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Food Plots for Whitetails?


drake shooter

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I was hoping that someone could give me information on the best types of perennial crops to plant in Aitikn county. I know that clover might work, but their are many different types. Any info would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

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There are many products out there to choose from. I prefer the Whitetail Institute clovers. It along with others do really well on our property in Crow Wing county.

To have a sucessful food plot there is much more than planting some seed. Things such as proper P.H., fertilization, mowing, soil tests and weed control all play a roll in how sucessful your plot will be. Another important consideration is the size and location of your plots.

If you let small bucks walk you will be amazed in a few years how much better the quality of your bucks will become. We have 3 plots on our 93 acres and it has totally amazed me how much better the quality of our bucks has become.

Hunting over a food plot is no guarantee. If deer feel like they are being hunted they will quickly become nocturnal or abandon the plot totally.

A quality food plot is A LOT of work but well worth the effort.

If you need more specifics feel free to ask.

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Wow, I agree with everything Jeff S said - good info if you ask me.

My land is farther north, Itasca County. I have done a ton of experimenting with perennials and annuals, and without question Imperial Clover from the Whitetail Institute is the best for me. Grows great and the deer prefer it over any other clover I've tried. Since you're just starting out I would try some Imperial Clover, but I would try 1 or 2 other clovers also in case something works better in your situation.

Regarding what he said about hard work and investing time, money and effort to get successful food plots - about letting the young bucks go so they can grow older - and about food plots not being a guarantee --- I'd say go back and read it again, he is right on the money.

Good luck. I really enjoy doing food plots, lots of enjoyment from them if you're willing to commit the time and effort and resources.

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These guys are 100% correct, but in my area clover does not seem to be real interesting to the deer. I don't know why, a lot of peple have very good luck with it. I switched to fall plots last year with rye cereal grain and had great luck with that and it's easy to grow and there is no weed problems in the fall. What ever you decide commit yourself to it and you will be very happy. You will get a lot more info from other guys about this on this site and it's all good stuff. Try to listen to all of it and then make your decision. I personally am thinking of trying sunflowers in one of my plots this year, but that is just experimental and I don't know how this will carry into winter. My area seems to have very good summer/fall natural feed, so I try to plant something for them to feed on in the off seasons(winter/spring). Good luck and enjoy.

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Here's a tip....

Fence in an area 3 feet square with chicken wire so the deer can not get to the clover. This will tell you how much the deer are feeding in your plot.

When we first began planting food plots we became frustrated with because it appeared the clover was not growing. In reality the deer were eating it as fast as it was growing.

Hope this helps.

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A few things for you to think about ......

I know you said you wanted perennial crops. The only perennial plots I plant now are clover (mostly Whitetail Imperial) and chicory, but over 50% of my food plots are perennial. Perennial plots are great for providing nutrition for a long period of time each year but aren't the best for attraction during fall and the hunting seasons. And perennial plots are not "plant them and forget about them" plots, you still need to mow, fertilize, spray, etc.

Perennials will definately attract deer in the fall, but annual plantings are much better attractants. In general they tend to feed the deer for a relatively short period of time, vs. perennials which will feed them for the whole growing season. For annuals, especially fall plantings, the cereal grains mentioned like oats, wheat and rye are top notch. Inexpensive, easy, germinate quickly, withstand browsing, and the deer hit them right away. Another great annual is the brassica family like rape, kale and turnips. These need to grow for 10-12 weeks to reach maturity, and the deer don't hit them until there's been a couple hard frosts, but then watch out - the deer will devour them. Brassicas are high in sugar (carbohydrates) which are a big benefit to the deer in building fat reserves going into winter. I don't have much for mast (acorns) around my place and no corn, so I try to plant a lot of brassicas every year.

Hope some of this helps .... good luck.

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Jeff, I have done that and it showed very little browsing. Granted there was some, but it was not near the grazing that was happening in the rye plot which also had the fenced in area about 3' square.

Perch, very good points made. I learn more on this site about plots every time I read about them. There seem to be a lot of guys doing it and sharing their knowlegde. Great thing about this site.

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I'd like to add, don't hesitate to use some fertilizer. When I first started out, I'd scratch up the ground, throw some seed in, and call it a food plot. Now I've had some soil samples done and have been adding fertilizer and doing a better job of weed control - and my food plots show it.

Also, try some different types of clover. I personally think the Imperial clover is overpriced, you're paying for their advertising. I divided a 3 acre plot into four sections and planted four tyes of clover, with one of them being Imperial, and I don't notice the Imperial being eaten any more than the others. If fact, I'd give my nod to the straight red clover that I bought from the local seed house.

Be careful, the food plot thing gets addicting!!

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One more thing, do a search on this site for food plots, their have been quite a few previous threads about them.

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Nova

Just curious if you did the fenced test in spring, summer or fall.

I have found that the deer are not in my clover plots nearly as much in the fall timeframe as they are in VERY early spring through early summer.

I have a ton of trail camera pics as early as about April 1st with up to a handful of deer at one time in my clover plots.

