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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.

Canned Venison - the most versatile way to process deer meat

by Keith Southworth 4. May 2011 16:46
Keith Southworth

We’ve all heard that you can’t judge a book by its cover and the same goes for canned venison. The first couple jars of canned venison that were given to me were re-gifted faster than you can say, “Oh, gross”.  Through some constant nagging and prodding from a friend, I eventually tried it just to silence him and found out that canned Venison doesn’t belong in the same category as a holiday fruitcake, in fact it is one of my favorite ways to enjoy deer meat now. I use it in stir fry, on noodles or rice or mix it up and make a sandwich spread with some mayo and relish or spread it on crackers. I even throw it in my chili. Actually canned venison is probably the most versatile way of processing deer meat.  

First let’s look at some of the benefits of canning venison.  No freezer space is needed. That may or may not be a big deal to you but if you lose your power for a few days I bet it will quickly become a big deal not to mention how nice it is to have meat on a camping trip when your cooler is filled with other things. It’s already cooked so heat it up if you want a warm meal and don’t if you’re in a hurry and just want it on crackers or bread. Venison is already one of the leanest red meats on the planet but canning will help separate what little fat it has from the meat. Open the jar and you can easily remove any fat because it’ll be separated out and resting on top of the meat.

Canned Venison is not a pretty sight.

Okay with that said, let’s be honest, the first time you look at a jar of canned venison, elk, moose or any meat including beef, you’re probably going to turn up your nose and say no thanks. That would be a huge mistake on your part. Let me take the place of my nagging friend and try to prod you into giving it a try. I just wish I could whip up a plate of beef tips (canned venison) with gravy on a bed of rice or noodles for you to taste. I can almost guarantee you’d love it and ask for more.  Canned venison really will taste like tender delicious beef tips.  I’m not sure what else I can say to convince you to give it a try. I practically had to be forced into trying it because I judged it on appearance only. 

Venison sandwich spread is just one of the many ways you can enjoy canned venison.

So if you’re open to the idea of canning venison, here’s what you’re going to need to get started, a knife and cutting board, some venison, canning jars, some salt or au jus concentrate and a pressure cooker. The pressure cooker is a must; you can’t get by with a regular water bath canner. That part is non-negotiable, it’s a safety thing.  For more information on the whys, go to the National Center for Home Food Preservation on the University of Georgia website. In short, you can’t reach the necessary temperatures (240º  - 250º) to safely preserve the meat without a pressure cooker. Before you go out and buy one, think about borrowing one from a friend that does some caning. They’ll be done canning long before you’re going to need to borrow it.  If you think this is something you’d like to do you could keep your eyes open for a pressure canner this summer at garage sales. You can buy replacement gaskets at most hardware stores.

The actual process is very pretty simple but there are guidelines that must be followed in order to have a safe finished product. Since water will boil lower temperatures at higher elevations, increased pressures are required to attain the safe temperature range. Make sure you know your elevation and refer to the table at the website I mentioned in the previous paragraph. My elevation in eastern Nebraska is just over 1,000 feet and I have a dial gauge on my canner so I must reach a minimum of 11 lbs in order to achieve the correct internal temperature. Its okay to exceed the prescribed pressure slightly but do not let this pressure drop below or you will have to reached the pressure again and restart your timer.

I cube my venison in small pieces approximately 1 to 1 ½” and cut off any visible fat or silver skin.  I add a teaspoon of au jus concentrate in the bottom of a clean canning jar that I just removed from the hot dish washer and pack the cubed pieces of raw venison tightly until there is only 1” of space to the top of the jar. In canning talk this is referred to as head space and it is one of the prescribed standards in this process so don’t ignore this step. Although I use au jus concentrate you can substitute with one teaspoon of salt or another spice or add nothing at all. Do not add any liquid such as water or broth.  I wipe the top of the jar with a clean towel and place the lid and band on tightly.

I add 3” inches of hot water to my pressure cooker (check the manufactures recommendations for your pressure cooker) and pre-heat to just under 140º. I then place the jars in the water leaving a small amount of space between the jars. Once all the jars are all positioned and the pressure cooker lid is secure, raise the temperature to high and leave the vent open. After the water begins to boil and a steady stream of steam is rapidly venting out of the vent hole in the top of the lid, start timer for 10 minutes.  This is to ensure all air pockets are removed from the inside of the pressure cooker. After ten minutes, carefully place the counterweight over the vent and watch the gauge rise as the pressure begins to build. Once the prescribed pressure is attained, regulate your heat to maintain this pressure and start a timer. 

Pint jars must be heated for 75 minutes and quart jars for 90 minutes. I personally don’t use quart jars for canned venison but if you have a larger family you may want to. After the time is up, turn off the heat and let it cool off naturally. This cooling part will take quite a while but it’s important that you do not try to speed the cooling process up. Even after the gauge shows zero pressure be careful when you remove the counterweight as there still could be a little pressure remaining. Carefully remove the jars without tilting them and place on a cooling rack and let them stand for 12 to 24 hours. Check each lid to make sure it sealed and if not, place the jar in the refrigerator and use this within a couple days.

If you want to get some practice in on this process before this fall, consider trying chicken or beef using the same process. I love canning chicken breast and using it for stir fry or chicken salad. If you’ve never canned before, after trying this and finding out how easy and fun it is you may want to give salsa making a try. I have a great recipe that I may share in an upcoming blog. In closing, please refer to the National Center for Home Food Preservation at the University of Georgia website to make sure you’re doing this correctly since safety is essential anytime you work with food. Good luck canning your venison!

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