Sitka Gear

2021 Food plot results and seed reviews

Goodbye NY

In 2011 we started these tests after buying land in northern New York State. Our goal was to demonstrate that the average hunter, in a sub-par deer state, with sub-par lands can attract and hold whitetail deer. For the last several years we've been doing just that. We created a property that was the best drawing property in the area. We proved this theory - to a point. After nearly 10 years we created a destination property that was the very best whitetail property around, we even drew at least one decent buck each year.

Unfortunately, New York State's deer program is arguably considered the worst in the country. Where my property is located (NY's Northern deer Zone) doe tags are non-existent - due to low deer populations. However, New York's DEC continues to allow two buck tags, a two week bow season, and a six week rifle season that starts in October and ends in December. It is difficult to establish any semblance of herd 'age structure' with these season and tag structures. So for 2020, we moved our test property to Ohio.

Hello Ohio!

With our 2021 report we're demonstrating the polar opposite of NY by moving to the "destination" deer state of Ohio. A state that is known for both quality deer and plenty of them. We bought property in Ohio for three reasons:

  1. Season structure: Ohio is bowhunter friendly with a long archery season (September - February), a short shotgun/straight-wall firearm season that starts after the rut, and a brief muzzleloader season in January.
  2. One Buck Tag: hunters get one buck tag for the entire season. This encourages hunters to be selective and discourages shooting a young 'meat' buck.
  3. Climate and Soils: Ohio climate is moderate and soils in our area are very good.

So for the next few years we will be rolling up our sleeves and getting to work on this new property.

Seed Choices

For 2021 (2020 growing season) we used a mix of seed types including 'brown bag' varieties, Ag seeds, and some retail 'deer head' seeds as well. We are starting entirely from scratch in Ohio. The property is 130 acres with 30 acres of open ground (18 tillable and 12 in pasture). The tillable ground has been leased for years, and the pasture has been neglected and overgrown. We terminated the tillable leases and are utilizing all 30 acres of open ground in food plots.

Food Plot Choices and reviews for the 2020-21 season

Plot Locations

Map of the Ohio DeerBuilder Property with Food Plot Locations

Planting Conditions last season

For our first planting season in Ohio the farming gods smiled upon us with good moisture, good temps, and excellent planting windows.

Overall I rate growing conditions as 8 on a scale of 1 to 10 with ten being best. Pretty awesome.

Soil Tests and Amendments

Not only does Ohio have great bucks, they also have a phenomenal Ag industry established to help farmers. The local soil conservation office sent a person out to take soil samples and map out a fertilizer and lime program for my 7 fields. The test results came back that I needed 26 tons of lime and 4 tons of fertilizer. The lime truck showed up and spread it directly on my fields. The fertilizer was pre-mixed in a portable spreader that I spread myself. It was not only painless, but also reasonably priced. The lime service cost me $800 and the fertilizer cost me $380.

Equipment Used

The size of these fields require bigger equipment than what I utilized in New York. After closing on the property, I purchased a used, 100HP New Holland Powerstar 100 tractor, a four row 7000 Deere Planter, a 12' White travel disk, a 12' Deere Cultimulcher, a 20' boom sprayer, and a 3-pt mounted spreader from Rural King. Like NY, I planted all the plots myself.

Trail Camera Survey

We had 41 cameras running year' round. We diligently maintained batteries and SD Card collections and finished out the Trail Cam Survey season with 118,357 individual photos of deer. These were sorted and maintained for establishing accurate deer utilization trends in each plot. We utilized eight cameras running Moultrie Mobile in 5 key locations. This allowed us to have Real-time photos.

Hunting Season

I spent 38 days hunting this property. We identified 5 mature shooter bucks that were all above PY minimums. We also identified 53 additional bucks that were 2.5 or older within our borders. All 53 of those bucks survived into the late season. These results are phenomenal. I was disciplined and held out for one of the shooters. I had my number 6 buck under my stand twice and passed. I had my number 7 buck under me four times. I had countless smaller bucks that I would never have passed in New York State.

I never drew my bow on a buck. And I admittedly made many mistakes. My plot strategy was all wrong, and I was too cocky thinking those bucks would hang around until the rut. My 2021 planting and hunting strategy will be far different. I expected my first year would be focused on learning and despite not taking a buck, I consider my first season a complete success.

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 per-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 25 years and most people will never want (or need) to go to the lengths I do to plant food plots.

Our Plot strategy

My plot strategy was fairly simple in 2020. Beans, beans and more beans. I ended up planting 18 total acres of soybeans using four different varieties and tracking which ones were utilized, and when. Also, since I am planting for whitetails and not income, I left all 18 acres of beans standing. On the remaining 12 acres I planted a variety of crops including brassicas, clover, chicory and peas. I also planted screening in order to move around the property with minimal disruption.

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