Putting the plan in action
This article will wrap up the, ‘Land and Deer Management’ series with follow up of various results in the future.
Corn And Forage Sorghum Based
Corn based kill plots is your best choice, for corn is an excellent long standing deer cover and preferred forage. Both need to have adjoining dense cover. For corn based kill plots you will probably need a minimum of five acres for effectiveness lasting into the late firearm seasons. For example, a site would include two acres of a fan shaped kill plot that has three acres of normal seeded corn surrounding the kill plot. The deer will enter the surrounding three acre field of corn first and after filling with corn, will naturally move to the luscious and large selection of forage within the corn based kill plot. Depending on the soil productivity and deer density this five acre site set up should have corn still standing within the kill plot right through the muzzle season. This layout gets more action as the seasons move on. If you are in an agricultural area with field corn near or adjoining you, expect a big move to your property soon after your neighbor farmers corn is combined. The elimination of corn in your field can be furious. You may need to experiment for a few years to find the answer of total acres of corn seeded.
For forage sorghum based kill plots during the firearm seasons we have some options. Sorghum can be used instead of corn because it takes a lot of corn, which is expensive, demands decent soil and moisture, and plenty of fertilizer. Most hunting land was land not claimed by early settlers for the obvious reason, poor soil. That alone closes the door on many. There are exceptions such as a high water table, which forgives many sins. There are many soil types and they can change from a poor to a decent soil within several feet. Do you have areas where the weeds, grass, brush and trees grow better? Do you have drainages crossing your property? It may be to your advantage to check the soil in these possibilities.
The value of forage sorghum is that it does not require the soil fertility and fertilizer amount that corn does. Forage sorghum seed costs less and the seeding rate per acre is much less, (I will seed the forage sorghum at 2 pounds per acre). We recommend seeding an equal blend of forage sorghum and buckwheat for a total of 4 pounds per acre.
As mentioned we have options when creating a forage sorghum based kill plot. Standard forage sorghum can grow to a height of 11 feet depending on growing conditions. This may sound great, for deer like this tall stuff. The downside is that it is too tall for the stalk diameter. After a heavy frost it lodges, (falls over) big time, (not ideal). Then there is a close relative called forage sorghum ‘brown middle rib’ or BMR. This genetically altered forage sorghum is also tall and loved by deer. They just want to be in it. They nibble on the leaves, lay down in it and walk down the stalks to get at the immature seed cluster at the top and trample it down before the end of September, (not ideal). We also have a grain sorghum that stands decently and may reach five feet in height and deer tend to leave it alone. Deer may use it as a travel lane but not much else, (not bad but not ideal). There are other forage sorghums such as forage sorghum sudan but it’s tall height and poor stand ability makes it suspect.
Recently a research forage agronomist, Mike Northcutt, created a dwarf forage sorghum BMR named, barchytic that grows to a height of 5-1/2 to 6-1/2 feet that also has a thick stalk that gives it good stand ability. The stand ability will be fine providing the sorghum reaches maturity prior to a killing frost. Deer not only love it, observations show a similar preference as to corn, (this is ideal).
Forage sorghum is normally a southern crop, which has a long growing season. The present varieties available are Brachytic dwarf forage sorghum BMR-6 no. 7401 and 7301. No. 7401 has a 110 day growing season, (a bit long for Michigan except along the Indiana border with a late fall). No. 7301 has a 102 day growing season that may work as far north as mid-Michigan with a late fall. No. 7201 a 95 day variety and no. 7101 an 85 growing day variety, which should work throughout Michigan is now in the development stage. Forage sorghum needs a 60 degree F. soil temp to germinate, which means seeding in late May to early June in mid-Michigan. Brachytic dwarf forage sorghum BMR is very popular with dairy farmers. They use it as silage, which cattle just love. It improves milk production and general health. The BMR genetic feature means low lignin in the plant. Lignin makes all plants less digestible to the point such as woody browse, (very high lignin) where the undigested forage stays within the stomach for days where deer can die from starvation with a full stomach. A good comparison is starvation woody browse with very high lignin content to forage such as sugar beets with near zero lignin and 95% digestibility. The more digestible the forage, the more often deer eat. With forage planning your deer may need to eat every four hours and it’s not even Chinese food. Hmmm, you think maybe that’s a plus? Corn, soybeans, small grains, all brassicas, (forage rape, canola, turnips, cabbage) forage sorghum BMR and sugar beets are at the top in digestibility.
