Nov 10, 2017
The Tall Mix
Another strategy to attract more deer
By: Steve Jordan
What is a tall mix? It is a mix of agricultural, horticultural and garden type varieties of plants that will have one thing in common. They grow tall. This mix could consist of some or all of the following plants:
- Sunflowers: I like a mixture of black oiled (the most common), the big Russians; a cluster plant with multiple smaller heads on one stalk, and the striped sunflower.
- Sorghum: Sorghum comes in different varieties. I like the tall variety that the farmers grow for silage.
- Sudan grass: This is another tall agricultural crop used for silage.
- Egyptian wheat: This is the tallest crop in the mix. Fourteen feet is very common when this mix is planted before June 30th in central Wisconsin. Egyptian wheat is in the sorghum family, but has a much more desired seed head for the birds than the tall sorghum.
- Corn: I like to mix different varieties and different maturity dates in the tall mix. Both field corn and sweet corn can be used in this mix. Corn is also the strongest plant in this mix and helps hold everybody else up.
- Soybeans: Both agricultural beans and forage beans can be used. Forage beans grow to five feet tall in the open and much taller when they are competing for sun with other tall crops.
- Tillage radish: This plant will grow to between 6-7 feet tall when competing for sun with this mix.
These are just some of the plants I've used in the past for my tall mix. Availability of some or all of these seeds is better some years than others. CHS Larsen Cooperative is going to have a tall mix available in the spring of 2018. See the advertisement on page __________ for more information.
Now that we know all about what can go into the tall mix, let's go over why and where we might want to plant it. If you have multiple acres for food plots, you could do one or more acres of tall mix to create a bedding area or holding area for deer, turkeys, rabbits, songbirds and more.
Another strategy is planting a travel corridor for you to get to and from your stand without being seen. You may want to leave the sunflower seeds out of the mix for a corridor because when you are walking to your stand, you don't want to be chasing noisy blue jays out of the strip alerting all of the animals to the fact that you are there.
My favorite way of using the tall mix is to plant about a fifteen foot wide strip bordering the woods and my food plot. Some of these strips are 200 yards long depending on the size of the woodlot and the food plot. Did you ever notice how in the early bow season that the deer come out early and often into the food plots and fields? As the colder weather and shorter days come, the deer tend to start moving later in the day to the fields. I think a lot of that movement has to do with visibility of other deer in the fields. Once the leaves fall off the underbrush and lower tree branches, the deer can see for 100 yards or better through the woods. They tend to hang back in the woods watching the fields or food plots. It seems to drive them crazy when they can't see into the food plots. They come right up into the tall mix and walk into it and peer out of the other side. If there are already deer there, they will walk right out. If there are not deer there, they usually hang out for a minute or so. You can gain 15-20 minutes of valuable shooting time with this setup, especially in the later months.
The tall mix is always a popular place for songbirds in the fall and all winter long. In some high deer density areas, the deer will eat every plant down to the ground by spring. So there is a good food value to this mix also.
Now, this mix is a little tricky to plant. The seed size is all over the map. You have the striped and Russian sunflower seeds that are huge. The corn and soybean seed size are in the middle range, along with the black oiled sunflowers. And then you have the sorghum, Sudan grass, and radish seeds, which are all pretty small. If I am just planting a strip 15 feet wide and 200 yards or less long, I simply mix all the seeds together and broadcast by hand. It's kind of like feeding the chickens in the old western movies. If you toss the seed up about ten feet high, they spread as they fall. Remember that every seed will grow into a big plant, so give them room to grow. Then disk them in to about 2 inches in depth and culti-pack.
If you have an acre or more to plant, here is what I do. If I am mixing my own seeds, I keep the large sunflower seeds separate. Those I broadcast by hand out in the field. If the field is huge, I just broadcast them on the perimeter and maybe a strip down the middle. Now, the rest of the mix can be put in a pull behind broadcaster. The reason for separating the big seeds out is the gap on the spreader would have to be so big to allow the big seeds to drop and in the process too many small seeds could escape and crowd the field. If you purchase a premixed bag of the tall mix, you can simply sift that mix with a ¼ inch screen to separate your large seeds.
If you really want to create a jungle, a good corn starter fertilizer will work at planting time. After the crop gets about one foot high and then again at three feet high, apply a granular nitrogen (46-0-0). Applying this (ideally before a rain) will give you the best results.
Consider the tall mix for your 2018 food plot strategy. The tall mix has proven to be successful and will always be included in my food plot plans. A good time to draw up your future food plot plans is while sitting in your deer stand.
Have a great rest of the fall!