on August 1, 2008 by in Uncategorized, Comments (0)

Start getting those food plots ready

CLEMSON — No, I’m not an idiot. If you are a deer hunter who takes an active role in the management of your own or leased land for deer hunting, I can understand why you might want to call me an idiot when I suggest it’s time to plant food plots. I realize that Oconee, Pickens and Greenville Counties are currently listed as being in a “severe drought” status and Anderson, Abbeville, Laurens, Saluda and Greenwood Counties are just a few raindrops ahead of severe drought. Still, October is on its way and it’ll get here whether there’s rain or not. But let’s back up, getting food plots ready isn’t exactly the same thing as planting food plots.

“If you haven’t had your soil checked, well, there still may be time,” said Richard Morton, regional biologist for the SCDNR Clemson office. “The only thing worse than planting in a drought is planting in poor soil during a drought.”

Most lands in the Upstate are generally lime deficient, especially those areas that have been planted in the past. But rather than assume your land is in need of lime it’s best to take a sample down to the Agricultural Services Laboratory at Clemson University and, for a small fee, find out exactly what nutrients need to be added to your soil. The Laboratory is located at 171 Old Cherry Rd in Clemson, not far from the SCDNR office. The phone number is (864) 656-2068 and they also have an informative website at www.clemson.edu/agsrvlb.

“Typically planting for fall and winter food plots should be done sometime around mid-September till around the first of October,” Morton said.

Many land managers are hesitant about putting money in dusty ground. According to Morton, the best way to check for soil moisture is by sight. Locations of food plots may have an impact on their success – with bottomland near some type of water source preferable to a high ridge in the middle of a pine plantation.

“Even if it’s dry now, if the forecasters say rain is coming, then you can plant 2 or 3 days before and hopefully get the seeds to germinate,” said the biologist.

Even with the current drought conditions, there are still a couple of things that you can do that might put you ahead of the game come deer season. First is to plant winter wheat during the current growing season, even if you have to do it later in the season.

“Winter wheat is a great insurance policy,” Morton said. “Plant it this season, it will come up enough to be attractive to deer late in the season and once it matures, you have a food source that will still be standing for next year’s turkey, dove and deer seasons as well as good cover and protection to grow other crops like clover.”

Another important food source that many land managers overlook is native vegetation. “You’ve got honeysuckle, green briar and a host of native grasses,” Morton said. “Go ahead and fertilize these stands of natural food with something like a 19-19-19 fertilizer and they will re-green once the season comes it and will be attractive to deer. Once you’ve identified those sources, it’s best to fertilize them twice a year, once in April and then again in late September.”

Lastly, go ahead and start taking stock of your acorn crop.

“Get you a good set of binoculars and go to your hardwood stands and start looking for which areas are going to produce this year,” Morton said. “The acorn buds will be smaller now but you can get an accurate count of which trees will provide acorns come fall. Also, try to locate your soft mast crops of persimmons, muscadines and wild berries.”

The countdown is on. While conditions may not be ideal, it’s always better to be prepared than wait and see what happens.