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To Food Plot or Not To Food Plot
Food Plots
Messages posted to thread:
WI_Eric 28-Jul-17
XbowfromNY 28-Jul-17
WI_Eric 28-Jul-17
CAS_HNTR 28-Jul-17
WI_Eric 28-Jul-17
drycreek 28-Jul-17
drycreek 28-Jul-17
RutnStrut 28-Jul-17
elk yinzer 28-Jul-17
Marj 29-Jul-17
MK111 29-Jul-17
happygolucky 29-Jul-17
drycreek 29-Jul-17
Habitat for Wildlife 30-Jul-17
drycreek 30-Jul-17
LETEMGROW 31-Jul-17
LETEMGROW 31-Jul-17
WI_Eric 31-Jul-17
sagittarius 31-Jul-17
Twanger 31-Jul-17
Bow Crazy 16-Aug-17
Habitat1 16-Aug-17
Bowriter 16-Aug-17
Bowriter 16-Aug-17
WI_Eric 16-Aug-17
drycreek 16-Aug-17
Topper 16-Aug-17
Bow Crazy 17-Aug-17
WI_Eric 17-Aug-17
Pat Lefemine 17-Aug-17
drycreek 17-Aug-17
XMan 17-Aug-17
nutritionist 17-Aug-17
Deerplotter 17-Aug-17
Landoscott 18-Aug-17
WI_Eric 21-Aug-17
WI_Eric 07-Sep-17
Marj 09-Sep-17
MK111 09-Sep-17


Date:28-Jul-17

Hi All - Looking for some advice/feedback for those experienced in food plotting, habitat management, deer management, etc. Situation - Family owns 93 acres in northern, WI (west of Minocqua for native Wisconsinites). 80 of 93 acres purchased ~5 years ago (Remaining 13 been in family since 1979). Early thoughts/ambitions of getting into food plotting after we purchased the 80. For those non-midwesterners that aren't up to speed, deer numbers extremely low in this part of WI due to various circumstances (ie., series of harsh winters and of course heavy predation). So low, I believe we are going on year 4 of "Buck Only" for bow and gun in the northern 1/3 of the state.

This year, my brother randomly entered a draw for a DNR "assessment" of habitat and wound up getting pulled. DNR agent came out last week, and walked the property to get an overview of habitat, wildlife, etc. Gentleman (who my brother spoke highly of) plans on providing a report to us this fall. While we weren't sure what to expect with this visit (and I didn't attend personally), one aspect I wanted to inquire about was potential impact of adding a few small foodplots. My hopes was that in all of his visits like this, does he see a noticeable positive impact to the deer herd.....specifically in this part of WI where the numbers are hurting so bad overall.

Ironically when my brother brought this up, his first reaction was to chuckle....and as my brother put it, it was a "here way go again, just another crazed deer hunter only wanting more horns" reaction. He didn't really have a good answer for this and more or less took the PC route, however he did make another comment in his walk which brought me here to discuss. He was noticing a large number of tree species, "sugar-X" (maybe sugar maple?) and specifically said that we must not have alot of deer because if we did these would all be picked clean. While we already knew this based on hrs in a tree and trail camera activity, it was a kind of an "aha" moment for me.

In discussing future plans for food plots, habitat management, etc., outside of chain saws and a Polaris Ranger (of which I don't plan on using for hard labor) we don't have any equipment for this work. Further, we don't have any small clearings and thus would need to hire out to clear any 1 or 2 acre spots. All this said, we're clearly talking BIG $$$ to make this happen. I have the resources to get to this done, however my "aha" moment brought me to the question that I hope some here can offer input on.

Will all of this time and $$$ invested into food plots have much impact if the deer #'s aren't there to begin with? Am I going to go all out on this only to find out 5-10 years (and 10-15K) later that this was a "waste" of time?

Any feedback is appreciated!

Eric

Date:28-Jul-17

I hunt in an area of NY with not many deer, a 100" buck would be a trophy. I use a leafblower to clear leaves, then rake to scrape up ground, then throw some WTI No Plow around. I do small areas and within days the deer (and bucks) show up every single day to eat. They aren't stupid and would rather eat that stuff than the bark off trees.

