Food Plot Archives

Fall Food Plots – Trying New Seed Mixes

Posted on September 14, 2017 by Leave a comment

We haven’t planted new food plots since 2014 and it is time (Summer 2017) to plant some fall annual food plots in preparation for perennial food plots in 2018. We have a half acre of three year old Imperial Whitetail™ Brand Clover which needs to replaced in 2018 with at least an acre of Whitetail Clover. This late summer (August 5th) we planted six seed mixes from the Whitetail Institute. We have found reliability and innovation with Whitetail Institute products and seldom try other brands. Seed selection is one of the most important aspects of planting food plots. This time we are planting Pure Attraction®, Ambush®, Winter Greens™, Beets & Greens™, Tall Tine Tubers™ and Imperial Whitetail Oats Plus™. These are all annual seed blends and should be killed during the winter in this western New York location.

3 year old neglected Imperial Whitetail Clover food plot

3 year old neglected Imperial Whitetail Clover food plot

We started in June preparing for this planting with a late burn down. I say late because of very rainy spring weather. We did not apply the first application of glyphosate until the weeds were about 18 inches tall in most places. We used a heavy rate of glyphosate to control perennial weeds, with quackgrass being our biggest concern. We made a second application about the third week of July. To attempt to control quackgrass, you must make a second application when it re-grows following the first application. Since we are planting fall annual food plots, we will have another opportunity to control the quackgrass, if it regrows. We will make another burn down application next spring, before we plant our perennial planting of Whitetail Clover.

Food plot "Burn Down" number two

Food plot “Burn Down” number two

When we look at food plot seed blends in advertising and online, we get an idea of what is in the package, but to know exactly what is in the package you must read the Seed Label on the package you purchase. The seed label is required by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture). This label will tell you the specific varieties, percent pure seed, germination percentage, origin of the seed (state), percent weed seed, percent inert matter, germination test date, amount of noxious weeds, container weight, etc.

Here is the seed label information for the varieties in the seed bags we purchased: These seed mixes contain a high percentage of coating material which is very important to the germination and weight distribution of the seed as it goes out a broadcast seed spreader. It is better to ensure that the seed you plant will grow than to purchase uncoated seed that may not germinate in adverse conditions. The coating is All-Vantage containing RainBond which will also helps water adhere to the seed in dry conditions.

Tall Tine Tubers: We like Tall Tine Tubers which we have grown before. The turnips provide foliage for the deer to eat after a freeze in the fall and the turnip “bulbs” to eat throughout the winter and early spring.
Tall Tine Turnip – 55.24%
Purple Top Turnip – 10.48%
Other Crop – 0%
Weed Seed – 0.05%
Inert Matter (includes 34.18% Coating Material)

Beets & Greens: This is the first time we have planted this seed mix. We are excited to see how the sugar beets in this mix preform. We have grown the other plants in the mix previously including Radish, Kale, Rape, and Tall Tine Turnips. It appears to be a mix that will nourish deer in late fall and possibly through winter and early spring. We had difficulty calibrating our hand held seeder to spread this seed because of the size difference between the larger beet seed and the smaller brassica/turnip seed. When we opened the seeder up to accommodate the beet seed, it let out too many brassicas. We feel this was the cause of our planting too much seed on a smaller area than the 1/2 acre intended. We may need to look at other seeder options.
WINA 412 Radish – 25.59%
WINA 210 Kale – 18.87%
Trophy Rape – 18.26%
Newbie Sugar Beet – 14.81%
Tall Tine Turnip – 2.95%
Other crop – 0.05%
Inert Matter – (includes 19.04 % coating material)
Weed Seed – 0.05%

Winter Greens: This is a good all around annual fall food plot mix. We have planted this previously. The deer will come in to eat it after a frost or two. In our area in western N.Y. State, it will be consumed from about mid Oct. until it gets really cold in mid January, maybe longer if there is snow cover. The deer will dig through the snow for it!
WINA 210 Forage Kale – 24.32%
Premier Forage Kale – 24.28 %
Dwarf Essex Rape – 4.44%
Trophy Rape – 3.29%
Dwarf Siberian Kale – 3.28%
Purple Top Turnip – 0.79%
Other crop – 0.05%
Inert Matter (includes 34.2% Coating Material)
Weed Seed – 0.08%

Ambush: This is a new seed mix for us and we are anxious to see how the lupines, peas, Alex Berseem Clover, sugar beets and Annual Ryegrass do in this mix. Our initial impression is that this mix germinated slowly, and the Alex Berseem Clover, and lupines germinate and develop slowly. Since the pea and lupine seed are large seeds and the percents in the seed mix are derived by weight, there are really not many lupine and pea seeds that have an opportunity to germinate. We’ll have to see how it looks in October and how much the deer feed on it. In our case, we may also need to change our planting procedure to make sure the bigger lupine and pea seeds are covered with more soil to get a higher germination percentage.
Amiga White Lupine – 25.88%
WINA 204 Peas – 19.80
Lumen White Lupine – 15.97
Whitetail 906590 Oats – 11.96
Alex Beseem Clover – 9.88
Newbie Sugar Beet – 5.98%
DH-3 Annual Ryegrass – 4.99
Other crop – 0.05%
Inert Matter (includes 5.10% Coating Material)
Weed Seed -0.06%

Pure Attraction: This is a new seed mix for us. We really like Whitetail Oats and this was an attractive mix to us since we wanted to combine some other seed types with our oat planting. One of the attributes we like about the “sweet” oats is that the deer will start eating it almost immediately, where we have to wait for frosts for many of the “greens”.

