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How to Skin and Quarter Your Deer — Quickly and Easily! (video)
Ready….Set….Shoot! (Dust off that camera gear and get out there!)
The cold wet wind pierced my fleece outer jacket like and stung my face as I moved along, my path coursing right into it.
Perfect for still-hunting along this grassy path cut through this over-grown section of woods, I thought. Each foot inched forward, but only after scanning each direction with my eyes first. As my teenage readings from some of the bow hunting greats like Chuck Adams recalled, don’t move your head, move only your eyes as you still-hunt along. Andthe words of one native American chief rattled around in my head, “move little, see much, move much, see little”.
Slowly and carefully I eased into position beside a double-stemmed shingle oak. I knew something would be coming soon. Or lets just say I had great “faith” that it would. That “something” should be two young whitetail bucks coming along any moment. You see, I’d taken this trail to “cut them off at the pass” after I’d seen them cross the road minutes earlier. At least that was the plan….
I waited…still nothing…so I gave my rattle bag a little try…tumbling the sticks inside the cloth bag as I spanked it around in my hands. It sounds like a small buck, I thought as I slipped it carefully back into my pack. And lucky as I be – here they come! Led by a 1.5 year old whitetail buck with a broken off right antler beam.
No these were not trophies to most hunters. Not to anyone, in most cases, really. But to me, right then, and right there, they were….TROPHIES!
These deer were going to get shot! And I was going to take them home!
Ready set….aim…fire…fire..fire! The bucks had no clue I was there, and one almost stepped on my toes as he browsed his way right towards me, as I continued shooting, with him feeding on coral berry bushes the whole way.
You see that is the benefit about “shooting” deer with a camera. You can shoot them multiple times and you can shoot them in a state park or refuge!
Of course, yes, I am speaking only of shooting deer with a camera! But, again, so much is that the benefit..and the fun!
I’ve grown to love the fun and the great challenge of shooting all sorts of wildlife with a camera; in fact, I enjoy this almost as much as I do hunting them!
How many times have you been out hunting and have seen something tremendously special? Two big whitetails fighting under your stand, perhaps? Or maybe a beautiful red fox walking in front of your ground blind, with the soft glow of an early morning sunrise coming down on him? Or, maybe, a curious young buck starting at you in a confused state of disbelieve from a mere 10 feet.
You know what I mean – you go hunting and bring back many more memories than you do antlers or venison. At least I do. I think most do.
Nothing wrong with memories…!
But that’s the beauty of the camera – capture your memories and bring them home to share with family and friends. Capture an image of that big buck that keeps giving you the slip. Capture shots of all those “non-shooter” bucks that you are waiting on to grow into the “skyscraper” bucks that dance around in your dreams. You can let them grow and still shoot them with a camera! Fun…yes it is. It is – believe me!
A spotted fawn, photo above, is a rather rare sight this late in the season!
And a great thing about it? There are no seasons that you have to deal with. There are no licenses that you’ll need (perhaps you may need a permit of some type in some locations – such as certain refuge areas. But, in general, there are no licenses to purchase when you take wildlife photos)
But – hey – lets do not mistake fun and rewarding for easy.
No one said bringing home great wildlife photos was easy! Bringing back “photos” may be easy – in relative terms – but there is great challenge in bringing back stunning photos! In fact, some would argue that it is just as hard – and perhaps harder – to bring home a stunning – wall-hanger – type shot of a giant whitetail buck with a camera than it is to shoot one with a bow or gun! Some would argue that anyway – and you can count me in on one of the some!
(Even getting a decent image of the female whitetail variety is a challenge, I’ll tell you that!)
(I photographed the above buck after he just got done fighting with another buck in the bushes — I never even saw the other one.)
I’m still working on that, too, by the way….taking stunning photos of big, wild, whitetail bucks! I am always striving for better. But again, so much is the fun of it. Challenging! There is nothing necessarily satisfying about doing something that lacks significant effort or will.
