Food plots are not as easy as they're cracked up to be. The amount of time, effort, and money all put into just the preparation is enough to make you rethink whether you have a hunting addiction or a severe hobby. Implementing your plans is a whole other ball game completely. Then, you have to wait to see if the plot will even work as planned. Last, but surely not least, will this help you hunting mature bucks? Who knows!
That is how I would describe food plots. This year, I decided to plant six brassica plots on six farms. The other farms just don't have the space between crops, timber, or low-lying swamp ground. Farmers don't like having to go through brassica plots with their combines. You'd think it was a case of a little toddler pretending the floor is lava. Seriously though, we are very limited on green plot space. The farmers have amped their price of standing crops each year to where they make more off of standing crop plots than they would if they harvested it for market. I can't blame them, they believe that we absolutely need them to kill big bucks and exploit us for such.
As for this year's fall plots, I heard about a lot of people putting in their plots in early August when there was a chance for good rain approaching. I wasn't ready to do such as I didn't like the weather outlook. The chances were too thin. Of those who got them in then, some absolutely struck gold, and some struck out. I decided mid-August would be my ideal timeframe to get them in if I could get a good weather forecast. As I headed to my first southern Iowa farm to plant with my fertilizer, urea, seed, torch, buddy's tractor with a belly mower and tiller all loaded up, the forecast looked solid. Three straight days following that day had a mix of 60%, 60%, 80% precipitation... This was the day that the Derecho hit central and eastern Iowa. It was staying well north of my farms.
I burned the plot, spread fertilizer and urea, tilled, and as I started to get my broadcast spreader out, I saw it. The big clouds, high winds, and maybe some rain coming. The very tip of the tail was swinging right at me. As the winds hit, I was 5 steps into seeding. It was big wind! Like, 30-45 MPH. Seed went horizontally 10yds. Whoops! I crept on the ground as low as I could to get the seed to hit the soft dirt. I hurried up, got 6-8lbs/acre seeded on this 1/3-1/2 acre brassica plot, decided to just drive over the seed to finish it instead of using the roller. No rain. The sun came back out. I checked the radar. Nothing immediately close. I headed over to the next farm about 30 minutes away, and as I pulled up, I saw this huge front coming out of the SW with definite rain coming. I had no chance to get another plot done in time. This front was hauling. One of my hunters called me as the rain pounded my windshield. I saw no end to the rain from where I was parked. We got about 3/4" there, and 1/2" up on the plot I had just finished. I was done for the day, and with the other plot getting rain, I was happy with the even more predicted rain.
As I drove back, I called my buddy. He said, "look at the weather." The follow days' precipitation went down to 20%, 40%, 50%. "Ruh-roh!" I thought, "well, I can just go ahead and plant them tomorrow and finish the plots well enough so that the seed will hold a couple of weeks or so until good rain comes. Schedule-wise, I needed to get these plots in. So, that is what I did. I got the next two plots in the next day with the plan of getting the next three in the following day. I was doing this all by myself as my normal food plot guy had a schedule conflict with work and prior commitments that weekend. I drove over to the next farms to drop off the tractor and trailer for the night. The first farm I stopped at had a new fence put in by the neighbors that basically blocked all access to the southern edge of the farm by vehicle. The gate was welded to keep cattle in their farm. That is the only way for me to get a tractor into the place. Sh*t! I went to the next farm, realized the day was almost over, and I called it quits. I had the intention of coming back down to plant the remaining two plots the weekend after next. No rain happened between that day and then. It dried up so bad that you could see the creeks were empty and the deer left dust clouds behind them when just simply trotting.
As I went to check on a plot to burn it off before planting the next day, I realized that a prior rain had made the washouts along the field (my only path with a tractor to my spot) were too deep to get a tractor through. I had seven washouts to get past to get to my spot. Whoever did the tiling work there last year didn't do worth a crap. The washouts were all around new tile. So, that farm was out of the equation for plots. The next one was only like 1/10 of an acre, and with the recent deer traffic there on camera, the plot wouldn't make it a month. So, I called it quits again 3 plots shy of what I had envisioned. I was bummed out. So, I headed home waiting to see my weather app on my phone and my cell cameras on the completed plots. The first plot that I did this year, the one that got the 1/2" of rain, definitely started. Then, the dry spell hit. Oh man, I thought I had lost that plot. As of today, I see some green on my cell camera photos, but I can't make out what is growing there. Really, no weeds should be growing at that plot at all. My other two plots on the same farm are a mix. One is growing well despite having another neighbor put a new fence in and taking out about 100sq.ft. of my plot. The other doesn't seem to be growing, but that plot had a lot of dead grass on top yet. So, I will see what happens. I'm still in that "waiting" timeframe until I head back to check cards. Oh yeah, we got 3-5" of rain over the last few days.
Food plotting isn't easy. It's actually quite challenging. Honestly, I don't think the plots would hurt our chances this year, but I also don't think that they'd truly help either. It's still a fun challenge to get them in each year to see if we can kill a buck in one. To date, we have only killed one buck in a brassica plot (picture below). As you can see, the deer wiped out that plot. I've had more plots wiped out by deer prior to November than I have had last. So, feeding the deer definitely helps, but how much? I don't know how I would ever measure that.
Thanks for reading!
Two of my three plots are surely sprouted and up! Thanks to all of this rain, now roughly 5-7" and counting, the plots have survived. The first plot that I did that got started due to a 1/2" rain (as mentioned above), seems to be up, but due to not having been on the farm and only relying on a moisture-covered trail camera, I can't tell "how well" the plot is yet. Here are some before and after photos below:
PLOT #1 (Zone 6)
Note: 3-5" of rain has fallen here between 9/7/2020 and today 9/10/2020
PLOT #2 (Zone 5)
Note: 1-2" of rain has fallen here between 9/9/2020 and today 9/10/2020
PLOT #3 (Zone 5)
Notice: The neighbors put in a new fence and drove through my plot knocking over my licking branch tree.