Fall Food Plots And Their Hunting Strategies (Episode 512 Transcript)

This is the video transcript. To watch the video for this episode click here.

DANIEL: Recently while Clay was scouting, he saw a great 10-pointer we call Moose.

DANIEL: Moose was hammering the Eagle Seed Forage Soybeans.

DANIEL: The soybeans were tall and they’ve produced a lot of forage for the deer herd throughout the summer.

DANIEL: As fall approaches, it’s time that we start thinking about our cool-season food plots.

DANIEL: Before planting, it’s always important to calibrate the drill that way your seeding rate is correct. You may have noticed that acorns tend to be larger on wetter years than on drier years. The same is true for forage seed. On wetter years seed can be larger and on drier years smaller.

DANIEL: It’s critical that you calibrate before each planting season. We’re planting Eagle Seeds Fall Buffalo Blend as our cool season forage here at The Proving Grounds, so we’re calibrating our Genesis drill and getting ready to put seed in the ground.

DANIEL: If you would like to learn how to calibrate the Genesis drill step by step, check out our clips page as we have an instructional video there.

DANIEL: Once the drill was calibrated, it was time to get seed in the ground and we started planting right into the standing forage soybeans.

DANIEL: You may say, “Gosh, why would you drive through those beans and destroy them?” However, just three days after we planted one of our food plots, Grant and I returned and many of the beans had stood back up; they were providing quality browse to deer and they were producing a lot of pods.

GRANT: It’s time to be planting fall or cool-season plots throughout much of the whitetails’ range. Further north some of the guys have already planted. Here in the Midwest it’s about time and further south you may want to wait a bit before you start planting seed.

GRANT: When to plant should be based on a couple of considerations. Most cool-season forages – small grains, annual clovers, turnips, stuff like that – do best when they’re planted about 45 to 60 days before the first expected frost. This range of planting dates is not only based on cooling temperatures based on an average year, but also the amount of daylight as it decreases each day.

GRANT: Plants need a certain amount of sunshine each day to photosynthesize or make energy. Here at The Proving Grounds, we are in that time frame. The average first frost date is about October 10th to October 15th. So, we need to be planting August 15th – that’d be 60 days to October 16th – to about September and the later in September we go, the fewer growing days we’ll have before that first frost.

GRANT: A hard frost won’t necessarily kill many of the fall food plot forages. For example, many of the small grains may stall out a little bit after a frost and then when the temperatures warm up, grow again. Some of the clovers or radishes will simply stop growing after a really hard frost.

GRANT: That’s why it’s important to plant a blend of species not only to have something that’s attractive to deer throughout a larger growing season, but so something is capturing the sun’s energy and converting that to food for deer and other critters no matter what the conditions are.

GRANT: Another really important consideration is the amount of soil moisture.

GRANT: So we’ve already planted this field, but it’s turned hot and dry again. That can be expected here in the Ozarks at late August/early September. So we’ve stopped planting and we won’t start planting again until there’s at least moisture or rain in the forecast.

GRANT: Fortunately, we used the Buffalo System. As you can see, we’ve already drilled through or used a Genesis drill to plant this area and there’s either mulch on the ground where there was a tire track or standing vegetation – in this case, Eagle Seed Forage Soybeans – shading the soil, keeping that temperature down and conserving soil moisture. That’s critical because we’ve already planted this field and if we had disced it and that sun is baking down on it, that first inch of soil, gosh, it can get to 120 or even hotter and that can kill germination in seeds.

GRANT: As it is, these seeds will lay there cool and dormant waiting on moisture or in the shade having enough moisture to go ahead and grow.

GRANT: I’m sure I’ll get some questions, “Well Grant, about 50% of your beans are laying on the ground.” But they’re not wasted at all.

GRANT: See beans – being legumes – break down really quickly when there’s moisture when it rains. So the beans on the ground – remember about 50% are standing – are still making pods. But the ones on the ground, that’s quick-release fertilizer for my fall food plot, the Fall Buffalo Blend.

GRANT: Beans break down much quicker than a cereal grain. So as soon as we get rain, and the seed we planted start growing, that rain will cause these beans on the ground to decompose rapidly, giving a big push of fertilizer right when that fall food plot needs it.