Whitetail 906590 Oats – 38.89%
Whitetail 105069 Oats – 35.87
Fridge Triticale – 12.34%
Bolero Peas – 4.41%
Brundage Wheat – 3.72%
WINA 210K Forage Kale -1.045
Premier Forage Kale – 1.04%
Dwarf Essex Rape – 0.225
Tall Tine Turnip – 0.22%
Trophy Rape – 0.14%
Dwarf Siberian Kale – 0.14%
Other Crop – 0.07%
Inert Matter (includes 5.10% Coating Material)
Weed Seed – 0.07%

Imperial Whitetail Oats Plus we have planted previously several times. I do not currently have the seed label for the seed we planted, but I can add that later. The majority of this seed is uncoated oat seed. We really like this product! The deer feed on it almost immediately and will continue to feed on it until it is frozen out in our area. It continues to grow and the deer keep it pruned almost down to the ground. Due to abnormal growing conditions and our first time experimentation using a UTV as a cultipacker, we chose to over seed our entire planting this year with a half rate of the “sweet” oats. So far, this has proven to be a benefit, although we did get excellent germination for almost all our seed mixes.

Imperial Whitetail Oats over-seeded at half rate over all plantings

Imperial Whitetail Oats over-seeded at half rate over all plantings

Our planting process this year included two burn-down applications primarily to control perennial quack grass, followed by three discings, planting, then fertilizing. We would like to have incorporated the fertilizer in with the discings, however with approaching rains we wanted to make sure we had the seed planted, and germination confirmed before we committed to purchasing fertilizer. We also felt we probably had enough phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) to get the plants going. There might be an advantage of making one late heavy N-P-K application after germination verses a split application of an early N-P-K application followed by a later Nitrogen (N) application. Ideally you would make the two fertilizer applications. We’ll see how big the turnips and sugar beets get by November 15th?

Imperial Whitetail Oats Plus germinating!

Imperial Whitetail Oats Plus germinating!

We try to follow the seeding rate on the package, usually I purchase 1/2 acre bags of seed. Sometimes it is a challenge to get the rate correctly and achieve optimum spacing between plants. If the seeding rate is to close, you get a lot of spindly plants. If it is too thin, you get gaps which allow weeds to get established. Particularly with turnips, radishes and sugar beets, if they are planted too thickly, the root bulb will be small. For these rooting plants you want them planted thin enough to grow big “bulbs”. Having enough fertilizer will also help grow big bulbs if the plants have enough space.

Always exciting to see good germination and plant spacing!

Always exciting to see good germination and plant spacing!

An example of planting too thickly

An example of planting too thickly

We had one area that we decided to turn into a food plot late in the summer and it only received a mowing and one burn down application. It was very trashy even after it had been disced about 4 times. We planted extra seed and oversewed it with the “Sweet” oats. It appears to have had good germination and we expect this plot to do well.

Good germination in a really trashy area!

Good germination in a really trashy area!

After germination it is great to watch the plants get established and in some cases fight for light and dominance with their neighbors. If you can’t get your seeding rate perfect, it’s better to plant extra seed than not have enough planted in our opinion.

Oats and Brassicas getting established! Tillering - Sinking roots!

Oats and Brassicas getting established! Tillering – Sinking roots!

Our most shady/secluded plot getting established!

Our most shady/secluded plot getting established!

We have one newly cleared area where we have cut down relatively large trees to expand our food plot area and to let more light in on or existing plots. We have cut the trees, harvested the firewood, burned the branches and have planted this area for the first time. This creates the need to disc the soil and plant around the stumps. We do not plan to remove the stumps and all our food plots have stumps in varying stages of decay.

Planting around the stumps!

Planting around the stumps!

We have planted about 2 1/2 acres of food plots this year, some is planted in between rows of english walnut trees that we have planted. We have our first nut on a tree this year! We did not plant blocks of the same seed mix types, but alternated seed mix types in about 30 foot bands throughout the plots. In previous years we have planted in blocks which resulted in some plots being pretty bare after the deer at almost everything. With this approach all the plots should have something growing throughout the entire hunting season.

Multiple Food Plots with Multiple Seed Mixes Planted

Multiple Food Plots with Multiple Seed Mixes Planted

With the food plots established and the expectation that big bucks from all over will come to flock into these food plots, we decided to build a simple hunting stand to overlook about 2/3 of the plots. At the very least it will give us a place to sit, out of the rain, in a comfortable chair while we watch the show.

