The Buffett Factor By Wade Nolan - Bowhunting Biologist
Jul 20, 2010 - 10:14:05 AM
Two common problems we often face are we either don't own the property we hunt or the property we do own is missing open fields. No ownership and you can't bring in a dozer to create clearings. No fields and you have no food plots, right?
No, there is an alternative and it may be the best plan after all. Most properties do have some access designed through the property. These old logging or gas well roads can be just what you need for a dynamite food plot. Let's look at some of the road blocks you'll run into and some of the solutions. (More info at FrigidForage.com.)
Getting permission may not as difficult as you may think. What you're offering to do for a landowner is improve his land at no cost to him. Logging roads invariably get overgrown and become less usable to an owner. If you offer to put a little back bone and sweat into cleaning up the roads you may not only get permission but you may build a friendship. Giving rather than asking to receive is a great way to build relationship equity. If you own fieldless land you won't have to ask permission, just get to work and clean up those roadways.
If it's not your land be sure to walk the property with the landowner and learn where any pipelines or rightaways may exist. Ask for permission to use quad based equipment. If you are going to be making an investment on property you don't own I'd also ask for some exclusive use during a defined period of time. You'll probably get it.
CHOOSING THE SITE
Planting forage in the woods can be a failure if you don't pay attention. Choose a location with great sign. Look for a crossing and a place for a treestand then settle on a road section with light. All whitetail forage plants require sunshine to prosper. It is going to be important that you design the woods plots to capture some of that shiny energy. Here is what to consider. The sun in the northern hemisphere does not come up in the east and set in the west. That only happens on the equator. Up here it rises in the south-east and sets in the south-west. That means that it can shine down a logging or woods road that runs north to south or 45-degrees off to the east or west. These roads will get a considerable amount of sunshine. The east-west roads are largely shaded or will at least get a reduced amount of sunshine.
You don't need a road that is 50-yards wide to win. A road that is only 18-25 feet can work just fine. Next you have to consider moisture and soil type. You do want to select a well drained section of road and the soil will be of a higher quality if it is either old or if the dozer didn't remove all of the top soil when installing. Do a soil test and then add the minerals or lime that it calls for. In that the plot will be narrow it is very likely that a quad mounted spreader could help you add either lime or fertilizer.
BUFF UP THE SKY VIEW
Buffing up the sky view is important because over hanging branches can block much of the sun. I use a pole trimmer that you can get at any Mart or hardware store. Every bowhunter should have one of these long armed trimmers for cutting shooting lanes. I suggest you reach high and trim out overhanging branches and then push back the road shoulders by cutting out the invasive saplings that encroach on these roads. These trees are usually the pioneer trees that have no commercial value such as sassafras and striped maple. Use a chainsaw and clear them out. Sunshine is important. You'll need 4-6 hours a day for a great plot.
SCRATCH IT UP
I'm not a promoter of quad based tillers but in this case they are perfect. Remove rocks and sticks from the roadway then chew it up with a pull behind disk. You may need to add weight to the disk to get any real effect but this will work. You may need to go over it 8-12 times to get the soil exposed. You are going to want to drag it after you tear it up to settle the dirt and create a usable seed bed.
CHOOSE THE SEED BLEND
This step is the most critical of all. I have hands-on experience with these deep woods plots and I have discovered a blend that works like you wish it would. I planted this blend on a logging roads in mountains of West Virginia and it grew like a champ. It's called Wild Game Buffet by Frigid Forage. It is made up of shade tolerant plants that deer love. Unlike most blends it is comprised of both annuals and perennials.
It has an annual, Dwarf Essex Rape, which is a boisterous and fast growing forage crop that will dominate the visual aspect of the plot after just 3 weeks. But under the broad and tender rape leaves there will be flock of perennials taking root. Perennials grow slower than the annuals but will be around next year. The perennials are the big win on woods plots. Once you tear up the duff and leaf litter and expose the soil, the roots of the clovers, Fescue, alfalfa and ryegrass in this blend will rock and get established under the cover of the Rape.
This blend contains five clovers, Mammoth Red, Medium Red, Alsike, White and Ladino. The Alsike Clover is from northern Europe and it does great in acid and cold soils and even thrives in wet soils. It's a toughie. The Ladino and White Clovers are tolerant of dry and wet conditions and can produce as much as 10,000 pounds of forage per acre. The Mammoth and Red clover is tolerant of low pH (down to 5.5) that is common in woods plots and is fairly drought tolerant.
The other members of the blend include Perennial Ryegrass which is a long lived reseeding variety of rye and is a quick grower plus it is the most tolerant of the grass/grains when it comes to cold, low fertility and low pH. Vernal Alfalfa is a cold season plugger that is frost tolerant and extremely hardy. We all know deer love alfalfa. The Red Fescue is an excellent soil binder which is important on woods roads that often get washout plus it is a hardy and exceptionally shade tolerant. In all, the Wild Game Buffet is the answer to an impressive food plot on a woods road.
SEEING IS BELIEVING
I like to see proof before I invest time and money. Well, here it is in spades. This woods road was tilled on August first and planted with Frigid Forage Wild Game Buffet. Here it is 2 weeks later and 4 weeks later. No fancy camera stuff just real performance and a whitetail edge you can have where you hunt. This is the edge you deserve in your whitetail woods.
THE BUFFET FACTOR
Here is what you already know. Sometimes it is dark thirty by the time the nice bucks make it out of the shadows and into your open food plot. The strategy here is to feed them breakfast and dinner in bed. Take the buffet table and set it up next to the buck bed room. Now you will be seeing does plus those elusive bucks during daylight hours, at your logging trail food plot. Invite them to the Saturday night Buffet...Frigid Forage's Wild Game Buffet.