Keep in mind: the greatness of your photo reward is directly proportional to the effort and technique you put into it. Usually. Sure sometimes an “easy” shot comes your way. But more often than not, great shots don’t accidentally fall into your lap. You have to work at getting them. Again…though..that is all part of the fun!
So what are you waiting for?
TSI – Timber Stand Improvement
By Rich Waite (Founder Iowa Wildlife Habitat Services)
So, here you stand. You’ve got some land. On it, you’ve got some timber. And now your thinking, hmmmm, I wonder what I can do to improve this? I mean you’ve already put in that honey-hole of a food plot on the back “40,” and you’ve hung a couple of stands close by. And, maybe you’ve planted some trees and, perhaps, even some native grasses in some of your open areas. But still you ponder, “what to do with that timber land”? I mean the bottom line is that you want to enhance your wildlife habitat — particularly for deer — and particularly for big bucks. That is, you want to enhance the attractiveness of your forest land to mature whitetails but you just aren’t quite sure where to get started. Read on….I’m here to help!
First thing to realize is that
your forested acres would more than likely REALLY benefit from be actively managed
But, the sad truth is, very, few Iowa woodlands are actively managed or have a forest management plan of any sort. And really this is probably true nationwide.
And one simple reason is that most Iowa landowners don’t know much about managing timberland. And that’s pretty understandable. Most people do something else for a living. Most folks don’t spend a lot of time wondering around the timber examining the growth characteristics of their forestland Rest assured, though, that’s something that can be learned.
Remember that we are dealing with an older growth vegetative environment when looking at our forested acres. Trees that are 30-60-80- or 150 years old! But keep in mind, too, that most of Iowa’s timber lands have been logged a time or two or three over the past 100 years. But when compared to everything else grown in Iowa, i.e., the beans, the corn, and alfalfa – even our young timbers are still much, much, older than the annual crops.
However, a key to managing the forestland acres is to look at them much like crops – after all, really, trees can be deemed much like crops – just with longer growth cycles! Even if you plan to never harvest a tree, but rather having just a specific goal in mind, such as maximum acorn production, forestland still benefits greatly from being managed like a crop. And that means being weeded usually! This means, basically, just thinning out the density of the trees within the timber. This is the number one culprit in most causes, in Iowa woodlands, that undermines the goals of many landowner – the growth of would-be quality trees that is GREATLY impeded by surrounding less-desired trees!
Iowa Wildlife Habitat Services (IWHS for short ) has been actively involved in Timber Stand Improvement (TSI) for well over a decade
TSI is simply an acronym that applies to a system whereby one walks the timber and decides which trees to “keep” — called crop trees and which trees to “cull” — kill trees. Look at it like weeding a garden. The trees you want to keep are usually going to be the trees of the highest quality and the most desired species — like various oaks, walnut, and maybe hickory. The crop trees are identified, normally, with a red circle of paint around each tree at breast height (we just use a good quality red spray paint to mark the crop trees and the kill trees are marked with an “X”). This “TSI” procedure is called “crop tree release” and is the most common type of TSI that is implemented in many forest areas. Crop tree release (CTR) is huge player in the long term health of your forest and of the wildlife population as a whole.
Research has shown oaks that have been property “released” show up to 2-times the normal growth rate and up to 10-times the average acorn production!
This is HUGE! I mean, if the oaks in your timber are producing that many more acorns than your neighbors — guess whose forest the bucks will be spending the majority of their time in come October!
Another main benefit of crop tree release TSI is that it really increases the rate or return on board feet production of your crop trees. And CTR really ensures the highest quality log, simply because the trees “released” are free to grow as fast and as vigorous as possible, which means fewer twisted logs and less likelihood of disease and internal decay. Of course, you may not ever desire to sell any logs out of your timber. BUT, remember, CTR still enhances the quality of your timber from both a log perspective — even if you never harvest them you will have an increased value of your timber on paper should you ever decided to sell your place or gift it to someone, perhaps your kids someday — and it really also gives a major pump-up of wildlife value via increased acorn production, and, further, it also can greatly increase ground level browse. This is due to increased sunlight penetration to reach the forest floor which stimulates growth of lush new vegetation. And guess what whitetails like? You know – lush new, low-level vegetation. Not only to browse on as a top quality diversified food source – remember there will normally be LOTS of different varieties of new vegetation coming up – but also as security cover to use as bedding protection.
