This topic has become more relevant in my mind this year than in others. I don't know exactly why that is, but I will use this blog post to explain why crop harvest or the lack-there-of or the delay of is so important to the odds of a hunt producing.
As you can see in the trail camera photo from 2019 above, this mature buck was traveling a standing corn field edge where a scrape was during early December in or near the Shotgun Seasons. I had a hunter on this particular farm that year who shot a nice 4-1/2 year old deer just down the hill from this camera, about 150yds. That deer walked the same edge. Why? Standing corn. Corn is king!
This corn and a lot of neighboring corn was still standing in December due to a wet fall, if I remember correctly. Unless you're ready to pay the farmer $1000/acre for corn, brush-hog it, put a blind in it, and they agree, corn is hard to hunt! I jokingly say a predator missile with thermal capabilities is the best option to hunt corn. Yet, during gun season, that is cover and food for the deer who are recovering from the rut or just ending it before a long, hard winter. During bow season, it is an obstacle, at a minimum, and can be either good or bad. Having the only standing corn around surely helps, but not if it's 250-acres of it! Ha!
BOW SEASON FOCUS
So, with bow season being the in-season right now, that is where my focus is on this topic. With my bowhunters arriving off and on between this week and the next all the way into the first week of November, I want to see crops come out, especially corn. Why? This forces the deer to find cover elsewhere, the more common areas, CRP and woods. When the deer are concentrated naturally to more hunt able areas like fingers, timber blocks, creek lines, fence lines, etc., our hunters perform much better.
Driving around from farm to farm yesterday, I would say we have 50% of farms harvested, 75% of beans out and 50% of corn out. This will only increase between now and Halloween (slight chance of rain in last week of Oct) because this weekend coming up we have a warm spell reaching into the 70's. With some wind, this dries the crops quicker allowing farmers to pick more without needing drying storage (high cost if they don't have the setup themselves). By Halloween, I expect almost 100% of beans to be out and almost 75-87.5% of corn is out. This will leave some harvesting in the first week of November which further moves deer around. The end result should be seeing deer where they should be, funnels, pinch points, timber blocks, CRP farms, creek lines, etc., where all of our setups are!
Having gone through some bow seasons with a lot of standing crops and little deer seen, I know who/what the culprit is. Yet, this is something that we can't control. I wish that were different because then we'd be like Lakosky leaving $150k of crop up as food plots and food plot sanctuary for local deer. We'd suck them all in!
GUN SEASON FOCUS
Having gone through gun seasons with and without crops, with an without plots, I can tell you that food is king so long as you have cold weather. In early-to-mid December, it is likely to still see bucks chasing does and yearlings. Those does are finding food and cover, so corn can be both. Beans are strictly not cover but great food. Having standing grain plots, whether planted by hand or bought back from the farmer, is a must. Those become even better when the surrounding neighborhood has very little standing relieving the competition you face for food source dominance. Add snow, and boom standing crops usually win.
In 2016, we purchased 5 acres of standing corn back from a farmer. The farmer left us 15 acres (for some reason) and by golly did that bring the deer in. Wow! No other standing crops were around in a 2-4 mile radius. We had deer in single-file lines heading to our corn from 3 miles away as the crow flies. I saw it with my own two eyes and my hunter confirmed as they continued into the plot. Crazy! It often doesn't pan out that well, but you never know. We like to think that if you are going to not do an electric fence (I'm naturally against them in general), you need to have 5-10acres of beans and 5-15 acres of corn standing. Obviously that is more expensive than 3-5 acres of beans and 3-5 acres of corn with an electric fence, but I do not like telling deer they can't eat what they want/need to eat. That seems detrimental to the whole attract and keep deer content notion.
In a normal year, say 2023 on, with bow hunters and gun hunters again, we will want the crops out completely only leaving our select food sources (plots) for the winter. This will have a slight value to bow hunters because of the stubble being everywhere without snow is still a good food source but unable to properly cover it all. Yet, this will really benefit our gun hunters. Get the crops out! See more deer! Have better hunts! Enough said! Bow hunters don't want crops up so that they see more deer. Gun hunters don't want crops up so that the food sources we hunt are more attractive and easier to pinpoint. Pretty simple, right? Hope so!