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!
Wildlife food plots can improve your chances of shooting a quality buck
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.