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DOUBLE-CROSS Introducing Page 18

Beware of the UGLY BULLIES Volume 18, No. 1

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Page 58 www.whitetailinstitute.com

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A M E SS AG E F R O M R AY S COT T Founder and President Whitetail Institute of North America

Whitetail Institute

Desserts for Deer

OFFICERS AND STAFF FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT: RAY SCOTT Vice President of Operations.........................Wilson Scott Vice President...........................................................Steve Scott Operations Manager: ...................................William Cousins Agronomist & Director of Forage Research...........................Wayne Hanna, Ph.D. Nutrition Director...................................................Brent Camp Deer Nutrition Specialist....................................Matt Harper National Sales Manager ..................................Mark Trudeau Wildlife Biologist...................................................Justin Moore Director of Special Projects ..............................Jon Cooner Whitetail News Senior Editor ...................Bart Landsverk Contributing Writers...Charles Alsheimer, Tom Fegely, Jim Casada, Brad Herndon, John Ozoga, Bill Winke, Monte Burch, R.G. Bernier, Bill Marchel, Judd Cooney, Michael Veine, Steve Bartylla , Dr. Carroll Johnson, III Product Consultants.............Jon Cooner, Brandon Self, John White, Frank Dees Dealer/Distributor Sales.....................................John Buhay, Greg Aston, Jon Cooner Accounting & Logistics ...................................Steffani Hood Office Manager...............................................Dawn McGough Internet Customer Service Manager.............Mary Jones Shipping Manager ................................................Marlin Swain Copy Editor ...............................................................Susan Scott Art Director .........................................................George Pudzis Advertising Director........Wade Atchley, Atchley Media

J

im Casada’s article on soft mast (pg. 10 ) made my mouth water with all his comparisons of deep-dish berry cobblers, cakes and other goodies to the glories of lush ripe persimmons, pears, apples, muscadine grapes and other soft mast deer enjoy in the wild. A confirmed sugar addict myself, it’s not hard to understand why deer love such treats. It reminds me of one of the first lessons we learned at the Institute many years ago. You can have a great, well-researched, nutritious product, but if the deer won’t eat it, it’s essentially worthless. So along with top-quality nutrition, we make sure all our products are palatable (that’s scientific talk for good to eat) so that they can draw the deer as well as hold and grow them. Jim’s article about deer’s weakness for sweets really got me to thinking about human diets as well as deer diets. It seems we share some things in common, and serious deer managers realized long ago that the Institute was well ahead of the curve. Today’s headlines scream about the effects of salt, sugar and empty calories and what they’re doing to the health of our society. We’ve been concerned about the same thing for the

Imperial Whitetail

past 20 years, referring to the empty-calorie, low quality supplements and products available for deer for so many years. Junk food for deer. The end result of junk food and empty calories is tragic. As a nation we deal with obesity and chronic illness such as diabetes and heart disease. We see the effects even more quickly in the deer population with scrawny bodies, pathetic, misshapen antlers and weak, undernourished fawns. In other words, a sub-optimal deer herd with virtually no chance of producing trophyclass bucks. We are indeed fortunate as hunters and managers to be able to influence deer diet and environment through management and good nutrition. And, we can appreciate even more the role the Whitetail Institute has played over the last 20 years to improve the quality of whitetail across the country. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a Whitetail Institute for humans? W

Ray Scott

DOUBLE-CROSS …Exclusive Blend of Imperial Whitetail Clover AND – Whitetail Institute Brassicas

If you are looking for a perennial product that features the proven benefits of the number one food plot planting in the world, Imperial Whitetail Clover, establishes quickly, produces massive tonnage in both the early and late seasons, and that can carry farther into the coldest months of the year, Imperial DOUBLE-CROSS is the answer you’ve been waiting for.

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“Deer Nutrition Is All We Do!’

WHITETAIL NEWS / Vol. 18, No. 1

NEW www.whitetailinstitute.com


New Imperial DOUBLECROSS Perennial Blend It’s Like Imperial Whitetail Clover on Steroids! By Institute Staff

T

he Whitetail Institute’s new Double-Cross forage blend combines the number one food-plot planting in the world, Imperial Whitetail Clover, with the proven superiority of Whitetail Institute forage brassicas, increasing early plot production and providing even more tonnage in the late season. www.whitetailinstitute.com

Any introduction of Double-Cross must start with the recognition of its basis, Imperial Whitetail Clover, the number-one food-plot planting in the world. Imperial Whitetail Clover is truly the gold standard by which all other deer-forage products are measured. Imperial Whitetail Clover contains Advantage and Insight clovers, which are the only clovers ever specifically bred for use in whitetail food plots. Because they were to be bred for deer, our research and development staff set very specific goals. These included early seedling establishment, heat and drought tolerance, palatability and, of course, high nutritional content and unsurpassed attractiveness to deer. Advantage and Insight clovers are available only in Whitetail Institute products. The other major component of Double-Cross is Whitetail Institute brassicas. Brassicas tend to fill a specific niche in that they grow quickly and become sweeter with the first frosts of fall. Once they are subjected to a hard frost, an enzyme in the plants converts starches in the plants to sugars, which makes them even more attractive. The Whitetail Institute has utilized brassicas since 1992 as a timing element in some of its blends, including its second longest-running product, Imperial No Plow. In that role, the brassicas serve as a timing element to complement the annual clovers and other forage varieties in the blend. Later, the Institute introduced its first all-brassica blend, Imperial Winter-Greens. Winter-Greens contains truly revolutionary brassica varieties. The brassicas in Winter-Greens are lettuce-types — brassicas with a vegetable genetic base. Tests of Winter-Greens have repeatedly confirmed that deer prefer them at least 4 to 1 over other brassica products. Like other Whitetail Institute products, new Double-Cross is specially formulated for deer. Double-Cross combines the proven perennial performance of Imperial Whitetail Clover with brassicas from No Plow and WinterGreens. The new blend establishes and grows even more quickly, produces more early tonnage and provides more late-season forage than either Imperial Clover or brassica alone. Early Season — First Fall: Double-Cross is designed to produce a variety of forage-plant options for your deer, and do it in a hurry. Like other Imperial perennial blends, Double-Cross contains Golden Jumpstart to help get your plot up and going quickly. By adding the Whitetail Institute’s proven brassicas, which are larger forage plants that also establish and grow quickly, your plot can have even more early forage available to your deer, Later-Season — First Fall and Winter: Later in the fall, the perennial clovers in Double-Cross provide a highly nutritious forage source. The perennial clovers in DOUBLE CROSS are designed to be cold-tolerant and can stay green and palatable even under the snow. The brassicas in DOUBLECROSS become even sweeter after the first frosts of fall, providing additional, highly nutritious food for deer with the onset of late fall and winter. Later, when

the weather turns cold, these brassicas become sweeter and can stand tall above the snow to provide an extremely attractive late-season food source. Like Imperial Whitetail Clover, Double Cross is highly nutritious. It provides high levels of protein, and with the addition of brassicas, Double-Cross also provides substantial levels of carbohydrates, which are critical to deer survival and health during the coldest months of winter. Perennial Performance: Once the brassicas do their job during the cold months of winter, the perennial part of the blend, Imperial Whitetail Clover, is ready before spring green up to provide deer with critical protein. The months just before spring green up are among the most nutritionally importantl, as deer recover from winter stress, bucks prepare to re-grow antlers, and does enter the later stages of pregnancy. If you have been looking for a perennial blend with the proven performance of Imperial Whitetail Clover, plus the increased early- and late-season tonnage of brassicas, Double-Cross is your answer. Double-Cross will draw and hold deer on your property, provide the nutrition needed to grow bigger bucks and improve the quality of your deer! Double-Cross should be planted in soils that are loam, light clay or heavier. One 4-pound bag of Double-Cross will plant up to 1/2 acre. One 25-pound bag of Double-Cross will plant up to 3 acres. Additional information is available at www.whitetailinstitute.com, or by calling the Institute’s consultants at (800) 688-3030. W

