Bowhunting season is fastly approaching across the country, but it is far from too late to enhance your property with food plots to help improve your hunting prospects this fall.
In fact, my buddy and I just finished up several plot plans this weekend that will not only provide good hunting spots in September, October and November, they will provide nutrition throughout winter for the local deer herd. Well, he did all the work. I just helped with the planning.
We didn’t want to mess around with experimentation, so we went straight to the experts at the Whitetail Institute of North America for expert seed reccomendations and planting procedures.
The planting area wasn’t huge — only 75 yards long by maybe 25 yards wide of a once very-fertile farm field. The plan here was to plant strips of four different kinds of forages. This will provide a staggered growth pattern throughout the next several weeks and months. The idea is to have plants maturing at varying times in autumn, which will give the deer extra reason to cruise through the property from pre-rut all the way through the post rut.
The field had been mowed about a month ago, so this gave my buddy a leg up on soil preparation. He sprayed the entire area with Round-Up® two weeks ago, which killed everything. Then, last weekend, he disked the plot area and dragged it with an old box spring. From there, he spread the seed in four long strips and worked it into the ground with a cultipacker.
Heading into this project, we knew the soil pH was 6.7, so, according to the planting instructions, one dose of 5-14-42 fertilizer was applied beforehand. After the plants start growing good (they have already sprouted), a second application of fertilizer will be applied. This time (again, per instructions), it will be 17-17-17.
The forages we’re using in this area include:
•Imperial Whitetail Winter-Greens®. Whitetail Institute introduced this seed several years ago after much research and testing.
Winter-Greens® is an annual blend of cool season WINA brassicas specifically designed for late-season food plots and late-season hunting. It is highly drought-resistant and able to withstand extremely cold temperatures.
That will be perfect for us, because this area is north-central Wisconsin where snow can fly as early as November. I’m told that Winter-Greens® is almost four times more attractive to deer than any other brassica in many areas. That has given us some high hopes.
•Tall Tine Tubers®. It took Whitetail Institute six years to develop this new turnip variety. We planted it in one long row in hopes of having it work as a double-team with Winter-Greens® in that late-season feeding plan.
If you’ve never hunted over turnips, you’re missing out. Deer will eat these round-the-clock during bow season — even during the early season when the plants are just starting to grow. In fact, when Deer & Deer Hunting TV executive producer Chris Hermans and I were hunting Minnesota two years ago, we got some incredible footage of bucks and does pulling out “baby” turnips and gulping them down like they were candy bars. The forage really shines, however, during the later seasons, especially gun-hunting season here in Wisconsin (which comes in during late November).
•Winter Peas Plus®. This forage includes two pea varieties that are high in sugar and protein, and is extremely cold-tolerant, which makes it another top choice for the area where we live and hunt.
The “Plus” factor is small amounts of Whitetail Oats®, winter lettuce and forage radishes. The idea here is to provide a forage that is highly graze resistant — meaning that deer can hammer it and not kill of the base plants.
•Whitetail Oats Plus®. This might be the ringer of the four seeds we’re testing, because it was developed specifically for early fall plantings.
The blend features an oat that is bred to withstand grazing pressure in high-deer-density areas. The land we’re hunting is home to an estimated pre-season population of 60 deer per square mile. Doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out how much pressure that can have on relatively small food plots!
Like the other forages in this testing, Whitetail Oats Plus® has a high sugar content and is very winter hardy.
Some much-needed thunder showers blew through our area last night. With archery season just a few weeks away, we’re hoping for a little more.
Check back on this blog throughout the fall, and I’ll show you the progress of these plants — along with the browsing pressure they’ll create.
For more information on how, when and what to plant in your food plots, check out the Whitetail Institute’s website.