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Food Plot 101

by Jordan Howell 23. April 2012 10:52
Jordan Howell

One of the hottest topics in the hunting industry today is Food Plots.  Some hunters will argue that they are absolutely necessary to kill big bucks; others will say you don't need them.  Despite the fact that there is no magical big buck potion, food plots definitely have their place in deer management and can drastically increase a hunter's success….IF they are done right.  For a bowhunter who may be a novice when it comes to food plots, trying to figure out everything on your own can be a nightmare.  For example, what to plant, where to plant, and the never ending when, how, and why’s associated with growing food plots can drive a person crazy. Quite often, these are questions many landowners and managers don't have answers to. As a result, many guess or take the advice of friends.  This trial and error method produces mixed results because not everything works in every situation. Hunters also have many misconceptions about food plots; such as you must have access to large equipment to be successful. This isn't true in most cases.  The only thing a hunter really needs is a determined attitude and the patience to do things right. So, if you happen to be one of the many bowhunters who have wanted to start your very own food plot, but didn’t because you thought you couldn’t do it for one reason or another----then this article is for you. Let’s begin with the basics....the EXTREME basics.

Establishing an intimate knowledge of your hunting area will go a long way toward reaching your management goals

It has been said that you must have long term goals to prevent frustration with short term failures. This is definitely true when it comes to habitat management.  Planning and forethought on the part of the hunter will have an immeasurable effect on the success of his/her food plots.  Because every piece of property is different, there is no food plot strategy that works for everyone. In order to be successful, one must carefully examine the needs and capabilities of his/her particular property before starting. The first question a hunter must ask himself is WHY do you want a food plot?  Is it to attract more deer to your property, or perhaps grow bigger bucks? Maybe it is to hold deer on your property by providing them with added nutrition. Before you plant the first seed, take a minute and write down what your short term and long term goals for the property are. This will help determine the starting point for your management plan because not all hunters want the same things, or can realistically achieve the same goals. For example, in the Southeastern part of the country, growing a “Booner  Buck” is not exactly an attainable goal. Many hunters in that region would be happy to simply see more deer while they are hunting. When it comes to your own wants and needs, think about what it is you ultimately wish to accomplish on your property.  Then, evaluate what your property's current short term and long term potential is; writing down its strengths and weaknesses. This will help you come up with a list of goals for the management of the property. 

 

Mineral Sites are an excellent means for not only attracting deer, but also helping bucks maximize their antler potential.

Once you have determined your goals, you can begin formulating a plan to carry them out.  The first thing that I like to do on a property is find out what kind of deer herd I am dealing with.  Although walking the property will give me clues about terrain, available forage, cover etc, there is no way I can accurately inventory the deer herd on a farm without added help.  One of the best tools for helping you do this is a good trail camera.  It will serve as your eyes in the woods….24 hours a day. When selecting a site to place a camera, I always pick an area where I can monitor and check it with minimal pressure to the local deer. This means placing my camera on the fringes of the property; places I can easily drive to or get very close to with my truck, thus minimizing the amount of human scent I leave in the area. This is a key step because the less intrusion I make, the more apt the deer will be to use the area. If placing minerals or attractants is not legal in your state, then pick a location that gets a lot of natural traffic, such as water holes, openings in fences, or where fence-rows meet the woods.  If putting out attractants is legal in your area, then by all means do so. This will increase the number of deer images you capture on your camera. Putting out minerals is also the easiest and cheapest way to establish deer numbers and develop a management plan on your property.  After that, the only decision you will have to make is do you want to simply attract more deer to your property or are you interested in growing bigger and healthier deer?  I know that is a simple question, but remember, we're taking baby steps here. If pure attraction is what you want out of your property, then a product such as Monster Raxx's Whitetail Magnet will work great.  It is a highly concentrated oil based attractant and deer find the sweet smell irresistible. On the other hand, if you want to attract deer, while at the same time, benefit them nutritionally, a product such as Monster Raxx's Trophy Minerals would be a suitable choice. This particular product still has some salt to attract deer, but has many different macro and trace minerals that will help with antler production and doe lactation which will lead to healthier fawns.  Mineral sites serve several roles to a hunter/ land manager. In addition to immediately attracting deer to your area and providing them with a nutritional boost, they help you inventory and keep track of your deer herd by documenting each visitor to the site. Plus they require very little effort on the hunter's part. I can't think of a product that gives a hunter more bang for his buck! 

 This plot was selected to be a "kill plot" inorder to intercept cruising bucks during the rut.

