Bruce: …Rackology, Eric Fitzgerald and Jason Obermiller, and your host Bruce Hutcheon with Whitetail Rendezvous. We joined up and we’re sharing some ideas about, you know, land management and food plots. And why are we doing this? Because there’s a lot of misinformation out there, there’s a lot of advertising out there, there’s a lot of promotion out there, there’s a lot of sponsors out there, people who are being sponsored by XYZ, you know, company. And we go, “Wow, I’m going to buy some of that.” Well, you have no earthly idea why you’re buying it except that there’s a green field behind the person, you know, shooting this wonderful [Inaudible 00:00:40] saying, “I use X.” That’s marketing, I get it. But when you start drilling down into it, you know, what are food plots, what aren’t they, you know, food plots start with, you know, with seed. Some sort of seed has to come out of the ground so the deer are going to eat it, and there’s a lot of prep work that goes into that.
So, guys, let’s jump into it.
We get about a half an hour to share with our listeners what food plots are and what they’re not.
Eric: All right. Well, I guess, looking at food plots, they are, as the name implies, they’re either…they’re a plot that you plant that bring wildlife there for mainly two reasons, food and cover. And some animals will use the same food plot for food that others use for cover. And what you’re trying to do is centralize the wildlife on your property and also provide something that maybe not…wasn’t there to either increase your odds at, you know, harvesting a buck or a doe, or it might be a turkey or pheasants, you know, hunting pheasants. So, and it’s also there if you’re just enjoying wildlife and want to give back a little bit. Because, as we all know, habitat in the United States has shrunk immensely for wildlife, whether it be urban development or what might be happening. But, so any time…a little goes a long way when it comes to wildlife, habitat, and food plots.
And so that’s, I guess in my opinion, what they are in a nutshell. They’re nutrition, they’re cover, and they’re sanctuary for wildlife.
Jason: Well, you can look at food plots also from a standpoint of, you know, if you go out into nature, into the trees, you know, wherever you’re hunting at, it may be grassland area, you know, like out in Western Nebraska, and you look at the quality of forage that’s available. You know, I’m not knocking Mother Nature, you know, nature, per se. But the forage quality out there, the amount of nutrients that’s naturally available in nature just doesn’t compare to what you can bring to them in a food plot.
You know, if a person can only afford to do just a little for your deer and you had to decide whether, “Do I put out some feed or do I put out a food plot?,” and the answer there is the food plot is where you’re going to get the most bang for your buck, no pun intended. Because you’ve got a growing time from spring that they can start eating through the fall months and into the winter months even on some of the…you know, the perennials, like we have.
Now, you know, is feeding, you know, mineral and feeds like that, is that beneficial? Of course. I mean, you know, as I stated, you know, a few months ago in a podcast we did with you, I mean February, March, and April, a lot of people don’t realize this, but February, March, and April are, like, huge months for fawn and antler growth. The bucks are storing the minerals on their skeleton that they’re going to use to grow the antlers in the summer months. And those months are when there’s hardly any food available over the winter months. And when you’ve got…you know, let’s say you can put out a sizable food plot, even if you can’t afford to, you know, put out any mineral or any feed. If you’ve got a sizable, you know, perennial food plot that these deer can continue to dig and get into, you know, you’re just giving them that much more edge on storing those nutrients in the critical times and getting them through the winter, healing them up from the rut.
So, you know, nutrition-wise food plots are great compared to what’s out there in nature. Because when you get into browsing on leaves off of trees and…you know, and a lot of the grasses that are available in the trees, you know, the native grasses are fairly decent in nutritional value, but obviously if you can have a food plot out there, you know, whether you hunt or not, your wildlife on your property is going to benefit from a food plot just because of the nutritional value that you bring to it.
Eric: Well, and then we like to really pride ourself on bringing in a high-quality plant species for the food plant. You know, I’ve been doing…you know, born and raised on a farm, I’ve been around cattle, you know, I sell a whole line of cattle feed, as well, and companion animal stuff. We always talk about sending samples in, whether it be just alfalfa bales or anything like that that might come in and send them off for relative feed value. “What is that cow getting when it’s ingesting, you know, this hay? You know, what’s the relative feed value? What’s the protein?” And, you know, the higher the relative feed value the better you are.