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WHITETAILINSTITUTESUCCESS founded on

20 YEARS OF RESEARCH By Matt Harper, Whitetail Institute Deer Nutritionist

W

hen I was much younger, I looked forward to my birthday. In fact, it was a neck-and-neck race between my birthday and Christmas morning. Now that I have aged, the excitement about turning a year older seems to have lost some of its luster. On my past couple of birthdays, I actually had to be reminded it was my birthday, and when I was reminded, I wished that I had been left in oblivion. On the other hand, I've found that anniversaries tend to follow a different emotional curve with the passing of

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WHITETAIL NEWS / Vol. 18, No. 1

time. With each new year comes an increasing appreciation for the accomplishment of reaching another milestone. This year, 2008, marks the 20th year the Whitetail Institute has been in the business of providing deer hunters with products they need to improve their deer herds and hunting experience. As we look back at those 20 years, one glaring consistency is the Institute's unwavering focus on research. Research is the backbone of the Whitetail Institute and one of the main reasons why a 20-year anniversary is possible.

From the beginning, research was the foundation of the philosophy behind the Whitetail Institute. Ray Scott, founder and president, was not only an avid fisherman but also an avid hunter. For as long as he could remember, Ray planted greenfields on his hunting property. This was a common practice used to supply a food source that would attract deer out of Southern pine plantations into an area where the cross-hairs or the broadhead could find its mark. Through the years, Ray noticed that deer seemed to

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prefer certain types of food sources. With that in mind, he went to the local feed-and-seed store and bought several types of forages and planted them on his property. During hunting season, he studied which fields consistently attracted the most deer. Though Ray didn’t realize it at the time, he was conducting a type of research that would later be used by the Institute to perform revolutionary research trials called “cafeteria testing.” What Ray discovered was that deer on his hunting property consistently preferred clover fields to other types of forage. With this newfound knowledge, Ray theorized that if clover was preferred over other forages, deer might prefer a certain species of clover over

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other clovers. Realizing that almost all clover varieties on the market were designed for domestic livestock, it became apparent to Ray that he would need to develop a new clover variety designed specifically for deer. Ray had never been one for doing things halfway, and his clover research method was no different. He sought the professional help of world-renowned plant geneticist Dr. Wiley Johnson, a plant genetics professor at Auburn University, who was recognized for developing many clover varieties still used in the agricultural market. His research was in the area was second to none. Ray approached Johnson with one simple goal: “Develop a clover variety to meet the specific needs of a whitetail deer.” Ray proposed to Johnson that the clover type should be not only the most attractive to deer but also contain a nutritional profile that would supply important nutrients needed for improved antler growth, increased body weights and overall deer-herd improvement. The idea that a forage should not only be attractive to deer but also of specific nutritional benefit to them was a new twist that had never been considered before. Until that time, forages had only been planted to attract deer. Now, Ray and Johnson were working on a product to both attract deer and provide them valuable,

specific nutrition. The idea of the food plot was born. To begin his research, Johnson started with over 100 clover varieties from all over the world, each containing characteristics and traits that applied to specific nutritional needs and browsing preferences of deer. Although each variety had favorable attributes, none combined all the deer-specific characteristics. Testing was conducted on each variety to identify characteristics such as nutrient content, hardiness, ease of establishment, cold and heat tolerance, disease and drought resistance, longevity and, of course, attractiveness to deer. Varieties that exhibited the best characteristics were crossbred to produce new strains. Those new clover types were then tested and evaluated based on the same criteria. The new clover types with the best traits were again crossbred. That procedure was repeated over seven years until a clover strain was eventually developed that contained all the traits ideal for deer food plots. The resulting clover type was easy to establish, drought and disease resistant, had an unsurpassed protein level year-round (up to 35%), and provided unequaled attractiveness to deer. It was called Advantage clover, and it became the first clover type genetically selected for deer. Johnson continued working on clover crossbreeding, and a few years after the introduction of Advantage, a new and even more drought-resistant clover type called Insight was developed. Advantage and Insight remain the main components in Imperial Whitetail Clover. To this day, no other food plot company has conducted such in-depth and innovative forage research, and Imperial Whitetail Clover remains the only clover food plot product specifically and geneti-

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cally developed for whitetail deer. Research at the Whitetail Institute is not limited to clover genetics. During the past 20 years, researchers at the Whitetail Institute have developed other revolutionary products, including Imperial Extreme, Imperial Alfa-Rack Plus and Cutting Edge Nutritional Products just to name a few. The basic philosophy of Whitetail Institute researchers is to identify a need in a deer nutritional program and then develop a product to fulfill that need, even if it seems impossible at the beginning. For example, researchers determined a need to develop a perennial product that would tolerate with as little as 15 inches of annual rain. The result was Imperial Extreme. Through the years, the Whitetail Institute has followed a research methodology that is unequaled in the deer-nutrition industry. The first step in this methodology is a meeting of the minds. Whitetail Institute management and staff get together with Institute researchers for a round-table discussion about foodplot forages, nutritional supplements and other needs of the deer-nutrition industry. There is probably no other group that has as vast an understanding of deer nutritional-management needs. The Whitetail Institute staff talks to tens of thousands of deer hunters each month, which puts their collective finger on the pulse of deer hunters and managers more than any other company. From that round-table meeting, a research plan is devised for the upcoming years. Research begins in small enclosure pens at the Institute. First, test products are tested in five 1- to 3acre pens with captive deer. This pen system lets researchers obtain data on deer and products being tested that would otherwise be impossible to obtain, for example intake amounts, detailed preference data

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WHITETAIL NEWS / Vol. 18, No. 1

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and many other important research specifics. Greenhouse and nursery fields are also utilized by researchers to determine test-forage characteristics such as drought and disease resistance, hardiness and nutritive value. These findings are then evaluated along with data collected from other sources such as the pens. Test products that pass the small-pen stage then go to semi-wild facilities for further trials. These semiwild enclosures of 80 acres or larger contain captive deer, but the enclosed habitat is more like wild deer habitat. Test products are again subjected to various testing methodologies, and additional data are collected. After the semi-wild enclosures, test products move on for testing on 100% wild deer. This stage lets researchers collect product test data under real-world conditions. I mentioned cafeteria testing, a procedure in which several forage varieties are planted in a specific and duplicated pattern to determine characteristics such as attractiveness, regrowth and total forage production. The wild deer areas allow for very large cafeteria-style testing, such as 40 or more varieties replicated four or more times in a field. After the wild deer test comes the final phase, which is conducted by field testers. Duplicated test samples are sent out across North America so that the test products can be evaluated in a broad range of real-life conditions. Up to 100 or more testers can be used in this phase, with all regions of whitetail country represented. These field testers are sent “blind” test products; specific content information is not disclosed so that the tests remain unbiased. The testers also receive detailed instructions and report forms for recording their findings and observations concerning the test

products. Once the Institute receives the report forms back from the testers, all data concerning each phase of testing is evaluated in detail. If a product does not get at least a 95 percent approval rating, it is put back on the proverbial drawing board. Although this process is intricate and time consuming, it also ensures that products released by the Whitetail Institute have been tested beyond reasonable expectations, giving consumers peace of mind that the product is the best that the Whitetail Institute can make it.

