You May Experience A Major Daylight Deer Migration…
We have through the years created many variations of site layouts. These site layouts vary from small bow locations created by simply spraying a non selective, (Round up) herbicide on no more than 3,000 square feet in the woods, thus killing undesirable fern and grass and allowing other natural but more deer desirable forbs such blackberries, pokeweed, plantain, poison ivy, white clover, jewel weed, etc to flourish. You can be more creative and broadcast seed from clover to winter wheat to this sprayed area, or pull in deer from miles to a 10 acre destination field planted with a large variety of maintained forage that deer cannot resist. All of our suggestions works with different degrees of success just match them with your existing habitat environment.
Multiple Use Site
In this article we will create a site layout that has multiple applications. It is similar to a destination field in that there is size and has forage deer cannot resist. Deer can and will bed within or next to this field due to the planted corn. It is set up as an ultimate bow site, it is set up as an ultimate firearm site and will serve as a fine winter carry over forage source. There is cost, seeding and yearly maintenance involved, some will find that they do not have the minimum requirement to establish this site, yet with resolve anything is possible. For maximum effect think four acres minimum as a start. Not four acres total land but four acres of a site creation nestled within a larger field of deer preferred woods, old field of natural forbs and brush, planted field of switch grass, or all of the above. Much would be added to the effectiveness if there was a safely accessed and secured water source nearby.
Site Location And Preparation
I’m tempted to guarantee exciting experiences if you follow our suggestions, for my experiences with this type of site creation has been more than satisfactory. We are dealing with deer and that means anything can happen.
Location. location, location it applies here also. Deer can survive in many environments from deserts to swamps but are most comfortably in woods and it is advised that at least one side of the planted corn as shown in the illustration borders woods and preferably a dense one of at least several acres. An old field of weeds, grass and brush is also a good companion to be nestled into, there is nothing wrong with a swamp bordering this site or a planted field of good old switch grass. You will be planting corn, a blend of a perennial forage consisting of several clovers, alfalfa and chicory, annuals yearly such as a brassica blend, soybeans, winter wheat and perhaps sugar beets, which demands that the soil condition be adequate for the growth of this forage.
My farming background has shown me how important soil type and condition is for different crops. Example, sugar beets are demanding in their environment to reach their potential, they do not like wet feet when young but prefer wet feet when maturing, they take much nutrients from the soil and need to be rotated for they are hosts for several pests. Some clovers prefer heavy and moist soil such as alsike while red clover prefers the lighter stuff and then there is Kura clover that will do fine in both soil conditions.
Most hunting land consists of the lighter soil and may preclude it from incorporating this site layout. You will need to check your soil in the potential site with a shovel and soil test and make corrections. It is possible to build up light soil and it may take 5-6 years to do so and while building it up you can experience decent forage growth. Check this method out with your Michigan State Extension agent or see our book ‘Ultimate Deer Food Plots.’ I don’t want to discourage you but realty is what it is.
Tip: look for the lower elevations and check the water table depth if there is one, check what is growing and how well it is growing. If you do not know the significance of certain plants being present take them to your Extension Agent. Now, if it looks like it is doable, let’s correct that soil. Again borrow our book or get on our website, deerattraction.com and print out the several sheets of planting instructions.
It is more than likely that you will need to do some site preparation. This may mean removal of trees, brush and their roots, especially if your chosen site is an established and dense wooded area, (great selection). Note the illustration where the corn edge borders cover. This is critical for success.
Fields out in the open whether it has the sweetest deer forage this side of heaven will not draw in deer during daylight. Three acres of corn will not hold deer during daylight if the field is in the open. Three acres of corn will hold deer during daylight if the corn borders heavy clover. If the corn does not hold deer during daylight you have little chance of seeing deer in that one acre of sweet forage during daylight during the hunting seasons. You will see deer in that sweet forage during the summer months even if there is no cover within a mile.
Cutting Edge Site Layout
You are creating an ultimate, multiple use and all seasons hunting site. Please refer to the illustration as we cover this area. Do not be surprised to feel excitement as we begin this journey of creating a cutting edge site layout. Do not be surprised to experience heightened excitement as the journey moves along. Stop immediately if you experience heart palpitations and take five to stay alive.
The illustration shows square corners and a boxy appearance, this is not important, the habitat structure dictates the site layout appearance. You may find that the straight and parallel rows of attractant forage in front of the firearm blind may fit the existing habitat best if they form a true or semi circle around the firearm blind. In fact they may end up making a 90 degree to perhaps a complete 180 degree half circle around the firearm blind. This works for we have one site that has an attractant forage plot in a radius of 90 degrees. In this location a corner of the four acre corn field encircles a slightly elevated firearm blind as camouflage, with the first row of sweetened forage, (sugar beets) having a true radius starting 80 yards from the firearm blind. Go with the flow.