Simple Hunting Stand

Simple Hunting Stand

™ ®

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Soil Temperature – Soil Thermometer

Posted on March 28, 2016 by Leave a comment

Soil Thermometer

One of the first things I learned as an agronomist, was the importance of soil temperature. Almost every seed has a specific temperature range where it will germinate best. If the soil temperature is colder or warmer than that temperature range, the seed may not germinate at all. This applies to both desirable plant seed and weed seed.

A soil thermometer can be purchased most easily online. There are now a large variety of options to choose from, but the inexpensive simple “dial and probe” soil thermometer is still as good any any. They are durable and can be left in the soil for months. Just be sure to put it where it won’t get stepped on!

Two examples of weed seeds that are sensitive to soil temperature in a lawn and landscape environment are common crabgrass and poa annua. Crabgrass germinates when spring soil temperatures rise to 55 degrees or above in the top 1-2 inches of soil. Poa annua germinates in late summer when soil temperatures fall to 70 degrees or below in the top 1-2 inches of soil. This is very important if you are applying lawn a herbicide which needs to be applied prior to the germination of these 2 weeds. The soil temperature needs to be closely monitored to make the decision when to apply.

The same is true for vegetable or flower gardens. It is important to read your seed packet or seed catalog information to glean the soil temperature range for the germination of the seed you wish to plant. An example of this is the difference between tomato seed germination and eggplant germination. Tomatoes need 60-70 degrees, and Eggplants need 75 to 80 degrees.

Fertilizers are broken down in the soil by soil microorganisms. Soil microorganisms and fungus organisms are more active at higher temperatures as long as moisture is present. Certain microorganisms thrive in different temperature ranges; some at 40-50 degrees, some at 50-60 degrees, some at 70-80 degrees, etc. In order for the fertilizer to be broken down, the microorganisms need to be active to convert the nutrients into forms usable by the plants. Did you ever notice mushrooms suddenly appearing in the fall all at once. This is an indication that the temperature and moisture conditions were just right to make them grow.

The take home message is that for a small investment in a soil thermometer, you can increase your ability to manage your soil related actives where knowing the soil temperature will make a difference.

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Choosing a Sprayer for Your Small Farm Needs

Posted on January 28, 2016 by Leave a comment

On our small farm we needed a sprayer for multiple uses, including several acres of food plots, an acre of orchard and the capability to correctly spray herbicides, fungicides and insecticides in field and orchard conditions. You will not find this type of sprayer at your local supplier and may have to special order such a sprayer. These sprayers will also cost about five times more than an inexpensive herbicide sprayer. This additional cost can be justified if the versatility is required for your operation.

Hardi BNL 50 Estate Sprayer

Hardi BNL 50 Estate Sprayer

If you are only spraying herbicides or other products that do not need high pressure and high water volume per acre, an inexpensive boom type sprayer is all you need. Some systemic insecticides or fungicides could also be applied with this type of sprayer. Today a lot of food plot sprayers are mounted on the the back of ATVs and UTVs for this purpose. However, if you need to apply contact fungicides, insecticides, miticides or other products that need to be applied with high water volume and high pressure to obtain thorough coverage, you will need a more sophisticated sprayer to achieve this goal.

For spraying a small orchard it will require high water volume and high pressure to get up into the trees and achieve complete coverage of all the leaves, fruit and branches. This requires either an air-blast sprayer or a high pressure gun sprayer. The air-blast sprayer is the most efficient choice, but requires purchasing a completely separate piece of expensive equipment. A high pressure gun sprayer can be added to a boom sprayer as an accessory for a small orchard. With a gun sprayer your mobility is limited by the length of the hose that is attached to the sprayer.

For spraying small fruit crops like strawberries, or low height vegetable crops like broccoli, pumpkins, potatoes, etc., a high water volume, high pressure sprayer is required in order for the spray material to penetrate the leaf canopy and undersides of the leaves of these crops. Products such as fungicides, insecticides, miticides require high water volume and high pressure. Herbicide products do not require high pressure or high water volume. You will need to understand the capability of the available pumps that can be mounted on your sprayer and choose the proper pump to supply the water and spray pressure you will require.

Adjust your boom height so the spray pattern achieves good coverage

Adjust your boom height so the spray pattern achieves good coverage

If simply spraying pre-plant, pre-emergence, or post applied herbicides or other products that require low pressure and low water volume a basic boom sprayer is all you need. These sprayers are available normally from local suppliers and are relatively inexpensive. They usually come with flat fan nozzles for applying herbicides.

Adjust your pressure to meet the needs of your situation

Adjust your pressure to meet the needs of your situation

Maintenance for sprayers is relatively simple. Keep the sprayer inside, if possible. Storing the sprayer inside helps reduce exposure to moisture and sunlight. Sunlight will fade the paint and will contribute to the gradual degradation of the hoses. Moisture encourages rust. Keep any mechanisms that require lubrication greased or oiled at least annually. When overwintering in climates with freezing temperatures, the water in the sprayer pumps and lines should be replaced with an antifreeze mixture as required by the manufacturer.

