Check out this cool article featuring Patriot LWM Outdoors Director of Product Sales, Adam Korman, also owner of EDEN Habitat Development, the tri-state provider of habitat improvement services for Patriot. Some misquotations but still an interesting article, enjoy!
In a 2 1/2-acre corner of a Westmoreland County farm last week, signs of deer were everywhere. Trails led from the surrounding woods into a long plot of turnips, winter wheat and oats, planted for the deer. Prints were scattered among the clover and alfalfa, and 6-foot sorghum stalks were brushed aside where the whitetails had passed.
As we walked the field, agronomist Adam Korman’s cell phone beeped. A motion-detector field camera emailed a photo showing real-time evidence of activity on the property — it was us.
Counter-intuitively, perhaps, Korman’s hunting group uses food plots to nourish and attract deer so they can shoot them, reducing the farm’s deer density.
With at least one neighbor keeping hunters out, the deer population on the 118-acre farm had soared and the owner suffered years of substantial crop damage. Korman, 34, of Westview and a private group of hunters were given an exclusive lease to manage the deer herd. They post the perimeter, chase out poachers, plant and maintain wildlife food plots, cull excess does and scrub bucks, and hunt for mature males with the best racks.
Korman said his group spends $500 a year on lime, fertilizer, soil test, seed and fuel for motor vehicles, and each member’s chance of harvesting a quality deer has increased by 60 percent.
Saturday, Korman dished out the dirt on food plots during a workshop at the Pymatuning Waterfowl and Outdoor Expo in Linesville, Crawford County. His company, Eden Habitat Development (www.edenhd.com), works with landowners, municipalities, hunters and wildlife management groups to nourish wildlife including white-tailed deer, grouse, quail and pheasants.
“We work as consultants and do the dirt work, but we found there is a demand for food plot consultants among people who basically want to do the work themselves,” said Korman. “Maybe they have no idea what to do, or what they’re doing isn’t working. We get them to the next step.”
Whether the food plots are planted as long-term habitat improvements, nourishment outposts or wildlife attractants, the ultimate goal is a better hunt. In most cases in Pennsylvania, luring game animals to baiting stations is illegal. But in the regulatory parlance of the Game Commission, attracting animals to food plots is not considered baiting.
“Food plots are considered a normal habitat improvement and are legal as long as they are planted and left standing in a natural condition and not manipulated,” said PGC spokesman Jerry Feaser. “For example, a landowner could plant a corn field or a sunflower field and leave it standing in a natural condition as a wildlife food source, and that would not be considered baiting. However, if the corn or sunflower was manipulated by mowing or chopping to create an unnatural concentration of grain on the ground, it would be considered baiting and illegal.”
Korman said planting wildlife food plots “isn’t an exact science” and more research is necessary. But much is known about enhancing nourishment for wildlife.
Step 1 in initiating a food-plot program is a deer density survey using trail cameras. Compare the deer population to acreage and other conditions to determine the size of the food plot. Situations vary, but when Korman’s group started work on the Westmoreland County land, it held about 35 deer per acre. Density is going down — Korman said they’re working toward a goal of 20 deer per acre.
“On the properties I consult for, I show them the math,” he said. “Say you have 700 acres. You need 5 to 10 percent of that property to be in some kind of field or forest enhancement program. . . . For a farmer trying to take his deer population down, anything would help, but he really needs at least a couple quarter-acre diversionary food plots to make a difference.”
“Diversionary” plots legally attract deer for hunters. Korman recommends planting a variety of choice plants surrounded by tall sorghum — the cover makes skittish deer more comfortable while feeding.
“Without the cover, the deer get in the habit of feeding nocturnally,” he said. “When the deer get used to eating in daylight hidden by the sorghum, it makes it easier when we go hunting. I get about 40 to 50 percent more daylight feeding activity when the deer feel more protected hidden behind the sorghum.”
