Large antlers are simply a bi-product of healthy, mature bucks. The availability of nutrients in the dirt determines how healthy, drought resistant, productive, etc., plants can be. If the right quantity of nutrients isn’t in the dirt, they can’t feed the plants, and the plants therefore can’t transfer these nutrients to deer. Simply put, if deer don’t consume food produced from good dirt, they can’t produce antlers to their fullest potential.
Given this very simple, but important fact, I’m amazed that every serious deer manager doesn’t collect soil samples and have the soil in their food plots analyzed. The price of having a soil sample analyzed is about $15 per sample. That’s one of the least expensive and most important tools I use as a deer manager.
The results of a soil sample include the soil’s pH, and the amount of phosphorous, potassium, and several other trace minerals (depending on the analysis requested). This information is then used to determine how much lime and fertilizer is needed to produce a quality crop.
However, the information is even more valuable than a generic recommendation! The results will state how much of each element is necessary based on the crop and desired yield you wish to grow!! For example corn requires much more nitrogen than soybeans or clover. To get the best yield and therefore give the deer a better opportunity to express their full antler development potential, it’s critical to apply the appropriate quantity and quality of each element required for each crop. This is exactly where many food plot farmers miss the boat. They collect soil samples and send them to a lab to be analyzed. However, without telling the lab the exact crop or blend of crops to be grown in that plot, the lab is forced to either not provide any recommendations or provide a generic recommendation. This usually results in producing crops that don’t express their full quality or quantity potential, and therefore the deer that consume these crops can’t express their full potential.
I just received the soil test results from Waters Agricultural Laboratories for every food plot at The Proving Grounds, complete with a unique lime and fertilizer recommendation for each crop. Soil tests are a fabulous tool to tune up a deer herd. If it’s not in the dirt, it can’t get to the antler.
Growing Deer together,