Research started the Whitetail Institute, and it remains the Institute’s top priority. When the bows and guns are put away for another year, researchers at the Whitetail Institute are still hard at work developing the best deer-nutrition products in the world. W “The 3D Leafy Bug-Master suit is really lightweight which makes my early season bow hunting trips to the woods a lot more enjoyable.” Dan Jones Dawson Springs, KY

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DEER DESSERTS… The Soft Mast Equation By Jim Casada Photos by the Author

W

ith the noteworthy exception of the rut, deer are largely what they eat. That is, there’s no better means to come to grips with whitetails — from a fat, old long-nosed doe to the buck of your dreams — than through understanding their food preferences and using them in your hunting strategies. Generally, hunters understand that. Visit any local sporting goods store or crossroads hangout before the season, and you will hear talk about what the mast crop looks like. Similarly, dedicated whitetail enthusi10

WHITETAIL NEWS / Vol. 18, No. 1

asts wisely spend considerable time, effort and often money in preparing food plots and plantings to attract and nurture deer. Yet for reasons I have never quite understood, one aspect of deer diet and the way hunters can use it is consistently overlooked. That's the food commonly called soft mast, although terms such as deer candy and whitetail sweets are also used. Just as most humans have a hankering for a scrumptious piece of homemade cake or a deep-dish berry cobbler, deer also like sweets in their diet. That food preference might be described as the soft-mast equation, and hunters who determine the solution to the equation through knowledge of nature and whereabouts of critical soft mast gain a meaningful edge. Here's a closer look at major soft-mast items, where to find them and how to use them to your advantage. MUSCADINES, SCUPPERNONGS AND OTHER WILD GRAPES Through much of the whitetail’s range — from Virginia and the Carolinas to Texas and the Midwest — wild grapes grow in abundance. Regionally, they go by various names, but the most widespread variety is probably the muscadine. It has been domesticated and is prized for use in jams, jellies and wine, as well as eating enjoyment straight from the vines. Scuppernongs are one type of muscadine, but there are also fox

grapes, possum grapes and more. Without exception, deer love them. Whether the grapes are in hedgerows, along ditch banks, in arbors near old homesteads or on massive vines climbing high into mature hardwoods, deer will dine on them when grapes ripen in early fall. The approach for savvy hunters is obvious. Find grapes, make mental notes on their location, do some pre-season scouting to see if they are bearing fruit, and plan to be on a stand in the area when grapes ripen. Most often, this occurs during archery season, although some grapes cling to vines until frost and do not begin to build the sugar content deer love until the weather turns chilly. PERSIMMONS If you have enjoyed persimmon pudding, nothing more needs to be said about the fruit’s appeal to deer. A properly made persimmon pudding is nectar of the gods, or as my grandfather used to say, “good enough to bring tears of pure joy to the eyes of a country boy.” Conversely, the taste of an unripe persimmon immediately redefines pucker power, as many city boys have learned the hard way from country cousins. When ripened to the utmost of sticky sweetness, though, these orange globes of goodness attract deer like a magnet. Of course, persimmons also attract foxes, raccoons, possums and bears, but rest assured, whitetails near persimmon trees know all about them. www.whitetailinstitute.com


Persimmons bear fruit when quite young, and unlike oaks, for example, they seldom fail to set a crop because of a late-spring freeze. However, you need to know persimmon trees come in male and female varieties, and a male persimmon will never bear fruit. Fortunately, the fruits, which sometimes get almost as large as a ping-pong ball, are easily spotted in late summer and early fall. It's a myth to suggest persimmons do not ripen until after the first hard frost. Ripening time usually coincides closely with the arrival of cold weather. After persimmons begin to drop from the trees, whitetails will visit them regularly to check out the dessert buffet. I’ve even seen deer bump and brush against trees to knock fruit to the ground. Incidentally, you might want to try something similar: giving a tree — provided it isn’t too big — a good shake before climbing into a nearby stand. Another aspect of persimmons worth remembering is that their fruit doesn't fall at once. In fact, wrinkled persimmons — so sweet that sugar seems bland by comparison — will sometimes cling to trees long after the last leaf has fallen and deer season is advanced. Persimmons are widespread trees that do well in overgrown fields, along pasture edges and fence rows, or anywhere other than mature woods, where a seed from deer or other animal droppings lands and takes root. You should factor them into your hunting equation. To me, persimmons rank No. 1 in the world of soft mast. PAWPAWS

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WHITETAIL NEWS

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paws must be the most overlooked. I remember the catchy lines of an old folk song: “Picking up pawpaws putting 'em in the basket, way down yonder in the pawpaw patch.” American history buffs might also know that pawpaw custard was George Washington’s favorite dessert. It ranks high among desserts for whitetails, too. Widespread but probably overlooked by 90 percent of deer hunters, pawpaws bloom early with a distinctive purple flower. Perhaps every other spring, they fall victim to frosts. When pawpaws “make,” though, the oblong fruits — faintly reminiscent of bananas — are a great delicacy for deer. On a small property I own, I have a permanent stand overlooking a patch of pawpaws that covers perhaps two acres. During years when they bear fruit, it's a great place to be in late September and early October. CRABAPPLES Because they stand out as a visual delight when in bloom, crabapples are easy to locate for deer hunters who also chase turkeys in spring. The crabapple’s small, acidic fruit doesn’t particularly appeal to humans, although with some sugar, it makes a marvelous jelly. That's not the case with deer, and they will dine on crabapples with delight. In fact, I've noticed that when hunting commercial apple orchards where occasional crabapples are planted as pollinators, deer like them as well as domestic fruits. DOMESTIC FRUITS These enter into the soft-mast equation in several ways. That's particularly true with pears and apples. Large orchards in whitetail country are an obvious focus, but that's not the only place you will find domestic fruits. It's common to find pear or apple trees in the middle of pastures, and even more commonly near long-abandoned farms and old homesteads. Also, in parts of the country, you can find apples growing wild in wide areas. No matter the origin of apple and pear trees, deer love them. I have both in my back yard, and one of the joys of eating my breakfast in early fall is watching whitetails do the same — enjoying fruit for breakfast. (I have enough cooking pears and apples that I can spare some). Beyond that, a stand near fruit trees or on travel routes leading to them offers promise as fruits ripen in autumn.