Creating And Planting A Corn Based
Firearm Season: Everyone knows that food plots need to be small to encourage deer to enter them during daylight. That was yesterday. Today we can make a totally secure food plot of any size that deer will enter because they are hungry, night or day. Let’s say we start with a fan shaped area of two acres where we broadcast 300 pounds of 19-19-19 fertilizer per acre or better yet follow the recommendations from a soil test. Till twice with the last tillage in mid-May. The same day or soon after you can broadcast the following seed, but we recommend that you use a grain drill. If not in your barn try your local Soil Conservation District to rent one.
Blend 30 pounds of Roundup Ready (RR) soybeans with 1/4 to 1/3 of the normal seeding rate of RR sugar beets, (50,000 seeds per acre is the normal seeding rate). The 30 pounds of soys and sugar beets will seed one acre. In the back large seed hopper of the drill duct tape every other seed hopper. Set the back flute seed opening to drill 60 pounds of soys per acre. You are now set up to plant an acre of a blend of RR soybeans and RR sugar beets. In the front small seed hopper duct tape every other seed hopper but offset from the back hopper. Set the front flute seed opening to a space of 3/32. You are set to seed RR winter canola at 1-1/2 pound per acre. Note the reduced seeding rate for all seeds are correct, so don’t overseed.
The federal courts have ruled in 2012 that anybody can buy and plant Roundup Ready sugar beet seed for their own use. You can plant RR sugar beet seed for livestock use anywhere. You cannot per Monsanto plant RR sugar beet seed for wildlife feed plots.
Roundup Ready winter canola seed is available from DeKalb Seed Company (www.dekalb.com).
Same day in mid-May if possible use a six or eight row corn planter set to seed 20,000 to 22,000 seeds per acre. Disconnect the center two rows to leave a 7-1/2 feet space. Start at the wide end and at one side of the fan shaped plot and aim directly for the blind. You should end about 30 to 40 yards from the firearm blind. Go to the other side and seed toward the blind. Move to the center and same thing. Keep splitting the spaces without overlapping any of the seeded corn rows. You are over seeding field corn within a luscious kill plot of several forages in a design that is creating many small in area but tall corn enclosed plots that deer feel totally at ease in. Yet they cannot hide from you, except when they move within the narrow rows of corn and they will. That 30 to 40 yards space between the end of the firearm kill plot and the blind can be cover, normal seeded corn or tilled and used as forage sorghum based bow kill plot seeded as shown later. Three weeks later, (around June 5-10) spray for the first time with Roundup at one quart/acre blended with granulated ammonium sulfate (AMS) at one quart per acre. Spray again hopefully for the last time the same formula 2-1/2 to three weeks later, approximately the first week of July.
The second fertilizer broadcasting should be 100 pounds of 20-10-10 around mid-June. The last fertilizer application is to sweeten the plot and only where you want the deer to stand. You can use a quad with a sprayer and spreader and sweeten an area as small as 1/8 acre. Around Sept. 15 broadcast 100 pounds urea per acre and spray that AMS or liquid nitrogen at one gallon per acre with one quart of sugar.
Around Sept. first broadcast a grain blend of oats, rye grain and winter wheat at 10 pounds each, 30 pounds total per acre. We do not need to buy the expensive certified seed, which can be up to four times the price. Think bin run seed from the farmer or grain elevator that’s used to feed livestock.
