I?ve learned that the first step in the creation of a food plot is to get what is called a ?soil sample?. This soil sample is nothing more than a zip-lock bag of dirt that is collected from the acreage where the envisioned food plot is going. Once the food plot acreage is selected, a soil sample must be collected from it in order to determine the PH levels in the soil. Since the land area will most likely be of decent size, it?s best to get a balanced soil sample. By balanced I mean that it?s best to get soil from the 4 corners of the food plot acreage + some from the middle. Once you collect all the soil, you mix it in the zip-lock bag. This way you are getting a uniform blend of soil over your intended food plot acreage.
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 week has been very busy with all that we?ve got going on, but that is fine by me. As we continue to monitor the food plots, we have to get ready to plant the fall plots as well. So, when we got back from the Pee Dee Deer Classic, we journeyed out to the woods to check up on the remote food plot. We also went and took a new soil sample at a location where we?re going to try to plant a different fall plot to get an idea of the composition of the soil. Since this will be the first time we?re planting a food plot in this location it will take us some time to get the soil in the best conditions possible, but you have to start somewhere.
Earlier in this series, I covered the reasons why one needs to take a soil sample. You can see that blog entry here: Collecting a Soil Sample in case you haven?t been following along. Even at the Pee Dee Deer Classic, the Tecomate Seed representatives and other food plot experts presented and spoke about the importance of the soil and how the composition of the soil directly affects your food plot?s success. They talked about the ?pieces of the puzzle? necessary for a successful food plot. I may be leaving some pieces out, but what stuck with me were three main pieces: the soil, the seed, and the knowledge. In order to have success with a food plot you?ve got to have soil that is ready and conditioned to foment the growth of plants, good quality seed, and most importantly?you?ve got to know what to do! (That last part is what I?ve been working on for some time now). So it?s the week of August 1st and we?re taking a soil sample and intend to plant a fall food plot in late September to early October.
If you?re in South Carolina and want to know where you can get a soil sample analyzed, just find your local Clemson Cooperative Extension by clicking here. For a small fee, you can send off your soil sample and they will return you a read out with detailed information about the makeup of your soil. If you have trouble understanding the pH and all that, then you can take it to a seed and feed store and they can assist you with interpreting the results. The staff at the local coop can also help you with that as well.
Remote Food Plot Update
The remote food plot continues to grow well. As I continue to be clueless about this all, I was wondering why all of this stuff wasn?t eaten already. I know there are deer out there, but yet some plants continue to grow untouched by the deer. I knew that the seed was a mixture of plants (milo, clover, peas, etc), but I didn?t know that the deer would be eating them at different times of the summer/fall. The deer are being selective about what they eat as they walk through the food plot. That is, they are eating some specific types of plants and not the others. You can plainly see where they are passing through the plot and also which plants they are eating. It appears that they are eating the peas and the lab lab and leaving a lot of milo untouched. I spoke with the Tecomate rep and he said that after the first frost comes the starches in some of the plants will turn to sugar. After that happens then the deer will really get in there and eat the remaining plants. I hope this is right! He also mentioned that the first time you plant a plot it kind of takes the deer a little while to figure out that they can get in there and eat the plants.
Another note to mention is that I have not been getting many game-camera pics. I thought something was wrong and it turns out that when you have dead batteries the camera won?t take pictures! So we have put new batteries in the camera and hope to have some good pictures in upcoming blog entries.
The below video is of us getting a new soil sample where we?re going to start the process of conditioning the soil and attempt a fall food plot install + a current view of the remote food plot. Sorry to spin so fast out there?it made the video a little blurry. Maybe one day I?ll upgrade cameras and get better footage.
Sorry it?s taken me a bit to get this one together, but I?ve been spread thin lately. As you know, we?ve been working on several summer food plots on our Tecomate Seed Food Plot Journey. I?ve been documenting one plot very thoroughly and we?ve been carrying out the same processes in other locations as well. I?ve also documented much of the journey of our remote food plot. We?ve been getting some good rain and the lab lab and lab lab plus is starting to grow pretty well. I?d like to update you on a few of the plots because we?ve got some mixed results that we can already learn some lessons from.
Food Plot Location 1
Food Plot Location 1 is the location where we have been doing most of the documenting and I?ve got some bad news to report on this one. Initially we planned to plant this field with a no-till-drill which would get the seed in the ground without turning the soil up. We wanted to do this because this field had some weeds in it in previous years and their seeds remained on the soil. Using a no-till-drill is beneficial because it gets the seed in the ground without turning up the dirt. When the soil isn?t turned up the seeds of the weeds remain uncovered by the dirt and do not germinate while the seeds in the no-till-drill get planted into the soil. Since we couldn?t get access to the no-till-drill the undesired result has occurred. By not getting the no-till-drill we were forced to disc the field. This field had been sprayed, but spraying it only killed what was living on the surface. The seeds of the weeds remain dormant until they get covered in dirt. The moisture in the dirt causes them to germinate. Add all of this + our actions up and what do you get? a field covered in weeds and food plot product as seen below.