To be sure, crop tree release TSI provides lots of time-tested, scientifically proven benefit to your forest land.
In fact, CROP TREE RELEASE TSI IS NORMALLY THE FIRST THING I DO ON ANY PIECE OF FORESTLAND I PURCHASE!
As a business IWHS has done thousands of acres of crop tree release for customers from around the globe. But how can you as an individual landowner implement this procedure? It’s really easy! Contact your local DNR district forester here Iowa District Forester Directory
She or he will get your started. Both state and Federal cost-share dollars are readily available and often pay up to 75% of the cost of getting this done! Keep in mind, too, that many of the cost-share dollars available are first-come, first-served! Also, know that the year, as far as the government is concerned starts on July 01 not January 01! So the time to get active on securing cost share is mid summer – NOT MID-WINTER when so many people are starting to think about getting something done within their forest. The key is just to think ahead a little bit to get the funding.
Keep in mind this procedure takes some knowledge! You MUST be able to identify tree species AND individual tree quality. This takes both knowledge and LOTS of time to get good at. Many foresters who have done much TSI will tell you that is just as much an art as it is a science to get good at it. Check out this guide to get your started! Guide to TSI (External Link: PDF File From Iowa State Extension)
Good luck out there and have fun!
Food Plot 101
By Monte Scott
Many outdoorsman and landowners relish the idea of a field full of deer or turkeys. This idea can quickly become a reality through the establishment and care of a food plot. Over the years, the types of seed available to establish a food plot have become almost mind-boggling. In this article, we will look at the different types of food plots to consider, the steps involved in growing a lush plot, and some strategic points to consider before breaking ground.
Several years ago, the staff at Iowa Wildlife Habitat Services saw all the benefits a food plot afforded. From early spring gobbler hunting to late muzzleloader season, a food plot is a valuable tool to draw and hold deer, turkeys, and numerous other species in a location you chose. Now, make no mistake, deer and turkeys are wild spirits and the best food plot in the world will provide no advantage unless the proper type and location is selected.
The staff at IWHS has been involved in the planting of food plots of corn, soybeans, ladino clover (our favorite), red clover, rape, turnip, chicory, birds-foot trefoil, and alfalfa. You should have a goal in mind when you select the type of food plot to plant. For example, if you are interested in drawing deer to a year-round food plot, a legume such as ladino clover is probably your best bet. This type of planting will see visits from deer and turkeys throughout the year. If, however, you want to install a food plot for that one chance at a late muzzleloader season monster buck, a field of unpicked corn during the first ten days of January is hard to beat.
Before you call the taxidermist to get ready for that giant buck you are going to shoot over your food plot, you need to do a little scientific work. First and foremost, you need a soil sample test. This will give you an idea of the condition of your soil and will possibly be the determining factor in the type of food plot you install. In future articles, we will take a look at these tests and what they can tell you.
We have found that a combination of legumes and annual grain plots will attract and hold deer and turkeys like nothing else. Fortunately, in the Midwest, most soils will support this type of plot. This smorgasbord attracts them much like the local buffet can attract a hunter who has spent the past eight hours in a cold tree stand. The legumes provide high protein for does with fawns. It also provides the protein necessary to grow that tall, wide rack on a mature buck. The grains provide the high carbohydrate the deer and turkeys relish when the mercury starts to plummet.
Once you decide on the type of food plot to install, the next step is finding a strategic location. The most important element to consider is recognizing that installing a food plot will change you property like nothing else can. You are going to attract deer and other wildlife that you never even knew were in the area. And these animals are going to forge new paths to this luscious offering from their bedding areas. Look at topographical maps and determine the likely approach routes to your food plots prior to breaking ground.
