sometimes happens and so Mike will be concentrating on a different division and will thrive there as well.
Mike?s transition into a new role helped us meet another knowledgeable resource with regards to food plots and game management. Jon Charles, out of Raleigh NC, is stepping in to be the new Southeastern Regional Representative for Tecomate. I?ve spoken with Jon several times and he was also a featured speaker at the Pee Dee Deer Classic. I can tell you that he?s very educated about game management and food plots. Jon owns River Oaks Wildlife Management which is a professional wildlife management and consulting firm specializing in deer health, nutrition, wildlife habitat development, high forage food plots, crop production, custom deer feeds, and mineral supplements specifically designed for deer and elk. Jon brings a nice mesh between science and the outdoors that we can greatly benefit from. He is a well noted speaker and writes for several outdoor publications. Jon will be our new go-to guy at Tecomate for the remainder of the Food Plot Journey and is the new contact for Tecomate Seed in the Southeast. So if you?re looking for a very knowledge resource in the Carolinas with all things food plot / herd management related?or to get some Tecomate Seed, then Jon Charles is your guy!
So the Food Plot Journey continues and we are half-way there! It?s been a while already and I?ve learned a lot since January. We?ll be starting the process again and installing our fall plots in the coming weeks/months. I?ll continue to document that as well and I hope that we can get some good pictures throughout the fall/winter. I?m excited to try to get some more Tecomate products to grow again! I think I?m learning and the deer are benefitting?more to come.
In the mean time, here are 2 updated pics from the Remote Food Plot. I?m going to try to get updated images of the other plots soon as well.
Remember when I said that I was taking some new batteries back out to the game-cam on the GroundHog MAX, remote food plot? Well, turns out that if you actually have working batteries in the game camera that it does take pics! Also, lithium batteries work better than the regular. Looks like I?m learning about all kind of stuff this summer.
Since putting new batteries in the game camera, I?ve been able to get some decent pics of does in the plot munching on some Tecomate Seed Lab Lab Plus! Still have not gotten any bucks to walk past the camera yet though. I?m thinking about putting a camera on the other end of the plot as well since it is very long and narrow and I can tell that the deer are browsing the plot and crossing through it at various locations.
Another thing I?ll note is that at the remote food plot, the Lab Lab Plus is growing so much that it?s starting to grow to the edges of the food plot and up the sides of other trees and branches of nearby plants. It?s pretty neat to see it doing that.
Here is a pic of the remote food plot as of August 20th. This food plot made possible by GroundHog_MAX & Tecomate Seed
Below are some of the pics that I pulled from the camera of does browsing the remote food plot. I think it has taken them a little time to get use to this new food plot being in their area and again, it looks like they?re being selective of which plants they eat. Nothing amazing, but does show how high lab lab plus as well as some deer getting tangled up in some Tecomate!
Location 2 Update Pics
I also got some pics from one of the other food plots we?ve been working on. This location grew well and did not have a drastic weed problem like the other area I was documenting so thoroughly. As you can see from the pic to the right the milo is growing strong and is getting tall. I believe these plants are the ones that once they get hit with a frost that the starches in them turn to sugar and the deer will start eating them more. At this location, the deer are accustomed to having food plots in it year after year and are ready to eat as soon as the plants start growing. The deer have wiped out most of the broad-leaf plants already, but they?re still coming through to eat.
Below is one of the pics we got of some does in the plot at night. I could post several more, but it?s the same does in the plot over and over again.
It?s good to get some pics of deer in the plots and hopefully we?ll get some bucks in the pics before too long. Sure hope that I have working batteries in my camera should a monster buck come through?and if he does, I?ll post it here for you to see.
After the Eagles game Friday night I knew it was going to be cold the next morning, so I put some extra layers of clothing in my McKenzie Scent Fan Duffle Bag and let that baby roll all night long. In retrospect I was glad that I did because it was pretty chilly out there the next morning?and yes, I smelled like dirt! With the cold weather, all the scrapes, rubs, and rut activity going on, I was excited about going and sitting over one of our fall, Tecomate Seed food plots the next morning.
If you?ve been following any of the Tecomate Seed Food Plot Journey over the course of this past year, then you know that we?ve been working hard putting in food plots in various locations. I went out to the ?power line plot? this past Saturday morning and had a pretty neat hunt. The power line plot has Tecomate?s Max Attract & Ultra Forage in it. It sure is coming along nice by my rookie food plot creator standards.
We?ve got a tower stand placed about 1/3 the way down this plot. We put it here so that we could easily see to the bottom of the food plot. I like this stand because it?s in a good location and it?s provide a spacious setup from which it?s easy to film. Oh, and there just happens to be a nice scrape about 20 yards down from the stand as well.
I arrived very early so that I could get in the stand and give myself time to get situated and ready for the sun to rise. As I walked through our food plot to the stand it was easy to see that the Tecomate Seed Ultra-Forage & Max Attract was growing well. This stuff was higher than my ankles in many places. With the low-levels of rain that we?ve had this year I was pretty pleased with the growth. I opted to walk through the plot versus around it because there were dry leaves all on the side of the plot and I was trying to be quiet. Walking through the plot rather than the edge helped reduce the amount of noise I made entering and I wasn?t worried about spreading a lot of scent in the plot because of McKenzie?s Scent Fan Bag + Atsko?s odor elimination products that we?re using this year.
