Food Plots 101: An Introduction to Creating a Healthy Food Source for Your Deer

Food Plots 101: An Introduction to Creating a Healthy Food Source for Your Deer

By: Lyle Gibbs

EvoOutdoors Team Member

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Something that draws a lot of attention in the hunting world, especially in whitetail country, is food plots. You know those times as you are driving home right at sunset or on your way to work early in the morning and your headlights cross the corner of that field and all you see is sets of eyes look up at you? In this post I will walk you through some simple steps to help you better understand the science of food plots and what it takes to produce a healthy, quality stand that your deer and other wildlife will enjoy.

To begin, let’s start with site selection. This is probably one of the harder parts of creating a good food plot. A lot of times you are limited to an area between groves of trees or a small corner of a production field or maybe even in that back of your pasture at home. These locations can work great and be easy to get to but a lot of times you run into issues like poor drainage, lack of air movement (hard frost), or maybe a rock bar from an old stream. If possible, choose the best location possible by looking up your county soil maps, each soil type will be defined by a number or number and letter combination. These numbers will then be placed on a key that will have the name of the soil type and a description of what they are. For instance, a common soil type around here is 98 Waldo, a silty clay loam. A lot of times this is found in lower spots in fields, that are poorly drained, where the river or creek may wash out in the winter time and leave silt deposits when the water regresses back.

One of the biggest controlling agents for a healthy stand is soil pH and soil nutrients. This can be checked with a standard soil test than can be submitted to your local farm store, fertilizer/chemical dealer, or by checking online for a lab near you. The sample is usually pulled in a profile of 0-8 inches deep throughout multiple spots in the field. Let’s say you have a half acre you are looking to plant I would pull 3 or 4 samples and place them all in a clean bucket and mix them together. This sample can then be placed in a bag (usually provided by the lab) and sent in for testing. If possible I would have them send the results and a recommendation for lime requirements. For example, if your soil pH level comes back as a 5.8 and your crop requires a 6.5 you may need to spread 2 tons of lime to the acre (these numbers are just an example). These tests will normally give you levels for Phosphorus and Potassium as well. Besides Nitrogen, these two nutrients play a key role in overall crop establishment, health, and recovery. The lab should be able to inform you on what levels are adequate for your area.

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This is a soil type map, showing where the soil changes and what the description is of the type. Can be found online at http://websoilsurvey.sc.egov.usda.gov/App/HomePage.htm

Once you have established a location and built up your soil nutrient levels it is time to choose a crop. I like something with variety. A legume blend is a good option, high protein, quick recovery from grazing, low impute, heat and cold tolerant, and easy to maintain. A nice blend may contain alfalfa which we know deer love, a clover that will germinate and grow fast, another legume like birdsfoot trefoil that will fill in slowly but leave you a very hardy stand, and also something like chicory which will give you big leaves with lots of forage material. With these crops you are able to use selective products for grass control which leave you with only the forage crops that you want. A lot of times these aggressive growing legume crops will need to be mown off (not too short) throughout the year to prevent them from going to seed and maintain vigorous healthy new growth. Another added benefit of these legume crops is their ability to fixate nitrogen on their own which means less fertilizer requirements from you.

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A basic soil sample is shown here. As you can see there is about 6-8 inches of a soil profile on the shovel.

I will list the steps below of how the preparation is can be done to establish a healthy food plot.

  • Site Selection
    1. Choose the best soil you can.
    2. Measure to know the size of area.
    3. Soil sample.
  • Chemical Burndown
    1. Glyphosate products.
    2. Remove any grass or weeds growing.
  • Field Prep.
    1. Plow or disk under dead plant material.
  • Soil Amendments
    1. Lime to desired pH
    2. Fertilize to adequate P and K levels.
  • Planting
    1. Choose desired planting blend.
    2. Broadcast seed (after risk of frost).
    3. Drag/work seed into soil.
  • Fertilize
    1. After germination.
    2. Legumes (use low nitrogen blend ex. 6-24-24).
  • Herbicides
    1. Use a selective herbicide for grass control.
    2. Addition of an adjuvant may be beneficial.
    3. Always read the label before using any chemicals.
  • Maintenance
    1. Mowing may be necessary throughout late spring and summer.
  • Enjoy watching your wildlife and prepare for hunting season!

