Corn Based Plots With A VARIETY OF FORAGE

What drives deer to move about during daylight to take a bite of your forage?

You can have the sweetest food plot this side of heaven, but even with little deer disturbance by anyone they will be reluctant to enter your food plots during daylight. If the plot is larger than 1/8 of an acre they are reluctant. If the plot is out in the open they are reluctant. During nighttime the deer have no problem chowing down on your forage creation of any size or even if it’s out in the open. With their keen night vision they have the advantage over most predators, with open areas adding to their feeling of security.

This need of security for deer starts with their chosen bedding area. For does and fawns anyplace that covers their head will do. For bucks, (especially mature bucks) after they shed their velvet, (September 15th) they demand total security. This means it is dense and tall. You want the deer to bed on your land during daylight. If deer are bedding, (especially bucks) on your property during daylight you are in control. If secure natural deer bedding areas do not exist on your land, you will need to create secure bedding areas within your property. If you have the knowledge of creating deer beds by proper hinge cutting or other vegetation manipulation, great, if not you should make numerous 1/8 – 1/4 acre or more plantings of switch grass within the densest areas of your land.

Next, let’s entice that buck to leave his bed early by creating secure travel lanes that lead from their bedding area to your kill plot. This secure deer travel lane can be created by you by habitat manipulation or switch grass lanes of 45 feet width or more. You now have a big buck bedding on your land and within 100 yards of your bow kill site. Two hours before sunset; the big buck rises in his bed, stretches and relieves himself. It is within the month of October and still some time before the start of the breeding phase of the rut, which makes it difficult to know the movements of the big buck. He should be hungry and ready to sample your ware using your secure deer travel lane that leads to your bow site. Your bow blind is just within the woods while the luscious food plot of ¼ acre is located within an adjoining open field. This scene could change with the open bow kill plot being within the woods; the scene could be the opening day of the firearm season with the food plot being an acre or more but it is still in an open field. These possible set ups are not bad, but something is missing.

You got the buck to leave his secure bed and move to your kill plot using a secure travel lane but did he enter that open kill plot, probably not. The missing link is making that kill plot look as secure as his bedding area. Read on to double your odds of success in taking a big buck.

If your bow site is within the woods and the food plot is no more than 1/8 acre your chances improve. If that bow food plot included tall cover, (corn) that seemed to be similar habitat that the deer experienced in their secure bedding area or travel lanes it wouldn’t matter how large that food plot was. It would appear to the deer to be all secured habitat.

Note: deer love corn and it is common for deer to destroy it before the end of July if the plot size is small. Corn plots planted in the woods need to be larger than if planted in open fields. You may need five acres or more of these corn based food plots if planted within the woods. That may put many out of the picture. If you are in an agricultural area that has corn about you, that’s a big help. Having both woods and open fields, gives you the option of seeding both woods with corn based kill plots in addition to substantial corn based kill plots in those open areas. It is recommended that you seriously consider seeding all plots as corn based kill plots with a variety of forage.

Another area you should consider is the soil condition. Most lands used for hunting have light soil. Most light soils can be improved to the point of growing corn, but it may take 5-6 years to build it up. Check out our web site for the article “Prime Year Round Forage With Soil Building.” The soil will need to be tested, tilled, fertilized and probably limed for the proper 6.5 Ph. If you think you have the right stuff, great go for it, but you still need to create an open tilled field prior to the corn seeding in mid-May. This may push your corn based food plot to next year. I’m not trying to discourage you for these corn based kill plots with a variety of forage can give you an experience that is dream like. We still need to face reality.

Creating A Corn Based Bow Set Up

Let us create a bow site that puts the deer at ease to such a degree that they just may bed down in it no more than 20 feet from your elevated bow blind. That’s the bad side of this system; you may be marooned up in that tree for hours. The last thing you want those deer to know this is your honey hole. I carry extra apples to throw at them or lower my bow carefully and jiggle it at ground level.

We will assume that you have the knowledge to create effective deer bedding areas and numerous secure deer travel lanes that lead the deer to many other bedding areas scattered throughout your land and kill plots aplenty. Your bow site kill plot does not now need to be small, yet you should keep it sensible with ¼ – ½ acre being fine. Think oblong or kidney in shape if possible with blinds at each end for changing wind directions. You should create hunter access lanes to each blind. These access lanes are secure to the point that deer have a difficult time seeing you. Access lanes do not cross food plots and try not to cross deer travel lanes. This may take some planning on your part. The deer travel lanes can access the kill plots a safe distance from your blind. The deer travel lanes can be your ambush location, (preferred), as deer evaluate the kill plot just ahead as you observe them, (also known as staging areas). We will be planting a host of forage seeded in a timely fashion including corn, which is both forage and excellent cover.