There are a variety of nozzles that are available for sprayers, depending on what you need to spray. For herbicides, the flat fan nozzles that come with the sprayer are probably all you will need. If you are applying other products, hollow cone nozzles or other types of nozzles may be required. Accessories are also available such as a diaphragm check valve for drip free shut off, which shuts the nozzle off at below 10 PSI (pounds per square inch). This feature stops the nozzle from dripping once it is shut off.

Choose nozzles that fit your needs

Choose nozzles that fit your needs

Most boom sprayers have folding booms and this is a great feature for storing the sprayer. The outside booms fold up and criss-cross on the back of the sprayer.

Features: Orchard Spray Gun, High Pressure & Folding Booms

Features: Orchard Spray Gun, High Pressure & Folding Booms

When you add additional equipment like a sprayer, disc, or bush hog to the back of a sprayer it adds weight to the back which must be counter balanced on the front. We have added weights to the front bumper of our tractor. Other options are to add a fluid inside the front tractor tires or add weights to the front tractor wheels. If you choose to add fluid to the tractor tires, a qualified tractor tire dealer can do this.

Adding weight to the front of the tractor

Adding weight to the front of the tractor

Always read agricultural chemical labels, tractor owners manuals and equipment manuals prior to attaching and using an agricultural sprayer.

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Simple Germination Test

Posted on January 26, 2016 by Leave a comment

The simple seed germination test provides you with the information to decide whether to plant the seed you have or buy new seed.

When you buy new seed to plant in the current year, the seed packet or bag of seed, will tell you the year that the seed was packed for and the germination percentage. Seed companies are required to furnish this information. Seed for sale is normally harvested the previous year and will normally have the highest germination percentage. Standard seed germination rates for vegetable crops range from 40% to 80%. However, the germination rate can be much higher. I am holding a new packet of turnip seed with a germination percentage of 96%. If the seed is not planted in the year it was packed for, it will normally lose viability or percent germination.

Seed is a living thing and usually only needs water, and room temperature to germinate. The longer the time between seed packaging and seed planting the lower the seed germination percentage will be. If the seed is stored in cool temperatures and moderate humidity, more of the seed viability will be preserved. Some seeds deteriorate faster than others. Just because the seed is a couple years old, it is not necessarily ready to throw in the trash. There is a simple germination test that you can do to test the current germination percentage.

How many of these corn seeds will germinate?

How many of these corn seeds will germinate?

Take about 20 seeds and place them in a moist paper towel (not wet) and fold the paper towel so all that seeds are contained within the moist paper towel. Separate the seeds so they are not all bunched together, because you will want to count them in about 5 days. Then place the paper towel in a quart ziplock bag and seal the bag. Place the bag near a window where it can get some light, but not direct sunlight, where it will maintain room temperature of 70 degrees more or less. After 5 to 7 days you will gently open the paper towel to observe how many seeds have germinated and how many have not.

Wrap the seed in a moist paper towel and place it in a ziplock bag

Wrap the seed in a moist paper towel and place it in a ziplock bag

To calculate the germination percentage divide the number of seed germinated by the total number of sees evaluated. In this case we have 11 corn seeds germinated out of 20 total seeds (11/20 = .55 or 55%). If normal germination was 80%, we need to plant about 31% more seed in order to achieve a complete stand (80-55)/80=31. Most of the time the seeding rate is printed on the seed packet or tag. The seeding rate includes the space between the rows and the space between the seeds in the row.

The simple germination test

The simple germination test

If the results of a germination test shows the germination percentage much lower than normal, the seed may also lack seedling vigor. In other words the seed may germinate but be unable to push the growing point up through the soil in difficult conditions. If you have the time and garden space, you can just plant and see what comes up! If it does’t grow, you can replant!

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Turnip Food Plots

Posted on January 14, 2016 by Leave a comment

Purple Top White Globe Turnips in New Seedling Clover

Purple Top White Globe Turnips

Purple Top White Globe turnips make a great fall and winter food source for whitetail deer. We have grown these for several year and have developed some expertise in growing them. We have been involved in turnip food plots in both western New York State and northern Georgia. In both geographies, the turnips are grown as a fall and winter food source, planted in the fall. The timing of planting depends on the geography. In NY State, they are planted in mid July – mid August. In Georgia, they can be planted anytime from about September 1st through November 1st. Always follow the planting dates listed on the seed source label. Turnips can be grown as a nurse crop for clover with fall seeded turnips, a brassica mix, radishes or with winter killed oats.

Purple Top White Globe Turnips in New Seedling Clover

Purple Top White Globe Turnips in New Seedling Clover

Turnips need light to grow but will grow with some shade in the early morning and late afternoon. As with any food plot, it is important to pick a spot where the deer will feel comfortable coming out into the plot during the early morning, before sunset, or even during the day. Turnips germinate quickly once they have moisture for germination and will grow quickly once germinated. We do not normally use a herbicide in turnip plots because they grow so fast that they dominate other weed species. Grass weeds are the easiest to control with a post applied herbicide like sethoxdim or clethodim. Always follow label directions when using herbicides.

