Blog Entries from the WeHuntSC.com blogging crew
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.
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.
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.
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?re from a city around South Carolina that isn?t close to Pageland, then you may or may not know about the legendary Smoke House Grill. The Smoke House Grill is a buffet that is located on Highway 151 right outside of Jefferson, SC. The Smoke House Grill attracts people from everywhere and is really good, so if you?ve never heard of it or tried it out, you may want to make the trip!
Some of the WeHuntSC.com gang met up to eat breakfast at the Smoke House and of course Hoot was there early (with dogs loaded on the back of the truck) and he called me at 5 minutes til 8 because he thought I had overslept. I reminded him that we had 5 minutes left on the clock and I arrived at 7:59! We all sat around and ate and then Hoot left to run the dogs again. He?s hard at it 24/7/365!
Lem and I left and went to do some work on the remote food plot that I?m trying to install in the middle of some planted pines way deep in the woods. Hopefully this time I didn?t catch any poison ivy. If it?s like it was last time, I should know here in a day or two! Anyway, we worked hard cutting trees, raking pine straw, and getting the area ready for Adam Smith and the GroundHog MAX to come to do some work. When this happens, I?ll try to get some more footage and post on the blog about it.
After the morning work, Lem and I went and picked up our supervisor Sam Mungo to take him to lunch. Sam is the hardest working Mungo in his family and motivated Lem and I to continue working hard throughout the remainder of the day.
I just wanted to post this blog to give you a look at where we are in the hopeful installation of this remote food plot.
The post-game interview with Sam