So there are some things that grow well for tonnage, for alfalfa and hay, that may be not…they’re not the highest in relative feed value. Where different species of clover that we use in our mixes, as well, for Rackology have been proven to bring in higher relative feed value, which brings in better protein, it helps mineralize what’s in the soil and bringing it out and getting it into that deer. Whether…you know, whether it be a doe in gestation where she’s milking and she’s got young fawn with her, the better relative feed value the better off you’re going to have, you know, the offspring start off quicker and hit the ground running. Versus feeding on…you know, browsing on natural grasses, which there is good protein in some of that. But a small food plot, when they come in there and eat, you know, same with supplementing feed, the relative feed value is going to go up.
And knowing what species that deer like to eat first of all and palatable for them and knowing which ones on top of that are going to bring in a high value of protein and the basis stuff, but then also know what’s going to handle the amount of traffic… You know, if you have a high deer density, what’s going to handle the traffic, what’s going to handle regrowth really well, what’s going to handle drought if you do get a dry spell.
We’ve done a lot of that homework where that is what a food plot is. There is a lot on the market that may be…I hate to say it, but may be throw stuff in a bag and call it a food plot. And there’s a lot on the market that have really done their homework and know. Like we’ve learned and stuck with on what maybe may be a little more expensive, but this is what works and this is what brings more to the table.
And so that’s, in my opinion, what they are. What they’re not is they’re not all created the same. You know, just what I alluded to before. So not everything is going to be easy, they are not low labor. You need to get out there and you need to do your homework. Blood, sweat, and tears into this, but that’s going to turn around and pay back. Whether just watching that food plot grow, seeing trail camera pictures of that food plot behind there, maybe it be a time-lapse, maybe it be a time thing where you just see, you know, right there prior to the sunlight and…or sunrise and right before sundown, seeing all those deer out on the food plot. That tells you your density, what’s out there and stuff, but that reward is what rewards you for the blood, sweat, and tears that go into that. They’re not a magic thing you just go out there, and some companies just all throw-and-go but they don’t give you a lot of data to make that throw-and-go successful, “This is what you got to do.”
So they’re just not a magic carpet, you’re just going to expect to go out there [Inaudible 00:08:58] and go home, and then come back, you know, first weekend of archery season and expect it to look like a garden. You know…
Jason: You know, me, I’m not only OCD, but everything else under the sun. I know there’s days when I drive Eric nuts because I’m just always thinking and doing and whatever. And, you know, that’s kind of the yin and yang, it’s the thing that makes us work so awesome. Is, you know, sometimes I get to prod him a little bit, and then there’s other times when he’s kind of holding me back, pulling me back on the reins.
But, you know, kind of going off of what he said with the, you know, what it is and what it’s not. You know, not to… We’re talking about food plots in general, so I’m not putting in a…you know, a plug, necessarily, for Rackology, but I look at, you know, I researched other feed and mineral companies when I started because I just wanted…I wasn’t even wanting to make something, you know, necessarily to sell, I wanted the best for my deer.
And so I researched stuff and I realized that, you know, ratios are huge when it comes to, you know, feed and what type of minerals that they can uptake based off of their ratios. The same thing goes for food plots, is, you know, so many times I’ve planted other food plots and the bag says there’s this stuff in it and you plant it and a lot of it’s the grasses that come up, because some of them will grow on concrete. And there’s really…the stuff that is supposed to be in that bag that’s the higher feed value, the more expensive seed, there’s not that much in it.
And, you know, your good seed brands, you’re going to pay a little more for it because they’ve actually got in the bag what they say is in the bag, number one. Number two, you know, when we were developing the food plot side of things, you know, I told Eric, you know, we talked about this, like, my ratios had to be right in my feed. And for him it was the same way, he made sure the ratios have got to be right in the bag. You know, there’s certain plants that will outcompete other plants. And if you don’t know what you’re doing and you’ve got the wrong ratios on your ground, you just almost not even planted the one seed because it’s going to get outcompeted.
So that’s another thing, you know, because there’s people that want to do their own food plot blend and they go to a farm and ranch store and they buy this seed and that seed because they read about it on a…you know, a hunting website. And people like to, you know, do your own, and that’s great. I can’t blame people for doing it, I love doing that. But you have to be careful about what you plant because if the ratios aren’t right, if you plant them in areas that those plants aren’t going to do well, you know, that’s…
I guess that’s kind of where, you know, I really tapped into, you know, Eric’s expertise on the food plot side of things, is, “Okay, here’s what I want. What do you suggest? What plants should we really be looking at that you’re going to get the best…you know, the best for your money type of deal?” And that’s…you know, that’s another thing that people need to look at, is what food plots are and what they aren’t. They can be…you can put a lot of work into a food plot and you don’t have hardly anything grow. It could be blamed on Mother Nature, but it could be blamed on the wrong ratios, the wrong type of seed. Versus you go about it from an educated standpoint.
