By Cody Altizer
With summer well underway, I can all but guarantee deer managers all across the country are either doing one of two things daily (although likely both); counting down the days until the opening day of deer season, and watching the 10 day forecast like a meteorologist praying for a nice mixture of rain and sunshine for their food plots.
While most seed is in the ground for the majority of the food plotters I know, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time to kick back, watch the plot grow, and count the extra inches and pounds they’re adding to your deer herd. In fact, it’s during this time of year they need to be closely monitored and cared for if you really want to get the most out of your plots. That said, below are three simple summer grooming tips to help you create the most lush, tasty, and plentiful buffet possible for your local whitetails.
Unless you’ve planted a super secret seed blend that kills any and all weeds in your food plot (if you have, hook a brother up), chances are you’re going to be battling weeds in your food plot at one point or another. Not only are they annoying, but they can be the literal death of your food plot if you don’t eliminate them.
The problem with weeds in your food plot is that there are generally two different kinds, broadleaf weeds and grasses, and each one needs a different herbicide to kill it. This can get pricey if you’re on a budget, but it’s necessary to ensure a healthy food plot. Killing weeds keeps the plot lush, green and growing and ensures that all moisture and nutrient content is going where it’s supposed to, the crop.
Spraying is ideally done before the weed is so mature that the herbicide won’t have any effect. In other words, kill the pesky little suckers while they’re young and growing and before they seed to ensure a good killing. Keep a watchful eye on the weather too, and try not to spray before rain. I know the surfactant says rain ready in 30 minutes, but spraying can be expensive, and I don’t want to take any chances.
Mowing is also another critical component when taking the utmost care of your food plots during the summer. Contrary to popular belief, mowing does not eliminate weeds, but instead it keeps the plot at its most nutritious and palatable state. It also keeps the crop tender and in it’s most attractive stage.
Interestingly enough, I have mixed feelings about mowing. Here’s why. If you’re familiar with any of my deer management posts here on Wired To Hunt, then you know I hunt in an area with high deer numbers. This year, unlike in the past when we mowed plots regularly, I’m not going to mow our clover and alfalfa plots until late in the summer. Why, you ask? Simple, if the deer are eating it, let them eat it! And trust me, we have plenty of deer eating plenty of clover and alfalfa.
Our deer literally eat so much of the clover so quickly, that it’s the equivalent of mowing the plot regularly. It’s an experiment, but it will save us time, money, and I strongly believe the plot will be healthier as a result.
Okay, so this obviously isn’t grooming, but keeping a close eye on your plot this time of year is extremely important. How do you this? Trail cameras, and site visits. Remember to only visit your plots during the middle of the day on high-pressure days wearing rubber boots and rubber gloves while spraying down completely with a scent eliminator. These site visits will give you an up close and personal look at the health of your plot, and will help you determine when and if you need to mow or spray.
You can also monitor your plots with trail cameras. This is a great way to determine how many deer are hitting your food plot, and how long they’re in the plot. This can give you an idea of the caliber of deer feeding in your plots, and help you get a rough estimate on when and how often your plot is getting hit, thus allowing you to make sound decisions regarding stand placement for the fall, and determining what crops your deer favor at certain times of the year.
Based on the points above, you may call me crazy when I say this is a relative down time for food plots. Most of the hard work is done, but that doesn’t mean your pride and joy doesn’t need a little extra care and upkeep! Remember these tips when making food plotting decisions during the heat of summer, and you’ll be happy with your results this fall!
– Cody Altizer, CodyAltizerPhotography.com