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Pat Lefemine's Link
2023 Food Plot Review - discussion
Our 2023 food plot results are now live. Results were excellent with a few fails. We share all the results including the deer activity in each plot. See which ones did great, and which ones were not so great. As always, we want to hear suggestions and your results as well!
That's a great review Pat! Just FYI your link in the feature links to an older years food plot review discussion.
I always love reading these. One thing that could fill in a lot of blanks, I have no idea if you have the time, would want to or be willing, is filling in some information like where deer are bedding, where the stands and access trails are on the aerial. I find myself trying to get into your headspace and figure out what the deer are doing. I'd love to find out how the deer are relating to different things, and so much obviously depends on where they are bedding. Kind of like how you mention our staging plot serves its purpose, so I assume the deer are coming from the east assuming up is north in your aerial. Again, just a request as I also feel like I could learn from what you are doing if I knew some of that info. But regardless it is super interesting to follow.
I'd need an entire feature dedicated to answer those questions. And to be honest, I'm not sure how much information I want to divulge on the internet as to where the deer bed, their movements, etc. There's a hunting club that has rights to 1000 acres that border me and they would love to understand all the things I've figured out.
I can say this; In years 1 and 2, I was sure the bigger bucks bedded on a logged off hill that bordered my western neighbor. It was a jungle of prickers and thickets and exceptional bedding area. I was wrong, the does like it but the mature bucks avoid it. I had to rethink my entire access and stand strategy. Also, the first year, I use to hunt directly on plot 1 and year 2 I stopped doing that and focused on Plot 2. This year, I basically avoided plot 1 and plot 2 because I was creating too much pressure. Now most of my hunting is on the South Plot 7 or on main trails north of the stream in 30 acres of successional forest.
I'm still learning but after year 3 I'm getting it figured out. It also changes every year. There is 350 acre field that borders me and is leased for farming. There's much different travel patterns depending on whether they are in beans or corn. Last year was all beans, so this year should be corn.
Accessing my stands is a challenge. By mid October I bet I have over 100 deer in my plots every night. By December, it swells to about 250/300 deer per night. Because of that, I have all but given up AM hunts. Just moving in the dark creates a chain reaction with that many deer bumping .
Moving out of the plots and into the timber has helped a lot with access. But it's far from ideal.
Thanks Pat, makes total sense. Thanks for sharing I do find it very interesting. Those deer numbers are insane. I picked up 320 acres in September and I have between 12 and 14 deer on it regularly, with maybe 5 or so more that came through some time through the fall. Total deer numbers not just bucks. What is interesting though, is the number of quality deer in that small number. Of those deer, there were 2 quality bucks on it regular, and one more transient. 1 quality buck got shot elsewhere netted 152 as a clean 4x4.
It’s hard to move anywhere on the property with my deer numbers. I don’t harvest my crops so once everyone else does my place becomes ‘party Central’
What's your plan to add to that fall mix that will last later in the season next year?
I may substitute the oats for winter rye until my soil can take bulbs again.
Always look forward to this review!
Great results and a great buck once again.
Nice work Pat!
I really enjoyed the review this year. Gave me ideas for rotation this year
Great reviews Pat I agree on the durana clover I won’t plant it again.Thanks for sharing Good luck Lewis
Lewis, curious as to why you won't plant Durana? Was it poor utilization by deer? Difficulty getting it established?
I’m like Pat…zero morning hunting on my farm. I also have 6 fields loaded with deer all night long. During the rut I go in around noon and stay till dark and I get picked up by the tractor when my wife is here.
Pat I was surprised to see you added crimson in food plot 7. When did you plant it and did it add much to the plot?
Tom, I think it did help. In late October through early November I saw a lot of deer with their heads down near the ground at the base of the oats eating something. Had to be the crimson as the winter peas would have been wiped out by then. I planted the mix on 8/1.
Crimson, an annual, germinates very fast and within two moths you should have a great stand. It tolerates a wider PH range too. I often add it to my fall plots for diversity and as a backstop in case my ice-cream plots like peas or beans gets hammered earlier than expected.
Have you ever planted it?
Looks like you had a good year Pat!
Yes Pat we have planted it and have also had good results. For some reason I don’t think we have used it with the peas though. Will try it this year.
Thanks for sharing Pat. Did/have you done work to your woods to Improve bedding? With what you’ve described - the neighboring properties and the amount of deer that make their way on to yours - it seems like you must have lots of places for them to sleep?
