This past weekend we were able to get out and do the final work-related step on the food plots. To this point we've taken soil samples, sprayed and disked up the ground, limed and seeded the soil, and now the last step is to put down some fertilizer. It's been really dry in the past few months, but this last week we got some good, much needed, rain. The rain has helped the food plot products (Teomcate's Max Attract, Ultra Forage, and Monster Mix) germinate and start to take root.
We aimed to put the fertilizer down when the forecast called for rain a couple of days after we spread the fertilizer. We did this so that the fertilizer wouldn't sit on top of the ground and burn up the plants that had already started growing, but would rather be broken down by the rain and absorbed into the soil and eventually reach the plant's roots. We also chose Weaver's 13-13-13 for the same precautionary reason of protecting the plants. The plants are growing and we're trying to help them grow rather than killing them! We're taking a lot precaution with the strength of the fertilizer that's why we're putting out 13-13-13 instead of 17-17-17.
The fertilizer we put out on the first remote food plot back in the spring really had a great effect on the growth of the plants. We put it out and I came back about 2 -3 weeks later and the plants had really "jumped" as they call it. The plants drastically increased their size within a matter of weeks. I'm hoping the same will hold true with these plots as well.
In the power line plot we've planted Max Attract with Ultra-Forage and to this point we've got a good, green looking carpet on the plot. The plants are growing and because they're just starting to break the surface they give the plot a green tint on top of the soil. From what I can tell everything is going well with this plot and I think it's going to be just like we want it, time will tell though. There are also a couple of spots in the power line plot where we spilled some seed by hitting bumps when we were driving. This leaves the surface with a dark green spots where more seed is growing.
In the smaller plot we planted Monster Mix and I think it must grow a little slower or something because we could tell that it's growing, but the plants wasn't as high up off the ground yet. You'll see the picture in the video of what it looks like. You can definitely see the plant growing, but you had to look for the bright green dots of the little leaves coming through. I think this one will do well too, but I think it may take a little bit longer than the power line plot. Both areas receive good sunlight so I don't think that will be a factor.
I created a video where you can see the growth of the two plots and also the fertilizer.
Hopefully before too long we'll be posting some pics of the food plot growing taller and with luck, some pics with deer in it.
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.
This past weekend Adam and I got out and did a good day's worth of work on two food plots that we're installing in the fall session of the Food Plot Journey. Boy was it hot too! Up until this point we have taken soil samples for both areas, sprayed, and disked both of these plots. Given the best case scenario we would have preferred to get the lime in the soil a few weeks ahead of the seed, but due to the fact that we're just like you (weekend warriors) we've kind of gotten in a bind with our time and are putting down both the lime and seed on the same day. Again, I don't think this is the best practice method, but it can still work or at least we hope so!
The soil samples we took for these plots returned a pH of 5.2 for both of these plots...which is a little low. We are putting lime in the ground to help bring the pH up to a level that creates a better growing environment for the plants that we are planting. Also, this fall we are using a new type of lime. We?re using "Fact Acting Lime" which (I believe) is a recent development within lime products. Fast acting lime is supposed to do just what it is named "act fast"! Normally it takes several months for lime to start breaking down the acidity in the soil and changing the pH. Though, this fast acting lime is supposed to be able to start changing the pH at an accelerated rate. On the bag of the lime it says that it's 15 times more effective than regular lime. Since we're late putting the lime down due to our schedules, I sure hope it acts fast! We'll be interested to see how it works. The bags are about 30-40lbs a piece and we put 4 bags on the small plot and 8 bags on the larger, power line plot because that was the recommended amount given the size of our plots and the coverage of the lime.
After we made the passes with the lime and spreader, we then hooked up a drag to the ATV because we wanted to drag the lime in. We're doing this to hopefully cover the lime up with dirt and get the lime near the area of the soil where the roots of the plants will be located. If all went well, the lime will be right where it needs to be right when the plant needs it. You'll see in the video where we drug both areas. We used an old drag hare to do this and it seemed to work well and started leveling out some of the small hills as we drug the soil. It was real similar to dragging a baseball field.
After liming and dragging, it was now time to put the seed down. On the small plot we are putting in Tecomate?s Monster Mix. The seeds for Monster Mix are very small and look neon green in color. We only had to make 3 or 4 passes with the spreader because the seed got out so quickly. It didn?t take too long to get all this done on the small plot as it, of course, is smaller in size. Adam also climbed up in the stand to take some pics of the envisioned food plot to demonstrate our perspective on what we will be seeing this coming fall. Hopefully we'll be looking down on something that is green and thriving!
We repeated the same process on both food plots of liming, dragging, and seeding. As mid day approached, it started getting really hot. We worked on the power line plot for a while. We both were soaked and I even went to the store and bought 6 drinks and we drank them all within an hour?but there was still work that needed to be done. Since the power line plot is steep and "hilly", it was a little tougher to manage. The drag would get clumped up, the spreader would bounce and act as if it was about to tip over, etc. The power line plot required a little more time because of all of this mixed with the fact that I was going back and forth from the video camera to the regular camera etc.
With regards to the seed and food plot product for the power line food plot, we're planting Tecomate's Max Attract & Ultra Forage. We mixed these seeds together to offer the deer in the area a smorgasbord of food sources. Optimistically we?ll have a hillside leading to a creek that is covered in green right about when other food sources start to diminish for deer in our area. This will not only get them where we want them to be, but will also help them with their year round nutritional and dietary needs.
Now that the weeds have been sprayed, ground disked, soil limed, and the seeds have been sowed, all we can do is sit back and hope for rain. It has been extremely dry these past few weeks/months. You can see this in the videos we've previously posted where dust is flying everywhere and covering us from head to toe. Without any rain, there's nothing much that can grow so we?re going to be praying for rain in the coming weeks. Hopefully everything will come together. On a positive note, Tecomate's seed is covered with a "Yellow jacket" coating that retains any moisture it comes in contact with. This coating is specifically designed to aid in dry conditions.
The seeds of the Monster Mix were bright green and very small as seen in the image below
Below is an HD video collage of the lime, dragging, and seeding install.
And now...the wait for rain!
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.
As part of the Intro to Game Management blog series we discussed how food plots are one tenant of game management. This blog entry shows us preparing the soil for our food plots by spraying weed killer.
If you were around last year then you probably joined us in the Tecomate Seed "Food Plot Journey" where we detailed food plot creation from a novice?s perspective. Part of that journey was to start getting our food plots ready to be planted. We talked in depth about soil preparation and one thing we did to get the areas ready for food plots was to spray round-up to kill the weeds. You can see the blog entry "More Food Plot Soil Samples + Spraying" for a more in depth look at where we started.
This season we're planting food plots again and are not going into as much detail about our steps I this blog series, but we are posting videos to show the progress.
The below video shows the starting point for this year?s food plots where we sprayed round-up.