The pics prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the clover I have planted is supplying the deer with something to eat, when there is nothing but bare woods and ground everywhere around our farm.

I am not saying that you or anyone else that has posted is only looking to put in plots to possibly pull and hold deer closer to your area during hunting season, but I want to reaffirm that putting in plots is a year round effort to help not just deer, but all other wildlife as well.

I guess my point for newbies mainly, is that putting in some clover for a food subsidy for early spring to kickstart a deers diet after winter will only help that buck get in condition to grow those antlers and to help that doe carry that fawn to a successful birth. The clover wont get used much when hunting season rolls around, but it will have done its part in the overall scheme of things for the deer.

Can you count the deer in this pic? Its a scanned 35mm.

czplotmay20051medium9pe.jpg

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BLB, I can count 2 for sure.

you make a very good point. I have only done the test in the fall and only one time for a 2 month period. What you speak of is exactly what I intend for my plots. A real good source of food for the deer(and other wildlife..turkeys, grouse)in the spring and through the winter. Can they or do the utilize the clover plots in the winter? I don't get up there much in the spring, but my plot at home is the first thing to turn green in the spring so it makes sense for that. I will have to put up the fence again the next time I get there and see if the spring is when they use it. I personally don't use our plots to draw deer in the fall cause we have a lot of ag land that they prefer then. That spring thing has got me very curious now.Once again I learned more about plots today.

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Nova

The deer really hit my plot hard this summer, right up until the velvet started coming off, then use tapered off. I showed my plot to BLB in early October, and they were still grazing it pretty well, but it tapered off a lot after that. That plot far exceeded my expectations.

I walked through it the second weekend of ML season, and there was some use, and they were bedding in there and eating a little. Last weekend, there was no evidance of use at all.

Hopefully the landowner will let me put in another plot next summer with rye and brassics for late season chow.

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They have not touched my clover in several weeks, and I have not seen where they have dug through snow to get at clover at all in the winter.

We are in the same boat as you are in regards to competing with agricultural lands during deer season. (Battle Lake area)

But I can tell you, the deer never left my plots for long periods.

They mowed down my brassicas the second half of October. More like the last week in October.

They took to my Buck Forage Oats a little earlier than that and kept that mowed right to the dirt almost.

I had a test area with BFO, winter rye and winter wheat.

The deer preferred BFO 9 times out of 10 over the rye and wheat. grin.gif Now the deer are ripping the wheat and rye to shreds and I dont know if its because they are preferring it, or if there is just nothing left that they want to scratch up in the BFO plot.

Bottom line, its hard to compete with large ag fields, but its fun trying and its definitely working with some of the deer.

There are 4 deer in that pic. Its a scanned pic, but they are there. Look directly over the back of the closest deer. There is a drag back there, and a deer is stepping over the drag. To the right of that about 20 ft away is a deer along that disced area too. cool.gif

If you plant it, they will come.

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I see all 4 now.

4 years ago we had our land select cut for aspen. At this time we took all the drag trails from the loggers and planted clover, some red and some white. This year we had it done again along with all the blow down. We plan to plant clover in those drag trails also. Most of the old clover is still coming back quite strong. I plan to make a total of 3 plots this year along with the clover we plant and the 7 acres of crop we leave standing(rotated corn/beans). My plan right now(which I am sure will change) is to plant on 1 acre plot in sunflower, another 1 acre plot in rye and barasic, and the other I am not sure yet...might also be sunflower. I really want something for late winter and spring so they can come into late spring and summer in good condition. The more I talk about this the more I want to get going on it now. thanks for tips guys.

BLB and Gissert, did you guys get a lot of damage from the summer storms to your trees? Our place is near dead lake and we got hammerred.

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Really no damage at all on the farm.

Its south of 210.

The cabin is on East Battle, and got rocked good.

North of 210 was hit hard, south of 210 wasnt hardly touched from what I know and saw.

I was VERY worried about the farm when I heard about places like Balmoral Golf Course.

I want to be out plotting too.

I have aerial photos I am doctoring up with what I planted this year in each spot and then a word doc that I am using for notes on what worked in each location and what to do different this coming spring.

Also, scoping new spots to till up for additional plots.

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The woods fared ok for the most part. A few trees down, most of which were marginal or dead anyway. The real damage was just a few miles to the north. Driving to Ottertail a couple weeks ago, I was still amamzed at the damage that wind caused.

The hail storm in August did a number. 13 grand damage to the house and garage, and totaled two vehicles. I had three inch holes in my roof vents and plastic lawn chairs. One mile to the south there was no hail at all.

The hail knocked down a lot of leaves and acorns, and one week later the woods smelled like early October with all the decaying leaves on the ground. I was glad my trail camera was back at Leaf River, as the hail probably would have destroyed it.

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Nova, are you mowing your clover? I was hesitant to mow at first, but now my routine every year is to fertilize as early in the year as I can, mow in early to mid June, mow in early to mid July, and fertilize and mow again in early August. The mowing stimulates new growth in the clover and the deer will increase their usage after you mow.