Date:28-Jul-17

I feel your pain XBow. Sounds like we're in similar situations. Although I do hear of nice bucks 120ish taken from time to time in the area so there's hope.

And my intentions aren't driven by the trophy buck. I'm more driven by assisting the overall herd in general....which subsequently should mean seeing more bucks subsequently. I have 3 young boys (6, 4, 18months) with boy #4 coming in October. My vision (if you will) is to install and maintain plots going forward, in hopes that when my boys (and nieces/nephews) are old enough to start hunting, that the numbers are good enough that there's a good chance we at least see deer every sit. That is not the case now. I personally can go sit out there and just enjoy the moment. I doubt this will be the case with 10-12 year old kids. So I guess I'm trying to play Kevin Costner's role in Field of Dreams, "If you build it, they will come".

Date:28-Jul-17

If you have a sea of the same habitat around you, some diversity of food should be a big draw......it will not be cheap but surely couldn't hurt.

Added food that is easy to get to in the winter, as well as great bedding areas, will surely help improved winter mortality.

Date:28-Jul-17

Thanks CAS - this is also my line of thought. This is big big woods area.....little to no AG. Due to this, I think high quality foods that are easily accessible in late fall/early winter (which starts in late Oct./early Nov up there) would be a huge draw once found. This is what I'm telling myself anyways

Date:28-Jul-17

Look at it this way. You have 80 acres to HUNT on, but there's more property around you. Your neighbors have some of the same deer you do because deer don't savy or care about property lines. If you plant food plots, you will not only still have "your" deer, you'll also pull deer in off neighboring properties. Maybe not the first year, but year-round plots will have more deer using your property in the years to come. You may be able to recoup some of the expense of clearing through timber sales, if you can find a small operator close to you. Keep in mind, it takes as much time and trouble to move a timber operation in for five acres as it does for 500 acres. I had a few food plots timbered several years ago and let them clearcut 14 acres of junk to make it worth their while. I planted back in pine trees and it is now a jungle of good browse and it's also a great bedding area. Think it over well before you cut though, and make sure that's what you want.

Date:28-Jul-17

drycreek's embedded Photo

This is my 217 acres in white, the 14 is in red. Old google earth pic shows the planted pines, but it's a jungle now.

Date:28-Jul-17

Don't depend only on the Wi DNR for land management advice. Consult an outside habitat consultant if you are serious about management. Jeff Sturgis is about the best. But Don Higgins is pretty damn good as well. Bottom line is listen to the DNR, but verify everything they tell you.

Date:28-Jul-17

Deer need cover, food, and water. In most of the country, in that order, with water being a distant third. With very limited info, sounds like you should work on cover first. At 90 acres, you are about 900 short of what you need to not worry about neighbors. So maybe do some gentle diplomacy and feel out what their situations are and see if you can get some common goals to work towards. After those two bases are covered, start thinking about food plots imo.

By: Marj
Date:29-Jul-17

I would either set up a timber harvest like drycreek said or use that "big $$$, 10-15K" and buy a chainsaw, personal protective equipment, tractor and implements and do your own habitat improvements (Craigslist could supply you with everything you need for under $15K). A timber harvest would create excellent browse/habitat, you could set up food plots in the logging landings after they are done, you have a built in trail system, plus you have some money in your pocket. I personally like to do my own habitat work vs hiring someone else to do it, but the right logger could save you a lot of money.

By: MK111
Date:29-Jul-17

I bought my farm 26 yrs ago. For 21 yrs I never seen over 3 deer in a group on the farm at one time. 5 yrs ago I took a 3.0 ac cattle pasture out of service and planted into a food plot. Now I've see up to 16 deer in the food plot feeding at one time. I figure plant some different and good for the deer and the does will show up. Then the bucks come looking for the does. That's my successful results.