GRANT: The slow-release fertilizer, in the form of the beans laying on the ground, not only are going to going to add nutrients which make the plants grow better but makes it much more attractive. And who doesn’t want their fall vegetation super attractive to pull those bucks into the plot?

GRANT: The Buffalo System is a year-round project. So that fall crop, the Fall Buffalo Blend, will come on strong. Deer will feed on it all winter. In the spring, it will bolt or put on a bunch of tons quickly. We’ll plant right through that and then terminate with the Goliath crimper – that Fall Buffalo Blend. And that becomes slow-released fertilizer, but it’s even slower. It breaks down slower than this rich legume we’ve got laying on the ground here which gives me nutrition through that long summer growing season. And because there’s mulch longer, it gives me many more months of weed suppression.

GRANT: As a quick summary, the time to plant fall plots is 45 to 60 days before the first expected frost in your area. We could always have a really early, a really late frost. And when there’s ample soil moisture.

GRANT: Another huge advantage to the Buffalo System in the fall rotation is we didn’t clean the table. If we had disced this field, it would be bare. There’s no rain, nothing growing, and deer would go, “Gosh, there’s nothing here. Grant doesn’t like me. I’m going to go feed on the neighbor’s property or wherever there’s a food source.”

GRANT: As it is, we’ve kept the buffet open. We didn’t clean the table. We’ve still got the last course here, and there’s plenty of it with the new course coming out of the ground. We’ve got video of bucks feeding in here daily and they’re going to continue feeding because there’s, obviously, more food than they’re going to consumer before the next crop comes on strong.

GRANT: There’s more than just vegetation here. The Eagle Seed beans have made a bunch of pods. Those pods will mature over time and be an awesome cold season food source – a big attraction. Because when it gets cold, deer love those pods. They’re full of energy. And you can bet somebody on the GrowingDeer Team will be hunting and likely tag some bucks here.

DANIEL: Having a food plot system like the Buffalo System that provides standing soybeans with pods and greens underneath, well, it’s not only healthy for the soil, but it also produces great hunting opportunities.

GRANT: We’ve had so many successful hunts here we don’t want to limit this to one location. So I’ve got a 15-foot Redneck Blind over here that allows me to see up around the corner and this whole flat area down here and that’s been awesome. But that’s only really for a south or a west wind. In the winter we have a lot of north wind so if I turn around, I’ve got another Redneck down 100 yards or so at the other end of the field and that allows us to cover this whole portion of this plot. So, on a strong north wind, a cold day, we can zip down there or come in from the south, get in that blind by coming up the creek; deer never know we’re in their area. And that cold day, it’s going to be a north or west wind and thermals going downhill sinking to the creek. That’s a perfect location and it has put a lot of venison in the Woods’ freezer.

DANIEL: During the opening day of Missouri’s firearms season just a few years ago, Raleigh and I had a fun hunt out of a Redneck Blind overlooking Crabapple.

DANIEL: It was a still, cool morning and the thermals were rolling down off the mountain, taking our scent to the creek that was behind us. This allowed us to hunt the entire Crabapple food plot without alerting any deer.

DANIEL: Crabapple has standing grain and greens growing underneath. But because it was so cool that morning, we suspected that deer would be feeding on the energy-rich pods.

RALEIGH: (Whispering) I think I’ll take it.

UNKNOWN: (Whispering) Yeah?

RALEIGH: (Whispering) Yeah. Might as well.

DANIEL: Winchester’s Deer Season XP was accurate and hit its mark.

DANIEL: As we were enjoying the moment, Raleigh looked over and noticed there was a doe still out in the plot feeding on the pods.

DANIEL: Having the standing beans helped Raleigh punch two tags and bring home a lot of fresh venison.

DANIEL: We all get excited when we make a great shot on a doe and she goes down within sight.

UNKNOWN: (Whispering) (Inaudible)

DANIEL: Some folks may stop hunting at this point. If they see a doe go down within sight of their hunting location, they may climb down, recover the doe and go home. But if you’ve got another tag in your pocket, especially a buck tag, you better sit tight.

