March 2007
Featured Articles

Have Patience when Plotting a Plan for Success

 
  When putting together a plan, think things through carefully. Because if you do things right and combine some woods work with your food plots and a couple well placed sanctuaries, you can dictate to your whitetail herd where they will bed, where they will travel and where they will feed. This sure makes hunting them a lot easier.
By Todd Amenrud

Whitetail management, planting food plots and being a land-steward are very hot topics these days. So many people read about it or hear about it and want to give it a try. They rush to the Co-op to buy a few bags of the "whitetail mix," then hurry out to their property to get it in the ground. Three weeks later they wonder why nothing is growing. I’m here to tell you; first and foremost you must become educated.

Also, managing your whitetail herd and being a land-steward are on-going endeavors; you do what you can now and add to it as you go. Eventually, within a fairly short time, you have something that you can be proud of and a property that will provide you with years of great hunting and fun with your family and friends.

Many people have tried the "food plot thing" with limited success. What is surprising is a good many are going to plant the same thing, the same way, with the same results again this year. The definition of insanity is "doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." If you’re going to do it, do it right! There are many places to go for education on this topic. You can personally ask planting questions on the BioLogic website www.plantbiologic.com or you can call toll free (866) 867-5268 to speak to a habitat specialist.

 
Learn the exact size of each plot so that you can calculate seed, fertilizer and lime coverage. If this is not easy for you with the map or the aerial photo simply take your laser range finder to each plot site. One acre is 43,560 square feet or 4,840 square yards. Knowing the size of each plot will save you time and money.  
The first thing I would suggest is to develop a plan. Think about what your goals are, what your budget is, evaluate your site, think about a timeline and access to equipment.

I said think about what your goals are, "Well, duh – I want to grow MONSTER bucks and kill at least one Boone & Crocket every year." Come on now; seriously think about your objectives. I’m not saying those goals are impossible, but start with some realistic, simple goals. Do you want to attract deer? Do you want to grow bigger antlers and healthier deer, or, both? The reason you need to decide is because the plan for each specific goal would probably vary.

Budget and timeline kind of go hand in hand. Everybody wants to grab a bag of seed and get it in the ground, be done with it and watch big bucks come running. Obviously, it doesn’t work that way. As I said, managing whitetail and being a land-steward is an ongoing endeavor. You add to it and fine tune as you go. Within a couple of years you have something that you can be proud of, and if you do things right, probably an area that will provide you with awesome hunting for years to come.

It depends on your management goals as to what would be the best thing to plant. After fifteen years of planting just about everything that you can think of for whitetail, I’ve learned to keep it simple. In my opinion, a blend is a much better idea than single crops. Unless you’re a cash-crop farmer that has the knowledge, pesticides, herbicides and equipment to care for that specific crop, you’re setting yourself up for failure. With a blend there are usually several plants that will do well no matter how harsh your conditions and farming practices are. On the properties that I manage throughout the country, I have very good luck with all of the blends from Mossy Oak
 
  Once you figure out what you will plant and where you will plant it, the next step is to do a soil test of each proposed plot. Pictured is what the first page of the results of a BioLogic soil test look like. You must know what you will need to add to the soil for success. These results will tell you exactly what you will need to do to the soil to have success planting the specific blend that you submit with the sample.
BioLogic. Each provides a different aspect towards my management goals.

Because of a whitetail’s needs changing so often during the season, I never "put all my eggs in one basket." I classify my plots into two categories, "feeding plots" and "hunting plots." My feeding plots are usually fairly large, often made up mostly of perennials (Clover Plus is my favorite), and I don’t hunt these plots. My goal is to provide as much nutrition to as many deer as possible and I want them to feel comfortable about accessing this nutrition whenever they want.

In my "hunting plots" my goal is to draw them in so I can kill them, or to use it as a magnet so that I can intercept them on the way to the plot. In these plots, I try and "leave the table set" for them all through the season. If you just plant one thing in a specific plot you are limiting the time that you are going to be able to use it for a magnet. I will probably divide a specific hunting plot up into 4 to 6 sections, depending upon how large the plot is. I will usually plant Clover Plus in one of the spots, one of BioLogic’s blends that contain brassica cultivars in one (usually Maximum but possibly Premium Perennial), in one I’ll plant BioMaxx and the remaining areas I’ll usually save and do a fall planting of Full Draw, Trophy Oats or Outfitter’s Blend. By planting this variety I’ve given them something that is going to keep them coming to this spot from before the opening of bow season to long into the winter.

One thing to note is that you must have adequate acreage to do this tactic justice. For instance if you have only a ¼ acre plot, you are probably better off planting just one blend. Otherwise, there’s not going to be enough of any one cultivar to keep them coming back. They’ll wipe you out too soon.

 
One of the details that should be thought out in the planning process is access to equipment. That goes two ways: first, what equipment do you have access to? Do you have the big ol’ John Deere or just an ATV? Second, will you be able to access where your food plots are located with the equipment that you have? Nobody wants to get the tractor stuck between two oak trees trying to reach a remote location. Planning is very important.  
Once you figure out what you will plant, corresponding with the goals that you’ve set, the next step will be to figure out exactly where you will plant each blend. Sit down with a topographical map or an aerial photo and put some thought into where each blend would do the best at what it is designed for. Is it a blend that provides great nutrition, or is it a blend that’s designed for attraction and to hunt over? Consider prevailing wind directions, access to the area, possible sanctuaries and which type of plants might grow best in a specific type of soil.

Learn the exact size of each plot so that you can calculate seed, fertilizer and lime coverage. If this is not easy for you with the map or the aerial photo simply take your laser range finder to each plot site. One acre is 43,560 square feet or 4,840 square yards. Knowing this will save you time and money.

When planting anything for whitetail, proper preparation is a key to beautiful, lush plots, so the next step will be to do a soil test of each proposed plot. A very fast, easy, in-expensive way to do this is to go to www.mossyoakbiologic.com, click on the BioLogic Soil Test  tab and follow the simple instructions there. Otherwise, most county seats or feed & seed dealers should do this for you for around $10 to $25. The reason that you want to choose what you will plant in each plot before you do the soil test is because most soil test results will come back to you with exactly what you will need to add to the soil for that specific crop to do well.

Once you get the soil test results, plan on the other things that you will need like lime, fertilizer and herbicides. Get it all lined up in advance so you don’t have to scramble at the last minute.

I must mention that food plots are only one portion of the "whitetail management puzzle." Food plots are going to decrease the home range size of each animal on your property and in turn increase your property’s carrying capacity. However, if you want to notice a significant increase in the amount and size of the animals on your property you should combine habitat manipulation, woods work and selective harvest along with planting food plots. If you provide more food, but don’t give them more "housing" then your impact probably won’t be what you expect. On the same note if you harvest every young buck that you see – guess what? Don’t expect to see any trophy bucks. Dead deer won’t grow!

If you do some well thought out planning and follow these steps, the rest of the planting process is basically "time on the tractor." If you plan things out properly, you can provide optimum nutrition for your herd, grow bigger bucks and attract more deer than you ever thought possible.

Todd Amenrud is the Director of Public Relations, Territory Manager & Habitat Consultant for BioLogic.