If you are a bowhunter, these paths are going to be your ambush sites. If are a shotgun/muzzleloader hunter, these paths can serve the same purpose but you also have the option of setting up 100 yards or more away overlooking your food plot. With over 80 years of combined hunting experience, the staff at IWHS has finally concluded (we are sometimes slow learners) that bowhunting over a food plot is not the most productive route. Close encounters at a food plot, such as those required to be a successful bowhunter, soon turn those mid-morning and early-afternoon visiting whitetails into nocturnal seemingly non-existent apparitions. Deer pattern man much the same way we pattern them.
In future articles, we will detail the steps involved in food plot preparation and provide a critical outline for maintaining your food plot. Remember, staff at IWHS are always available to provide a free quote on installing a food plot for you. Until then, good hunting!
Increasing The Atractiveness and Carrying Capacity of your Forest to Deer
By Rich Waite
Founder Iowa Wildlife Habatat Services
Did you know that in general most forest lands in Iowa are way below grade in terms of their attractiveness to whitetails? Many of the forests in your region of the state (maybe even on your own property) really aren’t that appealing to whitetails during most times of the year. For instance, a mature oak timber, though beautiful and valuable, usually means only one thing to whitetails: acorns. Sure whitetails love acorns and will be in that forest scarfing them down hog-like during fall. But whitetails will find little bedding and browsing attraction in a mature forest; the understory will be thin — with sparse bedding cover and browse that is too high for deer. Most of the deer, especially big bucks, will avoid establishing core areas in such a forest and will use it mainly over a two month period during good acorns years in autumn.
The best forests for deer are diverse: they contain a wide mix of native species. These forests usually contain a mix of oak species such as white, red, pin, shingle and black. They also contain plenty of trees and shrubs at deer browse height to provide valuable bedding and browsing habitat over the course of the year.
What can you do, then, to increase the attractiveness of the forest(s) that you maintain? In some instances, a timber harvest will yield significant benefits. Harvesting some of the older trees will open up the forest understory for sunlight penetration and rapid new growth of a vast array of woody vegetation. For instance, just this summer we completed a major harvest of oak on one of the properties we manage. And guess what? There are already more deer present in the new area than there were when the forest consisted of only big oaks just last year! Over the next 20 years, the rapid growth of new oak browse will ensure a much higher deer carrying capacity and greater attractiveness of that forest to all whitetails, including monster bucks. On top of that, the new trees will be managed for veneer quality; thus, not only will the new succession forest provide top-notch hunting but will provide a high-yielding investment as well. In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with managing a forest as a great monetary investment as long as the wildlife benefits as well as the landowner. Sometimes you can have your cake and eat it too!
Two years ago my good friend asked me to look at his land and see what we could do to help him upgrade the size of the bucks he’s been seeing. I suggested two things to him: a clover plot and a timber stand improvement on his forest acres. We did the TSI on his place recently and just this past summer he showed me some incredible photos of some true monster bucks he’d taken with his trail cam. The clover plot has helped him hold deer on his property over the summer and the TSI has greatly increased deer use of his timber. Now, his forest produces much better and higher quality browse and the acorn crop has been substantially upgraded as well. He’s been very happy with the results. Not only has the deer hunting improved on his place but the value of his timber (whether on paper when/if he ever sells the property or should he some day harvest some trees) has been dramatically increased as well. Now, there is no such thing as a free lunch but in this case the lunch was cheap: the government paid 75% of the total cost of the forest work he had done. It’s pretty hard to beat that sort of deal. The thing is this deal is not limited to my friend: many landowners have forests that qualify for this sort of habitat upgrade help, they just don’t know it!
One simple and inexpensive thing a forest steward can do to promote more deer use of his forest is to fertilize favored browse species or select trees. One can simply take a hand seeder and spread a general 10-10-10 fertilizer on woody browse deer food (such as coral berry) to upgrade the nutrition and attraction to deer. One can also insert a few cupfuls of such fertilzer under the top soil along the drip-line of a few larger select oaks or fruit trees.
Hey good luck out there in the woods and have fun!
Does Scent-Loc Work?
