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Food plot size
 Moderated by: The_Mountaineer
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 Posted: Fri Dec 7th, 2007 11:08 PM
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sdb777



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Too sustain an average deer herd, what size do you need to have?  I plant WhiteTail Institute Extreme(got really bad soil), and it's grows pretty well.  But the deer herd seems to mow it quicker then it can grow!  Size: 150yards long and on average 17yards wide.  Thinking I need at least two more this size, but if the timber company comes in to plant, they really don't care if something is growing....it's going to become all pine!  Spring time, I also plant turnip greens(deer love it here)!

Did the soil testing, but there is no way I can afford to dump 4.5 tons of lime on a piece of property that I don't own!  Put some down, but it was closer to 400 pounds(it helped in the short term, but no the long run).

 

Could you tell me what size I need(on average)?  And is the Extreme used where your at?  Will the turnip greens help them develop mass/antler growth, or does it just fill their bellies and become a turd?

 

 

Scott (green thumb guy) B



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 Posted: Tue Dec 11th, 2007 05:35 PM
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The_Mountaineer



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Scott,

That's a pretty tricky question.  I'd have to ask a few questions.

1.  What is an "average" size deer herd in your area?
2.  What is your goal for your food plot/supplemental feeding program?
3.  What is the amount of browse available per acre of land on your area?

"Average" size deer herds vary a lot from region to region.  Here where I live and work you can see anywhere from 20 - 100 deer per square mile.  The average is about 60-70.  That's probably not the case where you're at.  There is an online map available through the QDMA website that gives you a rough idea about the size deer herd in your area available at this link:

http://www.qdma.com/map/

Simply look up your county using the color coded legend to get an idea.

If your goal for food plots/suppmental feeding is to improve herd nutrition then typically anywhere from 3-7% of the total acreage is recommended to be put into some form of food plot acreage.  The exact percentage again depends on the range and habitat itself.

Determining how much browse your lease/property has is a lot of work and requires a bit of plant systematics knowledge.  Rather than become a botanist, I'd recommend you just get some figures from your local wildlife agency.  They can tell you about how much browse/acre can be had from your region, roughly.  They'll also be able tog give you a cue into how many deer are in the area on a per square mile basis.

So, as you can tell there's not really any hard answers until you have some harder numbers.

I like Whitetail Institute's Products.  They're a bit pricey but their particular cultivars seem to do well for deer nutrition moreso than the cheaper alternatives.  Of course, this depends on your goal for the food plot.  If you are simply wanting a green field to hunt over then just about anything will work so long as it is being browsed upon during the time that you're hunting.

As far as brassicas being a good forage, I think they are pretty good.  The key thing to remember is that no one plant or feed will do it all on a wild deer herd.  They're browsers and will always browse.  Palatability is a factor but that's a difficult one to measure IMO.  Folks have gauged it on such things as essential oils, protein content, sugar content, ad finitum.  Bottom line, deer will nibble a little bit of everything all the time and rarely resort to a strict few-item diet anytime.  For us the turnip greens provide green forage during a time when little else is green - at least items we've planted.  They'll resort to honeysuckle, greenbrier (smilax rotundifolia), and a few other shrubs that are native to the range but that's about it as far as "green" stuff goes.



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 Posted: Wed Dec 12th, 2007 11:15 AM
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sdb777



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The_Mountaineer wrote:
1.  What is an "average" size deer herd in your area?
2.  What is your goal for your food plot/supplemental feeding program?
3.  What is the amount of browse available per acre of land on your area?



#1: According to the link you provided(thanks), I'm in the 30-45 per acres....but I've taken pictures of at least 65 different deer at one feeder?  So I'm not sure if their numbers are perfect?

#2: Goal....more body mass, or generally healthier herd.  Of course, when the animals are healthier they reproduce with better off-spring, grow larger bodies, and the antler mass normally gets better(for those hunting for hood ornaments).  Body size of the normal whitetail is about 100-125(does) and 150-175lbs(bucks) 'live weight' for the area I hunt....kind of small, but I guess that's why we're allowed four deer per year.

#3: Browse....unless the animals are eating pine needles and ragweed, their out of luck!  On the 4,975 arces lease: 90% is pine, 7% is roads/fire breaks(nothing grows there other then ragweed)/crib piles(where logs are dragged while waiting for pick-up), and 2% is open area with the normal grasses growing(deer don't seem to eat the mature stuff growing there).  The last 1% is probably just gravel parking areas, water, creeks, and then a few 'camp' food plots.

 

Most individuals don't plant anything on the leases due to the constant idea that the crew will come in and plant trees at any given time.  Instead, they show up, throw some corn on the ground, and wait for some deer to get hungry.  I use corn feeders, but I generally use 'open' type feeders so the animals can eat whenever they choose too.  Want to make the guy on the hunting stand mad?  Let him see your feeder set-up!

I'll be expanding my food plots during the spring.  And I'm thinking about an early planting of peas/green beans/turnips and then Some more WhiteTail Extreme and another spot with Imperial Clover.  Just not wanting to spend the cash to get 3-4 tons of lime per acre that my soil test says I need to use!  Is there anything less expensive to use(lime)?