Date:29-Jul-17

I bought 90 acres of wet cedar swamp in the UP of MI 3 years ago due to the price. I had a Forest Management Plan written and had my new-proud-land-ownership bubble burst by the forester walking the land with me. He told me I had crap land and would struggle to get anything to grow, yada yada. I could have quit but decided to learn and prove him wrong. Last year (year 2 of ownership), I built 4 plots of various sizes with lots of chainsaw work, brush-cutter work, raking, and humping of lime and fertilizer. I hired an excavator to open an area around 1 acre as I too had squat for openings. I laid loads of lime and got stuff to grow, well too, and we had WAY more deer than our 1st year. It was common to have 6-12 deer in the 1 acre plot and multiple deer in the smaller kill plots. They never let what I planted grow. The exclusion cages were awesome to see compared to the rest of the plots.

The goal this year has been to improve on those plots (keep the dirt improving) and I also planted 6 apple trees which are still alive (yeah for me). My excavator dude opened up another close to 1 acre clearing for us. It has been a labor of love but one I am enjoying. It is all for my son so he always has a place to go and hang his hat. He's killed 2 bucks and a doe so far from there and has passed on many deer.

I say go-for-it.

Date:29-Jul-17

drycreek's embedded Photo

Another success story:

Three years ago I got on a 400 acre lease close to me so I could spread my hunting pressure around. We saw a few bucks a few times on camera, and two does. Virtually no does in fall and very few bucks in spring.

I started planting spring and fall food plots in what openings we have. Fast forward to this year.

Date:30-Jul-17

Awesome drycreek!

Date:30-Jul-17

drycreek's embedded Photo

My buddy just sent me some more pics tonight. Trust me, this is by far the most deer we've had on this place. I'll run my cams Tuesday and put up some more pics. This ain't the midwest, but we have some decent bucks for E Texas. AR went into effect a few years ago and it has really helped the young bucks grow older. These pics are mostly from cams set on mineral blocks, but some are in or next to my pea patches. BTW, they have really eaten the hell out of the peas, but that's why they were planted ! :-) If we could get a rain .............

Eric, I didn't mean to hijack your thread, just trying to compare before plots and after a couple years of plots on this property. It's mostly pine timber with little browse before the owners thinned timber the last two years. While that is definitely helping, I think the food plots make a big difference too.

Date:31-Jul-17

LETEMGROW's MOBILE embedded Photo

I think anything you do to your land will only help. Food plots, create bedding cover so deer feel safe on your property and give them water. You will have a deer heaven. And the deer that are on your neighbors as well. As for Food plots, I got into a no till planting method 3 years ago using cover crops to help. And no I do not mean a no till drill. My tractor broke on me before plots for fall needed to be done. So I took my atv boomless sprayer and set it up on my friends quad. Sprayed everything off, seeded and rolled with a lawn roller a couple times right before a good rain. Food plots have looked just as good this way, as doing it with conventional tilling. Have done it this way with nearly every seed but corn so far. Mainly cause I don't want to deal with the trash it leaves behind. I just overseed some sort of grain in fall if possible or early spring, so i have a crop to terminate and roll over the seeds for much and germination help. This method has worked awesome and i am not disturbing the soil one bit.

Here are a few pics of plots done with this method.

Date:31-Jul-17

LETEMGROW's MOBILE embedded Photo

Soybeans this June..

Date:31-Jul-17

HappyGoLucky - congrats on the success in the UP! Hopefully the wolves aren't as much of an issue for you as they are me!

Overall, I think we have good cover as ~1/4 was selectively logged 10-15 years ago so it's quite thick now and the adjacent neighbor just selectively logged his 40. Remaining boundaries around us are generally public(snowmobile trail) and/or very large conservancy (Talking 1000s). Water sources also good as ~1/4 of 80 is bog, with small runoff ponds that fill up most of the year.

Regarding neighboring pressure, there is very little. 80 to the west is split into 2 (The 40 I noted above and another 40 to the south of him). Both owners only show up for the opening weekend of rifle and rarely utilize the rest of the year. I doubt they even have cameras for monitoring. To the east and south is the public and conservancy I mentioned. To the north (virtually right across the road), is a large lake that is surrounded with cabins.

The only missing question is regarding abundance of food? Quality of? As I mentioned the DNR assessment made it appear that there are a number of quality browse that aren't even being hit completely so this doesn't appear to be an issue. Further if this is naturally occurring in the surrounding properties (ie. all created equal), will the herd more or less spread out equally over? I would think so. So if I make the investment into plotting, this would theoretically pull more deer from surround areas to us. That's what it sounds like from some comments in the thread.