A great location for a turnip & brassica food plot located in a clearing with good sunlight penetration

A great location for a turnip & brassica food plot located in a clearing with good sunlight penetration

The turnips can also be grown separately as an individual crop. When seeding alone or with other food plot varieties, it is important to use the correct amount of seed. Using too much seed results in too many plants, small tubers and if planted with a clover, will shade out the clover resulting in a poor stand of clover.

This plot was planted with too much seed resulting in overcrowding and small turnip globes

This plot was planted with too much seed resulting in overcrowding and small turnip globes

Turnips, Brassicas, Radishes, and winter killed oats all require fertilizer to attain their full potential. A fertilizer application prior to planting is required to achieve this goal. If this is a new plot or you are unsure what your fertility levels are, a soil test will be a great help. When you get the soil test results, it will also indicate if lime is required to adjust your soil pH. If you don’t have time to do this, an application of a basic NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorous, Potassium) fertilizer will get you in the ball park. Sixty pounds of Nitogen should provide a season long supply of basic plant nutrients for an average food plot crop.

Fertilizer Required per Acre to Apply 60 Lbs. of Actual NPK (Nitogen, Phosphorous, Potassium)
10-10-10 – 600 lbs/a
12-12-12 – 500 lbs/a
13-13-13 – 460 lbs/a
15-15-15 – 400 lbs/a

A Feast of Turnips!

A Feast of Turnips!

If given space and nutrients to grow the turnips can grow to be quite large. Don’t forget to eat a few yourself. Purple Top White Globe turnips for deer food plots are the same as you would buy in the grocery store and much fresher!! My favorite way to eat them is raw right in the field. Just pull up the turnip, cut off the surface layer with a pocket knife, cut into slices like an apple and enjoy!! Turnips have a great slightly sweet flavor. You can also take them home and cook the diced globe, with the chopped green tops, along with a little ham, for a nice side dish of Turnip Greens & Ham.

Purple Top White Globe Turnips in New Seedling Clover

Purple Top White Globe Turnips in New Seedling Clover

The deer will start to feed as the weather gets cooler. The deer usually start by eating the best part of the globes and then coming back for more as food sources diminish. The cool weather helps preserve the globes from rotting as long as it doesn’t get too warm for too long. If there is no snow and the temperatures get extremely cold the food value of the turnips will be destroyed. If there is snow cover or more moderate temperatures, the food value will be preserved longer.

Beginning Feeding on Turnips

Beginning Feeding on Turnips

As winter approaches spring, if there is any food value left, the deer will eat the frozen turnips like ice cream, only leaving a white cup in the ground. At other times the whole turnip will come out of the ground so they can eat the whole globe. When there are enough globes left at the end of winter it is a good source of food when the deer come back in the spring from herding.

Spring turnip in fall seeded clover eaten to the ground

Spring turnip in fall seeded clover eaten to the ground

We have tried to grow turnips and Daikon Radishes together in NY State but we have observed that the radish flesh is destroyed by cold temperatures easier than the turnips. Sometimes the food value is mostly gone by gun season and no longer an attraction to the deer. For this reason, we are no longer planting radishes in food plots in NY State. The daikon radish plots in Georgia are normally very successful due to the milder fall and winter temperatures.

Feeding on Daikon Radishes and Turnips

Feeding on Daikon Radishes and Turnips

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Southern Deer Food Plot

Posted on December 22, 2015 by Leave a comment

Southern state food plots work differently than northern state food plots. When we say southern states, we mean south of the Mason Dixon Line, including but not limited to North and South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. One of the main differences in southern food plots is how forage crops are grown and established as annuals and not as perennials. In the northern states clover, alfalfa, chicory and a few other species can be established as perennial multi-year crops. The main reason southern perennials are hard to establish is an extended period of hot weather throughout the summer and many times accompanied by periods of drought. One of the staples of southern food plots is grain corn which is grown and left standing for the deer to feed on throughout the fall, winter, and sometimes into early spring. One of the most common summer annual deer food plot crops are soybeans. Deer like soybeans so much that many times they need to be replanted because the deer have eaten them down to the ground. That is what happened in these food plots.

Corn and Soybean Summer Planting

Corn and Soybean Summer Planting

In this field the food plots have been set up in alternating 12 rows of corn and 12 rows of soybeans. This makes a nice combination of cover for the deer and the availability of both grain and annual forb foliage. We use the term forb as a word to describe a variety of wild and cultivated flowering and foliage plants that the deer browse on throughout the year. In the Fall, Cool Season Brassicas, Clover, Chicory, Triticale, Turnips & Peas are planted to replace the soybeans. The soil is prepared and the seed is planted sometime between Sept. and November depending on how far south.

Mature Corn and Preparation for Forb Planting

Mature Corn and Preparation for Forb Planting

In the cool moist weather of a normal Fall, the seeds will germinate nicely and then establish themselves into an attractive food plot. The variety of species will be tempting to the deer throughout the Fall, Winter, Spring, and early Summer. The triticale, clover, chicory and peas will be immediately available and the brassicas and turnips will be preferred after a frost or two when they become sweeter.

Great Germination and Establishment!

Great Germination and Establishment!