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There are many benefits to having a food plot in your hunting area. Giving deer a variety of food to choose from besides what nature provides will naturally attract deer to the area. Having a food plot with multiple crops in it will give them even more reason to come back throughout the entire year as different crops are available. Alfalfa, clover, and chicory all provide high levels of protein and nutrients to help promote not only antler growth but also overall herd health which in turn will lead to better breeding success, healthier fawns with quality milk production from the does, and most importantly you are being a steward of the land and doing your part in creating habitat for the wildlife in your area.

Please keep in mind that these are only general guidelines to help you get started and that every location is different than the others. Do your homework to create the best habitat possible with minimal disturbance to the natural landscape. There are always local agronomists and biologists willing to help as well so don’t be afraid to contact them with any questions that you have.

-Lyle Gibbs-

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I was born, raised, and reside in the Willamette Valley of Western Oregon. I grew up in the outdoors learning to hunt and fish with my dad, camping with my family, and always looking for the next adventure in life. I learned early in life that the outdoors can provide something that is overlooked by most but found by those who share the passion, it truly provides memories that last a lifetime.

 

Standing Buck, Sitting Duck: An Ethics Contradiction

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Standing Buck, Sitting Duck: An Ethics Contradiction

Written and reposted with permission from: Aaron Futrell

This article originally posted on: Whackstar Hunters

As a water fowler, I have heard that it is not ethical to shoot a sitting duck. You need to kick it up and take the more ethical shot when it is flying. The reasoning is that you need to give the duck a chance. Shooting a sitting duck is not challenging. In fact, there is a famous adage saying that goes like this; when someone is an easy target, they are “sitting ducks”.

As a deer hunter, I have heard that it is not ethical to shoot a running deer. You need to let it stop, and take the more ethical shot while it is standing still. The reasoning is that you do not want to take the chance of wounding the deer. Shooting a running deer is challenging. There is another old adage saying that says when things are difficult to accomplish, it is like, “trying to hit a moving target”.

big buckI think everyone can see where I am going with this. Why is it considered ethical to shoot only stationary deer and only moving ducks? The ethics are contradictory. I have mulled this over in my mind, trying to bring some kind of resolution to the logic, yet I cannot seem to wrap my brain around it.
Firstly, you will get no argument from me about only shooting a standing deer. It gives the hunter the best opportunity for making a quick, clean kill, with the least chance of haphazardly wounding the deer. As conscientious hunters, this is what we should strive to do. A deer should not suffer because we decided to take a low percentage shot. I have been hunting long enough to have had the misfortune of making a bad shot on a deer that was standing still – let alone running. I wish I would have missed. It is one of the most gut wrenching feelings a hunter can experience.
mallard-male-swimming.jpg.adapt.945.1When it comes to shooting a moving duck, I understand that as well. The majority of shots taken at ducks and geese are while they are moving. That is the nature of the game. The ducks fly into your decoy set and you take the easy 20-30 yard shot. Hundreds of thousands of ducks are ethically killed every year this way.
I understand why it is considered ethical to shoot moving ducks but not moving deer – based solely on the environment. A wide open sky, at close range, is a high percentage shot. However, a running deer weaves in and out of trees – usually at greater distances, which creates a much lower percentage shot. In addition to this, the hunter is shooting a single projectile at a deer, compared to a plethora of BB’s at a duck. Even though the duck is moving, the difference in the ammunition used allows us to make a quick, clean kill.