Once you have completed your mineral site setup, you can then begin to evaluate your property's food plot potential. The most important thing to remember is that without a clear picture of what your farm needs or what the conditions are, no one can offer a “catch-all” solution that will work.  The number one reason for food plot failure is improper site and/or forage selection. I cringe when I hear a plethora of different answers to questions regarding “what to plant” or “what to do” to improve a particular plot. While suggestions such as plant clover, plant beans, or add lime CAN be good, first and foremost, site selection and “plot purpose” must be taken into consideration. 
For example, currently I am working on a new plot on a piece of property that presents some unique challenges. I have hunted this particular farm for seven seasons. The entire southwestern corner of the property is roughly made up of 20 acre’s of impenetrable thicket; so thick that I can’t walk through it, much less hunt it.  The northeast section of this farm contains a swamp and holds a lot of deer.  The deer feed to the south in large agricultural fields. The swamp is the sanctuary on the property, so I don't hunt there. The center of the farm has little timber and is difficult to hunt.  I have put in a couple of plots in the center to provide late season forage for the deer.  This year I have decided to utilize the thicket that I haven’t been able to do anything with. 

 Treestand view from the "kill plot".

I have basically cleared out a section of the thicket where several trails crisscross and planted about a 1/3 acre “kill plot” in this section. I plan to utilize this particular area during the rut when I hope to capitalize on bucks cruising from North to South in search of does.  The addition of a plot surrounded by security cover will give wary bucks a spot to stop briefly and scent check for a receptive mate. Also, access to this location is perfect. With a North or Northeast wind I will be able to walk up the tree-line to the west and climb into the stand without alerting any deer to my presence. I cannot stress enough the importance of a covert access when hunting a food plot, or anywhere for that matter.  A good spot with perfect access is better than a great spot with bad access. If the deer know you are hunting them the greenest plot in the world won't do you any good. Once you have selected a location, you must decide on what type of forage to plant. Before doing this please remember to do one thing……A SOIL TEST!  This information will prove to be invaluable.  Not only will it provide you with soil PH, it will tell you soil type and nutrient levels as well. This will help you determine what kind of plot will grow the best on your land. 

After a site has been selected for your new food plot, it is vital to conduct a soil sample test.

In the case of the new plot on my farm, the soil test indicated my PH was low, and the soil was sandy, but organic matter was high. This is fairly typical of plots in the woods that have never been cultivated.  I wanted a clover plot, but typically clovers do better in heavier soils because they need a good amount of moisture. Based on the information in my soil test, I decided on a blend of annual clovers and brassicas, as well as alfalfa and chicory. I want a plot that will have peak attractiveness during the rut; when I plan to hunt it. The clovers and brassicas will provide that attractiveness, while the alfalfa's large roots will help hold moisture that the soil won’t; which allows the clover to attach to and utilize the water in its root system.
There are forages that would be easier to establish, but again I want peak attraction to be late October through November. The annual clovers will provide a quick green-up and will give the plot attractiveness while the lime builds up in the soil to raise the PH. Once the PH reaches 6.5, hopefully by next year, then I will plant a perennial. 

Success is failure turned inside out.  No matter what your goals are for a property, careful planning will make all the difference in the success of your food plots.  It isn't rocket science by any means, and anyone who wants to do it can.  All it takes is effort, determination, and creativity.  Just remember that to reach a destination, you must first know where you are going.  Make a list of management goals for your property, stick to them, and don't cut any corners achieving them.  If done correctly, food plots will be another deadly weapon in your arsenal of tactics. In my next article we will discuss soil testing a little more in-depth and move forward with the over-all food plot construction.

Conducting Your Own Trail Camera Survey

by Josh Fletcher 12. September 2011 12:59
Josh Fletcher

Conducting surveys and censuses on deer populations have been around for years. There are formulas such as the SAK formula, aerial surveys, track counts, spotlight surveys, and just recently with the popularity of game cameras, trail camera surveys to estimate a deer population for a given location.

Formulas such as the SAK formula or aerial surveys are often used by large ranches or state game agencies. Surveys such as track counts or spotlights surveys need open terrain and large tracks of property to be conducted on. However, with the development of the trail camera survey now you to conduct an estimate of deer population on your own property. Whether you own fifty acres or a thousand acres, you can utilize your trail camera data to give you a better idea of the deer population on your own property and providing better and more accurate information for managing your hunting area.

I first want to say that with all surveys they are an estimate, and there is no way to be 100% accurate, however they are accurate enough to provide a good data base for whitetail management. By using your trail cameras, not only can you identify possible trophy class bucks and travel routes, you can also estimate the buck age ratio, number of bucks, number of does, buck to doe ratio, fawns per doe ratio, and acres per deer. So stop deleting those pictures of small bucks, does, fawns and start estimating and tracking deer populations in your hunting area.

To begin the survey you will need a minimum of one game camera per 100 acres, however if you have more cameras for a smaller piece of property the more accurate your survey will be. For example, if you have 85 acres and four game cameras, you will have a better chance of a more accurate survey versus one camera for 100 acres. It doesn’t matter if you only own 20 acres; you too can run a very accurate deer population estimate on your property. The goal is to try and capture a photo of every deer that is on your property.