DANIEL: Some hunters fear that having a harvested deer down in the area that they’re hunting will alert other deer. Deer don’t look at a doe laying on the ground and think, “Gosh, we got to get out of here.” Deer simply see and smell another deer. When one’s lying down within sight of a hunter, that’s the time you sit tight and see what else will show up.

DANIEL: Two seasons ago, I harvested a mature doe that went down at the edge of a food plot.

DANIEL: (Whispering) I’ve already put one in the chamber. I’m on safety, but I’m ready for the next one to step out.

DANIEL: And I got to see quite the show as just a few minutes after tagging that doe, multiple deer came over to check her out and they never associated her with danger.

DANIEL: In fact, a few hours later I heard a soft grunt up on the mountain, I hit the Messenger, and a few minutes later a nice buck was coming down the mountain, and he was headed straight for the doe that I’d harvested.

DANIEL: (Whispering) Buck down. Oh my word, Wes. Look at that.

DANIEL: Just a few days later, Grant and I were hunting in a Redneck Blind overlooking a bedding area and early into the hunt I was able to punch another doe tag.

GRANT: She’s down by that big clump of grass.

DANIEL: (Whispering) Yeah.

DANIEL: Later that morning a hit list buck we call HeadTurner walked out right on the edge of the bedding area.

GRANT: I’ve got grass right over the kill zone. Hit the Messenger, Daniel.

GRANT: That was a good deer. He sees your doe.

DANIEL: If you look closely, you can see that another deer had bedded down close to the doe that I’d harvested. HeadTurner wasn’t frightened. In fact, seeing the doe probably gave the appearance that all was clear and HeadTurner kept on going up the mountain right towards us.

GRANT: He’s down, he’s down. HeadTurner is down. Can you believe that?

DANIEL: Oh my word.

DANIEL: This season don’t be afraid to stay in the blind or stand after harvesting a deer.

DANIEL: Deer rarely associate a harvested deer with danger. In fact, getting down, recovering a doe, and going back and climbing up into your stand, well that just leaves more scent and can actually alert more deer than if you just stayed in your stand or blind.

GRANT: Just because you harvest a deer doesn’t mean you need to get out of the stand. We stayed put and it resulted in a nice mature buck after we’d shot the doe.

ANNOUNCER: GrowingDeer is brought to you by Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s. Also by Reconyx, Eagle Seed, Nikon, Winchester, LaCrosse Footwear, Morrell Targets, BOG, Hook’s Custom Calls, Montana Decoys, Summit Treestands, Drake Non-Typical Clothing, RTP Outdoors, Yamaha, Fourth Arrow, onX Hunt, ScentCrusher, Scorpion Venom Archery, Bloodsport Arrows, Code Blue, D/Code, G5 Broadheads, Prime Bows, and Redneck Hunting Blinds.

DANIEL: The GrowingDeer Team enjoys sharing hunting tips and management techniques with others. And one way that we do this is we work with landowners and hunters over the phone as they develop habitat management and wildlife plans for their properties.

JAIME: Hello.

GRANT: Hey, this is Grant Woods calling.

JAIME: Hey, Dr. Woods. How are you?

GRANT: I am great today. How are you?

JAIME: I can’t complain.

DANIEL: Grant recently spoke to a landowner in Georgia and assisted him with two of his properties.

GRANT: All right. Which property would you like to start on?

JAIME: Um. Let’s start with the one down in Eufaula…

GRANT: Yeah. Yeah.

JAIME: …the larger property.

GRANT: Yeah. And your property, of course, lays primarily east to west and pivot irrigation heavy on the south, some ag on the northwest and ag not too far off on the east.

GRANT: When I first look at this property, just a couple of things that come to my mind is there’s ample food, at least during the summer. These pivot ag fields are gonna have summer food in ‘em for sure and probably all the other fields. So I’m not as worried about summer food on the property and you’ve got basically, you know, 300 +/- acres of early succession forage.

DANIEL: A big part of Jaime’s plan was to identify the travel corridors that traveled from the cover to the food and create food plots that helped him maximize his hunting opportunities.

