Wildlife Mgnt.

This page is dedicated to wildlife management on private forestland

Summer and Fall Wildlife Food Plots

My daughter and I planted in the dust our fall plots this past week in hopes of getting some rain off of Hurricane Mathew.  We planted a mixture of seed giving the wildlife a variety of plants to browse on if we get rain before the seed is eaten up by the birds.
Below is a picture of our largest field we plant for wildlife being about three acres. 
This field has had some fall crops planted in strips: but we chose not to plow under the complete field.  You might ask why?  The reason is the field will continue to produce a high protein forage until frost.  This field was planted in sunn hemp as was most of our summer plantings.  Some places in the field the plant has gotten about ten feet tall.  Deer love this stuff.  They are slow to eat it the first year because the protein is so high in the plant but after they get started they will destroy small field plantings of this crop.  Below shows the results of deer eating the plant.
Some of the plants have been topped three times and have leafed back out to produce more forage.  The plants that are tall have had the leaves stripped off as far up the plant as the deer can reach.  
Why sunn hemp?  The leaves contain 28 to 30 percent protein where alfalfa is about 20 percent.  It is an annual crop and will not reseed because it is tropical so you don't have to worry about it becoming a weed.  It grows well in our soil types and because of its rapid growth it adds organic matter to the soil.  It is a legume that they claim will add 100 pounds of nitrogen, 10 pounds of phosphorus, and 80 pounds of potash to the acre.  
This is the second year for us to plant sunn hemp and we are very pleased with it. 

Before And After

Longleaf Pines

Here you will see some of the reasons prescribed fire is such a good tool in forest and wildlife management.  Not all the advantages will be discussed but you will see enough here on  the why of prescribed fire.
Below is a picture one week before a prescribed fire is used on this four year old, forty acre tract of longleaf pines.
And here is the result of the burn a week later.
Longleaf pines thrive in an area that is burned regularly .  This tract was burned two years ago so this is the second time fire has been used on these longleaf pines.
The fire removes competition from the stand and increases the browse for wildlife. I think a well managed stand of longleaf pines is as good as any food plot you can plant for deer and turkey.

Loblolly Pines

The next day we used a prescribed fire on this twenty-two year old stand of loblolly pines.  This fire was about 130 acres and it made the forth time this stand was prescribed burned for management.
This is what the stand looked like before the prescribed fire.  Notice how little there is for wildlife to eat.  The under growth has become woody and the forest floor has only pine straw.
After the prescribed fire most of the woody undergrowth is burned or killed.  This causes new tender growth to emerge in about a week and more sunlight can reach the forest floor to cause forest legumes to germinate.  This really increases the food available to wildlife.  
A prescribed burn program also protects the forest from wildfire.  If the weather turns off dry and wildfire becomes a problem then this stand is protected because a hot wildfire can't burn through this stand.
In just a few days this under-story will be as green as any place you can find in a forest.

Bobtail Buck

Abby got this buck this past weekend.  It was interesting to see this buck because we had pictures of it last year and this buck's rack had not grown much from the year before.  You might ask how we know it was the same buck?  Well, it is one of two bucks we had pictures of last year that had bobtails.  It was hard to tell if the tail had been broken off or if it was a deformed. We looked at it close while we were skinning it out. 
You can look at a previous post down this page to see what the buck looked like last year.  This is the first buck we harvested this year and we feel like he was one that needed to be taken out.

Lots of Small Bucks

This year we are seeing a large number of small bucks.  This is a very positive thing because we only harvest large and more mature bucks.  This is the deer we will be hunting in three to four years.  We are planting more high protein crops and are waiting to see what our results will be.  We have pictures of at least twelve different bucks that are very young and vary in size from spikes to small eight pointers.  Just about every where we place the camera we get at lest one picture of a small buck.

Where are the big ones from last year?  Well we didn't get a picture of a good buck until the middle of December last year.  They are much more experienced in when and where to stay until it gets closer to the rut.

Two Videos of Deer Eating Sunnhemp

This video is in the field below and you can see how it has changed in about a month and a half.


This is what sunnhemp looks like after deer have been eating it all summer.  This field actually got taller than some fields.  We have started bush-hogging and planting winter food-plots with cool season crops.  The sunnhemp really did well for us this first year of planting and we will differently plant it again next year.  With protein levels near 30% we can't plant anyting else that comes close to it.

Sunflowers (Wildlife Management)

We planted sunflowers mixed with brown-top millet and corn for the song birds, doves, quail and and turkeys.  We planted two different times and some have already started dropping seed.  We hope to hunt doves here when the season comes in this fall.