The sitting duck is the hang up. Why is it unethical? Hitting a stationary target is easier than trying to hit a moving one. Common sense says that we have a better chance at making a quick, clean kill if the target is stationary. The only thing I can think of, is that if a duck is sitting in your decoy spread, you run the risk of peppering your decoys. Back in the day when most water fowlers put hours into carving and painting each decoy, it is understandable to not want to shoot them. Even today, at $50 to $60 bucks for a half dozen decoys, I would not want to shoot them up either. So instead, we flush the ducks, get them above the decoys, and open fire. OK – I can accept that. But what about the sitting duck with no decoys? When we come up to the pond, peer around the cattails, and see a big mallard 20 yards away, why yell, “hey duck!”, to make him fly away, and then take the shot? Why not just blast him on the water?

Slow Cooker Venison Burritos

Slow Cooker Venison Burritos

Scott Emerick, EvoOutdoors Team Member

Are you sick of the same old venison recipes you have been cooking for years? Try these delicious and extremely easy venison burritos and I guarantee you wont just cook them once.

This recipe wins no awards for being the fanciest but is by far my family and friends favorite.

scottWhat you will need:

-1.5 – 2 lb boneless venison round

-1 (16 oz) Jar salsa (hot if you like spicy)

-1 (15 oz) Can corn – (drained)

-1 (15 oz) Black beans – (half drained)

-1 (8oz) Package cream cheese (4 oz needed)

-1 Package of your favorite flour tortillas

-1 (8 oz) Package shredded Mexican cheese

Lets get cooking!

  1. Place your venison into the bottom of your slow cooker.
  2. Cover with the jar of salsa, drained can of corn and half drained can of beans.
  3. Set the slow cooker to LOW and cook for 6-7 hours or until the venison pulls apart easily with a fork. It is easiest if you remove the venison from the slow cooker and pull apart on a cutting board. Return the venison to the slow cooker.
  4. Cube 4 oz cream cheese and stir in until melted.

That is it, time to eat!

Place the desired amount on a tortilla, top with shredded cheese, along with sour cream and hot sauce if you prefer and simply enjoy!

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Scott Emerick was born and raised in Michigan. He came from an outdoors family but aside from fishing, they never hunted. “I always was and still currently am the only one out of my family who hunts. I was introduced to hunting from a buddy in college. After a few hunts I was beyond addicted.”

Going Greek: Venison Gyros

Going Greek: Venison Gyros

Adam Parma, EvoOutdoors ProStaff

Kristin Parma, EvoOutdoors Media

“Gee-ro”

“J-eye-ro”

“Hee-ro”

I still don’t know how to pronounce it however, no matter which pronunciation you decide, the Gyro sandwich has been deemed an American-Greek fast food staple. Served at festivals, carnivals and a select number of Mediterranean restaurants around the United States, the Gyro sandwich is a delicacy that I don’t often get to eat, but absolutely savor when I do.

According to Whats Cooking America the Gyro type of sandwich has been known, and sold on the streets of Greece, the Middle East, and Turkey for hundreds of years. Greek historians believe that the dish originated during Alexander The Great’s time when his soldiers used their knives to skewer meat that they turned over fires. Even today, a proper gyro is made with meat cut off a big cylinder of well-seasoned lamb or beef on a slowly rotating vertical spit called a gyro.

I don’t know about you but I don’t have a slow turning vertical spit in my kitchen. Heck, I barely have a kitchen! If you’re anything like us, you like to think outside the box when it comes to your wild game meat. After all, you worked hard to harvest the animal and what better way to honor your hard work than to experiment with different recipes.

Here is our own take on a venison gyro, or as Adam calls it a “Deer-ro”

Ingredients:

2 lbs venison steak- any cut.

We used a package of deer venison steak at the very bottom of the freezer…you know, that package that is unmarked and questionable. The one that clearly you were either too tired to label during processing or didn’t even know what to call it. Any cut and type of venison meat will do, from deer to exotic game.