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WHITETAIL NEWS / Vol. 18, No. 1

Sticky sweet persimmons appeal to a deer’s sweet-tooth. www.whitetailinstitute.com


OTHER TYPES OF SOFT MAST Several other types of soft mast deserve at least passing mention. The long, sickle-shaped pods of a honey locust contain a sweet meat — hence the word honey — along with seeds deer eat. The honey locust holds its pods well into cold weather, offering a source of soft mast long after other treats have passed. It’s difficult to miss honey locust trees, thanks to their thorns and the way they stand out after leaf fall. You will frequently find them along fencerows or field edges. Another soft mast source is the fruit of the giant quince. Shaped somewhat like a pear and very tough skinned (meaning it lasts longer after falling), the giant quince flourishes in wet soil where apples, pears and persimmons won’t grow. Hardy in growth zones 4 through 8, it could be an ideal choice for low spots with a high water table. Early in the year, deer browse on the seeds or fruit of sumac berries. It's easy to find sumacs because their foliage is among the earliest to show color in fall, and their seed clusters stand out. This isn’t a major food source, however, deer use sumac where available. The same holds true for the French mulberry, also known as the American beautyberry. The odds are pretty good you won’t have all those soft-mast sources where you live and hunt, but chances are excellent some of them are present. By being observant, studying natural history as it relates to deer hunting and incorporating soft mast into your strategies, you can expand your whitetail horizons. And any serious deer hunter is constantly seeking ways to increase their odds of success. W

■ Soft Mast Agriculture >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Most deer hunters — even those interested in management— sometimes tend to think short-term. There’s nothing wrong with that; but food plots, seasonal plantings, fertilization, liming and the lot should be accompanied by an eye on the future. Just as Imperial perennials are designed to last for several years, it seems logical to include plantings of soft mast sources in your plan. There are many ways to do this: a few pear or apple trees in the middle of food plots, some persimmons along a main road or field edges, or maybe some fruit trees around a hunt camp or clubhouse. After all, plantings of sawtooth oaks and similar mast bearers are common. Likewise, planting soft mast trees and grapevines should follow. When it comes to the latter, you can cover long runners with a layer of soil, give them a year to root, and have a do-it-yourself source of grapevines with minimal effort and no cost.

Here are some additional tips: • Plant at least five persimmons so you’ll be sure to get male and female plants. Likewise, just because a tree is male (blooming repeatedly through two or three years but bearing no fruit), don’t cut it down. It’s a pollinator, and you need that. • Apple trees vary appreciably in fruit and the manner in which they drop it. The ideal types of trees for whitetails are those that drop fruit during an extended period. Similarly, by planting several varieties (sometimes called early-drop, mid-drop and late-drop), you can extend the length of apple availability from a week or two to a much longer period. • Pear trees are generally hardier than apples and deserve a role in any plan for plantings. • Root stocks make a difference, and folks interested in wildlife management can get seedlings that require little or no soil amendment. That means getting root stocks that are tolerant or viable in a wide range of soils.


Imperial Whitetail

Extreme…

Going Where No Perennial Has Gone Before By Jon Cooner

P

erhaps the most fertile source of the Whitetail Institute’s new product ideas is its system of field testers. When our field testers asked for a perennial food plot blend that would thrive in harsh conditions, the Institute, as always, was listening. The result was Imperial Whitetail Extreme. It truly goes where no other high-quality food plot perennial has gone before. 14

WHITETAIL NEWS / Vol. 18, No. 1

If we all had our way, we would all have rich, fertile soil in which to plant our food plots. We’d also receive at least thirty inches of rainfall per year — every year. Many field testers east of the Mississippi River do have the luxury of planting in such ideal conditions. But what if you’re in the mountainous West, for example, and receive only 15 inches of rainfall per year? Or, what if you’re in Texas and, in addition to low rainfall, your region suffers from sustained summer temperatures over 100 degrees? What if you are in an area of Canada or the Great Plains where the climate can be exceptionally cold and where soils are sometimes too fluffy to hold lime or soil pH well? And, what if you only have old strip-mine ground? If you’re in such a situation and have thought it impossible to grow a high-quality perennial forage for deer, Extreme is the answer. Extreme Tolerance of Low Rainfall: Extreme is exceptionally tolerant of low rainfall. Most perennial food plot blends require at least thirty inches of www.whitetailinstitute.com


rainfall every year to survive. Extreme will tolerate rainfall levels as little as half that â&#x20AC;&#x201D; only 15 inches per year. And it can stay green longer than other perennials, even during severe droughts. The past two summers here in Central Alabama have been the worst anyone at the Institute can remember. In fact, I remember having left the office one afternoon in late summer last year and noticing an unusual, but somehow familiar, smell in the air as I walked through the parking lot. It took me a few moments to realize that what I smelled was the scent of wet asphalt. I had not realized that it had showered while I was in the office, and the surface moisture had evaporated from the surface of the parking lot by the time I left work. It had been so long since Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d experienced the scent of wet asphalt that it took a few seconds for it to register. Thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s how long it had been since it had rained. Amazingly, our Extreme plots here in Alabama made it through the extraordinarily hot, dry conditions of the last two summers. And they didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t just survive â&#x20AC;&#x201D; they actually stayed above ground and green, even though many of our test-forage plots did not. The primary component of Extreme is the Instituteâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Persistâ&#x201E;˘ forb, a very durable, evergreen forage plant whose tap root can reach down as far as two to three feet for moisture. Extreme also includes hardy clover varieties and the Instituteâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s WINA-100 perennial forage chicory, a highly drought-resistant chicory variety specifically chosen for its attractiveness to deer. Extreme Tolerance of Low Soil pH: Another feature that contributes to Extremeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s success is its ability to grow in lighter soils that may be too fluffy or sandy to hold lime and soil pH well. Extreme, will tolerate soil pH as low as 5.4, a level unheard-of before Extreme was introduced. Aside from sunlight and water, soil pH is the single most important factor you can control to assure success from any forage planting. Most forages traditionally planted for deer require a soil pH of 6.5 or higher for optimum growth. Unfortunately for some planters, soil type can be a limiting factor to pH adjustment. Some soils can be too fluffy, sandy or otherwise light to hold lime well enough to allow it to raise soil pH to 6.5 or higher. In such cases, forages that require higher pH can suffer. Extreme will also perform well in soils that hold pH well, but its most valuable feature for areas with lighter soils is its ability to tolerate soil pH as low as 5.4, a level that simply will not sustain many other types of perennial forage plants.

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Extreme conditions call for extreme measures. And Imperial Whitetail Extreme is powerful enough to overcome the worst your property has to offer. Thanks to Extreme, dry, hot locations and soil with low pH no longer prohibit growing a successful perennial crop. Extreme requires only 15 inches of rainfall a year, is both heat and cold tolerant, and will grow well in pH levels as low as 5.4. Extreme is ideal for challenging growing conditions, but will also do great when conditions are kinder. An extreme response to extreme conditions.

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WHITETAIL NEWS

15


Extreme Nutrition: Extreme is a high-quality, protein-rich food source that provides necessary nutrition to deer on a year-round basis. With protein levels up to 30 percent, Extreme provides deer with the protein they need for rack production, doe lactation, fawn growth and overall herd health. Extreme Attraction: Let’s face it, though — in the final analysis, even a highly nutritious forage that will withstand harsh growing conditions is worthless unless it is highly attractive to deer. Extreme passes this test too — with flying colors. And like other Imperial blends, turkeys and other wildlife also find Extreme irresistible. During testing, even we were surprised at how incredibly attractive Extreme is to deer. In fact, our research showed that Extreme’s attractiveness even rivals that of the number-one food plot product in the world, Imperial Whitetail Clover. The biggest obstacle the Whitetail Institute has had to overcome with Extreme is in educating field testers on Extreme’s fertilizer requirements, which differ from the fertilizer requirements for Imperial Whitetail Clover, Chicory Plus and Alfa-Rack Plus. The biggest difference is in the amount of nitrogen fertilizer that should be used at planting, and also later when the forage is being maintained. Blended fertilizers have three numbers separated by dashes on the front of the bags. The first number represents the percentage of nitrogen in the fertilizer blend. Nitrogen is directly related to forage growth. Imperial Whitetail Clover, Chicory Plus, Alfa Rack Plus and Double-Cross are “nitrogen-fixing” blends, which means that once they are growing, they make enough nitrogen for their own needs. That’s why, absent a soil test, we recommend that these blends be fertilized

Because the perennials in Extreme are different from those in our other perennial blends, Extreme can add variety to other Imperial perennials in an overall food-plot system.

