Food Plot Programs

On Target With Nature Podcast

Episode 11 | June 5, 2023 | John Stoltzfus |
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Food Plot Programs

Welcome to the latest On Target with Nature recording, brought to you by John Stoltzfus. It is June already, and it won't be long till hunting licenses will be available. That means we're about three months away from a new hunting season.

What are some of the action items that you should be thinking about for the next month? We might all have different priorities and different things that we're looking forward to, or that we wanna get done this year before another season, but also I think of June as a time when the children are outta school to get them involved, and have them help in your projects, and keep it fun that it does not become a work, or every time you go to the mountains or you go to your hunting property, that it's all about work. Make it an experience that - when you're out there - you're learning, becoming closer to your Creator, and appreciating that you can experience this and that you have this privilege to spend time out in the great outdoors.

So we're dry here in southeast PA - drier than I've ever seen at this time of the year. And this is a reason we should focus on diversity in our food plot program. If you do not have clover plots and you're depending on your summer annuals, you may be in trouble here in the next couple months. If we don't get rain soon, there's probably gonna be some people replanting. And that has happened in the fall already for me, but I cannot remember, since I've been doing food plots, that I ever had to replant a spring planting because of being dry. Now we have had to replant in the spring because of it being too cold, and that has happened to me some years ago, and there is people that got caught with that planting early this year, but that is another reason why you want diversity.

So in my time with the produce growers, crop failure - or should we call it crop failure? I don't know if that's the right word for it, but there's crops that, due to circumstances we can't control, that don't do so well. You have diseases, you have insects and things like that, that those produce growers would deal with. And you know the term, don't put all your eggs in one basket. That holds true for us food plot guys as well. If we focus on just clover, then we're missing out on some of that summer annual food source and the winter food source. But some programs - or in some settings - if you have good acorns - a real solid crop of acorns and diversity of acorns - then you can probably get away with just clover.

But anyway, if you had a fall plot that came back with zero grains and the annual clovers that will definitely feed some through the next month or so yet, and then that's also gonna start to mature out and dry out and not be of much food source for the deer.

But let's take a look at what is a diverse clover blend? Because not only do we want a diversity in different crops, but we also want within the blends that we use, there's a lot of benefits to a diverse blend and why that's important. Some people say they want mostly white clovers because that is the most preferred by deer, and it is true they are the sweetest or the best tasting, but if you get dry like we are now, then the red clover and the chicory with the deeper tap roots - the deeper root system - will survive better than the white clover. Your white clovers could very likely be drying out and they will wanna mature if they get stressed. So you'll see you'll see 'em go to flowers and try to produce seeds because they wanna try to survive.

The other thing that we will notice in drought conditions, you'll notice a difference in the organic matter in the soil. So where it holds more moisture, your plants are gonna sustain that drought much better. So the humic substances in the soil and the organic matter works like a sponge to hold that moisture. We had a testimony from a deer farmer in Ohio two years ago that said during a summer drought, his pens stayed greener than his lawn, and he had been applying a dry pelletized humic acid, as well as he has been spraying the Thunderstorm - probably I'm gonna say the last three years he had gotten onto that - pretty much right after that, we had it available. So, Thunderstorm does have a good level of humic acid and carbon that will help build organic matters and the humus in the soil. We could spend a whole lot and we could spend a whole recording on just organic matter and humus and how that helps in drought as well as less weeds and better taste in plants. Maybe we'll save that for another time.

This recording may be a little longer than my last couple. I had been very, very busy and I'm still trying to catch up, but I do have a lot of topics that I'd like to share, being's we're getting close to that hunting season again, and there's so much that I could share with you. To close out on this topic, though, I would recommend to have about 30 to 50% of my food plots in perennials like clover, alfalfa, or chicory. If you have five acres or under, I would try for the higher percentage, maybe 50% of it in a perennial. If you have over 8-10 acres, now you have the acreage to put out some corn, soybeans, and more summer annuals, and then I could see about 30% of those in perennials.

Now I want to take a little time to discuss mock scrapes. We spent some time on the research farm on Saturday establishing some mock scrapes and picking out some stand locations and so on. Did a little bit of scouting. It's always so much fun and the time just gets away from you. I'm not sure how it does that, but it just goes so fast when you're out in nature and observing, especially on a new property, and you got so much ground to cover, and we got three month to season. Now, a couple years ago, I started reading a lot about mock scrapes and glandular scents and just how deer communicate, and it fascinates me. I had tried mock scrapes in the past with very little success, and a lot of it was - I didn't know what to look for, I didn't know how and where to put 'em.

So in the last couple years, we used this mock scrape method to keep inventory of the bucks using their property, and I would encourage anyone who has not tried it to give it a try and learn more about the deer on your property - how they communicate. So I'm gonna just share with you what I learned myself, and maybe that can just help you a little bit to get started and you will then learn on your own. But the biggest thing is that you make a move to learn - to try it, to see how the deer respond in your area. I learned that hemp ropes are the #1 most effective method or item to use for these mock scrapes, or as I call them, social hubs.