For the entire L.P. it is mid-May. You buy 85 day Roundup ready, RR field corn and figure one bag, (80,000 seeds) will cover six acres, (1/2 normal seeding rate). You buy Roundup ready soybeans and figure one 50 lb. bag will cover two acres, (1/4 normal seeding rate of 100 lbs. per acre). When it becomes available, (hopefully next year) you buy Roundup ready sugar beet seed and figure 12,500 seeds will cover one acre, (1/4 normal planting rate of 50,000 seeds per acre). You broadcast 200 lbs. of 19-19-19 fertilizer plus 100 lbs. of 0-46-0 fertilizer per acre and work it in four inches. Do not till if soil is wet.

Mix 12,500 RR coated sugar beet seed, (around 5/8 lb.) with 25 lbs. of treated RR soybeans. Broadcast or drill at the rate of 25 lbs. of soys per acre. This is a low rate and needs attention. If broadcasting and the spreader has fan type seed openings, duct tape the inner 2/3 of the fan opening. This leaves the wider outside area for better controlled seed flow. You may need some trial passes. If you have seed left after you broadcasted one acre you succeeded. If drilling the seed, duct tape every other seed opening in the larger back hopper and set the flute opening for a 50 lb. soybean seeding rate. For the drilled seeding follow with a slow cultipacking pass. For the broadcasted plot follow with light disking or field drag, (no more than two inches deep) then cultipack. You have seeded the entire food plot lightly with RR soybeans and hopefully RR sugar beets. The stage is now set for the seeding of RR corn,

Note: the soybeans are especially attractive to deer and don’t expect them to be around very long. This attraction helps condition the deer to stay within your area and it will help in a big way for corn survival to maturity.

Now for the key cover and forage plant, also known as corn. You will be planting the corn in double rows in a standard seeding width of 2-1/2 to 3 feet with spacing between these double rows at 7-1/2 feet. This 7-1/2 feet spacing is ideal for you to see the deer, for deer to feel secure within your kill plot and for future passes with a tractor when corn is tall. The standard width double rows of corn between the 7-1/2 feet spacing is necessary for added deer security. These rows of corn are oriented toward the blind. The whole food plot can be seeded with rows of corn pointed at the blind. If you have a bow site with two blinds split the corn seeding to favor both blinds. It is best if done with a corn planter. If you have access to a two row corn planter use as is and start the seeding at the far end of the food plot and aim for the blind. Go back and estimate a distance of 8-9 feet between rows of corn for the next seeding pass and aim for the blind. This 8-9 feet space between corn rows will narrow as you approach the blind. You want the space to be near 7-1/2 feet at the end of your seeding pass. With a four row corn planter seed with the two outside seed units and disconnect or leave empty the two inside seed units to create that critical 7-1/2 wide space. Now estimate the next seeding pass at 4-5 feet space between corn rows and aim for your blind. For a six row corn planter, seed with both of the two outside units and leave the two middle units disconnected. Then restart with the 8-9 feet space as mentioned for the two row planter. You will see deer clear enough for a shot at 200 or more yards in mid-November in that 7-1/2 feet spacing.

For those without a borrowed, rented or owned corn planter, check the local Soil Conservation District. Recently several companies have gotten into the business of assembling proven vintage two-three and four row unit type corn planters that can be pulled with a quad or small tractor; these include models constructed for a tractor with a three point hitch. The three row planters with the three point hitch can be used as is and has my interest. There are also single row hand corn planters that have been around for ages. You may need to do a bit of research. The field will have a fan type shape. I suggest you make the first pass from the center, and then move out from there.

Spray RR at one quart per acre three weeks later, (early June) and again three – four weeks later, (late June to early July). Broadcast urea 0-46-0 at 100 lbs. per acre around mid-June. Try to time the urea broadcasting with a recent or forecasted rain.

On or soon after the second spraying of Round up, (early July) mix 25 lbs. of soybeans with two lbs. of a brassica blend, per acre, (look for tillage radishes to be part of the brassica blend for improved soil conditioning)and broadcast throughout the entire food plot. This second broadcasting of 25 lbs. of soys and two lbs. of brassica is light and difficult just as was the earlier broadcasting the RR soys and sugar beets, but you now have experience and it should be a piece of cake. As mentioned soys is a deer’s delicacy and with this late seeding, soys should be green and growing in the early October bow season while the neighbor farmer’s soys are brown and down. The shade from the sprayed and killed grass and weeds, corn and sugar beets plays an important role in the germination and emergence of broadcasted soys on the bare warm soil of early summer.

On or near September 1, broadcast a blend of 15 lbs. of oats, 15 lbs. of winter rye grain and 15 lbs. of winter wheat per acre. You do not need to buy expensive certified seed. Check with your local farm seed store and buy jerry oats and bin run rye and wheat for one-third the cost. You are not farming for a living you are growing forage for deer.

On September 15 and October 15 do the sweetening thing for maximum deer attraction. See our web site for the sweetening thing information. See our web site for the information to create deer beds with proper hinge cuts, deer bedding areas through habitat manipulation, effective deer travel and sneak lanes, staging areas and much more.

You should leave unplanted areas on each side of the bow site corn plantings, which are visible from the blind. These outside open spaces, (also known as forest edge) of the bow food plot can be a perennial blend, (clover etc.) and used as is for years. Now you have the entire spectrum of forages ideal for deer food plots in the same plot. It doesn’t get any better! Don’t be surprised to find turkeys, rabbits and grouse by the gross using these plots.

