Whitetail Paradise by Mossy Oak BioLogic
With almost ten inches of mass above his G-2 he looked like a moose coming through the willow swamp. My heart was pounding out of my chest and my left leg was shaking so hard it made the treetop jiggle. Man - that’s why I hunt! He stopped and raked the willow brush with his antlers and then put his nose to the ground and followed a scent-trail of Special Golden Estrus that I set up before I got in my treestand. He did a lip curl and scanned the area - I thought the jig was up because he didn’t find what was making that “sweet smell.” The horror of him heading back into the willow swamp crossed my mind. I pulled up my call and executed a perfect aggressive, drawn out grunt (what I’ve heard referred to as an aggravated grunt) and a snort-wheeze. His ears locked onto my position, his hair bristled up (it looked like he changed color) and he came intently on a stiff legged walk with his ears pinned back looking for who had just insulted him. A long story short (too late huh) - I let him pass by a bit and then drove a Hoyt propelled Carbon Express shaft through both lungs.
I love bow hunting mature bucks! This “home grown” Minnesota buck was aged at 6 ½. This was so cool - but what made it so much sweeter was the fact that I watched this buck grow up on my property! Did I get lucky? I’ll argue NO. I work hard at managing a property. Why was this buck here? Because, it seemed every other deer in the county was also in the area! Why? Because my property is a whitetail paradise – why would they want to leave? I’m here to tell you, if I can do it, so can you! I don’t care if you have 40 acres or 4,000 acres you can dramatically improve the amount and size of the bucks on your property, make hunting them a lot easier, and make it so they will never want to leave. Here’s how to create your own big buck paradise.
If you receive this magazine you’ve undoubtedly heard of the “food, water, cover” F+W+C formula. It really can be that simple, or that complex, depending upon how you look at it. I will add “pressure,” or should I say “lack of pressure” to that modus operandi. If you have F+W+C working for you on your property but you are tromping through every other day to find one more rub on a tree that you didn’t see on your last scouting trip two days ago, or you tend to “over-hunt” an area, or you are a sloppy hunter…all your work can go for not.
All three components are very important, so which should you start with? Although water might be the most important component, if you have whitetail in the area, there is already a source of water somewhere nearby. So, my suggestion would be to start with both the food and cover portion of the puzzle. If you are in the Western US where things can get much dryer, then I would put water higher on your list. If you truly want this to work you don’t want your herd to have to hop the fence for anything, everything needs to be available for them on your property. This is where there is a difference between 40 acres and a 4,000 acre parcel. With only 40 acres you will probably have to share, or borrow, some of your neighbor’s assets. Even though that is the case you can still make your property the “place they want to be.”
For food plots, I believe a well rounded program will devote acreage to both attraction and nutrition. Regardless of which goal, there’s no question that variety is of the utmost importance. Think about the timeframe from late-August through January, (which should encompass every state’s whitetail hunting seasons) temperatures and climate are changing, plants are changing considerably because of the temperatures, a whitetail’s needs are dramatically changing…see the key word–CHANGE. Whitetail require different forms of nutrition for the range of conditions they will face.
Since we’re talking about hunting mature bucks you might think that I would focus entirely on attraction. Again, I don’t want my herd to be lacking anything at anytime. If they need to hop the fence, with as popular as QDM is becoming I’ve got to bet that my neighbor is probably doing some of the same things, and if my neighbor is supplying something I’m not I might not get them back. So, supplying them everything that they need all year long is very important.
I have a formula of “what to plant” that should serve you well no matter where you are from as long as you receive 24 inches or more of annual rainfall. Planting times would obviously vary from north to south but the formula is fairly foolproof. For perennials it consists of clover, chicory and alfalfa. Annuals, both spring and fall planted, like corn, small grains, brassicas and annual legumes (soybeans, lablab, winter peas) round out the program.
It starts with a good perennial clover/chicory blend. I like to take it a step further and add some alfalfa to it as well. (Look for a new BioLogic product to hit the spring of 2009 with all of these cultivars). These perennials provide a high quality food source for the better part of the year and during the first half of the hunting season it’s also a reliable draw.
Corn should also be a part of your program. If you have a situation where you have limited acreage to devote to food plots, then I would probably NOT suggest corn. With small acreage there are going to be plants that will yield better and provide better nutrition than corn. However, with ample acreage corn definitely has its place. Although it is lowin protein (around 8%), it is high in carbohydrates, fat and has a TDN (total digest nutrients) value of over 80%. It is especially useful as a fall and winter energy source. I like to plant soybeans with my corn. Then the legumes (soybeans) affix the necessary nitrogen for excellent corn production.
Speaking of energy, a blend with a high concentration of small grains; like oats, wheat, triticale or rye is also on the list. These provide good nutrition and are very attractive, but they lose both their nutritional value and attractiveness as they mature. On average they are the most attractive for their first 45 days of growth. These are most often planted as a pure attraction play during the late summer or fall, but they can also be added to perennials as a “nurse crop” to help protect the perennials from weed competition and browse pressure while the perennials establish their root systems.
The last major part of the plan would be brassicas. Whitetail will react differently to brassicas in different areas and under different conditions. Typically they won’t hit them hard until cold temperatures (a hard frost) cause the plant’s high levels of starch to convert to sugar. Then look out! In areas that don’t get cold temperatures during the hunting season there seems to be mixed results, much of which is due to what the surrounding area is like. In a “big woods” scenario, where there is no agriculture around, they might eat it as fast as it comes out of the ground. For instance, at Portland Landing, a property once managed by BioLogic and Toxey Haas in Alabama, they won’t let the brassicas mature, they eat them too fast. This spot in the south apparently doesn’t need the freeze to happen for them to crave brassicas. In an agricultural area, typically they will leave this plant alone until the freeze. As a land manager, this is great because it allows me to gain tonnage.With bigger plants I can Feed more deer for a longer time when they finally do turn palatable. Brassicas are probably the best late season attraction and winter time nutrition that I am aware of.