Summer Wildlife Food Plots

The last of our summer food plots have been planted.  I finished this acre and a half planting of soybeans and sunn hemp last week.  You know about soybeans but you might not know about Sunn Hemp. 
Sunn Hemp is a new crop we are trying this year in our food plots and as a summer cover crop.  The seed look like small butter-bean seed (above).  Everything I have read about it is positive:  1. It adds up to 5000 pounds of organic matter to the acre.  2. It can add up to 120 pounds of nitrogen to the acre, 10 pounds of phosphorus, and 80 pounds of potash.  3. It grows in a soil pH of 5-7.  4. The plant foliage has about 30% protein.  5. You will not have to add fertilizer to your fall plantings.  6. Deer love it.
This all sounded good to us so we decided to try it this year.
This field has grown to about 4 feet.  It is at our house and we are using it as a cover crop for strawberries.

In this field the tallest plant is about 12 inches.  It is in one of our wildlife openings.  We planted about an acre and a half here and the deer have mowed it down.  This is what most of our plots look like.  We will see what 30% protein will do for our deer herd. 

This plot has done the best.  In the winter we had seven different bucks photographed here.

Chufa for Turkeys

This has been a great winter food for the wild turkeys.  They love this more than anything I have found.  If you hunt, enjoy photography, or just enjoy watching the birds, I would recommend to you plants chufa in the summer and in the fall/winter the turkeys will come.
This field has been raked by the turkeys.  The picture was made in January.

You can tell how many turkeys have visited this field by the number of tracks on the ground.
You can see why they call it "Turkey Gold"!


This year we have seen something strange happening with some of our bucks on our property.  They are bob-tailed.  We saw the first one and thought maybe it had been shot off but now we have a picture of another and we don't have an answer for this occurrence.
First a picture of this one.  
Then a few weeks later we have this one.
I am wanting to talk to a wildlife biologist to see if they have an answer.

Longleaf Pines and Big Bucks

My brother harvested this deer yesterday off of our property.  It was a nine pointer, probably 3 1/2 years old with a 19 inch spread.  The significance of this harvest is where the deer came from.  
In the past two years every buck we have harvested has come from areas where we have planted longleaf pines.  Most of the bucks we have harvested in the last eight years since we started planting longleaf pines have come from where we planted these pines.  I can only speak for the Piedmont area of our state but I can definitely say this is a major benefit to planting longleaf pines in the range of the  Mountain Longleaf Pines.  
You don't hear of this much in the promotion of planting longleaf pines but it is a major reason we have started planting in harvested areas with longleaf pines, deer love the habitat.  I can't say for Coastal Longleaf but here in the Piedmont there is a definite advantage. The management of these trees produce most everything a deer wants and needs as far as habitat.

Transmission Powerlines

As a landowner you are lucky/unlucky if you have transmission power lines on your property; they are there and you have to make the best of them.  We use them as wildlife openings that can be managed to benefit wildlife.  We plant summer and winter food plots here.  We also help the power company by keeping the right-of-ways open for access by plowing or bush hogging.  This year (in the foreground) we bush hogged strips on part of the opening to allow for quail to come out and feed and then have access back into cover.  While I was working here I saw a hen quail and some of her young that was about 3/4 grown.
Part of the right-of-way openings were bush hogged completely for winter food plots such as the part you see here and on top of the hill. Turkeys will use these openings to catch insects and the deer will come in to eat the tender shoots after bush hogging.  There is a strip of chufa planted just past the tower that will be enjoyed by the turkeys this winter.


Today was the first time this doe had brought out her fawns.  They are a good size and should survive.  This doe had twins last year, one buck and one doe.  The buck was killed by a car about two months ago near our yard and the yearling doe is still hanging around the older doe.  I can identify this doe that showed up last fall because she has a white spot on her right loin.  As they left, the doe took the twins across the road and then across an open field into the woods at our pond.
I have not seen many twins this year and I think it is because coyotes have gotten one of the fawns in a pair.

Fall Food Plots

This field has standing crops left in it and the bush hogged lanes have been plowed lightly and planted with winter crops.
We are now working on fall food plots.  We have bush-hogged roads and some fields from all the summer growth.  We have placed our game cameras in different locations to see what we have in the area.  Things we have determined so far:  1. We have a problem with coyotes.    2. We have too many does and their numbers need to be reduced.
We are planting winter crops in openings with wheat, ryegrass, clover, turnips, and oats.  These are to add a supplement to the summer crops we have left in the fields.  There are many seed on the ground for the turkeys.  As our pines have grown we have a need to supplement some areas more than others because we only burn every 2 to 3 years on an area and we need more browse for the deer.

