Food Plot Strategies: Learning From Experience (Episode 288 Transcript)

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

GRANT: Finished up there?

UNKNOWN: Yeah. I’ve…

GRANT: You finish out. I’m gonna start zig zagging.

UNKNOWN: All right. Sounds great.

GRANT: We’ve been refining our food plot techniques for years and we enjoy sharing what we learn.

GRANT: It’s been great fun trying and learning new techniques, but even more fun experiencing the quality of the deer herd as it’s improved throughout the years. One of my favorite authors, and fellow hunters, Andy Andrews, has taught me that it’s better to learn from the experience of others than to make the mistakes myself. We call our place The Proving Grounds. We named it that because it’s literally one of the rockiest, steepest, and poor soil farms I’ve worked in my entire career. We figure that if anything works or grows here, it’ll certainly work at your Proving Grounds.

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GRANT: We just finished planting our spring food plots, so this morning, Adam and I went back and reviewed the first plots we planted to see how they’re doing.

GRANT: This is a hidey hole food plot, small plot in the middle of the timber, we call Prickly Pear. This general area is so dry and boney, there’s still prickly pear cactus growing right here in the area.

GRANT: You can see the wheat, and even a few brassica stems, where we had planted the Broadside blend in here last fall.

GRANT: Recently, we killed the Broadside and drilled Eagle Seed forage soybeans right into the standing vegetation.

GRANT: Forage soybeans are clearly one of the most attractive forages to deer. In addition, a lot of research has shown that deer that consume soybeans produce larger antlers and more fawns than deer in the same area but where their range doesn’t include soybeans. Given the obvious advantages of soybeans, I’ve tried different varieties and planting rates to try to come up with a recipe that will work well in hidey hole food plots.

GRANT: Based on some of my past work, this year, in our smaller plots, we’re planting a special variety from Eagle Seed that’s a small seeded, viney soybean. It kind of grows like a morning glory, or some other viney plant. It doesn’t produce an upright stem, and those vines tend to crawl all over each other and get so thick that deer don’t wipe ‘em out.

GRANT: On these small plots, there’s a big danger of deer over browsing the soybeans and wiping ‘em all out before they get boot tall. That’s why if you look at the rows of beans here, you see way more beans than normal. We’ve learned to increase the planting rate. More stems per square foot mean there’s more to feed and deer simply don’t wipe out the stems, so rather than plant the normal 50 – give or take – pounds per acre, we’ve planted over 80 pounds per acre in this small plot. You’ll see some clumps where there’s obviously a lot of stems. This area is so rocky that when the drill hits the rock, it’ll bounce and spill a little extra seed. That’s okay, because there’s a lot of deer in this area, a small food plot, and not many of these will survive to be a foot, two, three foot tall come deer season.

GRANT: We’ll check this plot throughout the summer and keep showing you the results, so you can incorporate our techniques at your Proving Grounds.

GRANT: We’ve moved to a larger food plot. This being about two acres, we call Blue Hole. You can tell, even from a small view, it’s larger, because there’s a lot more wheat stubble and brassica left. The deer did not eat this near as heavily as they did in the smaller hidey hole food plot we were just in. Even with all the residual crop left from last fall, we just terminated that crop, using herbicide, and drilled right through it, leaving a tremendous mulch bank. You can see the Eagle Seed forage soybeans are having no problem coming right up through all the vegetation. It’s important to know that we’ve had over five inches of rain in the last seven or eight days, and you see no sign of erosion. This vegetation slows that rain down before it hits the ground – literally, reduces the compaction, or impact. It’s going to dry out, be a mulch, and keep weeds from coming up, but the soybeans – because they’re planted appropriately – are coming right up through it. I got to tell you, this is about the ideal start to a food plot. We’ve planted Eagle’s Big Fellow variety in here, cause it’s extremely drought resistant. Now, it seems odd to be talking about drought when you just got five inches of rain, but here in the Ozarks, we almost always have a period of bad drought during the summer. We’ve just found from past experience that this particular variety – Big Fellow – does a great job of growing right through a drought.

GRANT: By the end of the summer, you won’t even see any of this wheat stubble. It will break down, decompose, and build more organic matter, basically, a slow release fertilizer. This is what built the great prairie – year after year, vegetation growing up and decomposing, or rotting down, releasing the nutrients back in the soil.

GRANT: Soil conservation is more than using a no-till drill. It’s making sure you got a cover crop out there almost year round and leaving that crop in place, so when you plant through it, the existing vegetation simply falls down, provides a mulch that conserves soil moisture, and prevents weeds from growing, so they don’t compete for that limited moisture and your fertilizer.

GRANT: Just moved through the property a little bit more in one of our smaller clover plots. We have clover here because it’s a really steep slope and a really narrow spot, so turning the tractor all the time might cause erosion. By having a perennial food plot, we’ve got good deer food and not doing any damage to the soil.

GRANT: This clover stand looks great, and it’s three years old. You might recall that in last week’s episode, we talked about one of the primary causes of clover failing is lack of nutrients. Unless there’s another wicked drought soon, I’d expect this clover stand to last for several more years.

GRANT: For comparison, this is a stand of clover we planted last fall. I simply broadcast clover into a stand of Eagle Seed forage soybeans in September, and also, broadcast this forage wheat. The wheat came up first, and it served as a great cover crop for the clover. During the spring, the clover bolted, and it’s now at eight inches to a foot tall, but the wheat has also bolted, and it’s now producing a seed head. We planted the wheat thin enough that enough sunshine’s getting down to the clover to make sure it grows well, and we’ll just leave this wheat. As the wheat heads ripen, turkey and deer will eat those. The wheat straw will fall down in the clover and add more organic matter, holding more moisture, and releasing more nutrients for the clover crop.

GRANT: We are absolutely finished with this clover crop until late fall or next spring, when we once again add fertilizer. The difference between a forage wheat and a production wheat is forage wheat will stay in that blade or grass stage longer and deer find it attractive several more weeks throughout the growing season.

GRANT: Next year, this will be a pure clover stand. We’ll test the soil; see if we need to add any fertilizer, control any weeds that show up, and watch deer and turkey enjoy the plots.

GRANT: Seeds germinating are a great reminder of the Resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ. I hope you have a chance to get outside and enjoy Creation this week, but most importantly, slow down and listen to what the Creator is saying to you. Thanks for watching