Friday, March 5, 2010

Planning your food plots now!

It is March 5th and we still have 3 inches of snow on the ground in Northeast Missouri. Luckily we are going to be getting into the high 40s this weekend for high temperatures which will help get rid of some of this snow. Believe me after the past two months with all the cold temperatures and over 20 inches of snow in the month of February alone, I am ready for the days to get longer and the outdoors to turn green again. With the temperatures on the rise it has me thinking about getting out with my trusty Garmin and marking waypoints of high traffic areas for deer and turkey on the farm. Why do this you may ask. The reason is simple, with all the snow on the ground food sources have been few and far between for the deer and turkey in the area. By finding these high traffic areas I can plan for food plot locations that will not only benefit me come this fall during deer season but also provide feeding areas that are in line with normal travel patterns of the wildlife all year round. Many people think of food plots as a location for hunting benefit that is only useful for 2 months of the year but the truth is that it helps with scouting and herd/flock health. When food plots are available on a property, the likely hood that the wildlife you want to stay on your property is greatly increased because they don't have to use much of their needed stored energy to find food. If you can keep the animals on the farm all winter in a concentrated area, a population census can be conducted with the aid of trail cameras and a good spotting scope. It also will give you the chance to collect those precious sheds that may whitetail hunters are looking for in the spring.

With my years working on the family farm and managing the farm for Hunter's Specialties, I have found that the easiest way to get a good perennial food plot started is buy using clover seed and spreading it on the ground in a process called "Frost Seeding." Frost seeding is a way of distributing the clover without having to till the ground. For people that have limited resources this works great because you can literally take a bag of seed and a hand powered spreader and seed down a plot in a matter of minutes. What you do is wait for the snow to melt away so you can see the ground and the ground is frozen, usually first thing in the morning when the frost is on the ground. Take your seed and spreader out to the location you identified while the snow was on and begin sowing the seed. Once the seed begins to germinate, usually within a few weeks then you can go out and spread 300 pounds of 0-20-20 fertilizer per acre to help get the clover up and going. You may have to come back through the summer and spray herbicide to control weeds but I will discuss that later when it is closer to time.

I use Hunter's Specialties Velvet Clover for two reasons, one being that it has been shown to produce tons of leafy dry matter that is highly desirable for whitetails for food and when the clover flowers, bugs are attracted to the plot which brings a food source for wild turkeys. The second reason is that I helped H.S. develop this blend that can be incorporated into a plot rotation that saves me money in fertilizer. I plot rotation in the Spring issue of North American Whitetail Magazine in the article, "Better plots....for less!" As the soil temperatures warm I will post more about summer food plots that are beneficial in spring and summer development.

Hope all is well and good luck shed hunting.