Another note about our situation that could be key: In our 4-5 years monitoring with cameras May through December, we have seen late summer/fall/through rut with pretty good deer activity on the various cameras. The big thing I have noticed however, is that late Nov and into Dec, ie. once the snow starts falling, the deer activity plummets! Drastic decrease in pictures! Is this Food related? Cover? The last 4 gun opening weekends had little no no deer sightings, much less a buck that could be taken. I feel like this aspect really lends to offering a winter food source that will hold them in longer.

Thanks again all for following up! Good discussion!

Date:31-Jul-17

WI Eric - keep in mind, the DNR will advise on habitat improvement for deer and wildlife. Foodplots are not habitat, thus outside the DNR actual scope. The end goal being long term sustainable healthy habitat for deer and other wildlife. If you want to get into foodplotting by all means, jump right in. But be warned, it can be addicting. Foodplotting and property/habitat management in reality are two very different things.

Date:31-Jul-17

I would think that the lack of deer during hunting season is the result of baiting. Regarding food plots, if you want to increase the herd size you need crop fields but food plots will certainly draw the existing deer. The more you tailor your food to meet the demand during the winter the more you will help the herd. A mixture of something like turnips, radishes, clover and wheat or oats planted in late August/early September will provide some cool weather food and will draw deer almost as well as a bait pile. The more acres the better. If you want to hold deer the more sanctuary area you have the better. Try not to enter those areas except for winter and spring.

Date:16-Aug-17
Bow Crazy's Supporting Link

It will not be a waste of time. You are in a great situation, big woods/no agriculture. If you design your parcel for better deer/better deer hunting, they will come.

Educate yourself by reading Jeff Sturgis' three books available at the "Shed" at qdma.com (link above). The first thing you want to do is create a plan for your property, Jeff's first book walks you through his thoughts on this. Steve Bartylla also has a great book on the same topics, "White-tailed Deer Management and Habitat Improvement", available on his website. (Note, this book is selling out fast and won't be reprinted so you better get a copy soon.)

Getting off topic, but maybe you aren't seeing many deer in Nov. and Dec. because they know you are there. When going to a stand you don't want the deer to see, hear or smell you. Think about accessing your stands from the outside edges of your property, and hunting outside in.

While your on the QDMA website become a member. The membership includes a subscription to "Quality Whitetails" magazine which has the latest information on deer/wildlife habitat improvements you can make on your property.

Don't forget about the chainsaw, you can create fantastic food plots by just reducing the canopy. At the same time, creating some fantastic bedding areas. Place these where you want them to use for your advantage.

Again, educate yourself first, then go from there. BC

Date:16-Aug-17

Look for what is needed most on your property,food,water,cover,security,a couple other good sites are deerhunterforum.com and allthingshabitat both are great habitat forums

Date:16-Aug-17

Just from what you wrote, I can an initial impression that may or may not be accurate. here is what I think. You cannot make deer where there are no deer. If your area is so low in deer population, then a food plot is probably not going to help. If, however, there are a few deer, scattered in the area, then six-eight, food plots of 2-3 acres in size, planted with varied crops and NOT HUNTED, may indeed be of benefit. That benefit is also going to be dependent on suitable cover. Water is a small consideration but in your area, not a major one. It may take a year or four of no hunting and plot maintenance to see the benefit...if any.

Date:16-Aug-17

Just from what you wrote, I can an initial impression that may or may not be accurate. here is what I think. You cannot make deer where there are no deer. If your area is so low in deer population, then a food plot is probably not going to help. If, however, there are a few deer, scattered in the area, then six-eight, food plots of 2-3 acres in size, planted with varied crops and NOT HUNTED, may indeed be of benefit. That benefit is also going to be dependent on suitable cover. Water is a small consideration but in your area, not a major one. It may take a year or four of no hunting and plot maintenance to see the benefit...if any.