Deer Fawn Predators

Coyote scat.  We are having a problem with coyotes on our property.  We try to remove all we can but just last week we looked at pictures on our game cameras and one camera had the pictures of three different coyotes.  What is the significance of the above picture?  The scat has deer fawn hair all in it.  They are the number one predator for whitetail deer fawns.  We are going to have to up our pressure on these destructive coyotes.

Summer Food Plots

The grain sorghum is just starting to form heads and the sunflowers are seeding out.  The deer are still enjoying the soybeans that are down in this planting.
The deer are still eating the heads off the sunflowers.  There are not many left around the field near the edges. You can walk into this field and there are not many flowers for about 20 feet out into the field.

Bobwhite Quail

It was so good to hear two bobwhite quail whistling yesterday as we planted brown-top millet and chufa.  It is a sound many young people have never heard in the wild because of the loss of habitat for quail.  When I was growing up we had quail to eat about once a week for supper because my dad was a big quail hunter and the birds were easy to find, then a few years later that became a thing of the past.  
When quail were abundant the area was scattered with many small farms and nearly every farm had a small garden with small grains and legumes that provided for quail.  The farms were open and young birds were protected by the grasses in these fields.  I can actually remember my dad hunting here but later this farm was planted in loblolly pines.  I was blessed to buy this farm a few years ago and we cut most of the timber and planted it back in longleaf pines.  They are now eight years old and have been burned four times.  Each year we plant cool and warm season grasses to provide seed for wildlife.
If you want quail on your property, change the habitat.  I know I will not see quail back like they were as I was growing up but we are seeing them come back where we are not managing for longleaf pines.  
It was good to hear those two whistling yesterday!

Summer Wildlife Food Plots Are Doing Well
The above picture was taken a month after the picture below at the same food plot.  The summer rain has really made this field produce.  When you walk out in  the field it is amazing how the deer are using it.  With the protein of the sunflowers and soybeans being high the deer are getting the protein at a higher level than what they usually receive.  Will this have an effect on the size of the racks this year?  Only time will tell but we know the does will be in good shape as they are about ready to start dropping their fawns.  The grain sorghum is still a ways off from heading but in the fall there will be lots of grain for the deer and turkeys.
The key to planting soybeans for deer in our part of Alabama is planting enough soybeans.  This is one of our largest openings that we plant and we are going to see how the soybeans do in this field. 
It is not only planted in soybeans but we added sunflowers and grain sorghum.  The grain sorghum is a backup for this fall but it will provide some cool season seed if the sunflowers and soybeans are all eaten before they make it to seed.  It will be an interesting year watching the deer to see if we see any changes in the deer herd because of the increase in available protein for the deer.  The turkey will enjoy the grain sorghum this fall.  This field was well fertilized.
This field is planted in chufa and brown-top millet for the turkeys.  It also includes some soybeans and sunflowers which have, for the most part, been eaten by the deer.  In the background, we have corn planted  which will be left for fall and early winter energy for the deer.  The rain we are having this year has been great on our summer plots.

The Last of Our Summer Plantings

This is the mixture planted last week in two of our summer food plots for wildlife.  This is a mixture of chufa, soybeans, sunflowers and brown-top millet. I will be adding more pictures and telling you how this mixture worked for us in our fields.  This mixture was broadcast with a cyclone seeder.  We have one more large field to plant and it will be a mixture similar to this but no brown-top will be added.  

We plant more in the summer than we do in the fall for wildlife.  Many hunters, not wildlife managers, plant only in the fall.  This helps but the more food wildlife have the better condition they will be in.  Bucks need more protein in the spring and summer to develop better racks.  Many of these plantings made in the summer are also for winter food for wildlife.  The corn and grain sorghum left in the field provides energy that cool season grass food plots don't.  This field in the picture is being prepared for planting chufa.  If you have ever planted chufa you know that this becomes a field that wild turkey will use all year round.  It always amazes me how turkeys love chufa.    
We also plant soybeans and sunflowers besides the corn, chufa and grain sorghum.  The sunflowers are planted for birds of all kinds, from turkeys and quail to song birds.  The soybeans are mainly planted for the deer even though other animals will feed on them but most are eaten by the deer before beans are actually produced.  It is the increased amount of protein made available to the deer from the forage the reason we plant them.  Another thing we do that really helps the deer is to fertilize the kudzu we have growing on the property.  This also increases the amount of protein made available to the deer.  Bucks, does, and fawns benefit greatly from this increase in protein.  It is amazing how the deer will nearly kill the kudzu from grazing on it.  If you fertilize a spot and not fertilize the other you will be able to tell exactly where you applied the fertilizer.
With all this  being said, don't go and plant kudzu for wildlife management.  It is a pesky weed, hard to control but if you have it on your property and are managing for deer then make it work for you.  In our county in Alabama it is hard to find 40 acres that has no kudzu on it.

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