I live in a state full of agriculture fields. There are millions of acres of crops for wildlife to munch on all through the year, but especially in the fall. This is great for the overall health of the herd, but can be troublesome in a couple ways. That's why I like to supplement all the agriculture with some food of my own through the use of food plots.
The deer around here really hit the crops hard July through December. Early in that timeframe, they are finishing growing their racks and helping their fawns prepare for the tough winter ahead. Deer spend a lot of their time in and around soybean fields. The leafy green plant is probably the favorite of whitetails around here during the late summer. Not only do they love to eat it, but it's greatly beneficial to them and provides us with a great filming opportunity. As the beans die, so does the deer's attraction to them.
Come September, when the velvet comes off, the deer are seen less and less in bean fields. But, this all depends on when the crops were planted. In cases such as this year when farmers finished planting in July, there will still be lush bean fields into the first weeks of October. This is a great opportunity for hunters to capitalize on a free food plot!
As the beans die, the corn begins to be harvested. The farmer can't collect all the grain and the rest is left to lay on the ground. The deer, which are hitting the beans less and less, will transition into mast producing trees and corn. Just like you and I, the deer don't like eating the same thing day in and day out. They are browsers and love a variety in their diet. This is the time of year when a hunter can take advantage of providing deer with that variety through the planting of food plots.
Most fields around here are between 20 and 400 acres and therefore not exactly easy to hunt. Of course, you can hunt the edge and hope you pick the right trail for the deer to come out on, but more often than not, they'll somehow slip out into the middle of the field or be located in the wrong part of it for you to shoot. With a carefully laid out food plot, the chances of this happening are minimized. Just a month ago, we began preparations for planting 15 acres of food plots on the ground we hunt. The areas were carefully laid out to maximize hunter opportunity. This was done by creating narrow corridors surrounded by as much timber as possible. We tried to keep the plots long, narrow, and take advantage of the terrain. Most plots are going to be less than 40 yards wide which will allow the hunter to shoot all the way across. After brainstorming for many days on these locations and then realizing that some wouldn't work due to not being able to get equipment to them, we headed out.
The initial trip was wet! The four days I spent up there was accompanied by 6 inches of rain. We had to spray between showers. Needless to say, we didn't expect the round-up to fully do its job, but we had set aside the time to be up there, so we had to get something done. The 15 acres were sprayed over the course of the 4 days. I then decided to come back in just two weeks, to check everything. I knew I would have to re-spray some plots, but I was also hoping to get a good kill in some places and rent a drill to plant a few acres of forage beans.
When I went back up to the farms we hunt, I was shocked to see that most of the plots received a lethal dose of round-up and I was going to be able to plant the beans. I borrowed a tractor from a neighbor, rented a drill from the county office, and headed out. In all, I was able to get 6 acres of beans planted. The beans I planted are not like regular soybeans. They are a forage bean that produces way more tonnage than a standard beans. Their leaves will get to be bigger than the palm of your hand and can grow to be 7 foot tall. They should help hold deer on our farms through the summer and even into the fall because of their ability to stay green far longer than regular beans. I just have to hope we don't get a dry spell since they were planted so late.
I re-sprayed the few plots that needed it and now they'll be ready to be planted in August. We plan on putting in a variety of clover, chickory, turnips, kale, and triticale in an effort to provide the deer with the variety of food they desire. Combine those with the forage beans, corn, and standard soybeans that are already there, and I think they'll have a pretty good buffet of foods to eat. What we're planting will help get the deer through the winter. After the corn and soybeans have been depleted we will be providing them with brassicas(turnips and kale) that will help them get through the winter. The clover and chickory will come out of dormancy in the spring and help bridge the nutritional gap between the fall and early summer months providing our deer with almost a year round food source. In a perfect world, we'd be able to provide them with way more than what we have planted, but you have to start somewhere.
In just a few weeks, we'll head up again for the most time consuming part of the whole project. We plan on burning off each plot that doesn't have beans in it, then planting after the fire. This will get rid of the thick mat of weeds and fescue and allow our plants to get a great start. Anything that is green, will likely be burnt off from the fire. Hopefully the weather will cooperate and we'll be able to get 9 acres of fall plots in. Then after all this work, it'll be time to spend some evenings alongside these plots and benefit from all our hard work!