By Cody Altizer
Several weeks ago I penned a blog on the importance that food plot screens can have in your management plan and how they can increase your hunting success for mature deer when used effectively (click here to read that post). I also mentioned that I was going to keep a running blog dedicated solely to tracking the progress and growth of my food plot screens, and yesterday, May 18th, was step #1 – planting.
It’s no secret that throughout the whitetail’s range we have experienced somewhat of an extended winter, and that soil temperatures were a little lower than normal. It’s that reason that we were “late” getting our plot screens planted this year. For reference, we planted our screens last year on May 7th. However, unlike corn and soybeans (crops where soil temperature is key in planting), I’m less worried about planting my food plot screens too late. They’ll continue growing here in Virginia until the first frost, which can be as late as late October. Simply, the taller and thicker they are the better.
Nevertheless, my dad and I set out yesterday around noon to get our screens planted. Planting screens isn’t much of a science, so I’m not going to insult your intelligence by writing a lengthy blog trying to make myself sound like a better deer manager than I really am. However, I am going to share with you a couple images and details about our food plot layout, and what we’re trying to accomplish.
Basically, we had 2 plots we needed to screen; one hadn’t been planted yet, the other was well established. Our first stop was to the plot that hadn’t been planted. The particular field where this plot will go has given me fits as a bowhunter the last couple of years. It’s a high traffic area, but despite hanging stands in 9 different trees in and around the field, I’ve yet to seal the deal on any of the many mature whitetails that pass through the area. This year, I’m going to simplify my approach by planting a food plot in the southwest corner of the field. I’ll set a ground blind directly on the food plot (tucked back in what will soon be a jungle of grain sorghum), and I’ve already got a stand hung 120 yards off the food plot on the edge of the bedding area I know the deer transition to while passing through the field. Obviously, the sorghum will be perfect to help conceal the ground blind and hopefully allow for a makeable bow or gun shot.
However, I also wanted to line the North side of the plot to protect it from an access road that unfortunately gets a lot of traffic during the hunting season. The goal is to keep people from seeing the deer in the plot, and keep the deer in the plot from seeing the people. In turn, the added cover and security will encourage daytime feeding in the food plot once it’s planted.
As mentioned, the second plot has already been established, and we had tremendous success planting Egyptian wheat around this plot last year, so we kept it simple and did the same for 2013. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
The set up at this location is simple. There’s an established 1.25 acre clover food plot that the deer simply pound year round, but especially during the early fall. There were always a lot of deer in this food plot during the afternoon, but the more mature deer (both bucks and does) waited to hit the plot until after dark, and the reason why was easy to identify. No more than 40 yards to the east of the clover plot is our hunting camp, which, unfortunately, is the site of a lot of human activity during the hunting season. The solution? Easy. Plant Egyptian wheat around the food plot shielding the existence of our camp from the eyes, ears, and noses of the deer feeding in the plot. Last year, this plan worked to perfection as my brother and I both harvested mature does (10+ years old) out of the same stand sitting over this clover plot in back to back weeks. We’re hoping for similar success this fall, but with a mature buck.
The whole planting process took close to two hours yesterday. After we broadcasted the seed with a hand seeder, my dad ran over the dirt with our homemade cultipacker to smooth the seedbed, and we waited for rain. Fortunately, we didn’t have to wait long, as no more than 2 hours after planting we received .3” of rain. Perfect for our situation! With a little moisture and warm temperatures on the way, our food plot screens are off to a fantastic start. Check back next month for photos as we monitor the growth of these food plot screens!
– Cody Altizer, CodyAltizerPhotography.com