When I arrived to the tower stand I put out some doe estrus and then left the bottle open at the base of the stand. The power line acts as kind of a ?wind-tunnel? and with all the recent talk and signs of rut I wanted this estrus scent to blow down the plot in hopes of luring a buck into the area. I was hopeful that a buck would come through to eat and then smell the scent and work his way up the plot?at least that was my mental picture of what would be neat to happen and get on film!
I sat there in the dark for a little while and tried to get everything situated. Carrying a camera, tripod, gun, bag, etc makes for a little extra work and requires some extra time to set up. I finally had everything up and was ready to watch the sun rise. I sat for a little while when I noticed a deer enter the food plot at the very bottom left. I could tell the deer had a decent size, but yet wasn?t huge. It was still kind of dark and it made it a little difficult to see?and even more difficult to film (so sorry for the initially dark footage at the beginning of the video below). The whole time I was watching this deer I thought it was a doe. It wasn?t until after reviewing the film that I learned that it was actually a small buck. The raw footage isn?t quite as dark as the footage in the video below?when YouTube encodes the video there is a little bit of quality lost in the encoding. As I sat in the stand thinking this deer was a doe I was pretty pumped because I thought there was a good chance that a buck may be coming behind shortly thereafter.
This first deer stayed in the plot for a little bit and I zoomed in and out trying to get more light in the camera. I even moved the camera once trying to get it closer to me (you?ll see the bump(s) in the video). The deer was just browsing and poking its head up and down. I could see the deer ?winding? as some call it. He was putting his nose up in the air and seemingly inhaling so as to smell what?s in the air. I felt sure that the estrus scent I put out was making its way down the power line. Though, thinking this deer was a doe, I didn?t really care that it smelled the estrus. Either way I was pretty pumped because a deer came in the plot early and that signaled to me that deer were moving in my area.
After seeing this deer my heart was pumping a little so I was very focused looking for anything that might be trailing shortly thereafter. Sure enough about 15 minutes later I saw another deer enter the plot from the same direction?this one had a bigger body. I zoomed in with the camera and got the deer in the video screen. When I saw the rack I knew it was a good deer, but I knew that I wasn?t going to shoot it. I wanted to, as the saying goes; let him go so he could grow. I was sitting there with my rifle in my lap with the barrel leaning against the railing of the stand and with the tripod and video camera just to the right of me. It may not sound like it, but in those few seconds it?s a lot to manage in between operating the video camera, getting the gun up, and paying attention to deer in front of you (without spooking him). I?m trying to learn the art of managing this all at once.
Seeing these deer come through made me realize just how quick I?ve got to be ready to get my gun up if I want to shoot. If the deer don?t stop, eat, or spend any time in the plot, then there are only a few seconds that you have to react. If I would have wanted to, I could have probably got a shot off at this larger deer, but the shot would have been rushed a little and I don?t like taking shots in a hurry if I can help it. He?ll be bigger next year!
Hoot, I did some commentating in this video for ya!
Ultimately, it was a good trip in the woods for me. You don?t always get to see deer, but I was fortunate enough to see some on this hunt. It also felt good to see some bucks in the area and to have them browsing on the food plot that we spent a lot of time installing. Hopefully these two will make it for a couple of years and will hang around to walk in front of the camera again.
It was around this time last year when we got the green-light and started the Tecomate Seed Food Plot Journey. The first blog entry aired last January and I didn't know what to expect, but I knew I had a lot to learn. Around 25 blog entries and a year later, we've had some successes, some failures, some lessons learned, some memorable hunts, and some really good looking food plots.
I?ve posted some pictures below of the spring/summer and fall/winter food plots.
I'm no guru by far, but even from my little bit of experience over the last year I can tell you that the soil was one of the most important factors in our Food Plot Journey mix. We planted food plots in several different areas and the areas where the soil was best fit for the food plot were the areas where we had the best food plots. Of course rain is crucial, but rainfall is something we can't control. Essentially the soil acts as the "transfer agent" through which your plants will get the nutrients they need to thrive. One of my takeaways will be the quality of the soil. You can get a high quality seed or a low quality seed, but it's all moot if you don't have fertile soil.
If you've been following along then you've seen everything that we've done via video, pictures, and the text in blog entries. I created one last video of some of the before/after shots that happened along the way.
I've had a great time learning, creating, and documenting the food plots in our Food Plot Journey and hopefully I haven?t bored you with it all. A big thanks to Tecomate Seed & the GroundHog MAX for working with us to sponsor the Food Plot Journey.
And if you are on your own "Food Plot Journey" then it won't be long before it's time to start the soil samples again. I know that we're already making plans for the upcoming spring/summer and next fall/winter plots?