 The CamTracker MK-10 is an excellent trail camera with it's fast trigger speed to conduct a trail camera survey

 Experts recommend that you run your cameras for 14 days; however you can run your cameras longer to ensure a better chance of photographing the majority of deer in your hunting area. Next researchers recommend placing your cameras over bait or mineral sites to ensure photos of deer on the property. Keep in mind that results can very during certain times of the year. An example of this is a large acorn crop; most deer won’t abandon the acorns for corn.

If baiting or mineral sites are illegal in your area, you can utilize natural food sources such as food plots or fruit trees such as apple trees to capture photos of as many deer as you can on your property. 

Apple trees are excellent for conducting trail camera surveys if baiting is illegal in your area

Once your survey is over, begin by compiling all your photos. If you cannot positively identify a deer as a buck, doe or fawn, do not count it in the survey.
Count all the pictures that you have of bucks. It doesn’t matter if you are counting the same buck several times as this will be factored into the formula for gaining a doe count. Once you counted all the buck photos write that number down.

Next, out of your buck pictures count the number of individual bucks or unique bucks and write that number down. For example on my hunting property I had 19 pictures of bucks, out of these 19 pictures I have identified 9 different bucks.
 
Now you want to figure out the variable of “repeat offenders” or pictures of the same bucks. The reason you want to know this is to average the same idea for does. Since does are often harder to identify as being the same deer photographed, you want to figure out an idea of how many repeat bucks you have and to apply the same concept to does for a more accurate survey. This may seem confusing however is very simple. Just divide the total number of bucks by the number of unique bucks (individual bucks). An example is that I have 19 buck pictures divide that by the 9 unique bucks = 0.47 (pop. Facture) write that number down.
 
Now total up all the number of does you have pictures of. You will then divide your doe count by the pop. Facture. (The results of the buck division you just did earlier.)  An example is I had 24 does divided by 0.47 = 11.28 does.  I now know I have 9 bucks and 11.28 does utilizing my property during the given time frame I conducted the trail camera survey.
 
Now you want to figure out your fawn population. To do this count the numbers of fawns you have pictures of and divide that by your Pop. Facture just like you did with the does. For example, I had 18 pictures divided by my Pop. Facture of 0.47= 8.46 fawns on the property.

A healthy deer herd consists of a balanced buck to doe ratio

Now with the numbers complete, I now know I have an estimate of 9 bucks, 11 does and 8 fawns for my 85 acres.To figure out your buck to doe ratio for the property, divide the number of does by the number of bucks. I had 11.28 does divided by 9 bucks, gives me a ratio of 1.25 does per buck. Experts recommend a ratio close to 1:1.

To figure out your fawn to doe ratio simply divide your number of fawns by the number of does. I had 8.46 fawns divided by 11.28 does which gives me a ratio of 0.75 fawns per doe.

To figure out your acres per deer simply divide the amount of acres you have surveyed by your total population of deer. My hunting property is 85 acres divided by a total population of 28.74 which gives me 2.9 acres per deer for the property I hunt on.

My data for the trail camera survey looks like this:
9 individual bucks/ 19 total bucks = 0.47 (pop. Facture)
24 does/ 0.47 (pop. Facture) = 11.28 does
18 fawns/ 0.47 (pop. Facture) = 8.46 fawns
11.28 does / 9 bucks= 1.25 does per buck
8.46 fawns/ 11.28 does= 0.75 fawns per doe
85 acres/ 28.74 (total deer population) = 2.9 acres per deer
9 Bucks, 11 Does, 8 Fawns.
 
I know all these numbers are over whelming and seem complicated; however once you put your pen to paper you will see just how easy it is to conduct a trail camera survey on your property. Don’t just stop there. By doing trail camera surveys every month, you can track and watch as the deer population in your hunting area fluctuates throughout the year. By tracking this data allows you as a manager to analyze the reasons for the fluctuation for that given time of the year. It may be that the reason your deer population drops during the summer is because of the lack of warm season food source. If you notice this on your property, you might want to begin planting a warm season food source to hold deer on your property during the summer and early fall months. Doing these trail camera surveys gives you one more tool to better track and manage your hunting area.

With all surveys, the trail camera method is not 100 percent accurate; however is a very reliable source for information on your property. Also, all of the information that you are already gathering from your trail cameras can be utilized to conduct a trail camera survey. Have fun with it and utilize your trail cameras this year to better manage deer on your hunting property.