Date:16-Aug-17

Bow Crazy - regarding your comment on the lack of Nov/Dec sightings, there is little activity from us that time of year. Typically, we (2 of us) bow hunt 1 long weekend (3-4 days) from Halloween through second week of Nov. Then 3-4 days for rifle opener before the Thanksgiving Holiday. That's it. We don't really bother with muzzle loader/late bow through December because of the lack of Deer activity seen when we are our there hunting as well as on trail cameras. We pickup cards as we are going in or out to stands. I'm not going to say we are ghosts getting to our stands and leaving, but we also aren't clumsy, we where scent-lok camo, use sprays, etc. Moral of the story, we only travel through there when hunting, which amounts to 8-10 days from Oct through end of year.

Oddly enough, we seem to have far more deer pictures late summer/early fall when we are back there cleaning trails, cutting timber, setting up/moving stands, etc. This of course gives us some optimism for the season, and then the activity seems to drop off as winter hits. This gets back to my thoughts on food sources driving them elsewhere when the snow hits.

I guess the only way to test my hypothesis is to get going on this venture and get food in the ground for them!

Date:16-Aug-17

Your last sentence makes sense to me ! Food sources change throughout the year, but you can manipulate that with food plots to some degree. I'd try it on the cheap first and if your results are encouraging, do it better next year !

By: Topper
Date:16-Aug-17

It seems the consensus is to add food plots.

I agree with drycreek to try something cheap. My recommendation would be to make some openings yourself with chain saws. Cut and remove all the woody vegetation. Pile brush in places that you want to limit deer access to the plot. You can do the same with logs or cut them up for firewood to use or sell. The stumps will still be there but that is ok. Then kill all other vegetation with herbicide. Roudup or a generic of it will work well. If the dead vegitation is real thick you may want to mow and or drag the area to remove some of it. Then broadcast seed like letemgrow suggests. I would try one or two areas with rye and one with clover.

It will be a fair amount of work and the plots may not be very big to start with but that should be ok with low deer numbers. If you could do one or two in the next fews weeks they should have enough growth to draw deer this season.

Good luck with whatever you do!

Date:17-Aug-17
Bow Crazy's Supporting Link

Hey Eric, I'm from Wisconsin as well, west central part of the state.

From your reply, I would say your issue is food - if you want to attract deer to your property in Nov/Dec then you need to plant food sources that deer prefer that time of the year.

The above link will take you to an article by Jeff Sturgis on food plots for the hunting season. You will also find other articles on his site that I really think will take you down the right path. BC

Date:17-Aug-17

Thanks for the input/info Bow Crazy and all! This will be a long ongoing project but I'll provide an update when I get to that point.

Bow Crazy - I love that part of the state. Have some family and friends out in the Sparta and Lacrosse areas so I visit a few times a year. I also spring turkey hunt near Black River. I salivate when thinking of owning property out there some day.

Date:17-Aug-17

Pat Lefemine's embedded Photo

We have dramatically altered deer movement in our area thanks to our habitat and food plot program. I run 12 plots - with 30% spring/summer and 70% fall winter. Every fall we literally suck the deer off the neighboring properties due to three main reasons - we provide food, cover, and security - and we have a very light footprint to maintain the security aspect.

It certainly is a lot of work and expense. So if you don't enjoy the effort then just focus on one field and crops that are easy to grow. But if you're like me, who is passionate about the process more than the kill, then give it a shot. There's little that's more satisfying to me than to see deer gorging themselves on my plots prior to another hard winter. I would imagine that my program has saved hundreds of deer from starvation and keeps them coming back every year.

Date:17-Aug-17

Except for the starvation part, Pat's story is mine. ( no deer are gonna starve here because our winters are too mild). The food plotting road just seems to get wider and easier to travel. It used to be about meat for me, then a little more about antlers. Now, it's mostly about growing the best food I can grow to keep the most deer on me and keep them well fed. I spend more time on a tractor than I do in a stand, and I hunt a lot !

By: XMan
Date:17-Aug-17

With no ag around, FOOD IS KING when the temps dip and late season is here. You might not see a benefit for a year or two but eventually the deer will find it and you will draw in from other properties. Built it and they will come :)

Date:17-Aug-17

Here is my words...

I have been on numerous properties this year from Minnesota, to Wisconsin, Illinois, Mississippi and Alabama and there are trends.