By Rich Waite
Founder Iowa Wildlife Habitat Services
My friend had his doubts: just another marketing scheme he always reasoned. I gave him some Scent-Loc apparel to try. Within a week he was within literal spitting distance of the biggest buck he’d ever seen with a bow in hand and two other big bucks where swaggering all around his stand as well. “Man, you’re not getting your Scent-Loc back! That experience made me a believer”.
Perhaps some of you have had similar experiences: close-range deer, some of which drift downwind, not detecting your presence enough to snort and stomp away. The key word there is enough. Because, in my experience, usually downwind deer do detect a human presence to a degree when wearing Scent-Loc apparel.
Just three weeks ago I sat high in a thorny honey locust tree waiting for some tall-tined buck to appear. I didn’t wait too long and a nice 130 class 8 pointer appeared. I didn’t want to shoot the deer so I switched gears from predator to curious observer. You see this deer walked through my shooting lane and on downwind of my stand. That’s when he hit a brick wall — my invisible scent-stream. He looked my way and sucked in a huge whiff of air to check it out. He then licked his lips looked around and proceeded onward…..I passed the human stink odor test of this buck! Whew! I hate it when they do that! But I tell you what — since using my Scent-Loc liner system (pants, jacket and head hood) the past six years or so I’ve come toI hate the deer scent check test a lot less than I used to. You see I used to flunk that test nearly every time. And all I’d get was a snorting, high-tailing, turf-tearing buck heading for some distant land like a puff of smoke in a tornado. Now, deer may suck in air when they get downwind but most often they don’t jump out of their skin in panic. Most often they don’t leave and just continue about their business after a bit of looking around. I rarely get snorted wearing my Scent-Lock suit as long as my body and clothes are clean. The deer usually stick around long enough for a shooting opportunity.
A prime example of it’s effectiveness revealed itself three years ago on a late November bow stand. Three does headed my way and began feeding on a patch of green straight behind and straight downwind of my stand. Geez, I hate it when they do that! They feed for 5 minutes as I try to peek back at them, hold my breath and prey that they don’t wind me while simultaniously look forward for a cruising buck at the same time. Voila….Mr. Mighty Tines is heading straight to me….now as long as those does don’t smell me before he ambles in! The buck lolly-gags around a little bush down the draw for several long minutes before he makes his way past my shooting lane for the shot. Well, trembling knees aside, I managed to shoot the buck where I aim and he gets to ride back home in my pickup. Thank you Lord for giving me my biggest whitetail….and thank you for keeping those downwind does from picking me off as Mr. Treeborne Stink Predator. My Scent-loc proved itself invaluable to me on that occasion.
But what’s the deal here, you ask, Scent-Loc works but some downwind deer still smell you? Yes, in my experience most often downwind deer do detect human presence to a degree. My observations indicate that deer react as if they detect a trace amount of human scent on most occasions: as if a human had been there in the past but is not there right now. The key phrase here is that they do not think a human threat is currently present in most situations. I say most situations because it, too, depends on how clean one maintains their body and clothing. One must always scrub rubber boots with water, wear clean clothing washed in non-perfumed detergent and shower regularly if one is to maintain any degree of deer hunting close-encounter success, wearing Scent-Loc or not wearing Scent-Loc. I also think it’s vital to close one’s mouth during a close range deer encounter to reduce any potential mouth odor. I like to eat a bite of apple or handful of cheerios before I hit the stand to help in this regard as well. All of these things, teamed with Scent-Loc technology helps increase close-range buck encounters substantially, in my opinion.
Deer reaction to human presence also depends on the deer you are dealing with. That is — how “edgy” they are when they detect human odor of any intensity. I’ve noticed, for instance, that in some areas, given the same perceivable level of body and clothing cleanliness, that deer react noticeably different to what appears to be the same level of humon odor production. Some downwind deer don’t even appear to detect odor while others do. Rarely, however, with the proper preparation of body, clothing and stand site selection procedures should downwind deer snort and bolt to the detection of a hunter wearing Scent-Loc. This has been my experience anyway!
Hey good luck out there in the woods and have fun!