Preparing Now For Trophy Whitetails This Fall- Part 2

by Josh Fletcher 28. July 2011 13:35
Josh Fletcher

It’s the end of July and the dog days of summer are upon us.  Temperatures are in the 90’s with a heat index of 100 degrees, there is no better time to get ready for this upcoming deer season than now. With warm temperatures and heavy rains recently, our food plots placed growing in to full gear. These warm temperatures with good soil moisture has also sprouted the weed growth, and like most of you that planted your food plots this spring I’m sure that your also seeing a surge in weed growth in your plots also. The last couple of days I have been out to our property and checking on the food plots for any maintenance that may be needed. Below is what we found and what we did to improve the status of our plots so if you see similar problems, you can try it on your property.

The first plot that I checked on was our clover and alfalfa plot. This is a food plot the stretches along an old two track road. The clover is showing great growth and the alfalfa is not far behind. We do have some grass in spots where the clover is thin and the grass is beginning to take over. With clover plots you will want to keep the weeds at bay, because when a strong surge of weeds begin to take over it may choke out your clover.  At this stage we have two options to establish a good clover and alfalfa plot. The first option is by mowing. You can mow the plot allowing the clover and alfalfa to regrow and get a jump on the weeds. The second option is to spray the weeds with a select herbicide. Do to the fact that our clover plot is still young yet and in its first year of growth we decided to spray with a select herbicide to control the grasses.

To control weeds on the clover plot we used "Poast Plus" select herbicide

The select herbicide that we used is called Poast Plus. This herbicide is safe to use on clover and alfalfa. It attacks the grasses without damaging the clover and alfalfa. Using a sprayer attached to my ATV with a seven foot boom, I mixed up 15 gallons of Poast Plus herbicide. With just a flip of a switch I was easily weeding our clover plot.

The sprayer that we are using is a Fimco 20 gallon tank with a seven foot spray coverage

The next plot I checked was our oat and pea plot. The oats are coming up nicely, however there was not a single pea plant to be found. The deer have already grazed all the peas out of the plot. Looking for another filler to replace the peas without tilling up the already established oats, we broadcasted a seeding of annual rye. The plan is to have the rye cover any bare spots in the plot to provide additional forage this fall. Like the oats, deer love to forage on the rye as it is still young and tender.

 

The oat plot was over seeded with annual rye and sprayed with 2,4-D herbicide

While seeding the annual rye in the oat plot I noticed a fair amount of broadleaf weeds growing in the plot. Just like the clover plot, we needed to control the weed growth to prevent our plots from being choked out. Also like the clover plot we opted to use a select herbicide. However unlike the clover plot you need to use herbicide that attacks broad leaf weeds and not grass. The herbicide of choice is 2,4-D. This herbicide is safe to use on crops such as oats, rye, wheat, corn, and sorghum. After waiting for the rye to begin its growth stage, we applied the 2,4-D to the oat plot.

The last food plot on our property was the upland plot. This plot consists of sorghum, sunflower, millet, and soybean. One problem that we ran into at the time of planting was that the sand hill cranes kept coming into the plots and digging up our seed. We did disk in the seed to make it harder for birds to pick the seed from the plots, however the seed of choice by the sand hill cranes were our sunflowers. We do have a fair amount of sunflowers that made it past germination; however they are all along the tall marsh grass at the east edge of the plot. The cranes seemed to only feed on the seed in the more open sections of the upland plot. After speaking with several farmers in the area about this problem I was informed about a product that the farmers call “crane be gone” it is a powder that is sprinkled and mixed into the seed prior to planting. They state that this powder makes the seed taste bad to the cranes to prevent them from eating all the seed. This is definitely a product that I will be looking into for next year’s planting. Despite problems with the cranes our millet and sorghum are doing great. We planted dwarf sorghum and the deer really love it this time of year. The sorghum has not yet begun to tassel and the deer are feeding on the sorghum leaves. There have been several new deer highways that our leading to the upland plot because of the dwarf sorghum.

We could not use a select herbicide on the upland plot due to both grass and broadleaf crops

We do have some weed growth in the upland plot, however since it is a mixed plot containing sorghum and sunflower, we are unable to apply a select herbicide to the plot. If you did you would have to choose which plant species you would want to keep. The reason is that if you went with a 2,4-D, your sorghum and millet would be safe from the spray, however it would kill off your sunflowers. Keep this in mind if you are going to be planting a mixed plot. If you know that you may have a problem with weeds, especially in a spring planting which is more susceptible to weeds than a fall planting.

Since we have been on the topic of weeds, we must also keep in mind that not all weeds are bad. Weeds can create an additional food source and provide a good habitat also in your food plots. An example of this is the common milk weed. This is a weed that we intentionally left in our plots.