Creating And Planting A
Dwarf Forage Sorghum BMR
Firearm Site: Use much of the process as shown for the corn based kill plot for the firearm season. Broadcast 200 pounds of 19-19-19 fertilizer in late April and till twice for the mid-Michigan area, 18-21 days later spray with one quart of Roundup, one quart of AMS and 1-1/2 pints of 2-4-D ester per acre. Wait 2-3 days then drill the same blend of RR soybeans and RR sugar beets plus the RR winter canola as shown for the corn based kill plot for the firearm seasons. Three weeks later, early June, broadcast 100 pounds of 20-10-10 per acre and spray with one quart of Round up with one quart of AMS per acre. Same day or soon after drill an equal blend of Brachytic forage sorghum BMR-6 no 7301 and buckwheat using the large seed back hopper. Set the back large seed hopper flute space seed opening at 5/32. Seeding four rows of cover and forage at a total of four pounds per acre of the forage sorghum /buckwheat blend.
For Brachytic dwarf forage sorghum BMR-6 no. 7401 or 7301 seed info, call Byron seed agent Gerry Davis 517-250-1144 or email email@example.com
For a ten feet wide drill, leave the two outside back seed hoppers open, plus the seed hopper 21 inches beside it. Plug all remaining seed hoppers with duct tape. You should have two rows 21 inches apart being seeded on each side of the drill. There should be a six feet six inches space in the middle. This space opening is sufficient to view deer within. Expect deer to hide between the 21 inch rows. Spray three weeks later, by using a quad with a single horizontal spray nozzle, (flood jet) aimed at an angle to the ground and adjusted to spray a swath no more than 5-1/2 feet. You are spraying one quart of Round up and one quart of AMS per acre within the 6-1/2 feet spacing. You may or may not need to spray again three weeks later. Make sure you are not spraying Roundup on the forage sorghum stalks or leaves. Spray only with no wind! Broadcast the oats, rye grain and winter wheat blend in early September. You can adjust this plan to other size planters.
Creating And Planting A
Dwarf Forage Sorghum BMR
Archer Season: Again, you will use much of the dwarf forage sorghum BMR based kill plot for the firearm season. The changes will affect fertilizer, timing of seeding, forage variety and its amount.
Annuals beat perennials for deer attraction and for the bow season we need to bring the quarry in close. We will need to have forage and or the set up that’s more attractive for that to happen. The following or similar process should be followed, remember you have good stuff out there for the firearm season and that is some serious competition. We will start with the seeding date of forage being closer to the bow opener. Annuals will be fresher, sweeter, more digestible, more nutritious and deer know it. Deer will naturally gravitate to the best forage available. Bow kill plots are smaller and closer to the blind.
Creating a combination firearm and bow kill site can work very well. That 30-40 yard space between the blind and corn based kill plot as mentioned above can now be part of a forage sorghum bow kill plot. Adding enclosed staging areas to a bow site can be dynamite. Think of staging areas as being a magic place. It is similar to edges, which is the transition area between two different habitat types and has a mix of both habitat types, (dense woods next to an open meadow would have a narrow strip of grass, weeds, forbs, brush and young trees). Edge, cover and forage is well known to be a favorite location for deer to congregate, especially mature bucks prior to entering a more open area of forage, possibly your kill plot. Staging areas are normally human creations to mimic the advantage of edge. They are usually narrow and long, (12 -20 yards width by 60 or more yards long).
For our forage sorghum based kill plot for the bow season the staging areas will be enclosed by bordering dense cover, woods etc. and opposite open side drilled with four rows of forage sorghum. It will be within bow range and could lead straight away 60 yards alongside the woods or you have the narrow 12-20 yards width to shoot into as it leads back into the woods. Within this staging area you have all the good forage as the rest of the bow site area.
Another fine example of habitat manipulation could be the following, leading into your created staging areas you may find deer trails, if so fine, if not create them. Design them to represent Tony LaPratts’ dead on sneak trails which lead back to your created buck and doe family bedding areas. Create more sneak trails branching off the main one, which also leads to more bedding areas. You cannot create too many staging areas, sneak trails, bedding areas and scrapes.