• Clover provides good nutritional enhancement for deer. “It grows in wet areas and has a really good coverage rate once it’s established,” Korman said. “It provides a lot of protein for big antlers and body weight.”
• Alfalfa is more finicky and harder to grow, requiring more intense pH manipulation. “It’s more work than most guys are willing to put in, but it has a long tap root and is high on calcium and protein.
• Chickory has a long tap root and is considered a valuable draught-resistant element in a wildlife food plot, providing high calcium for better lactation and antler growth.
• Sorghum, or Egyptian wheat, looks like corn and grows as tall, but produces seeds instead of ears. The deer eat the seeds when they fall, and the tall stalks provide cover.
• Winter wheat can be planted in September. Establish the soil pH at 6.5 to 6.8 and till a half inch. Depending upon the amount of rain, winter wheat will sprout in a couple of weeks and remain green through winter.
• Turnips are a high-protein food source that gets better later into the year. “Once you get two or three frosts the sugar level goes up,” Korman said. “When winter hits, they’ll have a source of carbohydrates when they need it most to put on fat to stay warm.”
There’s one turnip caveat: After three years in the same ground, turnips can turn the soil toxic. It’s important to rotate your food plot crop.
• Corn. “The Game Commission has done necropsies on deer and found they starved to death with bellies filled with corn,” said Korman. “At certain times of the year, deer don’t have the proteins in their stomachs required to process the nutrition in corn. They’re eating, they feel like they’re full, but if they’re eating mostly corn and not other things they starve to death. Ninety-nine percent of the time it’s because people put out corn for deer at all times of the year. It’s like you’re eating nothing but Frosted Flakes and wonder why you got diabetes.”
• “Rye, timothy and most grasses are the worst thing to plant for deer,” he said. “Deer don’t have the correct enzymes to break down grasses like cattle do. They eat it, but they get no nutritional value from it.”
John Hayes: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Coming off another record season last year with over 400 deer donated to the program, Montgomery County Department of Economic Development Agricultural Services Division has announced the continuation of the program for the 2011-2012 hunting season. All needed information is on the below flyer, please print this information out and pass it along. We are looking forward to another great season thanks to the help of Montgomery County’s hunters!
Reposted blog from our sister company, Patriot Land & Wildlife Management.
In an effort to better educate our customers and let them see into our world, Patriot LWM will begin to release video blogs outlining projects we have been working on and things on the horizon.
Here is a short clip of a beaver management technique for a property where the owner decided to utilize trapping as a damage mitigation technique. Beaver damage was experienced on many trees in the property’s creek watershed area which allowed waters to rise into the neighboring agricultural fields.
Check out some members of the Patriot LWM Crew as they volunteer their time as part of the Western Chesapeake Watershed Branch of the Quality Deer Management Association. 2 seperate events were mentioned in the June / July 2011 issue of Quality Whitetails, a publication of QDMA. One being the first WCWB Lecture Series and the other being the 2011 Maryland NRA Show, both spreading the message of Quality Deer Management.
Check out this article about warm season food plots from Patriot LWM Outdoors own Joe Brown as seen in the May 2011 issue of Woods and Waters Magazine.
There is a lot of hype about seed in the hunting world today. Attached to this hype are a lot of hunting celebrities claiming to use the “best” or “most potent” seed available. Unfortunately, they seem to change their sponsors and types of seed more than most folks change their underwear.
Recent studies have shown that deer prefer to eat crops from fields that are well taken care of. This includes proper amending of soil and weed control. No matter what seed you’ve decided to use, how much money you’ve spent on seed, or who’s telling you they have a superior product, your efforts will always fall short of their potential unless you have a strong foundation. I believe if we have a greater understanding of the soil we place our seed into, the deficiencies in the soil, and how to amend the soil properly, we will begin to meet and even surpass the goals we set as food-plotters, along with cutting overall costs. We will begin to see an increase in crop yield, have better tasting crops with more natural sugars and proteins, see more water and nutrient retention in the soil, as well as regulating the soil PH. This will lead to better transferring of vitamins, minerals, and other needed nutrition to the animals eating our food plots.