By this time the grain corn has dried and will be preserved throughout the winter as long as it stays on the stalk and off the ground. The deer will get in a habit of feeding on this grain corn. If there are any squirrels around, they will help pull it off the stalk.

Beautiful Ears of Corn!

Beautiful Ears of Corn!

The combination of the grain corn and forbs, in alternating cover and open areas, surrounded by trees and brush, and nearby water, make this an almost irresistible place to feed and bed down. Trail cams record the plot visitations and help determine what deer are frequenting the plot, when and how often.

Cool Season Brassicas, Clover, Chicory, Triticale, Turnips & Peas

Cool Season Brassicas, Clover, Chicory, Triticale, Turnips & Peas

As the plot further matures into archery, crossbow, gun, and muzzleloader seasons, the plot is ready for the hunt. In this case a camouflaged stand has been erected in the tree at the back edge of the plot and will provide countless hours of enjoyment, quiet wildlife observation, and an opportunity for a successful hunt.

Established Food Plot Ready for the Hunt!

Established Food Plot Ready for the Hunt!

After the hunting season is complete, the plots will continue to be available to pregnant does, maturing young bucks and last years fawns. The food plots contribute to the overall health of the local deer herd by providing a year around source of high quality forage for the deer.

Corn Ears Still on the Stalk in the Spring!

Corn Ears Still on the Stalk in the Spring!

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A Whitetail Deer Story

Posted on December 13, 2015 by Leave a comment

My First Buck!

My First Buck!

This hunting season I shot my first whitetail deer with antlers and it turned out to be a nice 10 point buck. I have been deer hunting on and off since I was 16 with probably about 17 years of actual deer hunting. I am 62.

We have about a five acre field up behind our barn that is mostly surrounded by a deciduous forest, except for an area of over grown balsam fir Christmas trees. There is a small spring fed pond less than one eighth acre located on the edge of the forest. Deer and other wildlife use this as a source of water to drink. In this field we have planted food plots, mainly Whitetail Institute Whitetail Clover. The deer feed on this daily from early May through late December. We also have our honey bee hives located on the edge of this field (honey bees need a source of water). In many ways it is an ideal spot for deer to live. It is in this field that our story takes place.

I have hunted here before and seen many deer including one other very large buck. Another very large buck was shot by my neighbor’s wife, and probably a lot more came and went through the years without being noticed. They are attracted to this location additionally because does with fawns annually raise their young here. It is a good place for bucks and does to “hook up” during breeding season, which is also hunting season.

I hunted this spot on the Saturday evening of the opening day of “Regular” or “Gun” season starting about 3:30 PM. You can hunt till about 4:45 this year which corresponds with sunset.
My view looked out over several food plots of different ages. Looking to the west was the setting sun with the silhouettes of trees in the background. It was looking west that I started to see some movement. First came a healthy fawn into the field edge. Almost immediately a red fox approached from the opposite direction cruising the field looking for a mouse for dinner. They approached about thirty feet away from each other, had a momentary stare down and then went their separate ways in the opposite direction.

Next out of the woods came a limping fawn. Something had happened to it’s front leg which made it limp. After about ten more minutes a spike buck appeared. The spike buck and the limping fawn seemed to relax, put their heads down and stared to graze on the clover. The healthy fawn kept putting it’s nose in the air sniffing for the scent of danger.

The quiet was interrupted by the honking of geese flying overhead. They seemed to be circling looking for the next place to land. Twice, the flock of maybe a hundred geese rose up in the air so the setting sunlight shined through their wing feathers making them look like specks of gold glittering against the blue sky. A few minutes later a flock of ducks flew overhead much lower and I could hear the flutter of their wings against the air.

I watched these three deer for about twenty minutes, sitting on five gallon bucket, when I decided to practice getting my rifle in position like I was getting ready to shoot the spike buck. I was in an awkward position to grab my gun which was leaning on a tree and then maneuver quietly to get in position to place the deer in my sites. I was about halfway through this process when my jacket caught a twig, which snapped, and sent all three deer, tails in the air, leaping back into the safety of the forest.

It reminded me of what I already knew. Don’t sit!! Stand and wait, ready to shoot, with gun in hand!!

Sunday morning I took a long walk on the property across the road. The woods were very quiet, with only an occasional shot being fired in the distance. The caw of a crow or the chirp of a bird broke the silence occasionally. There were occasional heavy snow squalls through the morning. I found shelter behind a tree to keep from being covered with snow during the squalls. When you walk though the forest this time of year, it is a good time to put your “Forester” hat on and check the trees for those that should be harvested, those that need to be thinned and those that just need to grow. I didn’t see a deer all morning!

At 3:00 I headed out back to my bucket, but did not sit on it! I hid behind a triple trunk cherry tree and waited patiently with gun in hand, standing! I watched the field through the gaps in the tree trunks. After about fifteen minutes a fawn came out of the forest and started to graze in the same spot as last night. It is always good to see some activity, so I just sat and watched the fawn graze, while scanning the rest of the field every few minutes.