You can even take some lower value soil and still have some…a really good food plot, but you got to start out doing it the right way. It might be getting the soil samples to find out. You know, and I’m going to say this in a couple different ways. If you’re wanting to do something bigger, or small, you know, you need to do your homework, which doesn’t take a lot of work to get a soil sample and get it sent off and get it read, not a big deal. Then you know whether to start off…you know, do you need lye in your soil, are you low in pH, you know, what do you need to do before you go out there and plant a food plot.
Because in some other…you know, not just Rackology, but other food plot companies out there, in every one of us’ defense, you know, I’ve been on these websites and people are talking about, you know, food plot whatever. You know, “This stuff is junk because I planted it and nothing grew.” “Well, the food plot you planted is actually a decent brand. It probably had to do with either what you did or nature didn’t do and it has nothing to do with the food plot.” You know, I’m sure everybody else that you interview after us that is in this business as experts is going to say the exact same thing. You know, I’m not going to knock any of the other companies that are doing it right, we’re all going to agree. If you don’t do it right, it don’t matter what you plant, it’s not going to grow.
Eric: Yeah. And I agree, I think that there is things on the market right now that I just… Doing what we’re doing now and I walk into somewhere and I see food plots, and there’s some out there that it’s like the infomercials, it’s like they have these big bam, bam, bam things on the bags like “lasts 20 years” or “this grows and it smells like chestnuts,” or some of these things that I just kind of…I shake my head and I kind of look and I just kind of smile to myself. And it gets you to, like, “Oh, man, maybe I need that,” and, “Oh, I’ve got 15 different species of clover, you know, deer go crazy about this.”
Eric: It’s marketing. But what we try to do is sometimes a two-clover plot is a lot…two different varieties of clover are a lot better than 15 different varieties. Because they’re going to outcompete and by the time you get to the end of the year the ones that are going to outcompete the other ones, you’re going to be down to two-clover plot.
And so what we try to do is… You know, not all chicory is not chicory, all turnips are not turnips, all radishes aren’t… There’s different varieties. And things that work well and… You know, I’ve been doing cover crops for a long time and cover crops do the same thing, you try to cover the ground the best you can. And so that does a good job of covering. But what you need to do is figure out…
Well, too much coverage, plant species need sunlight for photosynthesis, they need to have moisture and root development, and they also need to have oxygen for respiration. If you don’t have all that, if Brassicas get too tall and the turnips get too tall and you got a big wide-leaf Brassica turnip shading out your clover and shading out maybe some chicory you have in there, you might as well not spend the money because chicory is not cheap. You might as well not spend the money in buying a plot that’s too heavy in one or the other.
So we’ve done a lot of research in knowing, okay, the different varieties you have in there and their growth potential, and also what’s in there that’s not going to overcompete and there’s going to be a symbiosis relationship between all the plant species out there. With a good year you’re going to have… You know, like I said, you could plant annual rye on concrete and it’s going to come up and it’s going to be green for a while. Some people just want to see a green field and you could plant rye really cheap and it looks good, deer will go out there and feed in it, but they’re not getting a lot of the value. You know, you are bring them and centralizing a little bit because that’s the only green thing out there in the fall sometimes, is rye, or wheat, but you’re not getting what you really want out of there. And so we just really hone in on what we know of the plant species and get those in our Rackology blends.
And then going into not all soils are created equally, we do have a food plot fertilizer. There are guys that already have a source of fertilizer, but we pride also in marrying our fertilizer with our plot blends as well as other ones on the market to fix a lot of nutritional problems and the fertility problems that might be in that soil that help things out, too. And doing agronomy and fertilizer work and being in fertilizer retail for a few years, six years to be exact, but you know the importance of not just having MAP 11-52-0 out there or just urea for a nitrogen source and how important microbials are in the soil health and how alive your soil is to make that food plot.
Jason: That’s one thing that I… You know, we had calls from people in states that you can’t put out mineral. You know, that’s one thing went up to Eric and I’m like, “We need…can we make a fertilizer that we can supplement our deer for a food plot?” You know, now the thing that he got to work on next was, you know, something that is going to work from the ground up through the roots.
