Aug 31, 2016

Food Plot Seminars 

By: Steve Jordan 

I have been fortunate to be able to attend many food plot seminars over the years. My wife and I sell big game hunting trips for a rancher friend of ours just north of Meeker, CO. We load up a booth along with elk and mule deer mounts and travel to various states like Tennessee, Ohio, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin, working different sport shows.  At these shows, I check out all the food plot guys looking for any new variety of seeds or equipment that is new to me. I will look at the show schedules for the food plot seminars to see if there is something interesting coming up. 

Through the years, I have put on seminars on a variety of outdoor subjects. One of my favorite seminars to present is on attracting wood ducks to your property. Another seminar I have done a few times is on basic turkey hunting techniques. I've presented a few food plot seminars locally, but I also put one on for the National Wild Turkey Federation state convention and another for a sport show in Green Bay. 

Our local nature center, Mosquito Hill Nature Center (MHNC) asked me if I would do another food plot seminar this summer. We decided on July 9th from 1:00 to 4:00 in the afternoon. We will have an hour of classroom instruction at the Hill and then drive three miles to my property and will tour the various food plots for deer, ducks, turkeys, bees, butterflies and more. We will also be planting a fall food plot to give everyone a hand's on experience.  Everyone will have an opportunity to plant seeds. We will go over the different methods of planting, covering the seeds and culti-packing. The cost is $10.00 for adults or $8.00 for kids and Friends of Mosquito Hill members with all proceeds going to the Mosquito Hill Nature Center. We are limiting the attendance to 50. We would appreciate everyone signing up by July 2nd by calling the nature center at 920-779-6433 or by emailing MHNC at mary.swifka@outagamie.org. The address for MHNC is N3880 Rogers Rd., New London, WI 54961. 

Some topics we will cover are prepping the soil, timely mowing of clovers and alfalfa, fallow areas, issues and remedies of overgrazing, use of fertilizers/lime and inoculants, diversity in the plot, shooting lanes and more. 

Realizing that many of you will not be able to attend, I will pick a couple of topics and go into more detail for this article. 

One frequently asked question is how deep should I plant the seeds? At some seminars, or in some articles, they will have a chart set up with the most popular food plot seed varieties. This can be confusing. And what are the odds that you will have the chart with you at planting time? My method is much simpler. The biggest seeds that you will probably plant are corn, soybeans and sunflowers. These seeds can be planted up to two inches in depth. The next smallest seeds are probably one half the size of corn kernels.  These might be sugar beets, wheat, rye, buckwheat, etc. These seeds can be planted around an inch in depth. Now we're getting to your tiny seeds like turnips, canola, clover, alfalfa, chicory, etc. These little seeds will not have enough energy to sprout and go through much soil to reach the surface. These seeds are better left on the surface and lightly dragged or just compacted in. Just to recap, the bigger seeds have more stored energy to sprout through the soil than the little seeds, so the bigger seeds can be planted deeper. 

Another topic we will discuss is timely mowing of alfalfa and clovers. The goal for almost every plant is to mature and seed out. Alfalfa and clover are no exception. If you let them mature, the plant will be old and tough for the deer. One rule of thumb is when the alfalfa and most clover varieties start flowering, you can be mowing. A good way to mow is with your mower set high on the first pass. Then lower it down with the next pass having the goal of not smothering your plant with your clippings. On some food plots I maintain, the deer do all the mowing for us. These are high deer density areas. If you mow for the last time of the year in mid-August, you will have young fresh growth for the animals to enjoy well into November and possibly December. 

Any outdoor seminar that you attend, you will expect to pick up at least one new tip or two. I know I do. One idea that I will be sharing at my seminar is using alfalfa around the steep area of my shed where grass can't easily be maintained. This is better than planting an invasive species such as crown vetch and other non-native spreading plants. I hope to see some of you at our seminar.  Have a great growing season.