any crop, and then follow the recommendations on the soil test report. A proper soil test will tell you whether or not you really do need to add lime and nutrients to the soil before planting, and if so, exactly how much of each you need to add to get the best production from your forage crop. Be sure to use a proper soil test kit — one that actually sends soil off to a lab. High quality soil-test kits are available from the Whitetail Institute, County Agents, agricultural universities and most farmsupply stores. And be sure to note on the sample bag what crop you will be planting so that the lab can precisely tailor its recommendations for that crop. Whitetail Institute soil-test kits come with an instruction sheet that allows you to just check a block beside the Imperial blend you will be planting. Extreme is a proven winner. Just ask our Field Testers planting in the lower-rainfall areas of Texas or Idaho, the sandier soils of Central Florida, the lighter soils of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, or in strip-mine ground in Pennsylvania. But these aren’t the only Institute customers who are enjoying the spectacular benefits Extreme offers. Although Extreme is designed to tolerate poor conditions, it will also thrive in good growing conditions, even with rainfall levels up to sixty inches per year, as long as it’s planted in soils that drain well. In fact, many of our customers do plant Extreme even though they are not facing rough growing conditions. Because the perennials in Extreme are different from those in our other perennial blends, Extreme can add variety to other Imperial perennials in an overall foodplot system. And like Imperial Clover, Chicory Plus, Chic Magnet, Alfa-Rack Plus and Double-Cross, Extreme can last up to five years without replanting, providing vital protein to whitetails year after year. W

with a comparatively low-nitrogen fertilizer such as 624-24 at planting, and the lowest nitrogen fertilizer blend available, preferably a zero-nitrogen blend such as 0-20-20, later when the forage is being maintained. Extreme, however, is not a nitrogen-fixing blend. That means that higher nitrogen fertilizers should be used, both at planting and later when the forage is being maintained. That’s why, absent a soil test, we recommend that Extreme be fertilized at planting, and in later years when the forage is being maintained, with 400 pounds per acre of a higher nitrogen blended fertilizer such as 13-13-13 or 17-17-17. Also, unlike phosphorous and potassium, which are represented by the second and third numbers on blended fertilizer bags, nitrogen doesn’t last long once it is exposed to the environment, which is why you should fertilize Extreme again with 100 pounds per acre of a high-nitrogen fertilizer such as 33-0-0 a month or so after planting to further boost forage growth. The foregoing are general recommendations for folks who cannot obtain a soil test before preparing their seedbeds. When possible, the best course is always to obtain a proper soil analysis before planting

You get SIX Whitetail Institute products for ONLY $99 99 ■ Imperial Whitetail™ Clover — 1/2 acre planting (4 lbs.) ■ Imperial ALFA-RACK™ PLUS — 1/4 acre planting (3.75 lbs.) ■ Imperial EXTREME™ — 1/4 acre planting (5.6 lbs.) ■ Imperial CHICORY PLUS™ — 1/2 acre planting (3.5 lbs.) ■ Imperial N0-PLOW™ — 1/2 acre planting (9 lbs.) ■ Imperial WINTER-GREENS™ — 1/2 acre planting (3 lbs.) ■ Imperial DOUBLE-CROSS™ — 1/2 acre planting (4 lbs.)

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WHITETAIL NEWS / Vol. 18, No. 1

1-800-688-3030

OR MAIL YOUR ORDER TO:

Whitetail Institute 239 Whitetail Trail, Pintlala, AL 36043 FAX 334-286-9723

www.whitetailinstitute.com


INVASION OF THE

UGLY BULLIES… and the deterioration of the buck herd By Bill Winke Photos by the Author

O

ver the past several years, I have been watching the quality of the bucks on my farm deteriorate. When I bought it in 2002 and 2003, the farm held many whoppers. I felt like I had snuck into my mother's kitchen and stolen the cookie jar. I thought, "It couldn’t possibly be this good without anyone else noticing, could it?" And I had huge visions of how much better it would be in subsequent years when I started to manage the land.

Several things can cause a downturn in antler size, so it's difficult to pinpoint the true reason for a decline. However, the second trend I have watched — a herd with more old bucks — seems to shed a bit more light on the situation. The poor quality is not because I don’t have mature bucks and not because I don’t feed them (they have plenty of year-round nutrition). I have old bucks with scrubby antlers and few with good racks, despite a good age structure and lots of

year-round nutrition. That is an interesting puzzle. During much of this past season, I averaged seeing roughly one mature buck — those 4.5 years or older — per day. I saw 19 different bucks. That would normally be reason for celebration, but unfortunately, nearly all of them had small antlers, and some were disgustingly small — scoring less than 100 inches. I wasn’t hunting Florida. I was hunting Iowa. They were definitely not the kind of bucks I would hope to see at 4, 5 and 6 years old. DEFINING THE NO-CULL FACTOR During the past two years, I have run my problem past several hardcore deer hunters, outfitters and managers. We laugh about how the best bucks seem to show up in unmanaged settings and how we have succeeded in managing our way down to 140-inch deer. It seems the more we do to improve our farms, the smaller the mature bucks get. I’m sure that is not exactly the case, but it certainly feels that way. It's what Al Collins, owner of lots of land and successful deer manager from northern Indiana, calls the “no-cull factor.” Collins sees it on his farms all the time. Because hunters are not culling out mature bucks that have small antlers — there are some in every herd, regardless of where they are — such deer are taking over our farms. We have made these properties so attractive to deer that we have created havens. These nasty old bucks have all the food, cover and security they could want. Why would they leave? Additionally, I have read in several places and seen firsthand that when a buck gets older, his range shrinks.

This buck is a classic ugly bully the author shot last season. It lived on a certain ridge for the past three years and never got an inch bigger. He often intimidated betterantlered bucks. Removing this buck will make a hole that one of those bucks can occupy in the future.

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Now we have bucks we really don’t want, and they have no intention of leaving. We also have a limited number of precious either-sex tags with which to control them, and we don’t want to waste those tags on ugly bucks. The ugly ones live forever. They have no reason to leave. We have given them everything they want. They have all the does, and they dominate the local action. And we are stuck with their ugly butts. SCHOOL-YARD BULLIES When I was a child, my friends and I had to deal with several school-yard bullies when we went out for recess. For my part, I simply stayed away from them at all costs. My head was on a swivel; I was always trying to stay one step ahead of those thugs. We all avoided the part of the playground where the bullies held court. Granted, they were little bitty third-graders, but to an even smaller third-grader, they were thugs. They owned the schoolyard because they were aggressive and mean, and most of us were timid by comparison. I had no interest in confronting them to find out where that conflict might end. I was already pretty sure it would end with me in the nurse’s office with a bloody nose. Here is the question of the day: what do you think would have happened if there had been five or six bullies on the playground leaving very little room for the rest of us to play? Undoubtedly, I would have pressed the teacher daily to let me help her clean the chalkboard erasers rather than take a chance in the mean world outside. Hmm, could that equate to the whitetail woods? Now, back to this matter of ugly mature bucks. These old bucks have become dominant partly because of their age and attitude. When the rut occurs, they hold sway over a piece of real estate and keep all other breeding-age bucks away. They come swaggering out into a food plot each evening, ears pinned back, daring all the other bucks to put up or shut up. They make way like the parting of the Red Sea. Even nice young bucks with much better antlers get out of Dodge when the sheriff shows up. No other buck wants to mess with these bullies because they are mean and ornery — like that crusty old man behind the counter at the coffee shop who always growls at you when you walk in. Other bucks seem afraid to even move in their presence lest they attract too much attention. Younger 3- and 4-year-old bucks with better antlers move away from these areas during the rut because they are tired of being bullied and pushed around. If they weren’t leaving, I would see them. They are moving off the farm to places where I can’t protect them. The most likely result of this cycle of not culling bucks is an obvious shift toward a herd dominated by ugly bullies, which is what I am seeing. As mentioned, I saw 19 bucks I figured were 4.5 years or older this past season. Only two of them would have come close to 150 inches. I saw some bigger young bucks, but no large old bucks. THE PROBLEM WITH HIGH-GRADING My neighbor calls it “high-grading” — removing genetically superior deer before they reach maturity, leaving only the ugly to survive, thrive and live a long life. High-grading is at the heart of this ugly-bully problem for a couple of reasons. In managed settings, most hunters are actually trophy hunters. They give lip servwww.whitetailinstitute.com

