Hey, folks, this is the last segment of the “Whitetail Rendezvous” spring series on land management and food plots. And I crisscrossed the world, I’ve got some friends down in the south, Atlanta at Legacy. I’ve got friends out in Nebraska at Reck Agri. And I’ve got friends in Madison, Wisconsin with Grandpa Ray Outdoors and John O’Brion. And John’s gonna wrap up this whole series and, you know, it’s gonna be fun to see where the thing goes. But having said that, Grandpa Ray sets expectations for being a 365 food plotter. John, what the heck does that mean?
John: Well, the last time I checked, deer eat every day and if your goal is to try to increase the deer numbers on your property, pull them throughout the whole year, there’s got to be food there. There’s got be bedding there. There’s got to be water. It seems pretty simple but yet the wildlife industry in the whole focuses on about, oh, maybe one or two seasons a year. Usually the focus is from when opening day of hunting season starts to when it closes and, again, that’s bad science. That is not where your brain should be wired and we would want to do our best, as a goal, to have something there every day. The short-term and long-term success.
Bruce: So deer need, you know, well just January, February, March the bucks have been through the rut. Those are either bred or…not bred, so bucks are tired and does throw a lot of food to a growing, you know, fawn. So what do we need during those months to make sure bucks and doe are getting the right nutrition?
John: Yeah, no matter if we’re in north of Madison, Wisconsin, Tallahassee, Florida, or Oak Way out in Colorado, you know, there’s Mother Nature that comes into play in the northern climates where you get cruel at times with the 2 feet of snow, 20 below zero. You know, you even have higher [inaudible 00:02:28] challenges there. So, you know, my focus is, you know, when hunting season is done do you have sources of supplemental stock piles to forage. Which in the industry, I mean, you know so many people are familiar with turnips but are they familiar with other species of forages like rutabaga, maybe sugar beets, fodder beets, weeds, things like that. Things like grain store gums. Thinks like millets can also, which aren’t as desirable during the fall season, all of a sudden, you know, when a deer is having a hard time walking through that deep snow and wants to eat whatever is the easiest at that point in time. You know, there’s certain things that we can focus on to give that energy that’s really needed in those really stressful conditions.
And, again, so many people think, you know, if their goal is to grow healthy, big deer they focus on the fall. Well, when that buck has dropped its antlers and it could be January, February in many areas or even before then. Backing up, you mentioned, you know, when the ruts done. Guess what? That buck’s reserves are tapped out. You know, he’s drained and then the big thing is you want to keep it maintained or replenish it. The main goal I throw at people is we do not want a deer, no matter buck or doe or fawn from the previous fawn [inaudible 00:03:58] our goal should be to reduce the amount of weight they lose throughout the winter. Next to impossible no matter where you live to put on weight. If you don’t lose as much weight and body condition, guess what’s gonna happen? They’re gonna…the term’s called compensatory gain.
So instead of having to replenish those bones, you know, with the calciums and the proteins and our nutrients, they’re able to…if you don’t have to worry about…if the deer doesn’t have to replenish itself, guess what’s gonna happen with those added nutrients that are out there? Whether it be from browse or supplemental sources, going towards antler development. That’s how you actually grow in the long-term or even short-term. If your goal is to put extra inches on a rack then reduce the amount of weight that’s lost after the hunting season.
Same thing with does. Guess what? That fawn’s not gonna be dropped for another month or two. [inaudible 00:04:54] especially if it’s got twins or triplets inside her. A lot of the nutrients that she’s consuming is going towards the fawns. If you have a fawn that’s born a little bit bigger, if that doe is lactating heavier once she drops the fawns, that fawn’s gonna be bigger. The fawn’s gonna be healthier and that carries. The growth curve is dictated, which carries on throughout that life. People don’t think about it. They overlook it. That’s what I really want to emphasize in this segment. Short-term thinking affects long-term success.
Bruce: Here’s the word again folks: Plan. So get a calendar, get your food plot, they’re all laid out. You’ve got what you’ve got unless you’re gonna cut new, you know, mini plots or kill plots in. Which I recommend you do. Put one new one in every single year when you move your stand because things have changed. Hint hint. But saying all that, so generally [inaudible 00:05:54] this is what you’re gonna do. That land has to be prepared before the snow falls. Obviously the seed has to be put in there but you have to know what the deer need so you can do that months and months ahead. Because we come out of January, February, March.
Then we’re into April, May, and June. Gestation period for fawn is approximately 200 days, 201 days. So having said that just count, that’s all you have to do, and when that fawn drops…so then, again, the mother needs food now for herself because she’s got to replenish what she lost feeding a healthy fawn. The fawn needs good forage and they need water, and also they need cover from predators. And you look at all this and then during [inaudible 00:06:45] months, what should they be eating? What should they be ingesting during April, May, and June?
John: Yeah and here’s what I encourage people to do. You know, a good number of people do plant perennials but again, you know, that’s usually about a third, maybe in some cases up to half their acreage. There’s guys that plant corn and beans. Of course, those will go in the ground, you know, in May and June in most areas in the United States, but there’s a lot of people that leave grown fallow. What I strongly recommend is to plant a soil builder [inaudible 00:07:20] You’re planting an annual clover blend that’s your fixating nitrogen, smothering weeds. Some of these species in these mixes that I recommend are very desirable nutrient wise for the…you know, the whole deer herd.
And guess what? So when you always set aside about a third of your acreage every spring with, you know, a spring crop which, in theory, would be considered a cover crop it’s helping you long-term with your soil health and your food plot health. But in short-term that’s the most crucial time. Everybody thinks about the fall but the most crucial time, you know, is that spring flush. And so we want to have a diversity of species. There’s a lot of species we can plant that are very nutritious and effective, and then, again, then you come back in these areas and then you plant your fall brassicas. So, again, think about keeping the ground covered as many days a year as possible. Reduce the erosion, makes you a conservationist, reduces your input costs, your fertilizer bills that you have, that you spend at your local cow feed store or farm center. That’s an area that people overlook. Hugely important.
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