Normally one sees a firearm shooting lane that starts from or near the blind and extends straight out to as far as the comfort of the shooter, which could be 250 or more yards. This set up keeps the maximum firearm range at 140 yards if the attractant forage is planted in a circle. We are now more in the range of the average muzzleloader. Set up your firearm blind site about half way of the attractant forage plot. Note the illustration and the 20 yard width of the knocked down corn on the far side of the attractant forage plot. This is for the firearm seasons only. You should knock it down around a week before the firearm opener. To stay legal in Michigan you cannot dislodge the cob from the stalk or shell any of the corn from the cob. You can only rearrange the position of the stalk. A tractor with the tires traveling between the rows with a bucket lowered works; a tractor with the tires traveling on the rows will not work. You will see much corn shelled. Using a quad works great. Due to the light weight and balloon tires I have never seen any corn cobs dislodged or any corn shelled and laying on the ground. You may need to knock down some of the corn in the front 20 yards next to the attractant forage for improved vision and this is for the firearm seasons. For some reason deer have a major preference for the open areas within this type of set up and this certainly includes the knocked down corn.
Another and very important reason for the parallel or circular design of the attractant forage is to accommodate the bow season, which is my favorite. The tent bow blind is located 40 yards from the inside edge of the corn for a reason. The left hand side was chosen by me because that is the hot side of deer entry for this particular set up. You can elect to have a bow site on both sides. The forty yards distance from the inside corn edge gives you time to get set and the deer to get at ease. You have set the tent up leaving three to four rows of corn between you and the sugar beets. You clear just enough of the leaves from the corn to give you about three shooting lanes. Do not over clear the shooting lane! Leave the lower corn stalk area intact and do not break down the stalks if possible, again just remove some leaves. If you miss one lane you have two more.
The corn on the far side is 40 yards away and still standing for your maximum bow shot. Keep an eye out and don’t be surprised to see deer travel in the standing corn just three or so rows in, opposite of your bow position. They should be easily seen and judged accurately enough to allow you to shoot or not to shoot. Don’t worry about the few rows of standing corn. The attractant forage plot is surrounded with at least 20 yards of corn. You should find that deer have a favorite place that they use as their entry location. You can use the firearm blind prior to the bow season to find this important information.
You can set in the firearm blind or as was suggested to me, set up a trail camera there for an interval of 15 minutes or so per daylight picture. The site layout suggestions including setting up the attractant forage in a parallel or circular shape in front and/or around the firearm blind is critical for success during the bow seasons. When you have a food plot shooting lane going away from a blind you can be sure deer will enter the sweetened attractant forage plot from the far end, which is not in your favor, especially, for the bow season. They know more about your set up than you think. Don’t give them an option. Deer will certainly roam about the standing corn, but you can be certain they will eventually be seen in the attractant forage plot. This I will guarantee! Make your entry access lane from below to both the bow and firearm blind safe and quiet. This is important.
Corn And Attractant Forage Planting
Planting three acres of corn and one acre of a large variety of forage and maintaining it sounds like serious stuff and it is. This will take some commitment from those interested. For the sake of space we cannot cover all of the necessary details, yet you should get the picture.
For those who have corn planters, tillage equipment and experience — no problem. For those with minimum equipment we suggest to broadcast the corn seed. Assuming the soil has been tested, corrected and tilled the previous year, around early May preferred but no later than the first of June, broadcast 200 lbs of 19-19-19 fertilizer and 20 lbs of Round up ready 95 day corn per acre. Set the tillage tools, (disk, rototiller) four inches deep and till at least twice. Follow with a slow cultipacking pass. Four-five weeks later spray with one quart of Round up and one quart of sprayable granulated Ammonium sulfate per acre and broadcast 100 lbs of urea per acre. You should be done unless weeds become a problem, if so spray the Round up again no later than three weeks after the first spraying.
Perennial forage such as clover is vital for deer in early spring plus deer will graze it all summer and into late fall. Deer occasionally back off on clover and alfalfa in the late summer and fall. Mowing and fertilizing in early August helps put them back on the feed bag. Deer never completely back off, just seem too. We suggest that you do the summer seeding method. Definitely seed a blend that consists of several clovers, at least one grazing alfalfa and chicory.
Legume perennials create their own nitrogen and need no nitrogen application. However, when first seeding legume perennials nitrogen is needed to get them started, so broadcast 200 lbs of 19-19-19 and till four inches into the soil the first of August. Broadcast the perennial blend, (there are many satisfactory blends available) and follow with a slow cultipacking pass. It is best to include a nurse, (cover) forage such as oats or a brassica blend to insure a successful perennial catch.
No need to mow the first year. You will need to maintain this perennial blend with a yearly fertilizer application and two mowings, first of June and first of August. Plant this 10 yard width of perennial forage on the far side of your attractant forage plot next to the corn.
Annual forage seeded timely and maintained for maximum sweetness attracts deer better than any perennial. All annual forages are not equal in their attraction. We will advise some of the better ones.