Not enough are educated. Everyone wants to do food plots. Almost everyone skips steps to have immediate success and what happens is it affects your long twerm success. Here is what I discuss whenever i do seminars or property visits.

1) NO SOIL TEST, DON'T PLANT. If you don't know what will grow in your soil, what fertilizer is needed to keep it balanced nor if you need lime, then your a gambler. Gamblers always lose.

2) Plant year 1 to suppress weeds, build organic matter and fixate nitrogen. Work on soil health first. Focus on perennials and food plots that mine the soil after you get a feel for what your limiting factor is.

3) Planting what your buddy plants, celebrities endorse or people on internet suggest is bad science. Take a soil test. Work with someone not looking to sling seed at you but help you determine what you need to plant to do best on your land. Your land is like no one elses across the US.

4) What does your neighbors plant? What are the surrounding crops? Take advantage of the neighbors.

Date:17-Aug-17

Exactly as many have said. Take the appropriate steps to do it right. Put the plots in you will never regret it and you will get hooked. "Plant it and they will come". I hunt in northern Wisconsin ten days a year. Scouted it last week. Deer numbers coming back. Get your plots going - worth the time, effort and money

Date:18-Aug-17

Landoscott's MOBILE embedded Photo

I have a place in Lando so I know all too well how low the deer numbers are. I cleared two 1/4 acre plots last year and planted in August. I had been a guy who baited for years and I was amazed with the impact those plots made. Deer come and go and act so much more natural compared to baiting. This year planted some apple trees as well. It's worth the work you put into it. Do it right and get a soil sample and plant things that will build your soil . With the amount of property you have you will be amazed with the difference food plots will make.

Date:21-Aug-17

Enjoying the convo everyone, thanks!

Nutritionist - question about #2 on this list. I had a forester out this past Saturday quoting out a timber harvest from the 13 acres that the homestead is on (we don't hunt this and it's overly mature). I tied in an estimate on clearing out a few small plots on our 80 acres across the street that we hunt, since we don't currently have any clearings at this time and they'll have the heavy machinery out anyways so hopefully kill 2 birds with 1 stone here. While we haven't signed on the dotted line yet, it sounds like we might move on that this winter.

That being said, you're recommending that we start planting immediately next spring/summer with whatever we intend or is it best to do a "priming" seed application for year 1 as you state? I just want to confirm since I also had this thought on my drive home realizing the reality of this happening quickly, and that I really need to start making a plan for path forward if we schedule this for this winter. I don't have soil test results at this time, but I do already have a handful of test kits from Whitetail Institute (forgive me if this a rookie mistake and please offer better alternatives that are readily available) so I just need to sample and get them in the mail asap.

Date:07-Sep-17

Update: Soil samples taken and getting shipped out today. We'll see what Whitetail Institute comes back with.

Since I'm an absolute beginner at this, I am curious what everyone thinks an estimate for equipment start up costs would be (and maybe short list of essentials outside of tractor)? I understand this can vary greatly, but taking into account I'm only thinking of 3-5 1/4acre-ish plots on the 80 acres.

By: Marj
Date:09-Sep-17

Even including a tractor, if you hit Craigslist and local adds hard and you don't need anything fancy, you could find a 30-35hp tractor, disc and spike tooth drag for $5000 or less. Example: my 32hp tractor was $1800 from the neighbor, 5 foot 3 point disc $800 from l&m supply, 4 foot drag was free from another neighbor, and 4x6 foot trailer $600 from neighbor. 4 wheeler is a nice addition as well, but not a necessity for me. I hand broadcast all my seed/fertilizer with a $40 spreader. Those are my basics.

By: MK111
Date:09-Sep-17

Deer do not starve here either in SW Ohio. We have almost 50% brushy areas in this part of the county. So I feel we have ample deer numbers.

My biggest problem is drawing deer to my hunting area on my farm. My farm adjoins a 110 ac horse hay baling operation so there is plenty of feed year around.

5 Yrs ago I took a 3 ac cattle pasture out of service and planted it into a food plot.

Now I have deer on my property everyday feeding. Where the does are the bucks will come looking.


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