GRANT: You have, you’re the biggest block of cover for approximately a mile in every direction.

JAIME: Okay.

GRANT: And that’s great news because deer spend the bulk of their hours in cover, right? So the bottom line is we cannot compete from a food point of view with the farmers on three sides of you.

GRANT: But what we can do, and this is a huge benefit, is we know where the bulk of the deer are traveling; deer and hogs are gonna travel. They’re gonna go to these ag fields. And a really easy plan for us, and less expensive than providing a big feeding food plot program, is to have staging area food plots – or smaller food plots – strategically located en route to these ag fields. And the deer are going to seek cover; there’s not that much cover around you.

DANIEL: Grant quickly identified a narrow travel corridor in the northwest corner of Jaime’s property.

JAIME: Okay.

GRANT: I just drew in a two-acre food plot right there.

JAIME: Gotcha.

GRANT: And that way deer traveling from the north into your property are going to go by that food plot. Deer going out that hardwood runner to leave your property are going by that food plot. Deer going to that ag field to the west of you are going to stop at that food plot and get a snack. That’s why it’s called a staging area plot. They’re staging there before they go out under the cover of darkness into that very large ag field to the west of you.

DANIEL: Grant and Jaime also identified other areas where they could put staging area food plots and create bottlenecks.

GRANT: I would have a stand or blind there in that narrow part, maybe, you know, oh gosh, 100 yards or less off your southern property line there.

JAIME: Ah huh.

GRANT: Because that way if you’re a bow hunter, those deer will really bottleneck down. Because they’re going to swing through there to go to those ag fields. That’s just like, you couldn’t have laid it out better if I’d planned it that way.

JAIME: Okay.

GRANT: And that way on a south wind, strong south wind in the morning, you could get in there. You could, you know, come straight down that hardwood drain, just to walk; that’s not that far to walk, get in that stand. On the assumption deer have been out in those fields during the night, and they’re coming back into the bedroom, they’re going to come back in your property.

GRANT: So a great location for our last food plot on this property, right in that little corner. So, again you could have stands on three sides of that food plot or blinds hidden in the timber, whatever. Man, that is an incredible location for a food plot that no one is gonna see because you got tall timber on three sides of it.

JAIME: Hmm, hmm.

GRANT: We never know what the wind is going to be on that Friday afternoon, so we need to be able to approach, hunt, and exit multiple places on your property for different wind directions.

JAIME: Sure.

GRANT: Because if you have…let’s say you’re taking a buddy hunting with you; you can’t have just one stand for northwest wind because you don’t want to sit, you know, right next to your buddy hunting most of the time.

JAIME: Right.

GRANT: So we need multiple stands. So that brings a point that on each of these food plots I would basically have a stand or a blind, something like, in the northwest corner and the southeast corner. And those two corners almost any wind direction you can hunt it.

GRANT: You hate to go to the expense and time of developing a nice food plot and not be able to hunt it when you want because the wind is wrong.

DANIEL: One unique feature to Jaime’s property was that there was a large reservoir to the west. Knowing that cold air sinks and warm air rises, Grant shared how Jaime could utilize the predominant thermals to be able to hunt and exit without alerting deer in the target area.

GRANT: The reservoir is large enough that during the winter – not now – but during the winter, that water is going to be warmer than the land. That warm water is going to cause air to rise over it and pull in air from the surrounding areas.

GRANT: So on a cold day you know the wind direction of your property is going to be pulled through thermals. So, I’m going to say from the western half of your property, on a cold morning – unless there’s a really strong wind, the wind is going to go right down those drains and run right in that cove of the lake we were talking about. You can just count on that.

JAIME: So if that’s the case, how would you hunt that? Because if the deer, I guess if the deer are coming towards the ag field, from the ag field, that’d be a bad time because my scent is blowing into them.

GRANT: Not necessarily. The deer are going to probably travel right up that hardwood corridor. So if you’re right down there at your property line, if you’re on the very east side, you’re scent is going right down that lake. And that’s what I call threading the needle. Your scent is right on the edge of where the deer are traveling but it’s never going to get there because it’s not hot enough to rise up to them.

