Fall seems like a ways away yet, but before you know it we will be back up in those deer stands trying to hunt down that elusive old mature whitetail. So now is the time to be planning your food/water sources and getting them in the ground or built. We hunters need to stop thinking like farmers and think about a full 365-day food source.
I have 3 food plots on my property and each one is planted differently depending on the food sources around my property and the farmer's crop rotation. I know the farmer next door is putting in corn, so for me to put my 1 or 2 acre plots into corn would be a waste of time because I can't compete with his 40 plus acres. The other neighbor has 120 acres of beans. These are great food sources, however, once fall comes around and the beans mature, the leaves fall off and the deer don't desire them as much (although there are some beans that will mature later and last longer). I am talking about straight up soybeans the farmers plant. Next, the corn begins to harden and the silks begin to dry up, leaving them as not the most desired food source (however deer will still eat it - just not their #1 go-to anymore). The last problem is if this property is being farmed the farmer will harvest crops the end of October and early November, removing your entire late season food source.
For this reason, I plant a variety of food by dividing my fields into thirds. 1/3 of my fields are always a clover mix and usually includes chicory. In the larger plots, the remaining 2/3 is split into thirds again: The first 1/3 is usually planted in a corn/bean mix, however, because of the farmers around me this year, I planted in Maximize by Evolved Harvest (contains grain sorghum, sunflowers, soybeans and cow peas). The second 1/3 is planted in Evolved Harvest Canola Crush (contains canola, forage rape and forage turnip). The last 1/3 is planted in 7 Card Stud by Evolved Harvest (contains forage oats, forage triticale, winter peas, crimson clover, forage turnip, forage chicory and Daikon radish). The smaller 3/4 to 1 acre fields are planted in thirds in this way: clover/chicory; Maximize; 7 Card Stud.
I split my fields to give deer the most nutrition and tonnage to help try and keep as many deer along with other wildlife on my property as much and as long as possible. Giving them a mix of food that matures at different times throughout the year helps ensure this and keeps them healthier by giving them the proper nutrients throughout the entire year.
The next is a water source. I like to put my water sources as close to the top of a ridge as possible and still get enough rain runoff to keep it full from spring thaw here in the north to the late fall freeze. This allows me to hunt it without the wind swirl you get in a low-lying area. Once I have located the proper place, I dig a hole approx 20x20x3.5 ft deep up to 30x30x4 ft deep. Then line the pond depending on soil type. If the soil contains alot of clay, I will usually pack it and dump bags of bentonite chips over the entire area to seal it and make it waterproof to hold water. However, most areas don't have enough clay so 95% of the time I use a woven pond liner. After laying the pond liner in place, I place a pond fabric over it and add 2 to 3 inches of dirt over the bottom of the pond (depending on where you are - if in bear county I recommend 4 to 5 inches). Then cover the entire pond rim with dirt to make it look as natural as possible. The dirt holds the mat in place and also feels more natural for animals to walk on. The mat is very tough and dense, and allows for plants to grow in the pond giving it a nature look and helping to keep the water at the right temperature so it can "turnover" like a normal large pond or lake, thus making the water a better healthier water for the wildlife.
Remember to check your local laws regarding ponds and waterways. For example, here in Wisconsin a person cannot berm/dam a ditch, a running creek or a spring without permits. However, a water source like the one described can be built, as long as it is a catch runoff pond.
Good luck and shoot straight.
Art & Michelle Helin have enjoyed the outdoors their entire lives. Here, they share their passion with you.
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