I don't have much for ag crops around me. The deer will eat my clover down to almost nothing in the fall.

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Many good points.

Our largest plot, 1 1/2 acres, was divided into four sections and each planted with a different product. Whitcombs seed blend and frigid forage are being pounded now. The snow is literally raked off the areas these products are planted. Imperials "Secret Spot" is also getting hammered.

Our Imperial Whitetail clover gets eaten to the ground by early october so there's not much there for them to paw after.

The deer use our plots very sporatically from early September till early December. Much of this I'm sure is because of a switch to acorns as a primary food source.

Our biggest focus is providing good nutrition for antler development. It's amazing how our bucks have improved in the last 5 years.

Don't be afraid to experiment, that's half the fun!

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Perch, I don't mow at all, but do fertilize. I will try mowing this year and see if that starts new growth.

Jeff, are these all brands of clover? good to hear your bucks are improving, do you also do a QDM proram?

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Off the Food Plot topic for a second here.

I can say our "perception" is that our bucks are doing better than they have EVER been since I started hunting.

2002 we decided to take an approach that we wouldnt shoot anything smaller than 8 pts.

We started our plots that year as well.(Well a corn field was put in for the first time in 15+ years).

In the last 3 years we have leap frogged into some pretty good stuff.

I posted gobs of trail camera pics in a topic on FM throughout the summer and fall this year.

Again, our perception is that things are on the upswing, but with only 3 years of dinking around with this stuff, I cant honestly say what we have done is the sole reason we are seeing more deer, and some nice bucks in the mix.

Our big downfall as I have posted in other topics,,,,, every hunter surrounding our property is a "brown its down" crew. And worse yet, they are a "brown it gets shot at, and hope that we can find it" crew... frown.gif

I'll keept doing what I'm doing. It sure cant hurt anything.

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BLB, that is unfortunate. We were lucky enough to have my Dad be the salesman for our QDM project and he could sell icecubes to eskimos. We got all except one landowner to accept the practice and now we are surrounded by close to 1000 acres of people participating. The other guy can't really affect us too much with only a 80 acre parcel. This is our first year of doing it, so I hope the results start to show up the next couple years. For what it's worht though, I would have done the program and the food plots even if everyone said no.

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Nova,

These are priamrily clovers we plant. There are so many options and things to try it's mind boggeling. I would do a search on the internet and you'll see what I mean.

We are practicing a QDM program. We only shoot does or doe fawns. We let all bucks walk unless we're going to put it on the wall. Everyone says if I don't shoot it the neighbor will. AS long as everyone says that we'll never get anywhere. Someone has to take the start and let the bucks walk. Trail cameras have really helped this. When you know what's out there it's a lot easier to wait for a big one. It's great to have pictures of the bucks on your property, pass them durring deer season, then get pictures of them after season. And even better yet is seeing them on camera as their antlers develop the following year.

With that said I believe the mild winters have helped antler size also. I can never remember seeing pictures of so many big bucks as I have the past couple of years. It's hard to say what it really is, people my just be more aware of big bucks also. The true test will be in what we see in the next few years.

I'll continue letting little bucks live another day. You'll never get a big buck if you always fill your tag with 1 1/2 or 2 1/2 year old bucks, it's that simple.

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Jeff S,

A couple questions. When did you plant the Whitcombs seed blend, and the Imperial Whitetail clover blend? You mention the bucks improvement over the past 5 years so I was wondering when the plots were planted and how long the clover will last until it needs to be replanted. I put in a plot in the summer of 2002. The plot was long and narrow next to a wooded area. One end of the plot was planted with the Whitcomb plot mix and the rest was with Imperial clover from the Whitetail Institute. This summer was the fourth growing season for the plots. The Imperial Clover is still growing strong while the Whitcomb mix is thinning out considerably. Since that time we made a few smaller plots and planted the clover mix distributed by MDHA. These plots are doing find in very adverse conditions.

Has it helped the deer herd? Absolutely! We continually see deer in the plots and have taken quite a number of big bucks over the past 4 years. We also implemented a plan to take does and bucks 8 points or larger with no baskets. We have discussed with neighboring property owners and most are on board and following our lead. A couple still do the brown is down thing but still drool over the photos of our bucks so I hope they will change in the years to come. I never ask anyone to do what we do; I just tell them what we do and show them the results.

I have hunted and kept detail deer harvest records in this area for the past 20 years. We are currently taking more and bigger deer now than at any previous time.

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Luckey,

Sorry for not responding sooner, my hard drive went down so my access to a computer is limited for a few days.

To answer your question, we replant our perinials every three years weather it needs it or not. Once weeds grab hold they will take over your plot very fast. Our goal is to make sure we are growing as many tons per acre of forage as possible. If weeds take over 20% of your plot you can bet that you are loosing over 20% of your forage production. That means the forage you are producing gets eaten quicker thus you lose your attractivness of your plot to the deer herd.

Sounds like you've had great success with your managment program!

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