Over the past few years we have been testing different cover crop varieties and planting methods here at The Proving Grounds. We do this to continue learning how we can improve the soil. Food plots are fun to hunt over, but food plots are tools. These tools work to transfer nutrients from the soil to wildlife. Plants take nutrients from the soil and air then produce vegetation that is consumed by wildlife.
Some excellent research (watch episode #296 here) has been published confirming that better soil and nutrition means bigger and healthier deer. So, as you may have guessed by now, cover crops are used to improve your soil! There are many ways that cover crops or, in our plots, Eagle Seed Broadside, improve the soil’s health. Some of the benefits are immediate while others occur over time. Nevertheless, these improvements help to increase the quantity and quality of the nutrients that are available to the plants (watch episode #288 here).
Benefits of Cover Crops
- Cover crops keep the soil covered – Covering the soil shades out and limits weed growth in food plots. This decreases the amount of herbicide needed to control weeds.
- Cover crops reduce soil erosion – Rain droplets do not drop directly onto bare soil, therefore nutrients aren’t washed away.
- Cover crops keep nutrients in the top layer of the soil – Having an active root system year round keeps nutrients in reach of the roots rather than sinking lower into the soil.
- Cover crops decompose – Once vegetation from the cover crop is terminated, it begins to decompose. This acts as a slow release fertilizer which benefits the crops to follow.
- Cover crops are a source of mulch – The decomposing cover crops act as a mulch. Mulch holds in the necessary moisture for the soil and root system.
- Cover crops build organic matter – After the mulch breaks down it becomes organic matter which improves soil structure and overall fertility.
Do you keep your food plot’s soil active all year round? If not, I encourage you to plant cover crops. It will increase your soil’s fertility and allow you to grow larger and healthier deer!
When do bucks shed? Ever wonder why bucks shed at different times? Watch to learn how sunlight and stress influence when bucks will lose their antlers. Turkey season opens next week in South Florida! We just prepared the Winchester for some serious turkey action this spring. The Long Beard XR’s performance is clearly a winner!
What’s for breakfast after your mornings spent in the turkey woods? For us, the hogs we recently killed in Oklahoma will satisfy our hunger! Watch as we walk you through the process of making delicious homemade breakfast sausage!
Tip of the Week:
Frost seeding is awesome.
Late winter is a great time to frost seed clover. The freezing and thawing of the soil will bury small seed about an 1/8th of an inch which is perfect for clover!
Early season is here! The big question is which stand are you going to hunt? Yes, you need a favorable wind, but what else? Grant has some tips on what features every early season stand should have to make your hunt a success.
Watch this episode to learn how to easily recycle food plot nutrients and create better soil. Better soil means bigger antlers and a healthier deer herd.
Soybeans in small plots. We tried a new soybean variety this spring called Whitetail Thicket. Its viney growing tendencies might make it excel in small food plots. Now that fall is here, we checked the plots planted with Whitetail Thicket to see how they’ve withstood the browse pressure this summer.
This time of year we receive a lot of questions like, “What’s wrong with this deer?” Grant has an idea of what most of the folks are asking about.
Tip of the Week:
It’s a great time to get your fall food plots started. A little rain and you’ll have fresh, tender food all the way through late season.
I really like it when it rains during August! Let me explain. The average first frost date at The Proving Grounds is around October 10th. Most cool season crops do best when they are planted 45-60 days before the first frost. That means I need to plant during mid August at my place.
I often use the broadcasting technique to plant cool season blends such as Broadside. I frequently broadcast this blend into standing soybeans that have been heavily browsed. This technique works best if the seed makes seed to soil contact and has ample soil moisture to germinate and grow.
If the seed is spread while it’s raining, the droplets will literally splash a fine layer of dirt over the seeds. There’s obviously ample soil moisture for the seeds to germinate. Spreading seed while it’s raining almost always results in a high germination rate!
There are some exceptions. Extremely hard rains may result in the seed being washed away if there’s runoff occurring. If the seed is planted in an area where weeds or other “duff” prevent the seed from contacting the soil it’s unlikely the young seedling will survive. This is because germinated seeds are like new babies. Once a baby or a seed’s roots come out both are hungry.
Seeds feed primarily by getting their itty bitty roots in the ground and absorbing nutrients. Rain can make this process much easier for young seedlings!
I really like it when it rains during August!
Wanna see more deer? Scout the oaks now! Acorns can be a HUGE factor in deer patterns. We’ll show you how we scout acorn production. Then we create a new hidey hole food plot by hand. We’ll show you a step-by-step guide to get this killer spot started. Trouble! We found a problem in one of our best hunting plots – then we found a solution. We’ll show you how we ROSE ABOVE the problem.
Tip of the Week:
Bring deer closer to your stand by creating paths of least resistance in key areas.
Which arrows are you gonna shoot this fall? Lightweight for speed or heavy for punch power? Watch Grant test both types and make his decision.
Captured! Adam placed a Reconyx UltraFire in a bean field and got great video of deer absolutely mowing the beans. Plus, Grant does a food plot follow-up in our Whitetail Thicket soybean field – a promising variety for small food plots!
Tip of the Week:
Summer sun and heat will take a toll on your bow string. Keep it happy, keep it waxed.
Deer love soybeans! They crave the protein rich forage during the summer and the energy rich grains during the winter. In fact, deer crave soybeans so much that they can totally consume a young soybean crop in smaller fields such as food plots long before hunting season. Does that mean soybeans are a bad choice Read More HERE
Regardless of whether you already have a food plot program or are just getting started, there are several things to keep in mind.
First and foremost, is to match the crops you plant to your food plots. Different plants require different nutrients, moisture, and amounts of sunlight. Plots that run east-west receive more sunlight than those that run north-south. Additionally, northern slopes retain more moisture than southern ones. Knowing the soil and terrain can make the difference between a great food plot and a poor food plot.
Getting a soil test done and prepping the seedbed before planting allows a better understanding of what you need (if anything) to add to the soil and better guarantees the survival of the plot. However, maintaining food plots is just as important as planting them. Spraying herbicide to reduce competition from weeds and controlling pests will maximize the plants’ growth.
Last but not least, is to routinely service your equipment. It doesn’t matter if it is a pocket knife or a large tractor, maintaining equipment will help make them work more efficiently. Properly maintained equipment is also safer to use.
While planning next year’s food plots use these ideas to not only improve the wildlife’s health but also increase your chance of harvesting a mature buck next fall!
Sowing seeds for the future,
We’ve got footage that shows our Hot Zone fence in action. The fence is only 2 feet high yet it keeps the deer from hammering important portions of food plots when the beans are young! We have the Reconyx footage that shows how. Watch it here!
Ever test buck grunt calls? We grabbed a boxful of old and experimental calls and took them to the field. It’s all about getting your tools ready for the approaching deer season.
Tip of the Week:
Reduce tick bites: Permethrin, applied appropriately to clothing, does a great job of keeping ticks off.
It’s been raining at The Proving Grounds. Throughout the US heavy rains have washed-out roads and bridges causing very serious damage. These rains have also damaged much of the agricultural landscape. Do you want to protect the hard work and money in your food plots? Watch now to learn how you can stormproof your food plots!
It’s always exciting to see a new buck in the food plots. Now we need your help to name this buck!
July 4th, 1776 is the birth of our American independence. Our freedoms come from God. May God bless everyone who defends those freedoms.