2020 Food plot results and seed reviews
About our Annual Food Plot Review
Since 2011 our mission has remain unchanged - demonstrate that the average hunter, with sub-par lands, can attract and hold whitetail deer. We have successfully proven that by transforming a 310 acre parcel in Northern New York State into a local hot-spot. Unlike the celebrities who hunt the best farms - in the best states, we decided to show you how land management can transform even a "crappy" parcel of land. That was, and still is the mission of Bowsite's DeerBuilder.com website.
For 2020 (2019 growing season) we again used mostly 'brown bag' seed varieties with some exceptions. We replanted all of our burned down perennial clover plots last fall, so you won't see them included again this year. And as usual, we followed all directions, and soil test recommendations. We are publishing this review with fairness to the manufacturers, brutal honesty, and integrity.
Food Plot Choices and reviews for the 2019 season
- 2019 Review Introduction & Guide
- Food Plot 1a - Real World Soybeans
- Food Plot 1b - Alfagraze 300 Alfalfa (year 2)
- Food Plot 1c - Hancock Deer Greens
- Food Plot 2 - Hancock Deer Greens
- Food Plot 2a - Hancock Birdsfoot Trefoil (year 2)
- Food Plot 4 - Hancock white globe turnips and Austrian Peas
- Food Plot 7 - Pioneer Field Corn
- Food Plot 7a - Hancock Zulu Clover
Map of the DeerBuilder Property with Food Plot Locations
Planting Conditions last season
To put it bluntly, the spring conditions were phenomenal but by summer, they were a disaster. We had a hot summer drought, followed by drenching rains that never stopped during our fall planting window. Many of our plots were a train wreck due to this, so keep that in mind when following the review. However, some plots thrived (despite the conditions) so that's informational as well.
Overall I rate growing conditions as a 3 on a scale of 1 to 10 with ten being best. They sucked.
Soil Tests and Amendments
We are very careful to test our soil in each plot with some larger fields getting multiple soil tests per year. We brought in a semi-full of lime and spread that in August or 2018 so no lime was needed this year. Our soil composition is a rich, sandy dark loam with good drainage in our higher locations and very poor drainage in other locations.
We utilized all of our own equipment for these tests, nobody (other than me) installed these food plots. We own all of our equipment including a 55 hp diesel tractor, and all necessary attachments.
Trail Camera Survey
We had 39 cameras in use running basically year round. We diligently maintained batteries and SD Card collections and finished out the Trail Cam Survey season with 21,367 individual photos of big game. These were sorted and maintained for establishing accurate deer utilization trends in each plot. We utilized two cameras running Moultrie Mobile in 3 key locations. This allowed us to have Real-time photos.
We spent 10 total man-days hunting this property. We identified 3 mature bucks, one that has been on the property for three years, and two more that showed up just this year. The known buck, a lopsided 8 point, was killed during rifle season on the neighbor. All the other bucks survived. I did not kill any deer here this past season.
How we choose our seeds
You will notice that a lot of our choices come from Hancock Seed. Please note that Hancock is not a brand, they are a seed distributor that sells fresh, 'brown bag' seed. I prefer to buy my seeds from a high volume distributor - rather than pre-packaged varieties sold by big name hunting companies. On occasion, we will use 'deer head' branded seeds. Please remember, I have been doing this for over 24 years and most people will never want (or need) to go to the lengths I do to plant food plots.
Our Plot strategy
New York, where my property is located, has one of the more regressive deer management programs in the Northeast. While this creates challenges, the single biggest problem we face is severe weather - which is typical for this area located just ten miles from Adirondack park in New York's Northern Zone . Our winters are harsh, with snow averages often topping 200 inches per year. Four years ago, we had a very severe winter with over 300 inches of snow. Predation is high here as well, with a good population of bears and an abundance of coyotes (and a short coyote season which makes no sense to anyone).
My plot choices take all of these factors into account. By far the single biggest factor is winter. I usually lean heavily toward winter crop but this year I planted more grains than normal and I dramatically lowered my brassica footprint. This may have been a mistake but the grains were so abundant they made up for the lack of winter greens.