Olive oil

Unsalted butter

1 white onion

Salt, pepper, turmeric, paprika, cayenne, garlic and any other spice combinations you may like- oregano and mint would be good!

Pita bread

Feta Cheese

Tzatziki sauce

Typically you can buy tzatziki sauce in your local grocery store. Store bought has a very strong dill flavor and I like mine a little more diluted. Click on the link for an EASY TZATZIKI recipe which you can tweak to satisfy your pallet.

Roma tomato, sliced

Romaine lettuce, shredded

Hot sauce- Because we live in the South y’all

Directions:

1. Thinly slice one white onion and the venison steak.20151130_183658

2. Season with spices. 20151130_185330

 

3. Using a cast iron skillet, heat and coat pan with olive oil and a tablespoon of butter.  Add. venison and onion mix. Sear venison on both sides, making sure not to overcook but letting a crust form on the edges of the meat (that will give it the true gyro texture!). Add more olive oil/butter as needed. 20151130_1856134. Assemble sandwiches by heating pita bread. Layer tzatziki sauce, meat and onions, lettuce, tomato, feta cheese.

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Add hot sauce for a spicy kick!

5. If you are feeling really creative, wrap your Gyro sandwich in foil for that real street food feeling. Enjoy!

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Kristin and Adam Parma pose for Christmas portraits on their ranch in Adkins, TX.

Adam and Kristin Parma co-own the Czech Out Ranch in Adkins, Texas.

Game on the Go: Quick and Easy Meals for the Busy Hunter

As many of you know,  I am ALWAYS on the go between working full time as a Medical Technologist and being an outdoors obsessed woman.  Although I do not always have a large amount of free time, cooking a home cooked meal using the game and fish that I have harvested/caught is always preferred over a fast food burger or boring salad.  So here are a few of my favorite “quick” meals that I throw together when in a time crunch.

Crock Pot Wild Game Spaghetti:

Deer Spaghetti What you will need:

2 Large onions, 2 bell peppers, and garlic (chopped)

Wild game meat of choice (my personal favorite is to use green onion seasoned ground deer and deer stew meat together to have varying textures)

Can each of tomato sauce and tomato paste

2 Cans of stewed tomatoes

Mushrooms (canned or fresh)

Seasonings: Italian herb blend, garlic powder, “Tony’s” Season All, Salt and Pepper

Large Slow Cooker and a Large Skillet

 Before bed, brown your wild game thoroughly and saute the vegetables until tender. Throw this along with the cans of  stewed tomatoes, tomato sauce, paste,  mushrooms, and two cups of water into the slow cooker and stir well.  Season to taste using the above seasonings (for added spice I throw in cayenne also).  Set the slow cooker to low and get some rest it will be there waiting for you after the morning hunt!

**CAUTION: IT WILL BE HARD TO SLEEP WITH YOUR HOUSE SMELLING SO AMAZING**

 

Grilled Fish with Creamy Crab and Mushroom Sauce

RedfishBluegill
Fish and Veggie NoodlesWhat you will need:

Fish of choice ( my favorites: redfish “on the half shell” or scaled whole bluegill)

Can of  low fat cream of mushroom soup

Lump crab meat

Onion (chopped) , Garlic (minced), and Mushrooms (now is a good time to use the morels you’ve been collecting)

Butter and Lite Italian Dressing (I prefer using the Olive Garden Light dressing)

Seasonings: Garlic powder, Louisiana hot sauce, “Tonys” Season All, Cayenne, Lemon juice

The fish: Marinate the fish with the minced garlic, hot sauce, Tony’s Season All, Garlic powder, lemon juice, and a little Italian dressing.  Make a basting sauce of softened butter, Italian dressing, hot sauce, garlic, lemon juice, and Tony’s/Season All. Grill until fish is thoroughly cooked basting regularly throughout the cooking process.

