Deer Management on CRP

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Filter strips:

Hunters who manage their own foodplots end up knowing every hill, every creek, and every blemish on thier property The deadliest hunter, is the hunter that knows the land better than the prey. Hunter shown wearing Mathews Lost Camo.

Filter strips are like riparian buffer strips but with a couple of exceptions. Filter strips are only 120 feet wide on each side of the waterway and only eligible on acres with a cropping history. Also, you are restricted from planting trees in these acres but switchgrass does happen to be a recommended planting. Anyone who has planted switchgrass in fertile bottomland soils will tell you that it grows dog hair thick and seven-feet tall. A 120-foot wide strip of switchgrass will produce a lot of deer cover. Filter strips are also part of the continuous sign-up program so you can go in tomorrow and enroll if you wish.

Switchgrass enhancement: Depending upon the details of your specific contract, you may be able to enhance some or all of your existing CRP by replanting it to switchgrass. As already mentioned, switchgrass is very good deer cover and in areas with limited timber it can become an important bedding area. Check with your district conservationist to determine your eligibility for planting switchgrass on existing CRP acres.

A Sample CRP Management Food Plot Plan

With the knowlege of the land, it is much easier to effectivly hunt on foot. Hunter shown wearing Mathews Lost Camo.

On the farm that I’ve been involved with over the past seven years we’ve elected to plant grains for fall and winter utilization - specifically corn, sorghum and soybeans - in our standard food plots. At first we planted corn from seed we got from local wildlife groups. We experienced good results for the first two years until the deer acquired a taste for the plant itself and began wiping out the small plots during the late summer. At that time of year the stalks are sweet and apparently tasty.

We decided that supporting their junk food addiction served no purpose. Deer need protein in the summer. Corn is much lower in protein than clover or alfalfa. It was like giving a child a choice between Ho-Ho’s and a well-rounded meal. We took away their choice and stopped planting corn.

Next we tried sorghum. Deer won’t touch grain sorghum during the summer. Again we experienced good results the year after making the switch. The deer left the heads alone until they really needed them for energy in late winter. But deer are opportunists and once they got used to the sorghum they began to hit it earlier in the fall. It got to the point where they would wipe out an entire stand of sorghum during the two-week period when the seeds were still doughy and drying down – mid-September in Iowa. Apparently, that is the stage in development when the heads are most palatable.

Once again, we felt that we had better options for them at this time (still clover and alfalfa) so we began planting forage sorghum – the really tall stuff with heads that are eight feet off the ground. Even though forage sorghum puts out smaller heads than grain sorghum, it worked fairly well. The deer couldn’t reach the heads readily and left them alone for the most part until winter. Forage sorghum also produces tremendous cover for deer, turkeys and pheasants. However, we discovered that a rotation program was needed to keep the sorghum growing well. It also needs a lot of nitrogen and that’s expensive. That brought us to soybeans.

Deer love to eat soybeans during the summer, almost as much as they love a good clover plot. While the beans don’t offer as much crude protein as high-grade Whitetail Clover they do offer a level that is roughly comparable to standard red clover. What makes soybeans appealing is the compatibility of the plant with deer behavior. Soybeans have the ability to withstand fairly heavy summer grazing pressure (the deer eat only the leaves) and still produce pods with beans in them that will serve as winter food.

Deer seem to leave the plant alone once the leaves start to dry down (usually some time in mid or late September) and don’t come back to feed on the pods themselves until early winter. While the beans don’t have the carbohydrate content of corn they do offer high levels of protein that the deer will also readily convert to heat energy during the winter.

The only time when beans are particularly sensitive to deer pressure is during the first couple of weeks after they break out of the ground. If deer and turkeys snip them off at this time the plants will die. We combat this problem by planting the beans with a no-till drill into sorghum stubble and/or weed residue. This is not only a good conservation practice; it also provides a screen for the young plants. The weeds are growing up with the beans helping to keep them hidden for a while. When the competition starts to become a problem we simply spray the field with Round Up and kill the competition. (Of course, you have to use Round Up Ready beans for this planting method to work.)

We have chosen to plant our clover in other areas outside of our CRP food plots. We have clover in portions of fields that required enhancement with legumes for CRP renewal. We inter-seed it into grass in un-enhanced CRP and plant it whether permitting in areas of the farm that are typically too wet to have acquired a cropping history. We also have a couple of commercial alfalfa fields that provide tremendous amounts of high protein forage for summer feed.

We have also used inter-seeding as a means to dramatically increase the clover capacity on the farm. Inter-seeding can take a number of forms so consult with your district conservationist. We chose to mow the grass down and drill clover right into it using a no-till drill. As long as you don’t mow during the upland bird nesting period (May 15 – August 1) you are free to mow these inter-seeded plots as often as you like to release the clover and improve the amount of tender re-growth that deer prefer. Inter-seeding, where permitted, is an excellent way to produce tons of high quality deer feed - literally.

Both of these practices are on a case-by-case basis depending on your contract details. These details in turn are based on the year in which the acres were enrolled or renewed. Of course, they are also subject to the provisions of the 2002 Farm Bill that was just being released at press time. Talk to your district conservationist to find out your options in this regard.

Of course, you can also plant clover in your established food plots without restriction, and this should be your first choice if you aren’t able to plant clover anywhere else.

By carefully working within the guidelines set out for CRP lands you can not only improve the amount of food and cover your farm provides for wildlife, but you can also get paid for doing it.



Cheyenne, WY
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