Then I noticed some movement about 150 feet further down along the same forest edge about 4:20 with the sun almost set. First a doe, then a fawn, then another fawn, then another doe and then the same spike buck as the evening before. Some of them stared to graze. The glint of the setting sun on yellow antler drew my eyes inside the forest edge. There behind this little herd of deer emerged the large ten point buck that we had been seeing on our camera. It was beautiful! It slowly moved along the field edge gradually getting closer to me and walking broadside. This would be a perfect shot, if I could get into position and make the shot. I was shooting the old fashioned way with open sites, no scope.

I lifted the rifle in between the tree trunks, cocked the hammer and released the safety. I was I little more excited than I anticipated and took a moment to calm down. Then I lined up the rear “V” site with the front “I” site and the chest of the buck. I pulled the trigger. Up and off he ran bursting back towards the woods, but I thought I detected a slight “stagger” as he took off.

I walked over to where I shot him, but there was nothing, no blood, no hair, no nothing. Maybe I missed him completely? It wouldn’t be the first one I missed! I started following the tracks and noticed a few specks of blood, so I did hit him! I followed the tracks and minor specks of blood and found him expired in the woods about 200 feet from where he was shot.

There was a quick walkie-talkie call to my son for help as the sun had set and it was getting dark and colder. We decided that I would start field dressing the deer while he walked up to help. Once we finished that, we dragged him a short way to one of our hiking/logging trails.

Down to the barn we hiked to get our tractor started, which sometimes doesn’t like to start on cold days. It had been about 30 degrees all day. It started with a little extra cranking. We hitched up a small wagon and drove it up to pick up the deer.

To clean it up, we drove it down to the house and washed it with a garden hose, so that it would be ready to be butchered. We agreed to give the deer to our neighbor the following day, so we took it to the barn to hang. Our neighbors will butcher the deer and use the meat during the upcoming year. Hanging the deer for our purposes allowed the body to cool down uniformly and helped to keep it clean and preserve the meat. We used a gambrel to this. The next day we were able to lower the deer into our wagon for delivery.

The antlers on this deer, although not in record territory, will make a nice mount. We will be making a skull mount on our own. We had a conversation with another neighbor about how to do this, which appears be possible by an amateur, with a little planning and a little work.

This was the first antlered deer I have ever shot. Although a minor milestone, it does feel like something has been accomplished. Hopefully, the tradition of going deer hunting with my son on opening day will continue into our tenth year. We have a great time each year regardless of whether we are successful hunters.

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Hunting is More Than Hunting!

Posted on December 2, 2015 by Leave a comment

There is more to hunting than hunting! Hunters spend many many hours in the outdoors scouting, observing, putting out food plots, trimming shooting lanes, clearing trails and preparing for the hunt. Many of these hours are spent in solitude in the quiet of the forest, forest borders or open fields. This is where wildlife and plant life of all kinds abound. You have to “out there” to see it, and hunters are out there! Most hunters will tell you that it is more important to be out there than it is to be a successful hunter bringing back some game for dinner, or to bring back a trophy. Walking while hunting is also great exercise. The Fall and early Winter are good times of the year to be observant because the leaves are off the trees and you can see things then that you cannot see in the Summer. We wanted to share some photos we took on one morning of hunting.

Lichen and Moss

Lichen and Moss

Fern Leaf in the Snow

Fern Leaf in the Snow

Spreading Moss

Spreading Moss

This large rock is a relic of past farming activity. There was a cluster of rocks in this place in the forest. Farmers moved large rocks to the edge of their field to get them out of the way of the farm equipment. At one time this area would have been the edge of a field. This particular rock is perfect to sit on and take a rest. The tree behind it is a lumber type cherry tree that is used to make fine furniture. This tree is currently larger enough to be harvested, but it has a long way to grow before it is past it’s prime and we will let it grow for at least another decade.

Rock and Cherry Tree

Rock and Cherry Tree

Moss, Fallen Leaves and Twigs

Moss, Fallen Leaves and Twigs

We used to sit on this rock at the edge of the field many years ago. I have looked for it recently but have been unable to find it. On this day, I searched more intensely and discovered it buried beneath a fallen tree, a lot of branches and years of accumulation of fallen leaves. A soil had started to form on top of the rock. The rock is unique for it’s flat surface. Now that it has been re-dicovered and cleared off, we will try to come here more often to, sit, listen and observe.

Uncovering an Old Friend!

Uncovering an Old Friend!

Moss, Fallen Leaves and Twigs

Moss, Fallen Leaves and Twigs

Mossy!!

Mossy!!

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Culling Trees to Add Sunlight

Posted on October 20, 2015 by Leave a comment

We are gradually clearing a 10 acre old field that has grown into trees over the past 40 years. We are more than halfway finished and keep working at it a little bit every year. We are about 10 years into this project. Our goal for the field is multipurpose for wildlife food plots, home gardening, an orchard, and a nut grove. Now that we have cleared about 5 1/2 acres we have quite of few things planted and realize our crops need more light to grow better. In our first photo we have cut several fir trees (that were planted as Christmas trees) and a couple ash trees. As you can see in the foreground of the photo, we cut the stumps very low so that our equipment can go over the stumps. In this case we have felled the trees on top of a food plot of Whitetail Institute Imperial Whitetail Oats Plus.

