Food Plots: Corn Now for Antlers Later (Episode 13 Transcript)

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WOODS: It’s February 12th and it’s just a couple days before Valentine’s Day and we’re all thinking about getting goodies for our spouse or our children.  It’s also a time to think about how many goodies are left out there for your deer herd.  One of the ways we are promoting herd health is using corn in our food plot blends here.  Now, corn is very high in energy and, and energy and carbohydrates are critical for a deer herd this time of year.  You see some scattered snow on the ground and it’s cold.  It’s been miserable for several weeks in a row.  Boy, energy is just critical this time of year.  You hear a lot of protein, protein, protein, but in fact, most of deer herds around America are short on energy.  Corn is a readily digestible source of energy for white-tailed deer.

WOODS: One of the big misconceptions about corn is that it can only be grown in the Midwest and that’s not true.  I’m down in the Ozark Mountains, you can see in the background.  This is not the Midwest.  There’s not a corn combine in counties and counties and counties around me.  But, with new roundup ready technology and the new varieties of corn, you can grow corn in a lot of places.  We fertilize heavily, using composted litter and use a no-till drill, because it’s way too rocky to plant in here with a regular corn planter, and grew a very successful standard corn.  It’s not a perfect stand of corn, but it’s a great stand of corn for wildlife and that’s what your objective is:  wildlife management.

WOODS: It’s not a warm season food plot.  When corn’s first growing and coming out of the ground in just a stalk, deer don’t consume that at all unless they're really hungry.  If you have deer eating corn stalks, you’ve got too many deer for the food resources in your area.  A little later in the year, corn will start making silk and silks are very palatable to deer.  And as a matter of fact, if a deer consumes this silk off a developing ear, it won’t pollinate and make grain, so if you’ve got deer wearing out all your silk, you’ve got too many deer to grow corn successfully in your area.  A little later in the year, keeps growing and developing what we call a milk stage.  And when ears get in the milk stage, little milky kernels, deer tend to like that, but they don’t bother it a whole lot.  So now we’ve went through the whole warm growing season.  We haven’t provided a lot of food for deer.  That’s the negative of corn, but there are plenty of positives to outweigh that.  Gets into the fall.  Day length starts getting shorter.  These kernels start hardening off or drying.  And it will actually make a little dent in the kernel.  That’s when deer move to them.  Because now it’s “ripe” or really palatable.

WOODS: Corn on an ear, especially if you’re planting food plots in an area where it doesn’t produce corn, deer have a little learning curve.  They’ve got to realize that inside that is something good to eat.  It’s like hiding Valentine’s treats from your kids in a dirty sock.  They're not going to look in a dirty sock expecting to find chocolate.  They’ve got to learn it.

WOODS: Now deer love corn.  There’s just no denying that.  Whether it’s spread out on the ground or on a cob, deer are addicted to corn.  Oftentimes you go into a corn field, you see ears hanging down, you say, “Boy there’s a lot of grain left.”  But you go in there and peel it back and every single kernel has been removed.  Deer have no problem removing this, especially if they're slightly hungry.

WOODS: One great thing about corn is the way it hangs down, the shuck covers it so it’s not getting exposed to moisture like your bait pile and it doesn’t have the mold problems or disease problems that you might have with a bait pile and you're not attracting deer just to one spot.  They're going to kernel, they eat everything.  They go to the next one, next one, next one, so extremely healthy, extremely natural.

WOODS: You don’t want to plant corn in the same place year after year.  Because corn removes a huge amount of nitrogen from the soil.  I like to rotate corn and soybeans.  Soybeans produce a lot of nitrogen and put that in the ground.  Corn takes a huge amount of nitrogen to be productive, so if you plant soybeans in an area two years in a row, you're building up quite a bit of nitrogen, organic nitrogen in the soil.  If you come back and put corn right on top of that, it’s going to be very productive and really pull a lot of nitrogen out.  And you're breaking that disease cycle of planting the same thing over and over and over in the same food plot and if you do get a pest or disease that’s working on soybeans and you totally go corn one year and there’s nothing, no soybean residual there for the pests to eat on, you’ll kill that cycle or break that cycle, so rotating crops is a great way to keep healthy food plots and a corn/legume, corn/soybean rotation is really good.

WOODS: We don’t plant our corn at a real high density.  You hear about guys in Iowa getting 250, give or take, bushels per acre yield.  That’s probably not realistic for most food plot situations.  I’m gonna plant my grain at a lower density per acre to make sure I get a crop, because usually food plots aren’t the high quality soil like you find in a big Iowa corn field.  You can still make grain there.  Just reduce the density of your stalk so you don’t have as much competition of one stalk to another for sunlight and moisture and nutrients.  We consider if we get 80 bushels per acre or more – man, you think about 80 bushels per acre – a bushel of corn’s about 56 pounds per bushel.  You're looking at over 4,000 pounds of grain per acre.  That’s huge. You can’t buy it somewhere else that someone else grew, transported, bagged, remarketed, resold – you can’t buy corn as cheap as you can grow it in most situations.

WOODS:  So let’s summarize a little bit.  Corn is not a warm season food source.  It can be planted anywhere.  It’s an awesome late season source of energy.  The energy right now is producing more fawns, bigger antlers and more milk next year.  So corn is always a part of my food plot program if I have room to plant it.

WOODS: Next week on GrowingDeer.tv we’re going to talk about winter wheat, maybe a wheat/clover blend.  Wheat may be the most commonly planted crop for wildlife food plots throughout America.  It, too, has pluses and minuses.

WOODS: A couple of weeks ago we showed an episode about trapping here at The Proving Grounds.  We just had a huge response!  I can’t believe so many people were interested in trapping and the effects of predators on game populations.  Because of that response, we decided we would come up with a little contest and have some fun.  We’re gonna give away a full raccoon and an opossum hide.  Boy, their pelts are just beautiful.  To whoever encourages the most of their buddies to get our weekly email about GrowingDeer.tv.  There’ll be some instructions online.  Then in a separate contest, just at random, for all the new people that sign up from this point on through GrowingDeer.tv for the next week or two, we’ll go through those names and we’ll draw one at random and ship them a raccoon pelt trapped here at The Proving Grounds.  So, encourage your buddies.  There’ll be some instructions online just see the contest and you can have a really nice raccoon and possum pelt to put in your hunting lodge or house.

WOODS: Thanks for watching us on GrowingDeer.tv.