 

 

 

Scott (thanks for your help) B



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 Posted: Wed Dec 12th, 2007 02:13 PM
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The_Mountaineer



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Scott,

A few thoughts.

1.  From the description of the lease, it sounds like you really need to do some more planting.  I'd lean heavily towards the 7%, or more, total acreage being converted into food plots, if you can.  A deer will eat about 7 lbs of food per day depending on its size and what it is eating.  This equals to a little bit more than a ton (~1.3 tons) of food per year.  Of course there are oscillations brought on by photoperiod that essentially slow down a deer's digestive system and they'll eat less during the winter regardless of temperature constants.  Still, it's a good place to start some numbers.  You can figure a ton of food per deer per year.  Next, figure the forage tonage produced by the particular species you're planting.  If an acre of clover provides 5 tons of forage per year then that's good for 5 deer.  You get the idea.

2.  Is there a less costly replacement for lime?  Yes.  But it's not as effective.  A variety of fertilizers can serve as a soil acidity amendment, but it will take much more tonnage, though potentially cheaper.  The rule with soils is if there's anything wrong, always add organic matter.  Organic matter (i.e., manure, milorganite, etc.) will improve soil texture, nutrient content, acidity, and so on.  It's sorta the jack of all trades, master of none for soils.  I'd still lean towards aglime though.  In our parts, the cooperative can take their trucks and spread it on untilled pasture for about $40 acre.  They will NOT do it on crop fields as their heavy lime spreaders will sink into the soil.  I'd be sure to check them out before breaking any ground for food plots

3.  You might consider selecting other species that are more tolerant of your soil conditions.  That's the job for your local agronomist.  University extension or other folks can probably make some good recommendations for your region that I wouldn't have the foggiest idea about.

4.  Forget about planting and work with the native browse.  There are lots of things you can do.  Do some strip disking along the edges of woods, which will encourage new types of forage to sprout out of the seed bank.  Use selective herbicides to kill out the beneficial-to-deer species.  Do some controlled burns.  Do some selective border cuts where you fell trees 10-20 yards into the woods from the field edge and let it grow up.

5.  Forget about planting and go with feeders.  The on-demand types are expensive to operate, cheap to buy or make.  If you have control over the amount of feed that is dispensed, your wallet will be much better off.  A word of caution.  Some of the most nutritious deer feeds in pelleted form don't work well out of broadcast feeders.  The moisture in the air will cause them to plug up especially in the molasses based type feeds and you'll have no deer frequenting them but plenty of mess!

There's lots you can do but remember I'm not sure what sort of agreement you have with the landowner/operator.  You may/may not be entitled to do these things so be sure to check. 

Also remember that food is but one part of the equation for deer management.  There's also water and cover management and probably most importantly, harvest management, especially if you're into QDM or TDM.

Hope this helps.



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 Posted: Fri Mar 23rd, 2012 01:09 AM
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whiteoak
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I know I'm new here, but I have a lot of experience with food plots for deer. My Father and I statted planting (Deer Fields) Food plots in the Late 70's early 80's in Southern Indiana. At that time I had never heard the term Food Plot. Everyone gave us a hard time about "baiting" Had one Conservatin Officer tell us what we were doing was illeagel in the early 80's. My dad came from a farming backround and just wanted to play farmer, and leave the fields for the deer. Our farm is 100acers and we platnt about 8 to 10acers in plots.
For corn or beans you need bigger plots. Especially beans My biggest plot is 2 1/2 acers and its hard to plant beans in it and get anything up past 2' before its eaten. Corn is better but I like to plant at least a 1/3 acre plot but 1/2 to 3/4 is better.
Clover& Chickery plots (the best bang for the buck in my opinion) can be put in pretty small plots and work well / If you use several (we have 6 small clover plots) I have some as small as 100ft by 40ft and can see deer in them through Mid November but by late November they have to little daylight to recover from the browsing.
Brassicas are great but I like a mid sized plot for them 1/3 acre or so.
Winter wheat is a great late season and it will do well in smaller plots but does best on its own, it shades out the clovers mix, brassicas will work with it better, when planted heavy for late season. Before the brassicas Winter Wheat and Corn were our only good Dec plots. (the clover seemed to loose palatability after 1 or 2 good frosts.)
I have tried all the comercial plot mixes and the brasicas are about the only one I will plant anymore. I planted one field with the big name clover and my local seed company mix of clovers and chickery and could not tell the diffrence at all other than the seed company mix was 1/4 the cost.
One thing we have been getting into recently is planting Bedding Plots. of tall native grasses and that is working pretty well but is going to take some time to perfected using big blue top now. Hope this helps

Last edited on Fri Mar 23rd, 2012 01:15 AM by whiteoak



 Posted: Fri Mar 23rd, 2012 01:18 AM
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Plainsman
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"Bang for the buck..." That's a good 'un! ;^}

Great info! Thanks for posting. Feel free to tell us more anytime.



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