Milkweed attracts pollinating insects to your property

The milk weed flowers at the top of its stem attracting butterflies and bees. With the recent hype about food plots some people plant food plots just for attracting deer. One must keep in mind that food plots are to improve habitat and food sources for all wildlife. So if you’re wondering how butterflies and bees play a role in wildlife management and habitat, these insects are your pollinators. Without them plants and fruits can’t cross pollinate to produce fruits or food for other wildlife, such as deer and turkeys. If you have apple trees on your property and have been noticing a smaller and smaller crop of apples, the lack of pollinators on your property may be the cause.

Everything in nature has a cause and effect. Mother Nature is a chain and if you cut at one link, it can and will affect the strength for the rest of the chain. We are all conservationists, we are also the protectors of nature, and by practicing responsible conservation on our own property we can all be the first step to a more balanced and healthy environment benefiting all wildlife, the deer as much as the bees.

By being a good conservationist we plant food plots to benefit all types of wildlife. To do this you need to look at what is being planted around you and how much acreage you are able to plant on your property. For example if your property is surrounded by corn fields, it really doesn’t benefit wildlife on your property to plant a half acre of corn. You will want to provide food sources that will attract wildlife to your property and will benefit wildlife throughout most of the year. The best way to describe this is what I call the buffet planting. On our property we are only able to plant two and a half acres of food plots. If I planted it all in corn, by mid fall majority of the corn would have been consumed by numerous animals and birds, leaving almost ten months of the year without a food source. On our two and a half acres we planted sorghum, millet, soybeans, sunflowers, annual rye, oats, clover, and alfalfa. By planting such a mixed bag of plants, wildlife will have numerous food sources throughout the year.

By using a select herbicide on half of our food plot acreage and leaving the other half of our plots to take its course with the weeds, we are able to provide a more diverse habitat for all wildlife on our property. We also learned that cranes are beautiful to watch but not beautiful to watch eating your seed that you just planted. We will definitely be trying a crane repellent on our seeds next year. Hopefully by sharing our stories we are able to provide you with ideas for your property.

Buckscore REVIEW - Scoring your Trophy Buck from Home

by Josh Fletcher 20. July 2011 16:30
Josh Fletcher


After reading on Bowhunting.com about a new program available on the market for both deer hunters and wildlife managers, that could score a buck just from a picture, I just had to take a closer look.  The program is called Buckscore.

Buckscore was developed by the Mississippi State University’s Deer Ecology and Management Laboratory. The program has a data base of known measurements from deer around the country, such as ear width and eyeball diameter. From those base measurements, Buckscore can be used to measure the total amount of antler from a picture. The program states that it is most accurate on deer antler positions from three angles. The picture can be analyzed from a buck that is 0 degrees, 45 degrees, and 90 degrees.
 
To use the Buckscore program you download the picture of the buck you want to score. From there select what state the picture of the buck was taken from and approximate age if known. Then select the known measurement that you want to use that all measurements are compared from. An example is the width of the buck’s ear. By selecting Wisconsin as the state the program uses known deer ear width from the area of Wisconsin. Once the known measurement is taken you are now ready to begin scoring your buck. The tutorial on the side of the program walks you through the locations on the buck’s antlers to click your mouse to retrieve measurements for scoring your buck. If you cannot see a particular tine or cannot tell from the photo where a tine begins or ends, you have the option of clicking the mirror tab that uses the same measurement from the other side of the buck’s antlers. An example is that you can see the buck’s right side G3 but not the left, by clicking this tab it will take the right G3 and use that measurement for the left G3. After measuring all the given locations the program then asks if the deer you just scored is in velvet or not. Select your answer and soon the total score of your buck if given in a form showing B&C or P&Y, it also shows the net score along with the gross score of your buck.

This is a good quality photo for an accurate score from the Buckscore

(This Buckscore.com program scored this buck at 152.06" Typical Gross Score)

After researching this program from the Buckscore web site I decided to download the program and give it a try. By clicking on the website button to buy the program it charged me just under $20.00 for the down load. I then followed the tutorial to begin downloading the program straight from their web site. On my laptop I am running the Windows7 software and had no troubles down loading the program. Buckscore.com is also able to be downloaded by other types of software.  The whole process from start to finish took me around fifteen minutes. To explain how easy this was I must first tell you my computer knowledge is near zero and computer back ground is at a big zero, so as the saying goes, if I can do it so can you.

My first test of this program was to see just how accurate it really is at scoring bucks. Now, I first want to tell you that the Buckscore.com program only works for whitetail bucks. I loaded a picture of a buck that I already knew the score of and that was the buck I shot last fall. I used a picture that was taken of me holding the buck and it was not from a game camera. The reason for this was to provide the best quality picture to test on the scoring. After several minutes of taking measurements, I was given the final score. Buckscore.com was off by less than two inches from what I received from the tape measure. I then scored a buck that my friend had shot last year; this buck was off by just over three inches from what the actual tape measurement was. I’m not sure how particular you are, but for me this type of accuracy is very impressive just from a picture.

