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  1. #1

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    Food plots and letting pasture grow up

    Looking for some advice on letting a 10 acre field grow up and planting some food plots. The field I'm working with hasn't been planted in about 7-8 years. So as you can guess it's getting pretty woolly with weeds, briars, and small trees. For the last couple years we've been bush hogging paths and made a couple clearings for food plots.

    In an ideal world I'd like to let this grow into a wooded patch of property for deer hunting. Unfortunately I don't have any idea how to facilitate this project and I doubt there is a good way of doing this. Right now there are a lot of small trees in the 8-10ft height range and the weeds are 4-5ft tall.

    Right now the deer are pretty much staying in the undergrowth instead of following the bush hogged trails. I'm thinking that I'd like to plant both seasonal and perennial plots. I also have a 15 acre field next to this that will be planted in either corn or beans yearly so I'll be competing with that food source yearly. Currently I hunt the tree lines on the property which is pretty challenging since the deer seem to always cross the fields in different locations. I'm hoping the food plots will give the deer a location travel to. What would be some good plants for the plots?

    Thx much!

  2. #2

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    Clover, brassica, beets, apple trees, pear trees, sorgum, alfalfa

    Worth a try.
    Last edited by Mgderf; 11-13-2019 at 16:04.
    Dormant U.S.Marine/ NRA Benefactor-Life

  3. #3
    Grandmaster patience0830's Avatar

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    Best "draw" planting I ever used was a blend called Power Plant sold by Whitetail institute. Sorghum, sunflowers, and vining soybeans, as I recall. It doesn't pull as well after frost, but flowering cabbage, turnips, radishes, kale. All will sweeten up after frost and draw deer. Oats are an old standby but not as nutritious as the brassicas.
    White clover works too.
    Parkerizing lollipops since 1973.

  4. #4
    Grandmaster Leadeye's Avatar

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    I've put out white clover with some success, need to electric fence it for a while or deer will eat it down to nothing as it's trying to grow.
    Where's the Kaboom? There was supposed to be an earth shattering Kaboom.

    Marvin the Martian

  5. #5

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    A couple options I would consider if it were mine. I would check with your local county extension office to see if it qualifies for any State programs...classified Forrest...invasive species removal...timber stand improvement...etc. Get rid of all the invasives. Figure out where you want your food plots...I think you have enough space for several. I would definitely include Clover and some swaths of soybeans/corn. Set aside an area for fruit bearing tree’s...apples, pears, etc. Plant a thicket type bedding area with evergreen type trees. Clear the rest and plant as many Oaks as you can. Check out some hybrid type chestnut oaks...these can produce fruit in 5 years of planting. Just a couple ideas for you.

  6. #6
    Expert two70's Avatar

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    IMO, you seem to be putting the cart before the horse a bit. If the deer are not taking the path of least resistance, ie. the mowed path, they are likely feeling pressured so the first step should probably be to back up and work on finding a stand/location that you can hunt without letting the deer know they are being hunted. You need to start with figuring out what spot(s) you can access without alerting the deer to your coming and going and how you are going to do so. Once you figure out your access and hunting location, then you will know where to locate your food plots.

    What season(s) do you hunt? Whether or not you bow hunt and more importantly muzzleloader hunt will make a difference on what you want to plant. All of the plants mentioned will work to varying degrees and at varying times, which you choose will depend on when you hunt and how much pressure the local deer population will put on your food plot. Generally, planting corn or beans in a food plot when they have corn/beans across the road is not the best idea. You don't want to compete with the ag field, you want to give the deer some place to stop and stage during daylight before heading to crop field at dark. Beans could still work for this but small plots won't stand up the browsing pressure of very many deer and are more limited in drawing ability later in the season. Personally, I would concentrate on primarily winter hardy food plot plants/mixes and let the ag field do most of the early season work for you.

    I would keep the fruit/nut tree plantings to a small number. Some are good but it is hard to hunt large groves effectively, and annual/perennial food plots are capable of producing a lot more food per acre than fruit/nut trees. I would stay away from oaks unless you are pretty young and very patient since most will take about 20 years to begin producing acorns. Apples generally hold fruit longer than pears so if you are hunting later in the season, apples will be a better choice. You will want to plant several varieties for pollination(check the planting guides to figure out the best pollinator varieties for each type you plant) and it makes sense to plant varieties that ripen at different times. Both Chinese and hybrid chestnuts are attractive to deer and begin production in 3-5 years so are also a good choice. I didn't see it mentioned but persimmons are another good choice especially if you are a bow hunter.

    If you are interested in reforesting part of the property as you mentioned, it is better and quicker to plant trees than to just let it grow up naturally. You can order seedling from IN DNR Nursery for very reasonable prices in bundles of 100. Planting a few varieties on a few acres would probably be beneficial but be sure to plan out how you will use the planting to maximize your hunting success before planting.

    Some general guidelines for food plot planting:

    Brassicas(rape, turnips, beets, radishes, khale, etc.) get more attractive after a frost or two. However some such as radishes and turnips winter kill making them less attractive for late season. A mix with several varieties and other plants is much better than pure plot.

    Some clovers tolerate cold better than others. Same with the level of deer browsing. Even those that are cold and browse tolerant don't continue producing lots of food throughout the hunting season. Pure clover plots will need to be mowed regularly in most cases to keep them attractive. Like brassicas, a mix with several varieties and other plants is a good idea.

    Milo/sorghum can be a good alternative to corn for later in the season since unlike corn, deer will leave it alone until later in the season. I would suggest a WGF (wild game food) variety that is not palatable to birds until later in the season so birds don't eat all of it before the deer get a chance.

    Other winter hardy plants to consider: Austrian snow peas, blue lupine, wheat, oats, rye, and chicory. Personally, I've tried nearly all of the above and it is really hard to beat chicory for attractiveness and amount of food produced. However, it can be hard to get established and like clovers it needs to be mowed from time to time.

    A mix is probably the best way to go for most plots since they will have different plants that are attractive at different times.

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