(Note: I speak of Scent-Loc only because that is the brand that I have experience with. I have no sponsor or endorsement ties to this company! Other competing lines of similar product such as Scentblocker should be similarly effective. I don’t know though because I haven’t used them!)
So You Wanna Shoot a Big Buck, huh?
By Rich Waite
Founder Iowa Wildlife Habitat Services
Of course, who doesn’t want to shoot a big buck? But are you ready for the challenges that it entails?
I mean to shoot a big buck you must not only possess the proper mindset (you should want to shoot a big buck not for comparison to your friend’s deer, i.e., ego, but because it is what you want to do for yourself). Shooting a big buck most often means long hours on stand, passing up lots of smaller bucks and maintaining the confidence that a big buck will show when things get really tough (nasty weather, other hunter intrusion, few buck sightings, season winding down….etc….etc….)
Some people are fortunate and shoot a big buck early in the season. Others (like me) usually have no such luck and have to spend many long hours on stand.
Speaking of stands: guys who shoot big bucks regularly often have lots of them. I’m not talking three or four but 10, 20 or even more in some cases. One must have several stands placed in optimal areas to avoid burning out locations and having the deer pattern them. So it’s not merely about the number of stand either — but rather where and how they are positioned. They must be strategically placed in good areas for long-term hunter success on big bucks from them. That is they must allow deer-discrete hunter entry and exit. The guy routinely busting deer while walking to and from his stand sites is most likely not the guy shooting the area’s biggest bucks on a regular basis. Hunting big bucks is a carefully orchestrated game of chess: each participant trying to outwit and outmaneuver the other. Big bucks put up with little hunter non-sense. Think of monster bucks as Vaseline covered bass where you seldom get a hold of one if you go about it the wrong way. It takes thought, preparation, time and the proper mindset, not to mention nerves of steel when the opportunity presents itself! (And maybe a grapel hook if you are really going after Vaseline covered bass).
And you have to pass up small, medium and large bucks to get the biggest ones. I’m talking lots of bucks standing and walking nonchalantly in your shooting lanes that you must let walk. I’m talking about letting 30, 40 or even 50 bucks go past unscathed in most seasons even in the great big buck state of Iowa. That means passing up 1.5, 2.5 and even most 3.5 year old bucks if you really want a pot-belied antlered beast dangling from your garage rafters. “Man, when that buck walked away from me I couldn’t believe I passed him up,” said my co-worker and friend Kevin when he let a double-beamed whitetail in the 140 class walk under his stand earlier this bow season. “Am I nuts for not shooting that deer”, he questioned himself out loud. Nah, you have to let those really nice ones go too if you really want a bruiser, I said. A few weeks later Kevin called me up, saying he’d shot a good one. Turns out it was indeed a good one……more like, the buck of his or most any hunter’s dreams! A triple beamed non-typical trophy of near B & C proportions with his bow…… the wait was worth it!
Of course, the big buck hunter can end up chucking down a big bowl of tag soup at years end as well. Take me this year, for instance. Though I’ve had a great season and have passed up dozens of bucks, I still have an unfilled any-sex deer tag in my pocket and the season is not far from expiring! Do I feel bad? Hardly! To me it is about the experience as well as the endeavor end result: I’ve much enjoyed the many hours and learning experiences I’ve had in the whitetail woods this season….in fact the only thing I’d trade those experiences for are God and my family! I’ve passed up shots on a dozen or so solid 3.5 year old bucks in hopes that some Mr. Big would amble past my ambush location. I’ve had a blast with the many close whitetail encounters I’ve experienced this year (though I really don’t care to talk about the big 10 pointer that I missed!). I came to full draw exactly twice this season on big bucks. Neither time did I fill my tag as a conclusion. In one instance, I had a huge 8 pointer with 8-10 inch brow tines within 6 yards but because of brush was enable to shoot (that is my fault for not having a shooting lane in that spot. A lesson learned long ago but one that I failed to implement with that quickly placed stand). Well, in big buck hunting you win some and you learn some…..and you enjoy every minute of it!