Here is an example of a poor quality photo that is hard to score

After using this program for some time now and scoring numerous bucks I have noticed that I am learning better judgment on where to begin measuring from the picture to achieve more accurate results. I will say that a greater error will happen if the picture that you are scoring is of poor quality and if you cannot see all of the tines. A poor quality photo may also make it more difficult to be able to tell where one point begins and ends, making it difficult to measure. You can score bucks that are not at the three previous mentioned angles however your score may slightly be off of what the buck actually scores. To get the most accurate score I would recommend scoring several different photos of the same buck and comparing the differences if at all possible. I also want to note that when I am talking about your score being off, I am talking about only several inches. Basically you may have a photo of a buck that’s real score is 167” but the Buckscore.com program states it is 165”. In my eyes this is very accurate from just a picture. The other neat part about this program is that I have my friends email me pictures of bucks that they want scored by Buckscore.com and I can score it for them with in several minutes.
 
This program will not kill you bigger bucks, however, has many benefits. First is that it helps with the famous ground shrinkage. We have all experienced it, the buck appears bigger right before you take the shot however when you walk up on your prize he just isn’t as big as you thought. The other part is that pictures can be deceiving. We have all seen it or have been a part of the famous trophy fish photo, where you hold the fish closer to the camera to get it away from the fisherman’s body to make the fish look bigger. Trail cam photos can do the same thing with bucks; the buck can look much bigger on the trail cam photo than he really is. My brother Clint and I were victims of this last fall. I had several pictures of a buck that we know as the kicker buck. By looking at the trail cam pictures we estimated him to be in the 130” range. During the rut Clint was able to harvest this buck and when we walked up on him we realized he was much smaller than the picture made him look. Now don’t get me wrong, he was a good buck and Clint was very proud to have taken him, however if we would have had this program last year we would have known before the shot opportunity that he was smaller than what we judged him by the picture.
 
By utilizing the Buckscore program you can “pre classify” the bucks on your property prior to actually laying eyes on them with great accuracy. Also by being able to score bucks right from your computer you are better able to learn what a true 130” buck looks like and so forth allowing you to improve your skills at scoring bucks on the hoof.

The Buckscore program is also great for analyzing the quality of bucks that are utilizing your property. The program allows you to track the bucks that you score for an analysis of bucks on your property. By this I mean that if you score thirty different bucks, the program lists the score class of the bucks so you can see the percentage of a particular class of bucks on your property. With proper management and habitat improvement your goal may be to see an increase in 120” class bucks one year and then an increase of 130” class the next. This program allows you to track this information about your property.

This buck is not at the three angles recommended by the program, causing the results to vary

(This buck scored 149.46" Typical Gross Score by the Buckscore program)

The last reason I would encourage the use of the Buckscore program is that it is just plain old fun to use. It’s exciting to get out into the woods and check your trail cam for big buck pictures, now you can take that picture home and put a score to that buck of a life time. This program doesn’t need a picture taken from just a trail camera, you can use pictures that you personally have taken or even use a freeze framed clip from your own video, save it as a picture and then basically score the buck from a video. Now if that big boy walks just outside of your bow range you can still video him and then score him without ever firing a shot. This can be good or bad because it may make that missed opportunity hurt just that much more.

Listed below are the pros and cons to the Buckscore program;

Pros
• Easy to down load from the Buckscore.com website using Windows7
• Able to be downloaded using other types of software
• Allows for great practice on field judging bucks on the hoof (no more guessing)
• Program is set up to be able to analyze the class of bucks on your property
• Helps to minimize ground shrinkage
• Accurately score bucks to be placed in a “harvest class”
• Plain old fun to score bucks that you have captured on your trail camera
• It is very accurate at scoring whitetail bucks, with in just several inches
• Bucks can be scored in velvet and the program accounts for the velvet.
• Keeps your hunting buddies much more honest when they email you a photo

Cons
• Poor photos can cause a greater error with accuracy
• The most accurate measurements are taken from three angles: 0, 45, and 90 degrees
• It can cause missing the buck of a life time hurt that much more knowing what he really scores
• If you’re the exaggerating hunting buddy emailing the photo

After utilizing the Buckscore program I must say I am very pleased with it. Yes it is not 100% accurate, but nothing will ever be unless you actually put your hands on his antlers. For just taking measurement from a photo I am more than pleased with being off by only several inches and believe that this program given a good quality picture is very accurate. For less than $20.00 this product is definitely worth a try.