ice to all the things they are supposed to say, but when it comes down to it, they do not intend to finish the season with their buck tag still in their pocket. They want a trophy for the wall. In most cases, they don’t consider how old the buck is when they shoot it — just how much bone he has on his head. As a result, they shoot the very best easy bucks in the herd. The easiest trophy is a genetically superior buck when he is still young. I have seen 135- to 150-inch 2-year olds on our farm, and 165- to 185-inch 3-year olds. These are genetic freaks — the Michael Jordans and Shaquille O’Neals of the deer woods. These are the deer we should protect so they can reach full maturity and express their potential, yet they are actually the bucks most “deer managers” devote their energy toward trying to kill. And compared to 4-year-old and older bucks, they are easy to kill. During the rut, these 2- and 3-year-old bucks cover a lot of ground during daylight, making them extremely vulnerable. To someone looking only for a good trophy rack, they are easy marks. In areas with intense trophy hunting pressure, where even normally casual hunters are trying to shoot good bucks, it's possible to almost exterminate the best young bucks each year. If you aren’t guilty of this, it's likely your neighbors are, so if these great young bucks are leaving your farm, they are likely getting whacked. Obviously, keeping them on your farm is the answer. It comes back to those ugly bullies again, but I'm getting ahead of myself. In unmanaged settings, hunters are often satisfied with shooting anything, and they don’t make a point of cherry-picking genetically superior bucks. If the overall pressure is modest, several bucks from all age classes (with various levels of genetic potential) will live another year. Hunters in these settings make no effort to distinguish between which buck lives based on antler size — only opportunity. They shoot what steps out. This is why a lot of great bucks seem to come from unmanaged areas in our part of the state. In most managed areas, genetically superior bucks are shot when they are 2 or 3, leaving the ugly bucks to live another year. It is not surprising the mature herd in these areas then favors poor antlers. It's one thing to understand what is happening but another to unravel and solve it. I remember one time listening to Harry Jacobson say that managing deer is easy, but managing people is the real challenge. No truer words have been spoken. GENETIC RAMIFICATIONS I’ve studied genetics in free-ranging deer. Every biologist I talked to said it is impossible for someone to affect the genetics of deer they hunt simply by killing a few cull bucks each year. Yet it is not unthinkable that on a wider scale, removing all — or nearly all — genetically superior bucks from the herd before they can pass on those genes to more than a handful of does could have long-term effects on the future quality of bucks. That is just a guess on my part, but it seems logical. Genetics can change mysteriously as they skip generations. An ugly buck can produce good-looking offspring. Jacobson had such a buck in his breeding program at Mississippi State when he taught there as a professor. That buck didn’t score more than 135 inches, yet he produced many exceptional offspring with much better antlers. So it's not so simple to say that by highVol. 18, No. 1 /

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grading we are causing a deterioration of our buck herd. However, there's no doubt it canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be helping matters, either. THE HUNTER'S VIEWPOINT Maybe the continued presence of these ugly bullies isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t directly causing a downward spiral in herd genetics, and maybe it is. However, there's no disputing that they are space eaters. They are taking up space on my farm that another buck would occupy, and it's likely that other buck would have better antlers. So the obvious conclusion as a serious deer manager is to make the appropriate change to my management plan. I need to remove as many of these bucks as I can as quickly as I can. Hopefully, I'll see them replaced by bucks with better genetics. As difficult as that might sound, it's actually the easy part of the equation. The second step is to talk my neighbors and their neighbors into passing up great young bucks. I would love to see more of them deciding to shoot or pass based on age rather than antler size. However, that would mean that some hunters accustomed to shooting a buck every year would have to occasionally end the season without filling a tag. Though I am friends with all of my neighbors, I suspect halfway through that mission I will feel like a salmon trying to run up Niagara Falls. HOW TO REMOVE THE BULLIES You can wait for them to die of old age, I guess, or you can tackle the problem head on. Ideally, you are early into your management experiment and can head

By improving habitat and increasing food supplies, deer managers turn properties into havens for whitetails. A mature, dominant buck is not likely to leave this ideal world on his own. If you want him out, you will have to remove him.

GAMESPY I-40

20

WHITETAIL NEWS / Vol. 18, No. 1

www.whitetailinstitute.com


the problem off before your property looks like mine. The answer is both simple and hard. You have to remove ugly bullies. Unfortunately, most deer hunters are not yet good enough at aging deer on the hoof that you can trust them to decide this for themselves. That is, you can’t turn a group of your buddies loose on your property and expect them to shoot your cull bucks while you save your tags for mature trophy deer. I tried it, letting a friend hunt my farm for management deer a few years ago, and he shot a 170-inch 9pointer. When I asked him about the hunt, before I saw the deer, he said he was sure the buck was at least 3.5 years old. That was not the right answer. He was supposed to shoot only old bucks (4.5 or older) that were never going to get bigger. I don’t need 170-inch deer killed. I can do that myself. I need 130-inch deer killed. It is really difficult for someone to pass up a great buck in the hopes of shooting something smaller but older if you're not there to keep him honest. The mind plays funny tricks when the eyes are fixed on a great buck. Buck fever can justify almost anything. You have two solutions. You shoot the cull bucks

instead of the mature trophies, or you sit with your management-buck hunters to make sure they shoot the right deer. CONCLUSION You need to remove ugly bullies. In fact, I took my own advice this past season and shot two of them. They were mature— 5 or 6 years old. Neither was a true monster by Iowa standards, but I was more than happy to shoot them and more than satisfied with the season when it ended. However, there are still several more I didn’t shoot. Some of them were much smaller, and next season, I'm going to have to figure out what to do with them. The only answer I've come up with is to invite my friends to get gun tags and sit with me in the tree. When a buck comes along that I don’t want to shoot but needs to be removed, I will cut my friends loose. They will know it's a management hunt, and everything should work smoothly. I’ll let you know how it turns out. W

The author’s friend Mike Sawyer took this mature buck from the author’s property this past season. Though it's a good buck, deer like this need to be removed to make room for younger deer — hopefully with large antlers — to take up residence. www.whitetailinstitute.com