Since we have a mess on our hands in this field we have opted to spray it with 2-4 D + Round-up. We are going to spray it in hopes of killing the weeds in preparation for the fall plot. In short, the summer plot at this location = fail! Since we are spraying the field, we went ahead and sprayed a few different areas as that we are going to work on for the fall plots. I made it out late to the field, but I did get some footage of the other areas being sprayed. You can see how we sprayed it below.
Food Plot Location 2
Food Plot Location 2 has a much better result at this point and some deer tracks are already in the plot. We?ve even seen where some of the plants are getting nipped at the top already. This location has had food plot products placed in it year after year and there are no remaining weeds in the soil. For that reason, we were able to use a disc here without having a bad result (as we did at the previous location). You can see this plot clearly in the video, but here are some pics of it too. This food plot is kind of shaped like what a golfer would call a ?dog leg right? because it?s straight for a long time and then it curves around to the right at the top.
Here is a video contrasting Field 1 and Field 2? seeing the difference is easy
Food Plot Location 3
Food Plot Location 3 is a smaller area and is also coming along well. The soil here is a little more like clay than the sandy soil of the others. We were also able to get some pics of deer in this one on the game camera.
Remote Food Plot Location
The remote food plot is also coming along well so far. We?ve got some exclusion fences up in this location and we have fertilized it as well. The plants are growing well and since putting the fertilizer down, I think the plants look like they are a deeper green. Though, it could just be my eyes or something. See images and video of it below:
We were also able to get some pics of deer in the plot in the last few days. I couldn?t believe this one doe was so close to the camera at 5:00 in the afternoon in 100 degree heat! Then another snuck through at night and you can barely see her because the food plot is growing so high!
As we?ve traveled the ?Food Plot Journey? I?ve learned a lot about what to do and, as you can see with this journal entry, I?ve learned some of what not to do as well! Our inability to come through with the no-till-drill did not benefit us at location 1 because of the resident weed seeds in that location. By plowing and discing the field, we only covered the seeds of weeds (and other unwanted plants) with dirt allowing them to germinate. This happened because some seeds of weeds remained from previous years. Consequently, along with planting our food plot seeds and them germinating and growing, so did the seeds of the weeds. Since we?ve currently got a less-than-desirable food plot going on at location 1, we?re going to spray it with 24-d & round-up to try to start getting ready for the fall plots in that area.
So, we are not batting 1000, but we haven?t got benched by the coach just yet. I?m glad that the majority of the plots are going well, but I?m bummed that the main plot that I was documenting very thoroughly did not turn out. I?ll keep on reporting back with the others though to see what happens and we are planning to have fall plots in these locations as well. There?s a song by Meatloaf titled ?2 out of 3 ain?t bad? so that?s going to have to be the theme at this point.
We?ve got game cameras out in some of these plots and we?ll be moving them around in hopes of getting some good pics. There is a lot out there for deer to eat at this point, but sooner or later they?re going to come through these plots and pose for us. If we can get some good footage, I?ll post it here. Looks like I?m going to have to move the camera higher up the tree since the food plot product is now growing higher than the camera!
If you've been reading along, then you know we are on the second half of our year-long, Tecomate Seed, Food Plot Journey. We learned a lot during the past summer about food plots and even had some food plots that came up pretty well. Though, we did have one weed infested food plot that didn't turn out as well as we hoped, but it served as a good learning experience for us. We've been getting some good game cam pics of deer in the plots (mostly does on camera though) and for the past few weeks we've been working on our fall plots.
We're putting our fall plots in some different locations and we are carrying out the same processes of taking a soil sample, preparing the soil, liming, planting, and adding fertilizer (if needed) in all these locations. The main difference between the summer and fall plots is that we're planting plants that can grow in cold weather for our fall plots. Over time the frost and cold will end up killing what we planted for our summer plots. I will note that so far throughout the process with the fall plots everything has been really dry. I mean every time we do anything there is dust flying everywhere. After riding the GroundHog MAX last weekend for a few hours I was covered in dirt and my eyes were burning. I looked in the mirror and my whole face was covered in orange dust. I say all that to say if we don't get some rain soon, I'm not sure what is going to grow in such dry soil. Again, I'm a web guy and don't claim to know much about farming and/or food plots so I may be surprised, but for now I?m still hoping we get some rain to have some kind of moisture in the soil.
At this point we've taken the soil samples and are now preparing the soil. By preparing the soil I mean we have sprayed the envisioned plot with RoundUp to get the weeds out and gave them time to die. The weeds died and the video will demonstrate this as you can easily see the stark contrast between the dead brown weeds and the dark green weeds on the other side of the hill. I was actually surprised at how well the RoundUp did with only spraying it once. Initially I thought we'd have to spray it a little bit more to get it all to die since there were a ton of weeds, but I was wrong in that assumption. We waited about a week and a half and then came back to get the weeds out by disking up the soil. Thus far, we have been disking up the soil by using the GroundHog MAX, but for this large area we brought in a tractor to assist.