Preparing Now For Trophy Whitetails This Fall

by Josh Fletcher 29. June 2011 12:54
Josh Fletcher

My 2011 season actually began in the fall of 2010. As the beginning of the 2010 season was coming near I didn’t have a place to hunt, so I was left scrambling for a piece of property. I searched the plot book in my county and made a shot in the dark phone call to a land owner who owns eighty five acres. I made contact with John the property owner and told him who I was and informed him I would be willing to possibly lease his property for hunting. John met me several hours later. He informed me that when he purchased the property several years prior he enrolled the property into the WRP (Wetland Reserve Program).  John had a vision for his property, to provide a quality habitat for wildlife and to turn what was once ditch drained farm land into prime wildlife habitat. He had heard about the food plot craze and began asking me questions about them.  John and I envisioned the same goals for his property, to provide the best quality habitat for all wildlife, everything from ducks, pheasants, deer, to song birds.
 
An agreement was made to assist John in wildlife management and habitat improvement; in return he would allow me hunting access to his property. After talking to John I had to pinch myself to see if I was dreaming. I met a land owner who enjoys wildlife and understands the importance of habitat as much as I do.  He asked when I planned on planting the food plots and start on the management of his property. I planned on waiting until the following spring. The reason I wait is so I am able to assess the property and learn what the wildlife is doing throughout the year and not just during hunting season. I also assess if the property possesses the main requirements needed for wildlife to utilize the surrounding habitat.  Once an assessment is done then it is time to start establishing realistic goals and plans for your property.

We are all the first step to wildlife management

 After hunting John’s property last fall we made plans based on wildlife’s needs for habitat improvement. (For ideas on how we assessed the property and designed these plans please read the blog Mapping Your Way to Success) John had previously built twelve ponds and provided each pond with nesting boxes and habitat for waterfowl and wetland wildlife. The remainder of the property consists of mostly marsh grass with small spots of higher ground and a five acres pine plantation. With the use of game cameras and wildlife observation made while hunting the property, it showed that majority of the deer and other animals would leave John’s property during the winter months for the lack of food. This winter I composed a property portfolio with this springs plans for property management. We looked at possible planting locations of our plots. This spring I then did a soil sample of each of these locations and also researched the soil type to match it with what plants would grow best for the given plot locations.   After gaining a conditional use permit from the USDA for planting on WRP enrolled property, we were ready to start improving habitat this spring.

We decided to dedicate one and a half acres to an upland food plot, primarily for birds however it will also be utilized by deer and other wildlife. Our upland plot would consist of sunflowers, dwarf sorghum, millet, and soybeans. The sunflowers, millet and sorghum will provide birds with plenty of seeds to feed on this fall,  and the soybean will provide forage for deer late summer and early fall, and the sorghum provides a good food source late fall and early winter for deer.

The upland food plot designed to attract birds along with other wildlife

The next food plot would be a half acre along a two track access trail along the pine plantation. This plot would consist of clover and alfalfa. We wanted a crop that could handle mild foot and vehicle traffic since it was the location of a two track access road, we also wanted to provide a high quality forage during the spring and summer months.

The two track road that will be planted with clover

 The last plot was going to be a half acre planted to the north west of the pine plantation. This plot is going to consist of winter peas and oats. We wanted to provide wildlife a good summer food source that would also provide quality forage into the fall. By planning ahead we devised a plan to provide the inhabitants on John’s property a supplemental food source almost year round.

The pea and oat plot; the trees are left in the plot to provide additional cover

With summer quickly knocking on our door we needed to get going on establish our plots. However this year we were constantly battling a very wet spring. A good guide to know when to plant is to watch your local farmers. Farmers are professionals and they not only feed their family but America on the crops they grow. When I see farmers beginning to spray or plant I know I need to be doing the same.

The author preparing the seed bed of his food plot for planting

 We applied two applications of spray to kill off and to assist in weed control on our plots. After spraying and waiting at least two weeks for the spray to take effect we began to break soil. Utilizing a friend’s tractor with a rear tine tiller we prepped our seed bed. Once we had a good seed bed all prepped on the three plots and a soil sample of each plot done, I was joined by my brother Clint and good friend Bryce Kish. With our ATV’s, spreaders, rollers and seed we began planting. After spreading all the seed for the given plots we followed up by dragging the seed to establish a good seed to soil contact using an old horse drawn spring harrow being pulled behind an ATV. 

Bryce and Josh loading the drop seed spreader with the upland plot seed

Food plots can be as cheap or as expensive as you want, based upon what your plot size, goals, and equipment needed. You can also drop a lot of money in fertilizer and lime. The key is to establish realistic goals based on what you can afford and what equipment you have available. Also make sure that you plant the proper crops to your soil type. You will also want to think outside the box when planning your habitat improvement on your property, don’t just think about planting food plots. You can also benefit wildlife by logging, thinning out around and fertilizing mast producing trees such as oaks and apple trees. Not only on this property did we plant food plots but we also trimmed around the oak trees that were already on the property to provide more sunlight to the trees and provide better growth.

