Here it is, the last week of May and fawns should have dropped or if not, should be shortly. I spent a day last weekend at the property to mow the food plots. If you go outside right now, there are farmers raking hay they mowed within the last 24 hours. In West Central Indiana, the weather has been awesome for cutting and baling hay. The point I'm making is that farmers always target the three warm season national holidays to cut hay....Memorial Day, July 4th, and Labor Day. I target mowing at least a week earlier, and make my last cut in mid August to allow as much growth as possible going into the fall and winter.
As a result, I mowed the plots last week. The East Plots are in excellent shape with the clover and alfalfa at an 18" height. The browse pressure on these plots was greater than I ever remember in clover. As illustrated in the photos and the video, you can see clear sign where the deer are feeding. The tonnage these plots are providing is extensive for the small amount of tillage this involves, and I have yet to even fertilize this year due to a hectic schedule. One failure was not placing an utilization cage prior to the green-up. I would have loved to document the amount of growth within the cage compared to the height outside. I have rectified this going forward and now have a cage in place.
The Main Plots are somewhat of a disappointment. I frost seeded clover and chickory in the south section, which appears to be an epic failure. The North section has some growth, but far less than the East Plots. Hopefully by mowing, we release the seed that was frost seeded in March. If not, we will consider turning and replanting the south section. With what.....I have yet to decide. Either way, I will plant something that will provide both fall and winter forage.
One significant sign of deer activity in the East Plots I should have documented with photos and/or video was the presence of deer beds in the tall clover and alfalfa. There were deer beds everywhere indicating that the deer bed down while others are feeding. Some of these could even be fawn beds. Given I have not changed out camera cards the last three weeks, I have yet to get any fawns on video. Hopefully we have a good group this year and the extensive habitat work / hinge cutting will yield the cover they need for protection against the predators.
I have also included in the video and photos a status update on our Dunstan Chestnut Trees. All five planted have taken root and grown leaves. I can even see vertical growth within the tubes. I can't wait to see what these do as they become mature. This is just another diverse food source that will hold deer on the property.
Stay tuned this summer. I have a busy schedule and will do my best to continue updates on the blog as we prepare for the upcoming hunting season this fall.
A month has past since we first sprayed the GroPal Foliar Sea Mineral onto half of our WI Clover and Chickory plot. As you recall, our initial purpose of this little experiment was to determine 1.) Do deer prefer GroPal during browsing? 2.) Will GroPal improve plant life and increase growth? Today we tried to answer the second goal by measuring plant growth between the GroPal and Non GroPal Clover and Chickory. You will have to excuse the camera work as I was filming alone today. My camera crew was busy cutting the grass at home and cleaning up around the yard. Now that school is in session, they must do this on weekends.
The growth results are rather interesting. There was a visible height difference within the utilization cages. The GroPal plants were roughly 2" taller than the plants not sprayed with GroPal. For the Clover, this was even more evident when we pulled samples and laid them out on the plywood we had staged in the field. I saw a visible difference in the health of the plants. They were greener and fresher looking than the non GroPal plants. We have not had any rain for a few days, so it is beginning to get a little dry. I can't say for certain that the GroPal plants had more moisture, but they just appeared to be healthier overall.
My application of GroPal is in addition to the normal soil amendments applied each spring. I have posted my soil sampling practices previously on this blog, so hopefully there are no more concerns about neglect of basic soil management practices as a part of this process.
I'm sure these results and this particular blog will resurface the debates and critical feedback regarding this experiment. Again, I am not sponsored by GroPal and I am only doing this to share what I have learned from this process. Please do not buy GroPal or any other product based solely on my personal results. Make an informed purchase and test it yourself. You may get different results. As far as my opinion, GroPal makes a difference. I think it can increase the tonnage in my plots, which could be huge once the snow starts flying. A couple of inches of growth might provide the carrying capacity my herd needs through late January and February.
Good luck with your plots, and I appreciate the time you have taken to review this blog and the attached video and photos below. Like us on Facebook and keep checking back for new entries.
Given some of the online conversations I have participated in, it has become clear to me that I haven't discussed the importance of soil testing and the application of amendments as required. Although it is the middle of the summer and my plots are growing well, I thought this would be a good time to discuss soil tests. I want to illustrate the fact I follow a diligent process to ensure good soils for growing forage.
I usually take my samples in February or early March. Although the weather often does not cooperate, there are ways to take the samples in the dead of winter. Once the samples are dried out, I package them up and submit to a certified lab. This year I used A&L Great Lakes Laboratories for the first time. I was please with how they do business (no they are not a sponsor). Attached are screen shots of my sample results from this year and the recommended fertilizer and micronutrients to be applied.
I have also attached an Excel Spreadsheet that shows the annual testing results and the graphs to help understand the performance of my soils. As you can see, the work in '12 helped improve the soils. The graphs show an up swing in all of the major categories: ph, N, K, and P. You can bank soil amendments as I did in '12. This reduced the amount of fertilizer and lime needed for planting this year. No lime was needed based on the results. The fertilizer applied was 200# per acre of DAP and 800# of Potash. For the micronutrients, I was not successful in finding a local agronomy plant that could provide these when needed. Given it was the middle of the spring and the farmers are bigger customers, I was happy I could get a wagon of DAP and Potash. Thus, the reason I tried the GroPal spray foliar. I wanted to improve the micronutrients.
If you are reading this, my guess is that you have already heard the news about how important soil testing is to a food plot program or any agricultural field. I can't express how important these results are to me each year. I almost get as excited about receiving my soil analysis results as pulling trail camera cards. It marks the beginning of a new season that eventually leads to October 1st. If you are not taking soil samples regularly, you are missing the boat. Keep reading up on this topic and start your program next winter. Below is a good report that may help.
Andy Hayes is a devoted husband and father of 4 kids living in West Central Indiana. Outside of his family, his passion is hunting whitetails. He does not claim to be a professional hunter, but simply wants to share what he learns during his quest to improve whitetail habitat and hunt mature bucks.