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Grant's Blog

Thoughts from the field

Food Plot Crops for Northern Wisconsin

For the last ten years my family and I have been trying to improve the deer habitat on our land. We have roughly 120 acres in northern Wisconsin, primarily cedar swamp.  The land is “L” shaped and the thickest forest is in the crutch of the “L,” this is our sanctuary.  From here in the “L” if you go up you end up in poplar trees and if you go right the land rises from the swamp to hardwoods.  Both areas are still very thick even though we had it select cut a few years ago and are trying to strategically place food plots.  Now we have a 1/2 white clover, 1/2 rye grass plot (1 acre) in the middle of the front forty.  We are looking at several options for other plots including chicory, turnips, soybeans, and a variety of brassicas.  The northern portion outside of our land is primarily agricultural fields which have recently been planted with corn (they used to be rotated with soy beans and corn).  The majority of the work we are doing is on the fringe of the swamp!

I have not been able to find any good advice for planting in this environment.  It seems that this environment is one that is not readily addressed.  We have been involved with QDM for the last ten years but are looking at supplementing more in plots than mineral supplements.  What would you suggest?

Thank you,

Bill

Bill,

As with all food plots, what to plant should be based on the overall management objective.  Are the plots designed to provide nutrition during the growing season or to serve as an attractant during the hunting season?  If the later, do you prefer the crops to peak in attractiveness during the early (archery) season or later during firearms season?

Some general information to consider is at that latitude soybeans are a great summer forage crop for deer and other wildlife.  However, it is important to match the number of deer feeding with the acres of plots and the browse tolerance of the crop.  Soybeans are very nutritious and palatable to deer.  Thus, soybeans can be killed by being over browsed.  If this occurs, there are three practical options.

  1. Increase the size of the plot (add more forage)
  2. Decrease the number of deer that are consuming the soybeans by harvesting does (reproductive units)
  3. Plant a less palatable crop

A mix of winter wheat and brassicas is a good blend for planting during the late summer and establishing an attractant plot.  The wheat/brassicas blend should be planted at least 45 days before the first expected frost.

If the neighboring crop fields are soybeans, the choice is easier as the deer will be eating at your neighbors during the summer, allowing you to utilize your food plot acreage for attractant crops during the hunting season.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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