The Sauce:  Saute onions and garlic until tender, then add cream of mushroom and a half a can of water. Toss in crab meat, mushrooms, and desired seasonings then simmer on low while you grill your fish.

I like to serve the fish and sauce along with fresh vegetables from the garden such as squash and zucchini which are delicious grilled on the pit or cut into “noodles”.

Back Strap Salad

Back Strap SaladWhat you will need:

Whole Deer Back Strap (or for the brave… same recipe can be used on deer heart)

Baby Spinach or Spring Mix Salad

Red onion and garlic

Feta cheese and Parmesan cheese

Beer or wine (or for the non alcoholic version… Italian dressing)

Seasonings: (I think you get the hint by now that I put Tony’s, hot sauce, and garlic in everything)

Marinate the back strap with garlic and seasonings along with beer/wine/Italian dressing.  Sear the back strap in a skillet until cooked medium/ medium rare.  Set strap aside and DO NOT CUT until the meat has rested 5-10 minutes to allow for the juices to soak back into the meat. In the same pan, add a handful of chopped onions and some garlic and cook down until tender then add any remaining marinade and more of the beer/wine/dressing and reduce by half.  Mix together your salad, cheese, and raw red onions. Top with the sliced back strap and the reduced pan mixture.

 

Sarah Fromenthal – ProStaff EvoOutdoors

Stalk or Stand?

Stalk or Stand?

Hunting with a bow can be quite challenging, which is why I love it so much. It tests your knowledge and your skill to the utmost, almost to the point of frustration. The two main techniques in hunting are using a stand in a tree, or while utilizing cover or natural terrain to stalk your game.

I have been shooting a bow since I was 6 years of age and hunting with my bow as soon as I was legal age (12) in my province of Alberta. So to do simple math I’m 39 years old now, which means I have spent 27 years hunting with my bow.

Now my question to you is in those 27 years, how many deer would you guess I have shot from a tree stand 10? 12? 15? Truth is only 1 that’s right I said 1. I prefer to hunt from the ground. I like to find a nice spot with some good back cover and wait. Don’t get me wrong I have tried the tree stand, and it frustrated me to no end when I would spot a deer and they would be 80-90 yards away and nothing I could do but watch cause I was stuck to one spot.

I will use last season for my example as it was a pretty good year. I have permission on some private land about 8-10 Km from my house. I spent the start of the season observing the deers habits. Once I thought I figured them out they would shift on me. I would think they were going left, they would go right. I finally figured out the pattern which coincided on the wind direction. I had determined that they would hop the fence on the south end when the wind was out of the west and start grazing on the grass in this field. So I set up in some tall grass and waited… Sure enough I heard the twang of the barbed wire fence 30 min into waiting. I poke my head up and ranged. She was 40 yards and closing. I drew back as she was quartering away at 25 yards and got up on my knees to sealed the deal with a arrow through the lungs. It was a unbelievable feeling to know I was just 25 yards away on even ground and filled the freezer.

As soon as the temperature dropped the habits changed once again. No longer would they graze the grass fields, they stuck to the trees. So I have spotted a few buck in this patch of trees in the past, and decided to make my way over to these trees and set up with some cover. As I approached I bumped a doe and drew on her but she went behind a bush turned and walked straight away from me with the bush in between us. After this encounter I found some trees to get cover and set up. Within a minute I spotted a buck walking in at about 250 yards. Within 5-10 min he was 48 yards, then 35 yards, then 28… He goes behind a bush, turns and walks right towards me. Still behind the bush I draw back and he comes out still walking towards me. I finally had to let the arrow fly at 10 yards. The arrow entered his chest and he didn’t make it 20 yards.

 

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What a amazing hunt! I just wish I would have filmed the hunt because no one will ever believe how close I got to this buck! Now am I saying hunting from a tree stand is wrong? No, I’m just saying it’s not for me. I like the option to move around and set my self up, as I have had more success this way and feel it has created better opportunities for my hunting success.

 

What is your preference?