There are several facets of Game Management. The first one we're going to investigate is the notion of food plots. Food plots are great resources for managing game on your land and are commonly found as a staple in any game management strategy. The core definition of a food plot is "A planted area set aside to act as a food source for wildlife" (Wikipedia). Given that definition a farmer's large field of crops such as soybeans, corn, and peas sometimes serves the same purpose that a food plot does even though that is not the intention of the farmer! Though, farmers will eventually harvest their crops whereas when hunters install food plots they are usually not as big, are of more variety, are located in different areas, and wildlife are the intended consumers of these crops.
It's important to begin by saying that food plots are not a solution to a problem, but rather a supplement that can be beneficial for the game on your land. If you do not have deer on your land, planting a food plot will not make them magically appear. Planting food plots will also not instantly create "monster bucks" on your land or instantly increase the number of deer in your herd. If you expect these kinds of miracles to occur as a result of planting food plots then you're going to be disappointed. Managing your own expectations is important when installing and maintaining food plots. After putting in a lot of work and time with food plots it's easy to feel like "I've worked hard so I should reap the benefits of my work", but this is not immediately accurate. The benefits and effects of having food plots on your land become more prevalent over the course of time. As you might imagine from this blog series, food plots are just one tenant of game management and they are probably one of the most well known in the game management matrix.
Hunters often install food plots in areas that farmers wouldn't, in areas that are deep in the woods or out in some remote location. Creating food plots in these remote locations gives deer easy access to food sources that they need and also provides hunters with ideal hunting locations. Thus, food plots offer both nutritional benefits to the deer as well as benefits to the hunter. Let's look at the nutritional benefit of creating food plots first.
Having food plots on your land during the spring, summer, and fall months ensures that the deer in your area have protein which is important during this time of the year when bucks are growing antlers and does are pregnant and lactating. Adequate nutrition helps the reproduction process, increases the birth weight of fawns, foments larger body size, & raises the likelihood of the doe having multiple fawns. The healthier the doe is the more she can lactate. A healthy adult doe directly helps the fawns out as they mature. Also, during the rut, bucks expend a lot of energy & valuable resources. The availability of nutritional resources helps reduce post-rut mortality rates of these bucks when they run themselves ragged during the rut.
During the winter months a deer's food sources are not as plentiful as Mother Nature naturally reduces the available supply of forage. During this time of year deer don't need as much protein for growing antlers or nursing, but rather they use the nutrients they consume for pure energy. Having food plots available helps deer not have to use fat they've stored up for their internal energy demands. When they can find forage to browse on during winter months it aids in keeping them healthy and decreases the amount of time spent recovering from the rut period. The sooner they can recover from the rut and winter the healthier the bucks will be when the time comes to re-grow their antlers and the more fit the does will be to carry and nurse the fawns. Keep in mind that these benefits won't be noticeable initially as it takes time for these cycles to occur.
Keeping food plots going year round is the best case scenario, but sometimes, for various reasons, we may not be able to manage food plots throughout the full year. If I had to pick one season to install food plots, I would definitely install a food plot during the winter months when the deer's food sources are minimized. Providing deer with ample food sources during this time is more critical for them and will also help you locate deer during winter months.
Food plots also offer hunters some benefits.From a hunting perspective food plots normally increase the number of deer you see during the hunting season, that is as long as you don't disturb them too much. I have friends who want to go and "check on' their food plots all the time & go switch game camera cards out at their food plots way too often. Going out to food plots repeatedly only counters the desired goal and the reason you put them in! I've put in a lot of hard work on our food plots and I still have to remind myself not to overdo it when hunting and checking game cams. Mature deer pick up on these disturbances really easily. I try to be mindful of the pressure I put on our food plots and I don't shoot at every deer I see in our food plots.
On a side note, if you're a turkey hunter, food plots also benefit turkeys. Turkeys will come out and pick at the crops (depending on what you've planted) and also get bugs from around them. I got video just this past weekend of a turkey browsing a food plot. In this respect food plots can serve a dual purpose for hunters if you hunt both deer & turkeys.
From what I've read (and heard) it seems that general ratio is to have 5 - 10% of forested land as food plots. There are tons of different crops you can plant and there is a whole industry ready to sell you any kind of food plot seed and gimmick imaginable. I try to keep in mind the end reason of why I'm creating and maintaining food plots because it's easy to get overwhelmed with options. I try to remember that legumes such as clover, peas, & soybeans are all rich in protein and are great for deer.
We've chosen to work with Tecomate Seed for our food plots because they make quality seed that grows well in our area. Tecomate Seed is coated with a coating called "Yellow Jacket" that helps absorb a large amount of water so the seed can germinate. Tecomate Seed has a trusted brand that's built on years of research and testing. If you've ever seen the TV show "Bucks of Tecomate" then you know what I'm talking about. Hopefully in time we'll have some good deer like that around the areas we hunt, but the same rule applies patience is the key.
We are installing food plots on some areas of our land this year and I'm going to be posting some brief blog entries with videos and pictures of our food plots to keep you posted on our successes & failures with regards to our 2011 food plots. We're planting Tecomate's Max Attract in all locations.