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THE WHITETAIL INSTITUTE

DOES IT AGAIN… AND AGAIN By Bill Knight Photos by the Author

T

he 2007 bow season was very good to me. I can give the Whitetail Institute of North America much of the credit for this. I have planted Whitetail Institute products for at least the last 12 years and owe the Institute many thanks for helping me manage my father’s properties for quality bucks. The products and customer service the Whitetail Institute offers are second to none. Well, anyway, let me tell you about my 2007 bow season in Iowa and Missouri. On October 25, after an afternoon parent/teacher conference, I decided to hunt even though I’d only have about an hour on stand. I broke a few minor traffic laws on my way to my father’s property, and I chose a stand set about 75 yards off an Imperial Whitetail Clover field. As I entered the timber, I quickly realized I was too

late. Several deer were already on their way to the field and, of course, I spooked them. I kicked myself in the butt every step of the last 50 yards until I arrived at the tree stand. I settled into the stand and thought to myself, “At least it’s a nice evening, and I get to watch the sunset.” I was not expecting much activity after alerting all those deer. About 10 minutes before the end

of shooting light, I watched a young doe headed my way. The doe continued on her route and walked directly beneath my tree stand. When she was about 20 yards past me, I watched her come to an abrupt halt. I could tell she had spotted something. I hoped it was a big buck and immediately caught sight of a recently familiar deer. It was a 10-pointer I had pictures of on a trail camera, and I thought he’d score about 160 inches. The big 10 lowered his head and came after the young doe, who quickly retreated back towards me. This put the big boy within bow range. I had to twist behind me to grab my bow, and I believe this mature buck spotted the movement even though I moved as stealthily as I could. The buck stopped in his tracks on high alert. I thought to myself, “It’s now or never.” I assumed the buck would bolt if I attempted to draw my bow but knew I might never get a better shot at this him. The buck took a split-second to glance at the young doe, and that gave me the opportunity I needed to draw my bow. I settled the pin and released. I lost sight of my arrow in the dwindling daylight but heard a solid hit. The buck ran about 15 yards and, to my amazement, just stood there. He walked a few more yards and, again, just stood there. I knew I had not made the perfect shot and quietly left the stand after dark. The next morning at daybreak, a good friend, Mike Seay, and I took up the trail. We were soon joined by my parents. My mother found the beautiful buck not far from where we began. My mother is not a hunter, but I told her she would have to accompany me on any future deer-tracking jobs. Well, it was October 26, (my oldest son’s birthday), and I had one of the largest bucks I have ever taken with my bow (167-6/8) and a birthday party to prepare for. On November 21 I headed for another piece of prop-

Bill Knight, holding the deer’s rack, says the Whitetail Institute’s products are a big reason for his success. He shot a buck with his bow that scored 167-6/8-inches and one that scored 150-inches (pictured above) using a variety of the Institute’s products.

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Knight says that a little effort to plant a few plots can reap big-antlered rewards like this 167-6/8-inch Pope & Young.

erty that my father and uncle own in Missouri. I helped my father and uncle put in some Imperial Clover food plots on this property about five years ago, and I shot a great buck that year with my muzzleloader as he stood in the middle of one of these fields. The buck scored in the 140s. I had not been to the property since then. However, my uncle had continued to groom his Imperial Clover plots and had enlisted my help in getting some Pure Attraction planted this year. That evening it began to snow heavily. I love hunting on a fresh layer of snow and was really looking forward to getting out there in the morning. I had to leave the next afternoon for a Thanksgiving dinner in Iowa, but I planned to return that night and spend the rest of the week there. I awoke Thanksgiving morning to almost three inches of fresh snow. I chose a stand close to the Pure Attraction field. I was very excited to hunt this stand with a fresh layer of snow on the ground on Thanksgiving morning. How could it get any better? The stand is set on a ridgetop above the Pure Attraction plot. Between this stand and the food plot is the side hill of the ridge, which is so thick you cannot walk through it—a deer bedding paradise and sanctuary that my uncle has made off limits to hunting. Not a bad idea if you ask me, since you could not shoot an arrow two yards through that kind of brush anyway. At about 8:30 a.m. I glanced to my left and saw an incredible buck. He had long G2s and G3s with good width and average mass. He was about 100 yards from my stand. Then I noticed why he was there; along side him were two does that he was harassing. I did not waste any time and reached for my rattle call just as he followed the two does into the thick stuff. I gave my best buck-fight imitation for about 10 seconds. The big boy immediately emerged from the brush and stared in my direction intently; he was trying to find the fight. He was a gorgeous buck—the biggest I had seen on this farm since I don’t know when. It seemed like he stood there forever until he gave a single tail wag and committed. The big buck started trotting in my direction, and when he was about sixty yards from me, he cut back into the thick stuff, attempting to get down-wind. I started to panic. If he continued on www.whitetailinstitute.com

that heading he would get downwind of me before I could get a shot. Thank goodness he was as excited to find the fight as I was to get a shot. At about the 50-yard line he reemerged from the brush, cut back straight toward me and started angling to cut the wind again. I had a clear shot at 45 yards. I dialed my sight-pin to the 45-yard mark, drew my bow and made a horribly poor grunt with my mouth to stop the buck. He stopped, and I released the arrow. I watched the arrow strike the big buck dead zero behind the front shoulder. The big boy wheeled around and disappeared into the heavy brush. Even though no one else was around I had to give myself a very cheerful but quiet “YEAH!!!” I knew I had just made a perfect shot on the biggest buck I ever had the opportunity to harvest in Missouri. And believe it or not, even though I grew up on this farm, this was my first buck by bow in Missouri. To top it all off, my father and my oldest son had arrived at the old homestead, and I was able to share this excitement with them. After about one hour, my father, my uncle and a friend of mine, Loren, gathered to recover my buck. After a hard walk (and sometimes crawl) through the thick brush we found him. He was a big 9-point typical with a sticker point coming off the right G2. I could not have been more pleased. This buck just hit the 150-inch mark, but I would not have been any happier if he had been a world record. After the high-fives, handshakes, field dressing and pictures, I was still able to make Thanksgiving dinner in Iowa. I cannot stress enough how helpful and important Whitetail Institute products have been to my family and me in the harvesting and management of trophy bucks in Iowa and Missouri. With a little effort to plant a few food plots, the rewards are enormous. I will continue to be a loyal customer and will be passing this knowledge and loyalty on to my children. We also saw two other bucks as big or bigger than the one I killed hanging out near the Pure Attraction field. Having so many healthy big bucks on this farm was previously unheard of. I now believe it will be the “norm.” Thanks again Whitetail Institute for making quality products. W Vol. 18, No. 1 /

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STEPS YOU CAN’T SKIP

Attraction," Scott said. MUST I HAVE A SOIL TEST? I posed this question to Matt Harper, WINA’s deer nutritionist. “Too often, people don’t take a good representative sample of the field to be planted," he said. "They might take enough soil, but it’s usually only from one spot. I advise taking small samples from different spots.” After mixing the samples, send a composite sample in for testing. Be sure to use a soil-testing service that actually sends the soil to a lab. And remember to note on the package what forage you intended to plant so that the lab can give you the precise recommendations. On the Whitetail Institute soil-test form, you can just check the block beside the Imperial forage you intend to plant. High quality soil tests usually cost about $10 and are also available from County Agents, agricultural centers and universities, and most farmsupply stores. If you want to purchase a high quality soil-test kit from the Whitetail Institute, just call them at (800) 688-3030. Their consultants can also help you understand your soil test report, whether you purchased the kit from the Institute or not.

By Tom Fegely

HOW IMPORTANT IS LIME?