Despite great bedding cover this young buck preferred a cow stall in my barn
Despite great bedding cover this young buck preferred a cow stall in my barn
My property was logged off the last few years and it has tremendous bedding cover. It was a major selling feature for me when I was looking at properties. There’s almost nothing I could do to improve it except buy more adjacent land. It appears that about 40-50% of the deer bed on my property or within earshot of it. The others bed elsewhere and come for my crops every evening.
The problem is the property is not that big. 130 acres sounds big to many but it’s really not, especially for mature bucks. I generally have 2-3 mature bucks that bed on my ground. The 5 year old buck I took this year was one of them and the 5 year old buck I killed last year was another one. I already know my resident bucks next season. There are some other bucks that visit every night but they are bedding on the thousand acre property that borders me.
Pat a lot of both I have ladino close by and have a great stand and very good utilization.Your plots look great by the way.Good Luck Lewis
Got it. Agree about getting it planted - it takes Durana a lot longer to get established. I had a pure stand plot in NY that went 7 years before I killed it off. It was amazing. The deer did not favor it however. They would hit my Ladino 3/1 over the Durana. I'm likely done with it.
Great report. Thank you. I like the direction that you are going with some of your blends. Merit seed is located somewhat between my home and my land, so I get seed from them.
I use a fair amount of crimson clover and I have had great results from it. I have planted a mixture of rye grain and crimson clover and the deer utilized it to the extent that I needed for good mature buck movement. In the spring the crimson clover and rye both matured and went to seed in late spring/early summer. I had purple dead nettle in one of the fields and the CC and rye completely shaded it out and killed it. I like the mixture for adding N, organics and weed control.
It will be interesting to see if your crimson clover comes up this spring. I would guess that it will. Here is a picture of a plot with rye in it. I let that rye stand until about a month before my fall planting. Great for weed control. The stems work great for holding moisture and keeping the soil cool.
LoL - Right on Goyt - I don't think I saw that pic of Dutton before.
Leaving the rye go to maturity also adds a good deal back to the organic matter of the soil as well as letting the rye roots penetrate deeper into the soil structure as it grows.
That double brow tine is the ringer for him.
Pat I wouldn’t have thought that there was enough difference in ladino and durana to matter. I just drilled durana in with my cereal grains in about 40 acres worth of plots??
Shiloh, I’m just relaying my observations after 7 years in NY and 3 years in Ohio. There’s so many variables to consider that I don’t think anyone can draw conclusions about how it will perform on your land and with your deer.
Good luck - 40 acres is a lot of clover! Holy crap!
I hear ya…..that’s all plots combined. I drilled wheat and durana. I’m thinking I need more diversity maybe. We have literally tons of browse in these thickets down here, so plots are mostly for killing.
shiloh I’m bewildered by your 40 ac of plots for killing purposes. that would make it a crap shoot every time u hunt. Don’t you think cutting it down to 10 ac would improve your chance of success on target bucks? and perhaps mostly just fall plantings? On the other hand if you have 5 hunters at a time i get it.
These plot are spread out over a large area. It’s about 16 plots I believe. We definitely don’t have to have that many, but they have just been developed over time and we typically keep them up once we start one. With the cost of planting these days I might down size at some point and just focus on habitat management. These thickets down here produce about 1000# per acre/yr of good browse. For comparison a good clover field produces about 3000# per acre/yr.
Shioh, How many areas are the 40 acres of food plots spread over? Are there a lot of crop fields within a mile or so of your land? What were you planting before on your food plots and how did it do? I seem to struggle planting anything but legumes and small grains and the deer keep them cropped off but at least they survive. Even brassicas need to be fenced if they are going to get any size to them. There is not a row crop field within a mile and over two miles in most directions.
No row crops within a 15 minute drive. These plots are spread over about 3000 acres, so I’m really not putting out too much food when you look at it that way. We have planted mostly just generic mixtures in the past. I like the clover because it is used by the deer and Turkey. I’ve killed turkeys with a crop full of clover. We had a really hard freeze down here this year that came on really quick and the wheat handled it much better than a lot of other plots.
I certainly agree that 40 acres is not a lot for 3000 acres. I now shoot all of my turkeys off of clover fields also. IMO, w/o row crops in the area clovers. chicory and birdsfoot trefoil with oats, wheat and cereal rye are the only things that can stand the browsing pressure w/o fencing. We try to use a blend of clovers to make sure that something does well. We then look to see what is growing for future reference. Do you find that the deer spend the night in your plots? I find that deer will bed in the plots at night and spend hours there. They become more destination plots more than kill plots.