Don’t forget to plant three apple and three pear trees alongside the forest edge for additional attraction at each bow site. You can make a few mock scrapes and a mineral lick in this same edge. Doing the habitat improvements mentioned above plus having various water sources creates an environment that deer cannot refuse. Baiting here may not help and may cause less deer traffic due to human scent left at the scene. I have no problem with proper baiting. It’s the scent left that hurts. To enhance a bait site, mix ¼ cup of table salt with one cup of table sugar and sprinkle on the bait.

Note; due to the light seeding of individual seeds and the great variety of seeds planted, rotation of forage becomes less of a factor to be concerned about. So, it is possible to replant the same system repeatedly. Sugar beets is the forage that needs the most rotation attention for they take much from the soil, nutrient wise and are hosts of many pests, (insects, worms and fungus). I find by seeding 1/4 of the normal seeding rate, does the trick.

Option Forage Sorghum

As mentioned you will probably need to seed five acres or more of corn for action still in place for the deer hunting seasons, ‘deer love corn’. You say you do not have the proper set up for a ‘Corn based kill plot with a variety of forage’. OK, let’s get access to a grain drill of at least ten feet width. Set the seeding rate for 50 lbs. per acre for sorghum, duct tape the center seed openings for a 7-1/2 feet width space and leave open 4-5 seed hoppers at each end. This leaves that critical 7-1/2 feet open space with 1-1/2 to 2 feet wide rows of tall cover of forage sorghum aimed at your blind. Seed the forage sorghum right after the early July RR spraying. Make sure the forage sorghum is the tall variety not short forage sorghum. Forage sorghum can reach 10-11 feet tall with the right growing conditions. Deer want to be in a sorghum field. They nibble the leaves and at times bring down the still immature seed bundles for munching. Expect the seeding of sorghum to be still standing into mid fall. Snow will bring it down. For better stand ability blend 50-50 with the shorter and stiffer grain sorghum.

Creating A Corn Based Firearm Set Up

The above corn based bow set up covers in detail just about all you need to know for success for any site set up. But, firearm sites can have their own flavor. So, let’s get on with it. As mentioned deer love corn and this vanishing act of corn can be addressed better when creating a firearm set up. Whether you have 400 or 40 acres I advise a destination field located preferably toward the center of the property. For a forty acre piece I advise something like five acres of corn. For the 400 acre Shangri-La 20 acres wouldn’t be too much corn. Destination fields can be off limits for any hunting throughout the seasons, hunting only in the last days of the firearm season, (Thanksgiving weekend or the muzzle season) or hunting throughout the seasons including the bow time.

To create a destination field of five acres for a fabulous forty acre piece that will be used for hunting throughout all seasons. This forty is primarily wooded and your plan may need to have a clear cut that impacts the entire forty. You clear cut the center five acre destination field, several acres for future bow and firearm food plot kill sites, a few sanctuaries primarily alongside the perimeter, (deer bedding area) and deer travel lanes connecting everything together. Think about those important hunter access lanes being part of the clear cut especially for equipment access. Since this five acre destination field will be hunted by bow and firearm a plan needs to take shape.

To create a tree blind bow site that is within 15 feet of the destination corn field. We create a 60 feet wide switch grass deer travel lane that accesses this destination field and leads back around 70 yards to your created switch grass ¼ acre buck bed. Starting about 50 yards back from your tree blind we create in the middle of the travel lane a mini 15-20 feet wide corn based kill plot that passes your blind and enters the destination field. Most shots should be taken in this deer travel lane ambush area. For added action, you can create a corn based kill plot within the destination field with of course having those wide corn rows aiming at you. Planting apple and pear trees, making mock scrapes and mineral licks just adds to the fun.

To create a firearm set up with the blind set back from the destination field 50 to 70 yards. The firearm blind should be in decent cover with vegetation trimmed just enough to make a shot. Starting from the edge of the destination field a fan type corn based kill plot can be made that reaches the range of your skill in shooting, (for some this could be 200 or more yards). The width of this fan type kill plot can be what the conditions dictate. I have no problem in mid-November seeing a shootable deer within a 7-1/2 feet corn space at 200 yards distance.

Except for the fan type corn based kill plots within the destination field all of the corn is seeded normal, (30 inch row width and only corn, no soys, sugar beets etc.). This set up is obviously superior in that corn survival into the winter season is improved. We recommend that you consider seeding all of the remaining sites with a fan type corn based kill plots with a variety of forage.

There are endless habitat situations and your property may or may not fit. Do not fret you will make it happen. All you need is to be serious about improving your hunting experience.

I do not know everything but some areas are my calling, so if you are not sure call me 586-784-8090. I may be gone for up to two weeks at a time, but I will get back to you, phone or ejmail

Keep the fun in hunting!

Ed Spinazzola, Associate, Tony Lapratt’s Ultimate Land Management. For additional info check our websites or