Letting More Light in on Food Plots!

Letting More Light in on Food Plots!

More and more we are girdling trees a year or two ahead of when we intend to fell the trees. We girdle our trees by making a chainsaw around the circumference of the tree so that it cuts about a half inch into the sapwood. The depth of the cut depends on the thickness of the bark. Girdling trees has several benefits. The first is that the tree stops growing immediately. It may still live for one to three more years, but it will not grow significantly. Girdling severs the cambium layer underneath the tree bark and prevents sugars from returning to the roots, where they turn into stored starches which provide energy for spring and summer leaves. Without this stored energy the tree will die. Once the tree has been girdled it gradually looses it’s leaves and begins to dry down. The dry wood in the dying tree makes it a storage place for dry firewood to be cut as needed. As the tree looses it’s leaves it starts to let light into the surrounding area. The girdled trees will die sooner if a labeled chemical application is applied to the girdling cut immediately after making the cut.

Previously Girdled Trees Ready to Cut

Previously Girdled Trees Ready to Cut

This year we had a neighbor who needed firewood and we were able to help them by letting them cut the trees that were previously girdled. When we agreed to let them have the trees we only asked that they cut the stumps of flush with the ground and that they stack the limbs. The limb piles can be left for wildlife or burned to further clear the area.

Opening Up the Field to More Sunlight

Opening Up the Field to More Sunlight

A significant portion of this area is used for deer food plots. Some of the best crops for food plots are sun loving perennials. Our field is surrounded by tall trees which cast long shadows in both the morning and afternoon. By clearing the remaining field edges we can increase the acreage that is exposed to sunlight most of the day. With the extra sunlight we can expand the types of crops that we can successfully grow.

Girdled Trees Ready for Cutting!

Girdled Trees Ready for Cutting!

As new areas are cleared we can prepare the soil for cultivation. We can begin to control the perennial weeds and make applications of lime to raise the soil pH. Since we have a large forested area on our property the increased field area encourages a larger variety of wildlife. We can attract additional wildlife by leaving certain areas uncultivated and unmowed creating bird nesting areas.

Trees Removed!

Trees Removed!

In our old established orchard sunlight was having difficulty reaching the orchard because of some tall trees that had grown up over the years. By removing the trees, and creating more light penetration into the orchard, this will help with air flow, disease prevention, apple coloring, and tree growth. We intend to continue to remove trees and expand our field back to it’s original size.

The Apple Orchard More Open to Sunlight!

The Apple Orchard More Open to Sunlight!

Girdling Trees to Expand Food Plots

Posted on August 31, 2015 by Leave a comment

We are gradually clearing an old agricultural field that was once abandoned and we want to clear it again. We are using this field for multiple purposes, planting food plots, a vegetable garden, an orchard and nut trees. In order to get more sunlight into our field we keep culling trees on the edges of the field. We have been using girdling to do this.

A few years ago we started culling unwanted trees by girdling them. Girdling is the process of cutting the cambium layer or outer bark, down to the wood. In our method we use a chainsaw and make a shallow cut around the circumference of the tree in 2 places, usually about 4 inches apart; one upper; one lower, about one to two feet above the ground. It is important that the cut is made all the way to the wood specially in uneven areas of the bark. We usually do not cut more than 1/2 inch into the wood, because we want the tree to maintain its strength and remain upright until it is dead. We do not want to weaken the tree so that wind will blow it over easily.

Girdling Trees to Clear Land

Girdling Trees to Clear Land

Why does this work to kill the tree and how long does it take the tree to die? Trees have two types of vascular tissue. The Xylem (wood) which carries water and nutrients up the tree and the Phloem (inner bark) which carries sugars (sucrose) down the tree to the roots. The stored energy in the roots in deciduous trees is essential to new leaf generation each spring. When this source of energy to the roots is cut off, the tree will die. Sometimes death will take several years, but usually by the third year the tree is dead. This method can also be used to thin trees in a forest. In a forestry situation, you can come back and cut the tree down or just let it die and let nature fell the tree as it decays.

One of the benefits of girdling trees is that the wood can be used for firewood and it is kept dry naturally while the tree is still standing. If cut within the second to fifth years, when the tree is dead or near dead, the wood is dry but has not yet had time to begin to decompose. This drying while standing minimizes the time that firewood needs to “season” prior to being burned.

Using a Girdled Tree for Firewood

Using a Girdled Tree for Firewood

Why not just cut the tree down in the first place? The best time to cut an remove a deciduous tree is when the leaves are off the tree. We are not always available to cut the trees at this time of year, or we do not have enough time to cut down as many trees as we would like. By girdling the trees, we immediately stop further growth of the tree above ground and at the roots. The leaves will start to fall off after girdling, and will start letting in more light. You can girdle a tree in under 10 minutes. This allows us to stop the growth of a quantity of trees and still have the flexibility to remove them at our convenience. Since we are clearing a field, we do not want the cut trees creating clutter in our field and limiting our ability to mow or till.

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