With the weather as cold as it is, you may not be thinking about food plots and minerals licks. When in fact, this is the perfect time to think about them as this is the time of the year when it may be too cold to go ice fishing or calling predators, yet it is the perfect time to go on line and learn about how and when to put them in.
My web site www.outdoorsmenadventures.com contains those from Mossy Oak Biologic, which have valuable information on foodplots, as do the numerous You Tube videos.
I have hunted over food plots throughout the United States and Canada. I believe when temperatures start to drop and other food sources are buried under the winter snow that this is when foodplots are most important and needed.
Food plots, if planted properly and there year round, spring, summer fall and winter, give wildlife-needed food especially after the crops are gone.
As most of you know, the rut is hard on deer, especially the bucks as they are running all over the country, looking for receptive does and fighting any-and-all bucks they run into. This consumes much of their energy and body fat, that which is needed to survive the winter months.
If food plots are available during the winter after the rut, they give all deer, especially the bucks; help to survive the long cold nights ahead.
Winter is also hard on the does and fawns and any additional food they get will help the pregnant does to have healthy fawns and those fawns to make it to spring.
No matter what mass merchandiser catalogs, web site, sporting goods store or sporting goods department you look at or are in, you are going to see tons of food plot seed.
I have tried numerous brands and varieties, all which have worked, but some were better than others were.
I let the deer, turkeys tell me what they liked best, With the game cameras we have out, it became apparent the deer and turkey in the area I hunt during the spring and summer like rye, clover, rape, chicory and oats. In the fall, I plant my fall and winter foodplots to wheat, beans, Brassica, corn or Milo as many of these are not covered up with snow and still available to wildlife above the snow cover.
I am not saying others will not work; those I mentioned seemed to do the best job of feeding turkey, deer and other critters during different seasons.
There are several things to consider before establishing a food plot including time of planting, rainfall, location and soil type.
From what I’ve read and planted, there are two ideal times to plant a foodplot depending on the Spring weather spring would March 1 through May 15 is a good time to put foodplots in the spring and in the fall it would be August 1 through September 1.
Some folks believe that the area they is not large enough for a food plot, no true, as even the smaller food plots are beneficial to some wildlife. On the other hand, they might think the area they would like to put a food plot would be too hard to get into.
If you have access to an ATV or UTV, like the Honda Pioneer I use, you have the biggest part of the problem solved as they can get into some very tight areas. You do not have to look far to find here are a manufacture that makes the pull behind equipment needed to put in a food plot. If you do not have a four-wheeler, there are other options available.
My smallest food plot, which was in close proximity to several other larger plots was one twenty yards wide and forty yards long, not really all that accessible to larger equipment, so we put in with a garden tiller and my Honda Pioneer and as small as it was, it was one of my most productive plots.
Where you plant a food plot is important, as the location you choose is a very big factor when it comes to its success. If you want to establish one to hunt over, of course, you will want it within clear view and close proximity to your stand or deer house.
If you are planting a plot to feed deer, increase body size, promote overall herd health and improve their antler mass, select a site that is isolated. A secluded, undisturbed area will draw more wildlife to the plot, allowing wildlife to travel to and from it without fear.
They work best if they are close to the animals travel route and close to cover, making it easier for them to get to the food plot without using up a lot of energy. Deer, especially the bucks can be in tough shape after the rut and the less distance they travel to get nourishment the better. The same goes for turkeys, if they need to come out into the open in order to get to food, they are more visible and easier for prey to find.
Establishing a food plot does take some time, but if done correctly, the work you put into it is rewarding.
Below, you will find some of the things I did when I established my foodplots.
The first thing and perhaps the most important thing you will need to know is the fertility of the soil; to do this, take a soil test, as it lets you know what nutrients and PH you need to add. I picked up my soil test kits from our local Central Valley Ag in town and had them test the sample, that way I knew what I should incorporate into the soil in order to make it successful.
Seed selection is very important, as you want to make sure the seed you are planting is one that will grow well up north and tolerate our winter temperatures.
Numerous companies including Mossy Oak Biologic, Hunter’s Specialties, Whitetail Institute, Tecomate, Evolved Habitats and others all offer the seed type that grows best in your area.
Weeds could be your biggest problem and killing them first, will be an important step towards getting your food plot off to a good start.
On all my plots, the first thing I did was to spray them with Roundup using a hand, backpack or a sprayer mounted on my Pioneer.
Next, you will need to prepare the site using a tiller on the smaller plots or a disk and harrow on the larger plots and then to drag it, creating a smooth seedbed.
Once you have a smooth seedbed, it is not a bad idea to let things settle down for ten to fourteen days to see if new weeds l appear and then reapply your herbicide as needed. Once you re-spray, hold off for a week to ten days before planting your seed.
Once the ground is prepared, is the time to apply fertilizer spreading it, depending on the size of the foodplot with a hand spreader or one mounted on your four-wheeler? You will want to make sure you get all of the clods broken up, making for a smooth seedbed.
Next, you will want to spread your seed using a hand or four-wheeler spreader. When seeding, be sure to plant in two directions as it helps to make sure you to cover the entire plot.
Then, work the seeds into the soil, do not make the mistake many hunters and that I have made, burying the seed too deep, as smaller seeds such as clover, Brassica or chicory only need to be planted a ¼” deep. Smaller seeds have less packed into them and need to germinate and get to the surface to grow, unlike the larger seed, which you can bury up to 1/2″ deep
Then it is time to pack the soil for a firm seedbed, done by using a log, wood pallet, heavy drag, or cultipacker.
As the plot grows, depending on what you planted there could be some maintenance involved, as crops such as of clover or alfalfa in order to make them more palatable to the deer needs to be clipped to promote the fresh growth
If you are going to all the trouble to put in a foodplots, why not put in a mineral lick. If you think putting out a salt block that you have given deer all the minerals they need, think again. Sure salt will attract deer, but does not contain what the bucks and does need to prosper. When a buck’s antler hardens, it is made up of 30 to 35% calcium and phosphorus, so why not put out a supplement that contains these two nutrients. The does will also in need of a higher amount of minerals for milk production to feed their fawns. I have used RAKS minerals for years and have seen the overall size of the bucks’ increase as well as the herd looking better.
You do not want to pitch the mineral on the ground, cut away the grass and weeds and mix it into the dirt as the deer are used to digging for it.
I have had some mineral licks that are tore up shortly after I put them in and others look as if the deer had paid very little attention to them. If the deer in your area do not need the minerals they will leave it alone and when they need them dig deep to get at it. At different times of the year, deer will require more minerals, and because of this, your mineral licks may show very little sign of use in some months and a lot in others. It is a good Idea to redo and freshen up your mineral licks from time to time, having it out there when the deer decide they need it.
Things may not happen as quickly as you would wish with your foodplot and mineral lick, do not panic, give it time and it will take off and be there when you and wildlife need it.