Your combination firearm and bow blind is only four-five feet above the ground and nestled into a large evergreen. You fill in all openings except for the small shooting windows with artificial Christmas trees. Buy them after Christmas at 75 % off. Surround that evergreen with a pass of sorghum. Your blind enter and exit trail starts at the evergreen tree where you made a surrounding pass of forage sorghum. Start the seeding opposite your staging area and keep seeding until you are safely away. Forage sorghum can be seeded with tall switch grass, (cave in rock) at the same time. The next year with the switch grass still too short, do the security forage sorghum passes again. Baiting isn’t necessary with all the cover and forage you have plus you are taking the chance of leaving your scent.
For your dwarf forage sorghum based kill plot for the bow season till in late April-early May. In early June broadcast 300 pounds of 19-19-19 fertilizer and till for the second time. Three weeks later, spray Roundup at one quart per acre along with one quart of AMS. Blend 50 pounds of RR forage soybeans with 25,000 RR sugar beet seed, (50% of the normal seeding rate of RR sugar beets) per acre. Duct tape every other back large seed hopper opening and set the seed setting to plant 100 pounds of soys per acre. Set the small seed front hopper at 1/8 inch with every other seed opening duct taped but offset with the large back seed hopper to seed two pounds of RR winter canola. Same day seed the brachytic dwarf forage sorghum BMR as shown for the firearm season. We will spray two more times one quart of Roundup and AMS per acre three weeks apart, (mid-July and early Aug.) the following way. These last two sprayings will be directed at the six feet six inch middle space between rows of dwarf forage sorghum just as shown for the forage sorghum based kill plot for the firearm season. You will get some unwanted grass and weeds between the unsprayed double narrow rows of forage sorghum, but we can live with it.
Broadcast 200 pounds of 20-10-10 fertilizer per acre in mid-July. We will now get serious about the sweetening thing to help bring in the deer and stand where you want to take them. Here we broadcast fertilizer in selected areas of the kill plot and for certain the entire staging areas. Broadcast 100 pounds of 46-0-0 urea fertilizer per acre in mid-Sept. Spray one gallon of AMS or one gallon of liquid nitrogen with one quart of table sugar per acre the same day in September. Ten days later spray the same AMS or liquid nitrogen plus table sugar formula. In mid-Oct. broadcast 100 pounds of 46-0-0 per acre and spray the same formula as above. We are literally sweetening the forage with glycol, a sweet antifreeze compound created by the plant leaves through photosynthesis. The application of nitrogen to the roots and leaves is the energy needed by the plants chlorophyll to shift into a higher gear of sugar production. You may find soybean leaves taking a hit from a freeze as low as 27 degrees. Broadcast at 30 pounds per acre a grain blend of oats, rye grain and winter wheat in early Sept.
Again, note the change in forage, fertilizer, seeding dates and the sweetening thing to enhance the attraction of a bow kill plot. Soys lose much of their attraction when they blossom and are developing the seed pod. It’s the leaves deer eat and where the nutrients and sugar content is greatest. When soys start to blossom the nutrients and sugar are now directed to the development of the seed, which are not yet on the deer’s preferred diet. This normally takes place in late July. Close observation by you will verify that deer begin to move off some fields of soys in late July or early August for sweeter forage. This is the reason why we switched to RR forage soybean for bow sites. They shouldn’t blossom, thus longer lasting sweet soy leaves even in early October providing we have a later frost.
We didn’t include any perennials and they are important, yet you do not need more than 20 percent of your food plots in perennials. Suggestion, in the outside lanes of the fan shaped kill plots. Here we can seed long living perennials. Shoot for a large blend such as five different clovers, two grazing alfalfas and at least one chicory variety.
Now you have everything deer desire. Keep the fun in hunting!
Ed Spinazzola, Associate, Tony LaPratts’ Ultimate Land Management