GRANT: Threading the needle stands are the best because deer believe they are secure, and they’re moving freely through the area, and your scent is just a few degrees off their travel path.

DANIEL: Jaime also owned another property that he wanted assistance with, so we zoomed out of the onX Map, shifted over a few miles and took a look.

GRANT: And I’m on your other property now which is similar habitat except now you’ve got mature trees or more mature trees; relatively flat, topo lines are really far apart here. Deer home ranges vary a lot but let’s just say on average they’re about a mile, that’s just an average. When I look at a mile radius – think of the Rubik’s Cube – there’s no major food for a mile in any direction.

DANIEL: If Jaime adds quality food to his property the deer in the surrounding areas whose home ranges overlap with Jaime’s property, well, they’re going to find that food and they’re going to want to spend more time on Jaime’s property.

DANIEL: Jaime indicated that he desired to thin the pines on his property within the next few years.

GRANT: When you thin this, we’re going to plant food plots right down those rows.

JAIME: Sure.

GRANT: And then when you thin – I’m so thankful that you’re thinning. If we run the rows straight east and west, they get sunshine all day long and will dry out the soil. It won’t conserve any moisture because they’re not being shaded…

JAIME: Right.

GRANT: … and so you get more evaporation.

GRANT: But if you make these rows, think of a powerline running north and south. Most of the soil moisture loss through evaporation occurs in the afternoon when the temperatures is the highest. And so if you have a powerline running north and south, it’s in the shade during the hottest time of the day and you don’t have near as much moisture loss.

JAIME: How wide should that be? Each of those rows?

GRANT: I don’t want it any narrower than 20. 15 is absolutely the narrowest, so you get enough sunlight in there during the day.

JAIME: Yeah.

GRANT: You’re going to need in a year or two to do an herbicide application and the main herbicide should be Imazapyr. Generic formulations are like Chopper – as in helicopter – Gen II, Generation II, blah, blah, blah. That’s the best herbicide to control sweetgums and it’s very friendly to most of the native plants that would want to come up, native vegetation plants.

GRANT: From a deer point of view, everyone says, “Oh man, that’s hard to hunt. They can be in cover within a bound or two.” It’s just the opposite. It’s always perspective that matters. So what happens is because deer are so close to cover, just like the hidey hole food plots we developed on your other property, they’re very calm.

JAIME: Okay.

GRANT: And these rows we’re making, these open rows, it channelizes the wind so even when it’s a little swirly the wind direction is constant on your property.

GRANT: This is so incredible. You will never be bored hunting, you, and your family. You’re going to start, let’s just say at your house. And you get in the property a little bit so people can’t see you off the road, and you just ease down and you look down a row. You don’t see any deer, any turkey, whatever season it is. You just walk real quietly, maybe another 50 yards or whatever, or 30 yards, whatever it is, look up that row.

GRANT: You’re stalking and spotting and then you see a critter. Then let’s say gosh it’s out of your range, or whatever it is, and it’s up there 150 yards, or 200 yards, or whatever. You get in the adjoining row on the downwind side, walk perfectly silently right up the edge of your food plot in that row, get to about the right distance, stalk right through, and you don’t have to get too close, obviously, with a gun. You’ll be able to bow hunt this way really easy and right there you are. And the critter never knows you’re in the world.

GRANT: This is the most productive habitat pine forest can be.

DANIEL: We’re confident that if Jaime implements these plans, he and his family will enjoy many great hunts throughout the years.

DANIEL: Grant and Clay were in Kentucky this week and they saw a lot of action. Unfortunately, Grant didn’t punch a tag in Kentucky, but he’s excited to get back to The Proving Grounds because our season opens in just a few days.

DANIEL: If you enjoy the hunting tips and the management techniques that we share on GrowingDeer, well, share a link with your buddies because they’ll probably also enjoy the content.

DANIEL: Whether you’re planting food plots, sitting in the tree stand, or just enjoying a walk outside, I hope you take time every day to slow down and enjoy Creation. But more importantly, I hope you seek the Creator and find the purpose He has for your life.

DANIEL: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.