So camp meeting is over. The county fair has gone. The temperatures, possibly for more than a week, are staying out of the inferno range. Even the gnats seem to know what’s coming. It has been a strange couple of months.
The early summer was very mild by South Carolina standards. The late summer, not so much. If you’re like me, you are already behind the 8-ball as far as rut goes. The deer won’t wait on us. It’s here.
Like many of you, I have been waiting on cooler weather and some rain to get my fall plantings in. That and the old-timers have always said don’t plant winter oats until after camp meeting to avid Hessian fly problems. With little rain in store, it’s time to make a decision. Planting late is not the end of the world.
After all, the real reason for planting fall (and spring) plots is not to harvest more deer. In reality the reason I do it is to ensure the health of the herd on my hunting lands. The acorn crop has been so hit and miss lately on my places, so, I do what I can to provide water, cover and food sources for the deer and turkey that travel across my property.
I have a raccoon problem. This summer I planted 10 acres of chufa and 3 acres of corn. The coons pulled up all of the chufa within three weeks and demolished the corn at tasseling despite three loops of electric wire. The good news is that I still have 10 acres of well-fertilized food plots so that will save me some time.
Hurricane Matthew destroyed the upland hardwoods and the swamp areas of my farm. There is nothing I can do about that but let time rot down the fallen trees and let nature replace them. I did, however, manage to get a friend to take out about 32 acres of tilted or fallen pines and replant them. These areas of cutover will benefit the wildlife for some years to come until the pines shade out the grasses and forbs. Coupled with the food plots, I am already seeing more abundant wildlife.
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Okay, so we have decided to plant. What to plant? The obvious answer for fall plots is some kind of mixture of grains and leafy brassicas. I use oats or in some cases naked oats as a base. After putting about 70 pounds of wheat or oats in the hopper, you can add a couple of pounds of radish, trophy radish, rape, kale, turnips, or clover per acre. Notice I differentiated between trophy radish and radish. Trophy radish is actually a rape. It doesn’t produce the vegetation and large leafy tops that Daikon radish or turnips will. Daikon radish also produces a root that is several inches in diameter and several feet long.
This plant will reach down into the soil and pull nitrogen back up from the deep soil to the surface. In other words, it reincorporates nitrogen back into the top layers of soil so other plants can use it. Then when the radish roots rot in the spring, the holes that are left help to aerate the topsoil.
Rape is cheap and a good filler. It helps to put out some clover in the mix. White arrow leaf is best but red or crimson clover is cheaper. If you wait until June and mow the clover heads to scatter the seed and disk it in the fall, it will re-establish itself for a couple of years.
So in essence this is what my mix will look like: 70 pounds of wheat or oats, 2- 5 pounds of Daikon radish, 5 pounds of turnip or rape, 5 pounds of clover per acre. The mix can vary many different ways but with a little fertilizer and good pH and the Lord providing just a little rain, this has worked well for me. The mix costs about $35-40 an acre.
You can also buy a premixed planting called BUCK BRUNCH. It has triticale in it and a little lower mixture of radish and clover than I think is ideal, but it does include all of the rest of the ingredients, including trophy radish and Austrian winter pea. It costs about $30-35 per bag and requires about a bag and a half per acre.
Beware putting these mixes in a grain drill. If you have separate seed boxes for large and small grain you can put the small seed ie: clover, rape, turnip in the small seed box and the wheat, radish, trophy radish, oats in the large box. If not, you will have to adjust the settings to plant all out of the same box. For instance, my large seed box will plant about 100 pounds of the mixed on the setting for 70 pounds of oats because the smaller seeds drift to the bottom and flow out at a higher rate.
So I have found that the setting for about 45 pounds of oats will plant 70 to 75 pounds of mix. If you do not use a drill and broadcast the mix by hand or spreader, you may be able to control your mixture better.
There is something about sitting in a stand and watching the deer browse on food you provide for them. They are unaware that a hunter is sitting within touching distance but equally unaware you are their benefactor and choose to let them thrive oblivious to your presence.
Good hunting but more importantly, good conservation.