with Todd Amenrud
Throughout the year, we receive many questions on managing wildlife and planting food plots. We do everything we can to answer each one, but select the ones asked most often or that contain interesting or timely topics to share with you.
Question: My property is located in eastern Wisconsin, north of Green Bay. My problem is that our food plots may be working too well. They are eaten down by the time our gun season comes in mid- to late-November. We have 3 acres and we plant 1 acre in Clover Plus, 1 acre in Maximum and 1 acre in Winter Bulbs & Sugar Beets. Am I doing something wrong?
Answer: I would need to know much more information (quality of your native vegetation, nearest cash crops, an idea of your density, etc.) to know whether you’re doing something wrong or not. It sounds like you’re doing everything right. Let’s face it, if you have a problem with your food plots being browsed-down by the time hunting season begins, the problem is almost certainly that you simply have too few food plot acres, too many eating machines feeding on them, or both.
There are really only three solutions to the problem: 1) plant more food, 2) remove some mouths (kill some does), or provide a supplemental food source. However, here are some tricks to help you save some of that attractive forage for when you decide to “ring the diner bell.”
5 Tricks to protect against overbrowsing in your food plots:
1. Add a nurse or cover crop
Including another food plant that is also attractive or a cover source that grows taller and helps shield the lower growing plants can help deflect pressure. Planting oats or wheat with clover is a prime example. However, this is an annual protecting a perennial. When it comes to brassicas, or annuals protecting annuals, it’s not necessarily that simple. Sometimes providing an annual that is more attractive earlier can take some pressure off of the brassicas so they can reach the pinnacle of their production and really begin to pump out the tonnage. Cereal grains with brassicas would be an example. But in this case we’d be taking away precious acreage from brassicas if we added cereal grains. It would be easy with more acreage to plant.
It could just be that they are eating your brassicas too early, so they never reach what I refer to as “terminal yield” - the point at about 3 to 4 weeks after germination when the brassicas really start to gain momentum and put on big yield. So the following additional tips are geared more towards protecting the forage so it can make it to this point.
2. Milorganite Fertilizer
Milorganite fertilizer is made from bio-solids left after processing sewage sludge. It really doesn’t smell as bad as you may think, but deer hate it. It can lose its sting after a while, but after the initial application it has fair success at repealing whitetails.
The University of Georgia tested Milorganite-treated soybean plots against untreated ones and found after three days, 54 percent of untreated plants were browsed while only 24 percent of those treated with Milorganite were browsed. At day 20, the proportion was 59 percentof the treated plants were hit, versus 99 percent untreated. So if you want longer effectiveness, it’s recommended to reapply after 15 days.
3. BioLogic’s P2 Plot Protector Kit
BioLogic’s P2 Plot Protector Kit includes enough ribbon to go around an entire acre (or two ¼ acre plots) and enough formula to treat it for 90 days (each also sold separately). This system is economical and works well. It is suggested to erect one strand at 30 inches high and another one at 15 inches off the ground. The P2 kit won’t solve your problem of too many deer, but it can help protect the plot to help it reach a more established age when it will last you longer into the season.
4. Temporary Fences
Temporary fences can dissuade activity for a short while. Or, depending upon how strong and complete you build it, keep deer out completely forever. The mesh or strands need to be tight enough so they can’t squeeze through and tall enough so they can’t jump over. A wire or poly mesh bottom at least 4 feet high is a good start, and then either another section of mesh on top of that, or strands of wire, rope, twine or ribbon strung above that to give the appearance it’s too high to jump over. Poly mesh products 7 or 8 feet tall are available relatively inexpensive; however, for large food plots it’s very labor intensive.
5. Well-Designed Electric Fence
A well-designed electric fence is the most effective and efficient method for keeping deer out of a food plot. If a manager has the permanent problem of too many mouths and not enough food plot acreage, an electric fence is the best solution. They are a bit more expensive than our other choices, but they are also most effective.
While a single strand may work for a while, a staggered two or three wire perimeter will keep out everything from whitetails to hogs and bears. The staggered method gives both, the obvious electric shock and the confusion of depth-perception difficulty. Unless you’re going to fence off the entire plot in a “zoo-quality” wire enclosure, electric fencing is the best permanent solution.
Todd Amenrud is Director of Public Relations for BioLogic and Editor in Chief for GameKeepers - Farming for Wildlife magazine. Austin Delano is BioLogic’s Southern Field Services Manager and Head of Research & Development. If you would like to ask either of them a question about whitetails, planting food plots, or managing other game animals you may contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.