Bottom line is this: If you want to go after big bucks my hat is off to you and I wish you the best luck. You can turn your big buck dreams into big buck memories with the right mindset and preparation. But I warn you this: it is addicting…..this game of chess we call big buck hunting. So don’t say I didn’t warn you of that and don’t say that the tag soup isn’t tasty at season’s end either! Because to my mind, successful hunting isn’t based on the material end result, ie, a dead buck, but rather on the totality of experiences gained throughout the season and the honest satisfaction they yield. Come to think of it, maybe that is why I love to hunt Iowa big bucks…..because I have a good excuse to maximize my time in the woods. I love every minute of it!
Good hunting out there and have fun!
Food Plot Choices: What To Plant?
By Rich Waite
Well, there are a literal smorgasbord of choices. Things like alfalfa, brassicas, clover, corn, Milo, rye, soybeans and wheat are all potential food plot choices and are eaten by deer heavily during various times of the year. Any of these could make a good food plot choice in the right place at the right time. Remember deer have varied food preferences throughout the year. From germination to maturity, plants vary in their attraction level to deer and turkey as well. This is just something to keep in mind. The attraction level of your food plot to wildlife will vary according to the growth stage of the plant and the diversity of food choices given deer in the area. No one food plot species is going to be preferred by whitetails or turkeys at all times of the year!
What to plant boils down to the types of soils you have to work with, food plot location (aspect to sun and shade), the amount of money you have to put into the project and the type of equipment available to use. And of course, what time of year you want to draw in the wildlife.
Lets examine soil type first. Corn, beans and alfalfa demand good soils with PH levels above 6.3 for the most part (a soil test should be done to determine soil PH and how much lime and fertilizer needs to be added according to what you’d like to plant). The white clovers like good soil as well and they also like moist soils and even some shade. Red clovers can do well in upland areas on less than prime soils. The reds also tolerate dry conditions much better than the whites. Wheat can be grown on a variety of soils types but does better than rye in moist-wet soil. Rye grows better than wheat in low grade and low PH soils. Choices like rape, turnips and kale are good for a wide variety of soil types.
What about deer attraction?
Corn, beans and alfalfa are about as high up on the deer preference list as it gets. Deer love alfalfa, especially after a fresh cutting, summer through fall and into winter, if they can get at it through he snow. However, alfalfa is rather expensive to get started and annual fertilizing and liming are sometimes required. It also should be cut regularly during the growing season to be kept at optimal growth stages for whietail attractiveness. However, one can makes some money off of this in the end if he/she opts to sell some of the bales produced by the cuttings. So unless one farms out the alfalfa to someone, I would suggest the individual land steward think carefully before delving into alfalfa. It can be a great choice for the right individual however.
Deer love corn — probably better than anything else I can think of, especially during late fall and winter. Problem is corn needs good soils, adequate fertilizer/lime and needs to be properly planted to yield top results. It also suffers the most of any food plot choice from predation: squirrels, raccoons and even beaver (cutting stalks to build a dam or lodge) can reek as much havoc on a field as can the deer and turkey you desire. Also, deer are fond of eating the silks and young ears of corn during early summer, meaning even a good size corn field can be decimated before hunting season even arrives! But make no mistake: corn can work as a food plot choice. It typically works best in areas of moderate deer numbers with other diversionary food choices available. Plots smaller than about 3 acres in high deer density areas having few other crops or high quality food choices available in the area, tend to be wiped clean long before the onset of winter — sometimes by early fall!
Soybeans are a good food plot choice. They are attractive to whitetails during the summer (the foliage) and again late in the year after other choice items such as acorns, corn, alfalfa, etc., are gone or are bard for wildlife to get to because of snow. Beans are also relatively easy to plant and do not get predated upon nearly as hard as corn. They do demand good soils with PH values in the neighborhood of 6.3 or above though. And, the seed is moderately expensive to plant. Another good aspect of soybeans if you are hunting near a plot is that you can see the deer in the field. Something that is tough to do when hunting a corn field.