Two of the main ingredients that make up our soil are weathered rock and decaying organisms; both play a huge part in its composition and function. Rocks are weathered both physically and chemically. Blowing sand, water, temperature, and pressure are all a part of the physical weathering process, where the rocks are broken down with no molecular change in the minerals. Chemical weathering however, does change the molecular composition of the minerals. The number one enemy to minerals in soil is a process known as hydrolysis, which is a chemical reaction in which a compound reacts with water to produce other compounds. Rain absorbs the carbon dioxide in the air as it falls, resulting in the production of a weak carbonic acid that is then transferred from the rain to the mineral filled soil. In the past, acids only came in contact with soil from the respiration of CO2 from living organisms. Perhaps ancient statues provide a clearer understanding of the effects of hydrolysis. These statues did not show very much degradation until modern industries began producing large amounts of smoke, resulting in sulfuric and nitric acid in precipitation. Hydrolysis is the reason minerals are so depleted from the soil in many parts of the United States.
For this reason I am a strong proponent of mineral sites and using products that help correct the effects of things like hydrolysis. No matter what crops you plant, they are only transfer agents. If the soil does not contain the proper minerals and the ability to create proteins, the animals will never see the full results of your planting. It trophy whitetail growth is what you’re after and you don’t plan on using available products to offer minerals to animals and repair depleted soils, the process will be much longer. If the proper components are not available in the soil, the animal will not get them through the crops it is eating, resulting in things like antler restrictions, and age structure being closer to the top of your management plan. That is, if they aren’t already up there.
There are five factors in soil formation that are very important in making quality food plot decisions.
The first of these factors is parent materials. What major rock (limestone, sand, granite, etc…) eroded to form your soils? This is key information in finding out what your soils already contain and what they lack. Take sand for instance. The soils on our farm are made mostly of sand, which means we will experience more leeching than others. Because of this, we have to try and stay away from plots on grades that will increase leeching. We must also work on restoring the organic materials in the soil profile; this will be a tremendous help in water and nutrient retention.
The second factor is climate. Rainfall and temperature are factors that not only help in soil development, but can also either aid you in your planting, or fight against your efforts. For example, Excessive amounts of rainfall on a farm with sandy soil equals more fertilizer needed later in the year. Also, choosing plants with deep taproots like alfalfa or chicory would be a must.
The third factor is the living organisms in and around the soil. All organisms, plants and animals, large and small are a huge part in soil formation and conservation. They impact soil fertility and both water and nutrient retention, as well as regulation the soils PH. This is often a highly overlooked subject in food plot programs.
Topography is the fourth factor in soil formation. Soil is a natural feature of your landscape. Your landscape dictates how quickly your soils were formed, as well as what materials are in them. Knowing this will help you choose a great food plot location. Take the ever famous creek bottom for instance. Sediment carried from water, as well as more plant life decaying in the soil leads to nutrients. The creek bottom is at the receiving end of sandy soil and hillside run offs, creating a place with more abundant and succulent plant growth.
The fifth and final factor in soil formation is time. How old is your dirt? Over here in the north east, we have some of the oldest mountain ranges and soils in the United States. The longer the soil has been around, the longer the other factors have been influencing soil formation. Younger geological areas have the most abundant, weather able materials that hold and slowly release nutrients to plant life; older areas will be much more depleted and must be amended.
It is important for us to take a closer look at our soil horizon (soil layers) and see what we are dealing with, and along with our soil tests, use this knowledge to manipulate dirt to produce better and longer. My hopes are to help us to understand that our foundation is not the seed or the make of our tractor, but the very dirt we stand and work on. As we gain this knowledge and put it into practice we will see quality results from our food plots that we would not have seen otherwise. This in turn, shows up in body weight, antler growth, and overall health of deer. Think of it as putting your food plots on a well-designed health program.