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Evaluations : Dave Conrad
Last Updated: Feb 22nd, 2007 - 18:37:03

Food Plot Wars - The ShowDown Part 1
By Dave Conrad
Aug 22, 2006, 08:15

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Dave Conrad

Food Plot Wars - Part 1

Extensive Head to Head Evaluations of Food Plot Products
I can honestly say that one of my biggest passions is large antlered whitetail. In order to increase the chances of encountering one I became a big fan of quality deer management (QDM). One of the first steps myself and my hunting companions took towards QDM occurred on the family farm in the 1991. It was initiated on close to six hundred acres consisting of hardwoods and croplands located in central Ohio. In order to see large antlered bucks we decided to let all small bucks with less than 8 points and not meeting P&Y minimums walk. If an older buck didn't meet these requirements we also tried to take him out. This was hard to do those first years as Ohio only allows one buck per season. We also encouraged a couple other hunters from neighboring farms to do the same and by the mid 1990's we were seeing the results.

Today we are still seeing those results even though I am farther away from the homestead and don't get to hunt there as often as I like. But two years ago I was able to somewhat alleviate the time afield by purchasing a tract of property located in Licking County, Ohio, which is known for large antlered bucks. This new area is only 20 minutes away but is a little different from the family hunting grounds. It is mostly wooded, has 12 acres of open field but has no immediate crops or farmland surrounding it. To the south is an old farm but it has been enrolled in a CRP program for many years. It has some great cover areas that serve the deer nicely for bedding. The only farmland with crops is to the northeast about of a mile away. The deer travel through my property to reach it but I wanted to be able to attract and hold them on mine.

That first year of scouting revealed a large buck using the bedding area to the south. It was already late summer so I planted a half acre of oats. I didn't have the time to prepare the plot correctly but was pleasantly surprised by the results. The first day of season I situated myself in a stand overlooking a field the deer often browsed about 250 yards away from the food plot. My intense scouting and leg work of this new property rewarded me with the large buck grossing in the 190's.

I immediately focused my attention to incorporate food plots into the QDM hunting equation on my new property. I mapped out a plan over the winter for a spring planting. Well spring came and found me with a new job which severely limited implementing my plan. Before I knew it the season was upon me. Over the latter part of the season I once again started concentrating on the food plot implementation. I started researching all the well known products on the market and couldn't decide on a specific company's offering. I then decided the best way to see what worked best was to conduct my own tests and summarize them through a head to head evaluation.

That brings me to the present where I have been in contact with all the major food plot companies. Since I had 12 acres of open land I decided not to try and limit the number of products but would leave that up to competing companies on what they would like to send me. The only guidelines I gave them were two test/evaluations would be done consisting of a spring and fall planting. Based on these criteria most companies have agreed to send me a perennial clover mixture for the spring and a hearty annual fall mixture consisting of brassicas. A few of the companies sent other mixtures comprised of beans, corn, sunflower, oats and grasses.

My head to head competition will be based on individual food plots measuring acre in size. Once planted each plot will have a small utility/retainer fence erected in order to keep track of the amount of browsing from wildlife each is getting. I will also have trail cameras placed in the area to try and monitor deer activity over the plots. When I started preparing the food plots four companies had committed to the competition.

The four well known companies are Antler King, Frigid Forage, Mossy Oak Biologic and Whitetail Institute.

Antler King is based out of Black River Falls, Wisconsin and has been in the industry for close to 20 years. They stress that if there product are tested in the severe climate of Wisconsin. If it can survive there it is then further tested in the southern arid and dry climates. Products only bear the Antler King name if they pass these tests.

SunRich Farm's Frigid Forage is also a company that can be found in the colder climates of the north. Located in Bemidiji, Minnesota, and in business since 1987, Frigid Forage Seeds are developed and grown in the nation's icebox. They know what works in the colder climates which northern latitudes are accustomed to.

Mossy Oak Biologic out of West Point, Mississippi has over 10 years experience in the food plot business. They are dedicated to research in order to find the best combination of seed to aid in your wildlife management. Biologic has taken that knowledge, especially what they have gained from New Zealand deer farms, and applied it to a variety of products to better serve you the hunter and wildlife suitor.

Whitetail Institute came about back in 1987 thanks to the hard work of founder Ray Scott. This family operated business in Pintlala, Alabama was built on extensive research in order to improve as well as create the best product offerings available to hunters. This research continues today and is repeated throughout North America to insure hunters, no matter what the climate conditions, will be able to benefit.

Early Preparation

Early April found me atop my Massey Ferguson Tractor with a two bottom plow working up 2.5 acres that had been prepped with lime earlier in March. A week later I was back at it scattering a couple additional loads of lime in order to bring the pH factor as close to seven (neutral) as possible. I then utilized a double rowed, offset 6 foot disc to work up the ground. I disked the ground several times over the next week by making several passes, insuring a well prepared plot bed. During this time I began to receive spring and fall products with the anticipation of having all product by May 1st. I have also thrown in product from a local farm supply to see if there is any difference in the clover mixtures that I have received.