We're trying to put in this particular plot in an area that was an old power line. The power line is long and narrow and we're trying to install the plot at the lower end that leads down to a creek. This place hasn't been touched in about 2 - 3 years so the dirt there is hard and dry. The lower area of the power line has steep hills and rough terrain. These hills, rough terrain, and narrowness of the old power line combine to present a difficult situation for the tractor with regards to plowing. Parts of the power line are more flat and in those areas the tractor did well, but the other areas near the bottom presented more of a challenge for the tractor. So, as you would imagine, we brought in the GroundHog MAX and it got the job done again! The GroundHog MAX greatly helped us out in those hard to plow locations. Ultimately the soil in this plot was plowed by a combination of the tractor and GroundHog MAX with the tractor handling the flatter, upper end and the GroundHog MAX on the more rugged, lower end.
Before/After Pic of the Remote Food Plot on the Powerline
It took a lot of time to get the soil the way we wanted, but in the end I think it looks pretty good given what we started out with. Again, this dirt was very hard and very dry so I think we made some good progress. We'll try to continue to install food plots in these areas year after year and over time we think it will get a little easier if we stay on top of it.
I'm praying for some rain so keep your fingers crossed. Now we'll give the power line food plot a week or two to see if anything germinates, that is we'll wait to see if any more weeds start growing back. In our first go round with our summer plots, we sprayed a field and got a good kill on the weeds then we disked the field up and planted. The field ended up being full of weeds because the plowing covered some of the dormant seeds with dirt and moisture and then they germinated which lead to a mess by the time it was all said and done. So we'll see if any weeds start to come up and if they do, then we'll spray it again to kill them, then we'll wait a little while and put the seed out. We'll probably also put down some lime and fertilizer, but we're still waiting to get the soil samples back before we assess that situation.
I made the below video to show you what the area looked like after the spray and to give you an idea of how we worked both the tractor and the GroundHog MAX together to get the soil the way we wanted it.
And the journey continues...
This past Saturday Adam and I spent a great deal of time working in the heat and boy was it hot! We are preparing to put in some of our Tecomate Seed fall food plots. We went out collected a few soil samples and sprayed some round-up. At this location we're going to put in two food plots. One will be a half acre plot where we will plant Monster Mix. The other will be around 3 acres located on an old power line where we will plant Max-Attract and Ultraforage in alternating sections. The smaller plot has had crops on it before so conditioning the soil won't be too bad in that location. There are some weeds there, but not too many. The old power line, however, is slam full of grass and weeds so we've got our work cut out for us to be able to have a successful plot in this area.
While we were there, we also spent a good deal of time scouting and walking the land. We found some rubs, saw some sign, and even saw a deer as we scouted. We feel these are good signs, but we shall see as the season goes on. Our goal was to find areas where we wanted to put our food plots at this location and get the soil samples + start spraying and that's exactly what we did. I think I soaked 2 shirts with sweat and I got really dirty by the end of it all. I wore pants out this time since last time we did this I caught poison ivy. I also wore boots since I've been seeing a lot of pics of snakes lately. I had the perfect combination for being protected from the elements and also being hot and sweaty.
The Small Plot
The smaller location is at the back end of the property and it looks to be a good location. Our area of SC has parts of town that are all clay, some are all sand, and then there are areas that are mixtures of both. The area of this plot is made up more of clay than dirt. The small plot is probably about 100 - 120 yards long and 25 yards wide. This should turn out to be a nice food plot and it also has a few oaks on the edge with a good crop of acorns. We'll need to trim back some of the other trees to improve the vision to all end s of the plot. This location will be the easier of the two to plant. As you'll see in the below video, Adam took the soil sample and then sprayed the field with Round-up to kill the weeds while I documented everything.
In hopes of not getting our plot overtaken with weeds (as we did in the summer at the one location), we're going to spray it with Round-up, then come back in with the GroundHog MAX to disk it up, then return a few days later to spray it again. The reason we'll spray it the second time is to kill any dormant seed that we may have turned up while disking. After we spray again, we'll give it a few days before we go back in to plant the seed.
The Large Plot
The larger plot is the one that's located on an old power line. The power company use to have poles run through this section of woods, but in recent years they have removed the poles. This left a great place to put in a food plot. The only problem we have is the weeds and grass that now resides in the area. There are a ton of weeds currently in the area and so we've got our work cut out for us to get an effective food plot installed.
We are going to try to put another long and narrow plot in this location. Here again we collected another soil sample and sprayed Round-up heavily. We're going to let it sit for a few days and hopefully get a good portion of the grass and weeds killed. The weeds are so tall that I may even go back in and mow it down some. Then we'll go back in, with a tractor and the GroundHog Max, and disk. Following suit, we'll let it sit for a few days then return to spray again as we want to kill off any dormant seeds turned up while disking.
You can see the video of all this below to get a visual for what we?re talking about and attempting to do.
So you've seen the hopeful locations of 2 of our fall plots. We're optimistic that we can pull it off, but again only time will tell. In the mean time, we've got a lot of work to do. More to come.
Picking up Mercurial Superfly Cheap and Pink And Purple Mercurials,here you go.