I remember writing on here not too long ago about the efficacy of food plots. Part of it I still agree with, but I good part of it I want to repent. Let me just lay this out straight for you.
First off, we acquired our farm in 2001. In Spring 2002 I had the state wildlife biologist come over and do a survey. He gave me a lot of good ideas, food plots and other things. I immediately went out and bought $200 worth of seed. The guy who had promised to help me get the seed in the ground never showed up. The seed rotted in the shed. From that point on, I was a bit shy about putting in food plots.
Over the intervening years, I've tried an everything-but-food-plot approach. I'll post the link here for the site where the biologist has a good number of his tips posted. I have found it an invaluable resource.
So some time in the past month I was talking down food plots. It is not like I'm against food plots. I was just commenting that food plots cost quite a bit to put in. They require a lot of effort, and I have found a lot of the other How-To ideas to work wonders without cost.
The best idea I've found to date is just being lazy about mowing. Check out the pieces on mowing and edge-feathering. By just being a bit lackadaisical about how and when you mow, you can reap great dividends. Believe me, I can be lazy about mowing.
One of the places that I'd let go for years was a 1.5 acre plot that had been plowed in preparation for seeding back in 2002. After the seeding fell through, I just let it sit. By breaking up the soil, I also broke up the hold that the fescue had been keeping on the ground. A lot of weeds (forbs) grew up, and the deer loved it, both as food and as cover for bedding. I had a couple of places like that. Deer dig ground that has been plowed and then let go.
OK, shaman, so far you have not repented a thing. Cut to the chase.
Sorry, where was I? Oh, back in 2007, Wesley's Dad (Wesley's the biologist) volunteered to do some planting for me in exchange for a chance to hunt. Beryl is a good buddy. I would have let him come hunt anyway, but this a bonus. He and another old coot buddy of mine, John, helped me put in a mixed bag of clover and wheat in one field and clover and wildlife mix in another. Then the drought hit, and I thought I was going to lose everything. I did end up having some success in getting things to grow.
When it came to hay this year, I had the guy mow both plots. We got a little rain and sure enough I had at least some ladino and yellow sweet clover come up through the stubble weeds-- not much, but enough.
Then something magical happened. I don't know if you've heard me complain about the late summer doldrums. I've had a bad case of them at this farm, and I have seen it elsewhere. Deer just pack up and leave and you don't see them for a couple of months. All you have is the few resident doe groups that stay all year round. The rest of the big mid summer herds just vanish. I have a period of doldrums that last from mid-August until mid-October. I've seen other places that have good deer populations at the same time but then everything clears out just before rut.
I have learned to deal with mine. September is hot anyway. I have foresworn September bow hunting, and stick with squirrel until Oct 1. Shortly thereafter, the deer start coming back up to the top of my ridge, and there is usually something for the kids when the Yute Hunt comes in the second weekend in October.
So what does all this have to do with food plots? This past weekend, we all sat with our binos glassing the ridges. As usual for this time of year, the pickings were mighty slim. All we had were three doe crossing one of our saddles. #3 son god bored and asked if he could go scouting on foot. I sent him off with binos and orders to be back before dark.
Just as I was about to take the truck out to find him, he came running back breathless. Eureka! He'd found the deer. He'd been locked up tight in some cedars overlooking one of the plots and could not move, lest he spook the deer.
It was time for dinner, so we did not pursue it any further. However, on the next morning, we had business out that way and we went past the food plots.
Deer scat. Deer scat everywhere. Normally, this time of year, I'd see a pile or two out squirrel hunting in the mornings. This was phenomenal. It made me wonder if the clover would ever need fertilizer. The September doldrums had been solved at last. Not only was there an abundance of deer sign, but turkey sign as well. It was an epiphany.
My shoulder is still bothering me this year, so I am sitting out bow season. My main concerns center on getting myself and my two sons ready for the various firearms seasons that begin with the Yute hunt in October. However, I have a stand or two left to deploy, and I will definately have one out to cover the two food plots. You can bet that I'll be on the phone shortly, asking when the second cutting of the pastures is going to happen and remind the fellow that he promised me help in getting a couple of new plots ready.