What should we do to improve the hunting and food plots on our small farm in Wisconsin?

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I have a few questions. I manage a small parcel of land, 24 acres to be exact, but hunting in our area was tough due to a few factors this year. Now that the season here in Wisconsin is all but over with the bitter cold setting in, I am evaluating my season and all my camera photos to set a new plan for next year and would like your advice or input. My first question is: We have a smaller ag field on the property that a farmer plants in corn for us and I plant the outer edges in food plots. This year I got some more equipment and am looking to plant the whole 4 acres of food plots myself. Would it be best to plant half in an annual like brassicas and half in a mix of clovers and wheat or would it be best to plant one species in the whole field? The land is surrounded by production agriculture with over 100 acres of corn and alfalfa each within a quarter mile. Our land has a hilltop hardwood ridge between two large cedar swamps. The next question is: One of the farms that borders our land is a factory type farm and employs crop damage tags to harvest a ton of deer. I like the fact of the intense doe harvest before and during hunting season but it made it tough from early October to mid December as the deer went total nocturnal and seemed to vanish. I thought it was over hunting of our small parcel but it was a regional problem as we ended up the season with two deer, a nice 9 point and a yearling buck (my wife’s first deer). During the firearms season out of a total of 25 people and around 3000 acres of land we did the best. No one saw much of anything buck wise and very few does were sighted, it was not just eyes – all game cameras went dead too like the deer just vanished. Any advice on how to deal with this problem or hurdle? We only access two stand sites to hunt the property and unless working on timber management or food plots we never walk in swamp land or any areas that are known bedding areas. Thanks for your time. Have a blessed new year and I look forward to 52 new episodes of the show, I can’t wait every week to see what is next.

Kyle, congrats on your previous successes and thanks for your support! As a fellow Wisconsinite I understand the frustrations that go along with tremendous fluctuations in local deer herd numbers across the state. Not sure where you are at exactly, but I see a lot more deer in SE WI than in N WI, and for some obvious reasons…food, predators, and hunter numbers. We could talk all day about WI deer management, but I’ll choose to save that for another day. Your first question was how you should go about planting the large (4 acre) ag field. My answer would be to experiment. Since the property is surrounded by ag, I would expect little over browsing during the early fall. Thus, I love the thought of providing a smorgasbord of quality forage types in your food plots. The majority should still be planted with grains because my guess is the surrounding farmers till the fields after harvest. Try out a pattern like this: 2 acres of corn, 1 acre of soybeans, ½ acre Broadside (great mixture of brassicas, winter wheat and soybeans made by Eagle Seed), and ½ acre of clover. This will be a great way to view what the deer are preferring to eat during different times of the year. Monitor from an observation stand or time lapse mode on trail cams and hunt based upon what you are seeing. Your second question may be a tough hurdle. From your description it sounds as though the deer numbers are low in your area and the factory farm shoots every doe they can. Tough scenario to deal with because you can’t really blame the farmers for using their ag tags because the crop is their moneymaker. Also, shooting at them with rifles will turn them nocturnal. Maybe you could ask if you would be able to fill their ag tags with the use of a bow before season? Could be a win win. You get to hunt and the deer get shot at less, and eventually learn it is safe to feed during the day again. I hope these suggestions help. Hunt safe!

— Andrew Gall, GrowingDeer.tv