Undoubtedly, any of the various clovers are the food plot choices of many. And for good reason. According to species, clovers can be planted in a wide variety of soil types, are relatively cheap and easy to plant, are easy to maintain and attract both deer and turkey over a long seasonal time span (early spring through late fall when plants get set-back by frost).
A very good annual food plot choice for fall attraction is either winter rye or winter wheat. Both are cheap to plant and easy to grow. Deer like both, especially if other quality foods in the area are limited. As mentioned earlier, rye outgrows wheat on poorer and/or dryer soils. Wheat requires a bit better soil and likes more moisture. Both of these should be planted in late August through mid-September for optimal deer forage in Iowa.
Other less widely utilized food plot choices include the brassica’s (rape, turnips, kale, etc.), Egyptian wheat, millet, sunflower and grain sorghum. Egyptian wheat makes an interesting choice in that it grows to 10 feet tall! For this reason, strips can be planted along property boundaries to keep intruding eyes off of larger food plot areas within the property. Egyptian wheat produces large seed heads and the deer tend to push the seed heads over breaking the plant in the middle. E. Wheat makes a great food plot and deer attraction choice in areas where deer have few choice food items present fall-winter. And because of it’s size, deer often bed down and live right amidst the field. So it is an excellent choice for producing both food and cover!
The brassica’s are becoming more widely planted by deer enthusiasts every year. And with good reason. They grow in a wide variety of soil types, are easy to grow and can be planted most any time of the growing season — spring through early fall. They are also inexpensive to plant. It may take deer up to a year to figure out what to do with these new types of forage plants, but once they do look out: they like them! The brassica’s are most heavily browsed late in the fall and on throughout the winter.
Should I plant one species or a mix, you ask? Good question.
Since no one particular type of plant is best suited for the vast array of weather variables and since no one species is always favored by deer/turkey throughout the season, a good strategy is to plant a combination of plants — this works very well with the small seeded food plot species, such as the clovers and brassica’s.
We often plant either rye or wheat (or combination thereof) in fall. Then, come in and seed in a combo of clover varieties (sometimes mixed with brassica) in the early spring. The rye/wheat acts as a nurse crop, protecting the establishing clover seedlings from harsh weather conditions until they get firmly established by early June. We then go in and mow the mature wheat/rye in early July, leaving a lush field of protected clover underneath. The brassica will last one year while the clover will last 3-5. This is a very good way to establish a clover food plot. Depending upon location — wet soils/dry soils, shade/sun, etc…. — I like to mix a combo of white and red clover species when I seed. Thus, regardless of weather conditions, the food plot has species that should do well. Whereas a mix of solid ladino clover (white) for instance, could yield poor results should a dry summer occur. During a wet year, a field of red could produce less than ideal results. Deer like both but do show a preference toward the white clovers. For this reason, I try to plant a higher percentage of white than red clover whenever the field conations warrant.
Another interseeding option is a field of soybeans with winter rye during fall. This makes effective utilization of nearly every square inch of top soil in your plot. One can even do this in a corn field or within Egyptian wheat. Whenever you plan to spread rye on top of the ground, however, be sure to do it before a predicted heavy rain/wheat weather period. Rye will germinate and establish this way but only over an extended period of rain and cool weather. Should you get such conditions it can work well. Rye works better than wheat for doing this because it needs less moisture to germinate.
Hopefully, some of this info will help in your food plot decisions!
Rich Waite is a registered and licensed real estate Broker in Iowa with Midwest Property Sales. Midwest Property Sales is an Iowa-based real estate agency. Iowa Wildlife Habitat Services, LLC is a web-based marketing platform that showcases properties for sale, or auction, by licensed real estate agents and/or licensed auctioneers, where applicable — both with Midwest Property Sales and with partnering companies through statutory legal agreements. Rich Waite as owner of Iowa Wildlife Habitat Services, LLC makes no claims that Iowa Wildlife Habitat Services, LLC is an independent real estate company.
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Rich Waite is a licensed Iowa real estate broker and owner of Midwest Property Sales. He is a member of the Southeast Iowa Board Of Realtors, The Iowa Association of Realtors, and the National Association of Realtors.
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