You know, because that’s the other side of things. If you’re going to do a food plot, you need to make sure that you take care of it. If you’ve got an area that’s got awesome soil, you probably don’t need our stuff because, you know, it’s going to have the nutrients, it’s going to have the microbes, and life is good. But on a lot of people’s soil it’s not. And that was one of the things, you know, these people in these states are saying, “How can we…we need to be able to supplement our dear, but we just can’t legally do it. What do you got?”
And so, you know, he went to work on the fertilizer side of things. You know, it’s not just your normal NPK, it’s…you know, there’s the minerals that are added to it that go into the soil that the plant can take up that are chelated. You know, there’s other components that allow specifically the soil microbes. That’s the key…huge key thing. Is if those soil microbes are super healthy and you’ve got a lot of them, now all of a sudden they can begin to unlock all this trapped nutrients that’s in your soil, you don’t even know it’s there. It’s trapped because you don’t have enough microbes to break them down as fast as the plants can use them. You know, there’s other products on the market that are just fertilizers and that’s great, there’s other products on the market that, you know, you spray on a supplement on your food, the food plot. But once it’s eaten, it’s gone, it’s not coming up from the root. Rain and dew wash things off. I mean you have to educate yourself on the difference between marketing and what the real deal is.
And one other thing that I’ve kind of jotted down earlier when Eric was talking about, you know, competition between plants. You know, we’ve seen advertisements for Brassicas that, you know, “Look at these huge Brassicas, look at what we’re getting.” Can you talk a little bit about as far as why…it looks awesome, but why is that not what we’re really wanting?
Eric: I mean, I guess we come from, you know, a guy grows field corn and he has this big ear of corn and he’s like, “Bigger is better.” Yeah, in that regard it is. But when it comes to turnips, if you get some that are the size of volleyballs, that’s not doing much for you. What you want is a lot of little ones about the size of a softball to a baseball. You don’t want purple top turnips or any other type of turnips to get super big because they get woody in the middle, they take up too much room in your soil, they actually compact your soil because they’re pushing out against your soil.
And people just don’t understand that that’s basically kind of a lack of nitrogen. If you have more nitrogen, you’re going to have more smaller baseball size to softball size turnips. And that tells you… If I go out to a field that had been planted and a guy goes, “Hey, come out and take a look at this,” and we drag up a lot of smaller turnips and he’s like, “Man, yeah, they’re not real big.” I say, “This is perfect.” That means your soil is in…as far as nitrogen, is in good balance. When you go and they’re like, “Hey, look at this one,” and they’re taking a picture or one looking like a basketball, it looks big but it’s really not doing any good. It’s really kind of a… It’s basically acting against what you’re trying to do in that food plot because it’s going to take forever for that to rot and to break down.
We talk about food plots…
Jason: Not as much aeration.
Eric: Yeah, you don’t get as much aeration. You want a lot of little ones versus a few big ones. But when we talk about a fertilizer and we talk about the importance of fertilizer in general, there’s times where people will tear up native grass or sod, there was a really grassy type of a species there prior. And all land, no matter how good the soil is, goes through, what I call, land shock. When you take something out of a system that it’s used to… Grass have a lot of rhizobia and they till across the ground. And when you take that out, it changes the soil structure for a while that for about a six-month to a year period that goes through a land shock.
So somebody that expects just to go…and when we say what food plots aren’t, if you go out there and you till up grass that have been native grass for a long time in a tree growth and you don’t do the proper way of spraying it and killing it and letting it decay, and then tilling it, you’re going to go into a land shock. First of all, it’s going to be really hard to grow anything in the thatch that’s in there, but, you know, it’s going to go through a period of land shock where not a lot is going to grow very well very fast.
And so people look at that and say, “I planted it, it didn’t do worth a dang and it must be the seed.” And like I say, when you’re point the finger, usually there’s four pointing back at you because I’ve been doing agronomy a long time and there’s times where I’ve been pressured to get a food plot in or a cover crop in and it might not be the best date and we just try to pressure ourself into it, and then it doesn’t happen. Well, when I see it I’m like, “I know exactly why this wasn’t successful.” But a lot of people maybe that aren’t really trained or know what’s happening, they might not know and the first thing they do is probably try to blame the seed or something that just maybe wasn’t right on our part or on whoever’s seed they’re using.
But, so that fertility, there’s just some things that are important when it comes to, you know, what they are, what food plots are, and a lot of that is what’s underneath the soil. And the right ratios of plants and the ratios that the wildlife are going to like and that they’re going to do what they’re supposed to.
Bruce: Can you just touch on reading the tag? You know, you need to touch on that.
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