So far each competing company has been very helpful with questions I have had concerning their product. Tips on planting and plot preparation were similar and all were confident on how each of their products would do stacked up to the competition.

I can hardly wait as I continue to bring you updates over the next couple months. I will finalize the spring/summer results in a write up sometime by late August. I will then continue the monitoring with fall plantings (which will be planted in late July/early August) with results sometime at the close of hunting season in late January.
So sit back, relax and enjoy the food plot wars.

Update May 7th, 2006

Well after a couple unforeseen problems comprising of weather and equipment the 2.5 acres of spring food plots are in the ground. The 10 total food plots are acre in size and consist of three annual and seven perennial plots. I prepared the ground a third time as well as adding fertilizer in order to have firm plot beds. I then broadcast the seed products to the proper depth depending on their type and size. The perennial clover mixtures were planted on the surface no more than a quarter inch deep. The annual seeds, which are larger in size were broadcast and then lightly disked to a depth of between a half inch and inch.

Pictured above is the result of a one acre field that receives full sun during the entire day. It is planted with four varieties of perennial clover products consisting of acre each of: Antler King Mini Max, Biologic Clover Plus, Frigid Forage Pure Trophy Clover and Whitetail Institute's Imperial Chicory Plus.

Mini Max is a blend of clover, ryegrass and brassica proven to thrive throughout the United States. Clover Plus is a blend of New Zealand red and white clovers as well as chicory. Pure Trophy Clover is a winter hardy five variety clover blend which is ideal for the colder climates. Imperial Chicory Plus is a blend of high protein WINA 100 Brand Chicory and Imperial Whitetail Clover. All these blends are comprised of mostly perennials that can provide up to 3 to 5 years of highly attractive, high protein forage with a single planting. That is if maintained through a proper mowing and maintenance program.

The next picture is a half acre plot that is divided and planted with two annual blends from Mossy Oak Biologic. Biomaxx is a combination seed blend of two corn and three soybean varieties that are Roundup ready. Meaning once planted, if weeds become an issue the plot can be sprayed with Roundup herbicide to kill the weeds but not harm the Biomaxx. The combination of these two plants provides nutrition throughout the summer and fall. The other half of this food plot is planted with Australian Lablab. This is a fast growing annual that produces highly palatable leaves and bean pods high in protein.

 This picture is of a acre plot utilizing Frigid Forage Wild Game Buffet. This all purpose mix germinates and matures at different rates to ensure palatable food throughout the season. It contains; Mammoth Red Clover, Medium Red Clover, Alsike Clover, White Dutch Clover, Ladino Clover, Dwarf Essex Rapeseed, Perennial Ryegrass, Creeping Red Fescue, and Vernal Alfalfa.

Another full sun plot contains Monster Magnet. Frigid Forage calls this mixture a smorgasbord as it contains a mix of annuals which produce protein levels up to 40%. This large seed annual contains a mixture of Black Oil Sunflowers, Spring Peas, Soybeans, Sugar Beets, Forage Turnips, Mancan Buckwheat, Hairy Vetch, and Winter Rye and is forage heaven for your deer.

The final acre plot contains Frigid Forage Wall Hanger. This hearty whitetail perennial and biennial mix provides high protein for the critical antler growing season and is loaded with calcium and phosphorus. Wall Hanger enjoys full sun and should be right at home on this exposed meadow. Carrots, Ladino Clover, Vernal Alfalfa, Six Point Chicory, Purple Top Forage Turnip, Medium Red Clover, and Dwarf Essex Rapeseed, Sugar beets, New Zealand White Clover.

After each plot was seeded a utility cage was placed in each. A utility cage is a three foot high by one to two foot radius cage. Its purpose is to keep deer from browsing in order to measure the growth of each food plot. This way I can determine how each plot is growing and the effects the deer and their eating preferences are having on each.
Stay tuned as I will be bringing you another update within the next two weeks in order to show the early progress of the plots. I will also be adding a few trail cameras as the seed emerges to keep track of deer sightings as well as buck antler growth.

Update May 20th, 2006

All seed blends are visibly emerging thanks to the 10 straight days of some sort of moisture. The clover varieties seem to be making the biggest impact and the brown fields are starting to take on a vivid green hue. The corn, bean and pea variety mixes, although not as visible as the clover mixtures are beginning to sprout. I can even see where some of the young tender corn sprouts have been nibbled on. Deer and turkey tracks are visible within the plots with the turkeys leaving behind their calling cards. It is very early in the evaluation process and between the clovers there is no brand that seems to be sprouting sooner or faster and this includes the local mixture. Although the temperatures have been cool, overcast and wet the last 10 days the next week shows signs of improvement. Temperatures in the mid to upper 70's with plenty of sunshine and a few showers should make quite an improvement.

Stay Tuned for Part 2.


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