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.
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.
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?
As you are most likely aware, Tecomate Seed & BuckYum have partnered with us on a blog series we've dubbed "Intro to Game Management". We want to go ahead and throw down the disclaimer NO WE'RE NOT PROS, WE'RE NOT BIOLOGISTS, OR ANYTHING CLOSE TO IT! We're just some good ol' country boys and we hope to learn more about game management through our field trials, research, interviews, and these blog entries.
We're calling the series "Intro to Game Management" because it's an introduction of the concept of game management and it's just as much as an introduction to us as it is to anyone else. We're not trying to teach game management, but rather through this series we're journaling what we're learning about game management as we try to take the right steps in managing game on our land. We don't have tons of money to throw around, but we do have some elbow grease and sweat equity that we'll put in and hopefully it will pay off. Again, we're on a learning mission here and are merely documenting what we learn.
Throughout the series we hope to interview some people who do really know what they're talking about to give some pointers on game management so that we can derive some take-aways or best practices for managing game. Hopefully this information will be valuable to you just as we hope to gain knowledge as well.
We feel that raising awareness for Game Management in South Carolina will help out the future generations of hunters and potentially the overall quality of deer in our state. We all want a quality deer herd in our state and to reach that goal there must be a shift in the culture of hunters and the way we view hunting and game management. This blog series is just one step in the cultural shift.
Thanks for joining along and if you have some information or even want to write a guest blog along the way feel free to chime in. After all this is a resource for everyone so if you want to contribute you are more than welcome to!