Fall Food Plots: The Key to Late-Season Successon Aug 5, 2012
But what if you do not have access to large equipment to plant corn or beans? Does this mean you cannot have a great late season plot? Absolutely not! As good as corn and beans are, there’s an additional forage that is my favorite when the weather gets frosty: Brassicas. Varieties such as turnips, sugar beets, radishes, forage rape, and kale are my favorites. They are dynamite during late season. They are also much easier and cheaper to plant than grains. They are also more drought tolerant than corn or beans, which is very important for those of us in the Midwest this year. Most of the Midwest is shrouded in a severe drought. As a result, many crops and food plots alike are in jeopardy of failing this year. My corn is two feet shorter than last year, with fewer and smaller ears, and my beans are doing terrible as well. Any crop success is reliant on rain, and this year, much of the country hasn't gotten much. My solution to this problem is brassicas, brassicas, and more brassicas. I plan on tilling under about one third of my corn and beans, and planting brassicas there this year, as well as all my usual brassica plots. As long as the plot gets at least one good rain soon after planting, brassicas can survive dry weather.
Brassicas can not only survive with little water, they can provide a huge amount of late season forage for your deer herd.
Brassicas are unique in the fact that they have a natural way to keep from being over-browsed before late season. From the time of planting (between July 15th -August 15th) until the first frost, the deer will hardly touch them. The leaves of brassicas are naturally very bitter at this time. It isn't until a hard frost (usually around thanksgiving in my area) hits the plants that they become attractive. The sugars are released into the leaves, and a feeding frenzy begins. The week following the first hard frost is the best time to hunt a brassica plot. Deer have a notorious sweet tooth, and the sweet forage will pull deer from all around once it matures. The deer will pound the plot hard until nothing but stems and stalks remain. Last year one of my brassica plots ½ an acre in size was knee high on thanksgiving. By December 10th there was nothing green left in the plot. But even when that happens the plot isn't finished. When it starts getting a bit colder, the deer will return and dig up the bulbs themselves and eat those until the plot is completely exhausted.
All that is needed for a successful plot is a few basic tools and a young willing helper!
Brassicas are also economical and easy to plant. Brassica seed is some of the cheapest seed you can buy. A 2 ½ pound bag, enough to plant a half acre or so, can be found for as little as $10. Not much when you consider that a 50 lb. Bag of seed corn (which plants 2 acres) that is roundup ready and resistant to pests can set you back from $100 to over $200. Planting Brassicas is simpler than grains as well. Till or disc the soil using whatever means you can. ATV discs or garden tillers work just fine. Put out fertilizer on top of the ground before working the ground. This way the fertilizer will be incorporated into the soil during discing. Broadcast the seed on top and then use a lawn roller or fence type drag or harrow to ensure seed to soil contact. After that, pray for rain. In 60 days you will have a lush green plot.
I usually start hunting my brassica plots at the first hard frost, beans during early December, and save the corn for late December and January when it really gets cold. No matter what variety you choose to plant, the principle is the same. Provide the deer with a food source when all others are exhausted. Do that and you will have a recipe for late season success.