The following annual forage set up is hard to beat. It works equally great for the bow, early firearm and later muzzle seasons. We call it the ‘Ultimate Food Plot’. We suggest at least a half acre of it be seeded on your, ‘open area site layout’ to still be around in mid-December. A 20 yard wide by 120 yard long strip is ½ acre. In the first 10 days of July broadcast 50 lbs per acre of Round up Ready soybeans along with 200 lbs of 19-19-19 fertilizer on previously tilled soil. Set your tillage tool depth at three inch’s and make at least two tillage passes. Follow with a slow cultipacking pass. Four weeks later spray with one quart of Round up and one quart of sprayable granulated ammonium sulfate per acre. Same day if available drill a brassica blend right in the growing soys at 3 lbs per acre. If no drill, broadcast the seed. Three lbs per acre is not a lot of seed and broadcasting it accurately is difficult.
There are many brassica, (forage rape, dwarf essex rape, canola, turnips, kale) seed blends, but not too many of them includes kale. We strongly suggest that kale be at least 15% of the blend, if not add it. We have a brassica blend but it does not now have kale, it will in 2012. In 2011 we will be seeding over 200 trial acres of brassica blends with several kale varieties included to find the right one. (Call 586-784-8090) if you want to be a tester. Near September 1 mix and broadcast the following grain blend; 15 lbs of oats, 20 lbs of rye grain and 20 lbs of winter wheat per acre on the growing soys and brassica. You do not need to buy certified seed. You are growing forage not a seed crop. You will also be sweetening an area of this ultimate food plot, which will bring it to a level of attraction that deer cannot resist.
The above seed blends and seeding dates will allow deer to munch on their favorite forage of soybeans come the bow opener of October 1. The chances are high that they will still be green and growing on the first of October. If not deer will still have the corn, perennial blend, brassica blend, grain blend and if seeded, sugar beets. Of course the forage above will be in prime attraction come the firearm seasons and still be there for the winter wildlife carryover.
The last ultimate food plot forage strip can be the deer’s late fall favorite. Not too many forages can compete with acorns, the green leaves of soybeans will, kale will, corn will if left standing into late fall and sugar beets like corn will but not become truly competitive until late fall. Acorns are tough to beat. Every deer that I have taken since 1952 has its stomach checked for its contents. When acorns have their bumper crop, a minimum of 90% of the contents are acorns and stays 90% through December in extensive forests. Where other good forage is available, the contents stay high in acorns until mid November when it’s near to 50% acorns and at least 25% in mid December. You can influence deer movements even with a bumper acorn crop. I do not recommend planting sugar beets unless they are Round up Ready, RR, variety is available. Availability of RR sugar beets is now in the hands of the judiciary and we may find out their judgment this late winter. Sugar beets cannot compete with weeds, they need decent drainage and good loam soil high in nutrients. This alone may stop you cold, the RR beet allows easy control of weeds. If and when RR sugar beets are available, we recommend that you at least give it a try. You have an option and a good one. Plant soybeans July 1 at 100 lbs per acre, followed with broadcasting 50 lbs of winter wheat September 1.
The Sweetening Thing
Now for the frosting on the cake, fittingly it’s called, ‘The sweetening thing’. We will cover it enough to remove the mystery, the complete story can be read on our web site, deerattraction.com. The following treatment is applied only to the 40 yard wide ‘Ultimate food plot’ and in front of the bow site. This is where you want deer to be close to you for your bow shot. If deer suddenly start entering the plot from the opposite side, don’t panic they should mosey over to your location. For Michigan, two weeks before the bow opener, September 15 broadcast urea, 46% nitrogen at 100 lbs per acre forty yards on either side of the bow blind, that’s about 70 lbs of urea. In addition the same day you will spray the following, one gallon of granulated sprayable ammonium sulfate and one quart of table sugar per acre. For a four gallon back pack sprayer add one quart of granulated sprayable ammonium sulfate, (21% nitrogen 24% sulfur) and ½ cup of sugar. For a quad sprayer, for 15 gallons of water add one gallon of granulated sprayable ammonium sulfate, AMS and one quart of table sugar. Spray the above formula every ten days to two weeks until mid November.
If unable to spray until four weeks later double the AMS and sugar. Near October 15 broadcast again the 100 lbs of urea per acre. Expect the leaves to become greener and take a hit from an early frost. It takes a lot of fertilizer to make the leaves resistant to frost yet I have experienced soybeans surviving a 26 degree night temperature. The nitrogen fertilizer is the primary mineral ingredient that helps the chlorophyll molecule increase the plants sugar production along with the help of the sun’s rays, (photosynthesis). Adding table sugar acts as a catalyst. The produced plant sugar is in a form of glycol which is a form of anti- freeze. I hear that deer have a sweet tooth.
Normally one should not use the same site for both bow and firearm seasons, the above plan argues successfully against that.
Acorns are real deer movement influences and these past deer seasons validate that fact. It’s difficult but you can compete with acorns and more so as the seasons move on. When the neighbor farmers harvest their corn yours is still standing, cold weather encourages deer to move earlier in the evening, snow encourages deer to just plain move. Add time and security for the deer to access your, ‘all seasons open area site layout’ and you just may experience a major deer daylight migration.
I have been messing around with food plots and site layouts since 1972, the above layout and plan of action is a long way from my first wildlife food plot. I’m sure of this, all seasons open area site layouts can be improved upon. For now, I’m impressed with the results and hope that you dabble with it and have the same experience.