Whitetail Weekly, Food Plots in Drought

By the time the sun rises on October 1st, 2012 and I get my first glimpse of the new season all the work and sweat of the summer will be a distant memory.  Unfortunately we are still a long ways away from that morning and we still have a lot of projects that we want to get done. This past weekend that meant an early morning road trip and a day spent knocking projects off of our “to-do” list.

This summer has been brutal on our food plots and the main goal of this past trip was to start doing something about that.  Our Food Plots in Drought conditions, this remarkably dry, hot summer has taken its toll on our plots and a crop rotation by our landowner has also had a noticeable impact on our plots.  A few weeks ago we worked up a plan to try and counteract these issues so when we hit the property Sunday morning we had a game plan laid out and we got to work quickly.

food plot drought

Between the weeds growing up and the canola getting browsed down it's hard to even see any of the canola in the plot.

Our primary objective was to spray the weeds that have engulfed much of our Plateau Plot.  This plot was planted to canola for us by our landowner but he neglected to spray the plot with weed killer after planting.  Since the canola is roundup ready we decided that we would take on the weeds on our own and we busted out the sprayers and did some walking.

The plot is pretty thick with weeds but there are some areas that are much worse than others.  The only sprayers we have are handheld sprayers so we decided to attack the 1.5 acre plot by working together as a team.  We walked next to each other and made end to end passes doing our best to spray everything as thoroughly as possible.  Hopefully we were able to get good coverage but I’m sure that there are areas that we missed along the way.  We have a return trip planned in few weeks to see how effective our spraying actually was and do any necessary touch up work.

The canola in this plot has been heavily browsed all year and with the lack of rain it hasn’t been bouncing back as well as we’ve seen in the past.  The browse pressure is probably up a bit on this plot since the 40ac section bordering us was planted to corn this year as opposed to canola like it was last year.  In the last few years, when that field was canola, the deer would split time between the big field and our plot but this year it seems like they browsed the plot heavier than normal.  For the time being that plot is more or less browsed out and we plan to put in purple top turnips to help wake the plot up for the fall.  Along with the turnips we are hoping that a little rain will help the canola bounce back as well.

food plot drought

Most of the canola in the plot has been browsed down to nothing much more than a stalk.

Speaking of rain, a mid-day downpour made us abandon the other big part of our plan for the weekend.  We had hoped to get our small Fenceline Plot sprayed as well this past weekend but just as we got out of the truck the skies opened up and gave us some much needed rain.

The way this summer is going I certainly won’t complain about getting some rain but the timing couldn’t have been worse for us.  We really need to get that plot sprayed because we plan on re-working it in a few weeks.  We are still on schedule to go back up and do some more spraying next weekend but this means we’ll likely only have one spraying before planting.

While I was a bit annoyed by the rain I was also very excited to see it since I knew that our plot screen could really use some help.  It was planted back on June 24th and hadn’t grown much between then and July 4th when I checked on it.  When we went to check the screen this trip I was happy to see noticeably better growth than there was a few weeks prior.  It still has a long ways to go but at least now it’s headed in the right direction.

food plot drought

Our plot screen is still a long ways away from screening anything but it's starting to show some signs of life after some recent rains.

Our other plot, a small clover plot, is probably in the best overall shape of all our plots.  I mowed this plot back on June 10th and it rebounded nicely from the trim but has fallen victim to the dry conditions just a bit lately.  As we walked through the plot there were a few spots that were looking a bit brown and burned up but overall the plot was in good shape.  Hopefully a few rains like the one we got while we were up there will get this plot back to 100% again pretty quickly.  The brown spots have not slowed the deer down and we actually got quite a few trail cam pictures in the plot on our last camera check.

I mentioned earlier that our landowner had switched a field that borders our woods from canola into corn for this year.  We decided to get a trail cam over near that corn now that it’s tall enough to provide good cover and is likely holding deer.  When we got over to the cornfield I quickly noticed something I wasn’t expecting to see.  In amongst the corn was a surprisingly high amount of volunteer canola.  In certain areas the canola was almost as thick as it was when the field was actually planted to canola.

This buck was one of several that browsed through our clover plot.

When I saw this I began to understand why the trail camera pictures on our Plateau Plot had decreased.  With the plot being browsed down quite a bit the deer are more than happy to stay in the cover of the corn and browse on the canola in there.  Quite frankly I can’t blame them.  Shade, cover and high quality browse all in the same place; it’s a deer utopia.

 

As this cornfield continues to mature we will be monitoring it pretty heavily with our trail cameras because I have a feeling there will be some big boys taking advantage of that cover and food.  It will be interesting to see what becomes of that field as the summer closes and we near harvest time.

I checked the weather this morning and our property was getting some much needed rain and the forecast is calling for more this week.  Hopefully that rain will be just what the doctor ordered and will give our plots the boost we’re looking for.  The past month and a half has been tough on our plots but I have faith that they will be ready to go when the season starts.

Take care, and thanks for reading!!

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