If it’s a good clover plot in our area it seems that they use it summer, early fall and late winter. I have also noticed a lot of nighttime use in the clover fields. We normally find a lot of sheds in the clover except for this year. I got interested in the durana due to its drought resistance. We can have some pretty miserable hot summers and it does ok. I’m interested in trying some balansa clover for wet areas. We also do lots of burning in the pines which adds a LOT of good browse during the summer.
Josh, for what it's worth I also tested Balsana at the request of Grandpa Ray's Seeds and I had a hard time getting it established. Never planted it again.
The clover I had tremendous success with was the Hancock Killer Clover mix. Also just brown bag medium red clover at 150% the recommended seeding rate also did outstanding in establishment, and activity. I tried just about all of the 'boutique' clovers and after 25 years I'm pretty much sticking with the tried and true clovers: Ladino, Medium Red, and Crimson for Annuals.
Im surprised no one plants sainfoin - Ive seen dozens and dozens of deer flock to a field of that stuff
Pat from what I am hearing the balansa does well down here in poor wet soils. No idea why it wouldn’t thrive up there in better dirt, but some of this stuff is finicky. I might try to add in some diversity in the coming years with a drill. With all of this said, I am getting more and more interested in habitat management and less interested in plots. For some reason it’s just hard to totally walk away from plots because it’s just what we’ve always done!! We also do several 3-5 acre corn fields. Some years they get killed and some years we feed a lot of coons. It’s baffling and interesting all at the same time. Beans never get over ankle high down here. Vetch is good until the first frost.
Interesting. It's smart to think of the entire ecosystem rather than just planting plots. I'm constantly thinking about food and security. I can't imagine one without the other.
I agree Pat. Down here we have a lot of both and they are combined. It makes the hunting pretty difficult. hundreds of acres of young pine plantation with all of the green browse a deer could ever want and you literally have to crawl through these things if a deer runs in there and dies. We also burn the bigger pine stands and some of the ones that we burned back in February are lush and green underneath now. Good mast producing trees scattered around as well. Good plots will still attract at the right time though, so we continue........
I am curious if anyone ever uses a low Nitrogen fertilizer for clover? I know most guidance says to use low or no N fertilizer for clover but it seems hard to come by.
Excellent information here, thank you.
Did you overseed your beans with any greens before the beans leafs fell?What type of rye is that?I had wild rye and rye grass for awhile finally the farmers got most of it killed in the ag fields.I really like to overseed with oats and winter wheat.I found better varieties of seed out there than GR and I was even a dealer for him until I found it was more of a way for their company to sell more seed and not support the dealers.I have had the best luck with Real World seed and Whitetail Institute clover.I can get any ag seed that we plant that year but like the RW enlist beans.We plant a different bean for ag harvest but those don't get left in field like the food plot beans do so it's different.
Bas4109 - low N fertilizer is hard to find in bags. I have found 5-20-20 before and will generally buy it when I see it. In Ohio, I have a coop that will custom mix to your specs but only if buying in bulk which is not always optimum for most clover field plots.
It won't hurt your clover to plant a N, the problem is that it will feed weeds and grass. If you spray IMOX, CLETH, and 2,4DB you can spread N and still keep the garbage out.
Buckdeer, I did not overseed my beans. I had so many beans going into the winter (50% of the beans standing in January) that I didn't want to drive over the 13 acre field to overseed. I did overseed my kill plot with brassicas but it was unnecessary.
I stopped using GR seeds a while ago. I didn't really notice any difference between them an the seeds I got from distributors. They were quality seeds, just a bit more expensive than I could get elsewhere. I liked RealWorld beans too, and I may add them back into the rotation at some point.
My tests showed the best results were actually with Ag beans. I'm also using E3 because I can control most weeds and grass by using different spray treatments. I am going with all E3 this year, however I may throw in a forage bean for kicks. I'm primarily interested in grains so I don't really plant for forage. My tests two years ago with a combination of Eagle an Ag beans showed the deer walking by the Eagle beans to browse the Ag bean leaves in early season. I was surprised, as the Forage beans were 2x the size and looked succulent than the Ag beans. But there was no denying that the cheap, locally sourced Ag beans were far preferred. Most of my Eagle forage beans just yellowed and fell off later in the season.
With your colder weather I can see where you need alot of grain for late season.In my part of Kansas I need the greens for warmer periods but like the RW beans as they didn't shatter as much later as ag beans.I am doing 100 acres of milo followed be wheat this year so hopefully the beans will be candy to them.Maybe you could use the leaf blower device and broadcast winter wheat or another green for 20 yards around the outside edge by walking if you are running out of food