We also learned that not all hemp rope is equal. The hemp rope is something that I think that is very loosely used. It's used for anything that may have some hemp in it, or manila is sometimes called hemp rope. But what we found is we had gotten rope from two different suppliers and they did - the deer did respond to both - but we realized that the first supply worked much better than what the last year's supply did. So we did a lot of research and found that two of the biggest hemp rope importers of real natural hemp, that there is a difference.

And they sent samples to us. We made some sample ropes, and there is a difference. This rope is not dyed or treated with any chemicals. It is the natural real hemp rope. Here is what the difference we've seen. The natural hemp is much more absorbent, is also much softer. It is not as brittle. And so we're testing some varieties of these ropes side by side, but we are now convinced that the real hemp is definitely the better one. And just over the last two years and seeing that difference between the two made us look into this much deeper. And the thing is, we still have some of the other rope and we're still using it, and we're gonna sell off the rest of that batch of ropes that we have at a discount. But if you want the new rope, make sure that you mention it. We have the new all-natural untreated rope. We got a bunch in stock, we're gearing up for the season and we're gonna be able to supply anyone that's looking for a new method to use for inventory and to just experience nature on another level. But make sure when you order - if you do call in - that you confirm that you want the new version or the old version at a discount.

So let's get on to the details of how to make a social hub. First things first, find the right location. Let's think of it from a human perspective. Where do they put the Wawa's, the convenience stores, the Walmarts - they will put them at the busiest intersections, the most populated areas. And that's what we want to think about when we're trying to find the spot to put the social hubs; where a lot of trails are coming together, where you might have four or five different trails coming together, and at a pinch point, especially if you're also using this as a strategy to hunt over. And other areas that we always look for and that we've had success with it, is in staging areas where bucks will feel comfortable in cover and will stage there till right at dark and then come into the fields or food plots, often on that northeast corner of a food plot, because of that prevailing wind and how the wind travels. One of the most active social hubs that we had was right at the top of a drainage ditch where the drainage ditch cut into the side of the hill and kind of created a pinch point at the top. Everything kind of pinched into that one area, and that was our most active - and it was also on the east side of the bedding area. So think about bucks cruising and checking their scrapes and also scent checking for bedding areas. Just something to keep in mind.

But after you found the location, now you wanna decide are you using this as a hunting spot as well, or just as an inventory tool? Because if you're using it for an inventory tool, then you can get in closer to the bedding areas and you're not worried about access and getting in and out there as much, unless you don't have a remote camera and you gotta go in there to check that drill camera, you want to keep that in mind. So, but if you're using it as a hunting spot, you'll want to always pick out your tree stand first, because you wanna find that stand location that you blend in and that your access is right to get in and out, that you're not crossing over those main trails where those deer are coming and going, and that they could pick up your scent. Also, consider how the wind direction and the terrain will influence how the buck will be coming into the scrape. Mature bucks will always want to come with that wind to their nose. So you'll want your scent blowing just to the side of where you expect the movement to come from.

Now that you have the location, you'll want to use a metal rake, and/or you could use just use your rubber boots, and clear a 3- or 4-foot diameter circle under the tree that you picked out for the scrape and use rubber gloves to hang out the social hub hemp rope, to not put any of your human scent on that rope, if at all possible. It's recommended to hang that rope out a few days and let it weather before you use it. The other thing - so you'll wanna set that rope. You'll wanna use the rubber wire on top and twist it around an overhanging branch. If you need to, you can - if there's a certain area you want it and you don't have a tree limb - I've had people use 2x4's or something and screw into the tree to put that rope where they want the deer to go to.

So you want that frayed end of the rope - the bottom of the rope - about 40-45 inches off the ground. I'm gonna repeat that. That's important that you get the frayed end of the rope about 40-45 inches off the ground. It's recommended to have that just above waist height. So the top of the deer is usually about waist high and you want that to be comfortable for them to be able to use it. After you have it hung, it always helps to start the rope with some kind of scent to get the deer to start using it. Our #1 scent that we've been using is the Potent Buck pre orbital. That's a multi buck pre orbital, so there's up to four or five different buck pre orbital scents in an oil base in a one ounce bottle, and it's in an oil base, so that would last longer. It will stay - the scent will stay there longer, even after a rain with it being in the oil and the absorbent hemp will keep that scent on there longer.

You will only want to use one to two droppers to start. Most people I've found use too much. So I'd rather use one dropper, and if they don't respond, go back and freshen it up then - to use three or four droppers and overload it, that it might actually work the other way. That's more so with the glandular scents and synthetic scents than it is with deer urine. Of course, deer urine will dissipate within minutes or hours, so it will turn to ammonia where the glandular scents does not break down and become ammonia as quick as the urines will.

Of course, it's always fun to see how it works and see the action. You want to see what's hitting your rope and what deer are on your property. So we of course like to put trail cameras on 'em so we can see the action. Deer are social beings and they will communicate through your social hubs. I believe this will add to your experience in nature, if you haven't been using this, and maybe even help you harvest your target buck. For those guys that do not have the resources or the equipment to do food plots, minerals, whatever, maybe this is your tool to use to help you get an inventory of what's in the area. So I do believe it'll increase your experience in nature, and if you are looking to order any of these products, you can either find them at the closest dealer or you can call our retail store, (717) 989-6239.

Until next time, I hope you get out in nature and enjoy its many blessings.

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