Food plots can be planted with a limited amount of equipment

It is already the end of June and summer is here, the food plots are beginning to grow and we have already observed a higher amount of deer tracks and turkey sign utilizing the management that we have done this spring, the exciting part is that the plots are already seeing an increased amount of activity and they haven’t reached their full potential yet. With game cameras on each of the food plots, a mineral site, and several mock scrapes, we will be able to monitor the wildlife activity and be able to monitor the change and the improvements of wildlife habitat throughout this summer and fall. Each month I will be posting updates of the plots so you too can watch our successes as much as our failures this year. We will also be able to show you any problems with weed control and solutions that we use to help with this common problem.

Even with smaller blocks of property you can improve the quality of wildlife

The goals of these blogs are to be able to show you that we don’t own an elite thousand acres of prime hunting ground. Our properties are just like yours; gained through hard work and positive land owner interaction. We also want to show you what we are doing now for hunting this fall, and to provide you with ideas that you may be able to utilize on your own piece of hunting heaven.

 

 

Habitat Management: Using a Chainsaw to Create Bedding Cover for Your Deer

by Cody Altizer 3. March 2011 08:10
Cody Altizer

  During an afternoon hunt this past fall in Western Virginia, I was thinking about my offseason plans for the 2011 season.  Obviously, my mind sifted through the thoughts of food plotting, shed hunting, a little late season scouting and my favorite offseason activity, habitat management.  This includes planting and maintaining fruit trees, transplanting juvenile cedar trees to areas of more sunlight, and my favorite: using a chainsaw to manipulate the habitat to increase the appeal of my hunting property to deer and better my hunting for this fall.  This year, this meant creating a man made funnel to force deer by my stand before entering a food plot and adding some much needed bedding cover.

A chainsaw can be a bowhunter's best friend this time of year!

Last summer, I planted about an acre of Whitetail Institute’s Imperial Whitetail Clover and was excited to see how the deer would respond to it during the hunting season.  While I wasn’t able to hunt the food plot or surrounding areas last year, my brother had several productive hunts sitting about 30 yards inside the timber off the food plot.  Every afternoon he hunted that location, anywhere between 15 and 20 deer would make their way into the food plot to feed on the lush clover.  There was only one problem; the deer were entering the food plot wherever they felt like.  Since there were no natural funnels or pinch points surrounding the food plot, the deer weren’t forced to go anywhere.  While my brother did see several deer, he never once had one in bow range, a very frustrating feeling.

A couple weeks ago I remedied this problem by taking my chainsaw and felling several undesirable trees.   By piling them together in a strategic location I was able to make a funnel that will force deer by my stand before entering the food plot.  This may sound like cheating and I have heard several hunters mention this technique in the same breath as baiting; however, there are still several factors that must come into play before I am even presented with a shot opportunity.  First, I need a West or Northwest wind to prevent the deer from smelling me.  Also, there is no guarantee the deer will even succumb to the barrier that is my funnel.  What if they simply walk on the other side of my all my hard work and effort?  Ah, such is deer hunting!

On this white pine, I simply delimbed the tree about 6 feet up to help create my funnel without cutting down the entire tree.

Since I had the chainsaw with me I decided to improve the bedding on my property as well.   Again, by cutting trees that serve little benefit to wildlife, I was able to thicken up the understory and provide some great bedding cover; something my property really lacks.  This also opened up the timber to allow for more sunlight to penetrate the canopy that will result in fresh undergrowth.  This new growth provides a tender, nutritious food source that also creates added bedding cover as well.   

Several benefits can be attained when using a chainsaw on your hunting property.  For one, you can manipulate deer movement to better your chances of a shot.  Secondly, you can fell undesireable trees and let them lay to increase bedding cover.  Last but not least, carrying around a powerful chainsaw simply makes you look like a tough guy, wouldn't you agree?

Some knowledge of dendrology is helpful when cutting trees to better the habitat and hunting on your property.  It’s critical to only fell trees that offer little benefit to wildlife.  On my property, I cut yellow-poplars, black locusts, red maples, and Virginia pines.  Removing these trees eliminates competition for sunlight and nutrients which allows for healthier and fuller crowns of white, red, and black oaks and other important mast bearing trees.  Yellow-poplars and red maples are also prolific “stump-sprouters,” meaning that even when I cut the tree in late winter, several young saplings will sprout from the stump providing an attractive and nutritious spring food source.

A chainsaw can be a bowhunter’s best friend this time of year when it comes to preparing for another hunting season.  Manipulating deer movement and increasing bedding area are just a couple ways one can better their hunting for an upcoming season.  So, if you are worn out from shed hunting, but it’s still too cold to begin work on your food plots, then grab a chainsaw and better your chances of harvesting a mature buck this season today. 

 




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