CAN THE SOIL BE TILLED? “Some forages are designed to grow well and attract deer with minimal ground preparation,” Scott said. “If 24

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you can’t till the soil for some reason, the Institute’s Imperial No Plow and Secret Spot are great options.” These products are excellent choices for sites with limited access on foot or by ATV. These high-protein annual blends respond to simply scattering the seed onequarter inch deep or less, or even spreading it on top of the ground. Both blends germinate quickly, even without tilling before planting. Secret Spot was created for those small clearings within the woods or tiny openings near a tree stand that deer will discover and visit regularly. DO YOU HAVE THE TIME? How much maintenance a plot will get may just be a matter of how much time you can afford. Your hunting lease might be a long drive from your food plot, which makes regular visits for spring-through-fall care difficult while juggling a work schedule. Even if you can’t perform spring forage maintenance, though, you still have excellent forage options. “If you want to just plant for fall and not have to do any spring maintenance, again, stick with an annual such as NoPlow or Secret Spot or go with Winter-Greens or Pure

Tom Fegely

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ore than one “food plot farmer” has stood on the edge of his sparse, green-tinted patch of deer forage and scratched his head, wondering what happened. Or what failed to happen. Why didn’t the rich, green food plot shown on the bag and in magazine or TV advertisements look like his meager, struggling handiwork? What went wrong? Or did he forget or misunderstand the role of some magical ingredient that was necessary for healthy growth? Take solace in the fact that all of us encounter food plot failures now and then. Learning from them is the key to turning things around. Whitetail Institute vice president Steve Scott is frequently faced with answering food plot and related forage questions at seminars and outdoor shows. I asked him for his thoughts on what might be the most frequently asked questions on getting your “deer garden” to grow. Call them steps you cannot skip.

Betty Lou Fegely

Folks in the North can plant their perennials in spring or fall, and folks in the South generally plant them in fall.

“Other than sunlight and water, proper soil pH is the most important thing you can control to assure success,” Scott said. “It is the most important aspect that you can control.” The soil test report lists your plot’s pH level. The closer it is to 7.0 (neutral) the better. If you need to add lime, disk it into the top few inches of soil if possible, and try to do it well in advance of planting if you can. It must be noted that lime treatment takes time and money. Several applications during a year or so may be needed to complete the job. Soil pH, and adjusting it

One of the initial steps in establishing a new food plot is taking a soil sample. www.whitetailinstitute.com


Betty Lou Fegely

No-Plow and Secret Spot are ideal products for establishing food plots in tough places.

when necessary, are extremely important with any forage planting. Alfalfas are especially dependent on soil pH, and you should not plant alfalfas or alfalfa-based forage products in soils with a pH lower than 6.5.

soil covering large seeds should be loose, do not cultipack the plot after planting large seeds.

DON’T TAKE PLANTING SHORTCUTS WHEN AND WHERE SHOULD I PLANT? Imperial perennials can be planted in the spring or in the fall in most areas. However, folks in the North usually plant their perennials in spring, and most folks in the South plant them in the fall. “Each perennial forage blend from the Whitetail Institute of North America is designed to work in a specific soil type and drainage,” Scott said. Imperial Whitetail Clover, Chicory PLUS and DoubleCross are the best choices for good soils that hold moisture—for example, bottom land, creek bottoms, river bottoms and flat spots with good soils. Alfa-Rack Plus is designed for good soils that drain well. The grazing alfalfas, chicory and clover in the blend have super drought tolerance. Extreme is the perennial to choose for plots with sandier or lighter soils that drain well. Planting dates vary depending on region. The planting dates and instructions for Imperial blends are on the back of the product bags, and they are also available on-line at www.whitetailinstitute.com. PLANTING AT THE CORRECT DEPTH Generally, small seeds, such as clovers for example, should be left on top of the seedbed and not covered. That means that you should get the seedbed as smooth as you can before you plant. If you use a cultipacker to smooth the seedbed before you plant small seeds, then roll the plot again with the cultipacker after you put the seed out. However, if you use a drag to smooth the seedbed, then put our your seed and do nothing further – do not cover small seeds. Large seeds such as oats or beans should be covered by an inch or less of loose soil when planted. Since the www.whitetailinstitute.com

Another step you can absolutely not skip is carefully following the planting instructions on the product bag. “If you think about it,” Steve Scott said, “the last thing a seed seller wants to do is to make planting instructions so detailed that it makes customers think it’s too much trouble to plant the products. “Even though there might be relatively few steps in the planting process, some people become intimidated and take shortcuts. That could be costly — each step is important.” MISCELLANEOUS MAINTENANCE As noted, properly maintaining your perennial forage will go a long way toward maximizing a food plot’s overall value and quality. “Once again, it is important to study in detail the maintenance instructions for the forage product being used,” Scott said. Such attention includes: • Controlling competitive grass in early spring when it has started to grow once again. • Mowing the top few inches off the plot a few times in spring and summer and maybe again in fall to stimulate new growth and help control weeds that rely on reseeding. • Fertilizing at least once a year according to the directions on the seed bag. • It may also be a good idea to top-dress your plots with 600 to 800 pounds of pelleted lime per acre every year or two. This may not raise soil pH as quickly, but it can help keep it from dropping as quickly over time. • In the North, consider over-seeding your plots with additional seed in spring, when the ground is thawing during the day and refreezing at night. This is referred to as “frost seeding.” W Vol. 18, No. 1 /

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The Story of Imperial Products –

Tried & True Management Tools for Quality Whitetails By Brad Herndon Photos by the Author

S

ome people are thinkers. Ray Scott is one such person. In the beginning, his mind revolved around big bass and how to catch them, so he formed the now-famous Bass Anglers Sportsman’s Society (B.A.S.S.). Awhile later, his creative thoughts turned toward whitetail deer in addition to big bass. He wanted his Alabama whitetails to be healthier and produce bigger racks. He made an obvious connection to nutrition and thus began his quest for the best forage product. A product specifically for deer. In 1986, Scott planted a food plot of wheat, rye and clover. Surprisingly, he discovered his whitetails loved the clover far better than wheat and rye. By doing some investigating, Scott discovered that Dr. Wiley Johnson, an agronomist and plant geneticist at nearby Auburn University, had developed the clover variety. Scott immediately hired Johnson as a consultant and assigned him a project: create a superior deer forage. In 1988, The Whitetail Institute of North America introduced Imperial Whitetail Clover. As the saying goes, the rest is history.

land — a trend that continues. Those hunters also started learning about strange terms such as pH, soil tests and more. Scott, by the way, was still observing, thinking and learning. There was always room for improvement. Soon, No-Plow was introduced for logging roads and other hard-to-access areas, and AlfaRack, a seed blend designed for good, well-drained soils, and nutritional supplements such as 30-06 and Cutting Edge hit the market. As I have documented, food plots using these nutritious products resulted in a significantly higher number of entries into the Pope & Young and Boone and Crocket record books. Even as that was occurring, though, other events troubled many food plot managers. For example, just because a quality-deer manager limed to get the best pH, used the proper type and amount of fertilizer, killed unwanted grass and weeds, and mowed his plots in a timely manner, it didn’t mean he would kill the deer he grew all summer. In fact, big roaming bucks were sometimes picked off by neighbors who had not invested any time or money.

A BREAKTHROUGH

CHANGING WITH THE TIMES

Although quality deer management was in its infancy in 1988, savvy deer hunters started latching onto the concept that the more quality forage deer consumed, the healthier they would be. Also, if bucks were allowed to reach 3.5 years or older, that added nutrition would result in more massive and higherscoring antlers. During the 1990s, more and more Imperial Whitetail Clover was planted, and eventually it became the norm among whitetail enthusiasts. Meanwhile, deer hunters started leasing or buying

At this time, as QDM managers were studying options regarding protecting trophy bucks, they also faced another problem — an explosion of deer numbers during the late 1990s and early 2000s. Hunters who used to enjoy the sight of does and fawns — and never shot one — were faced with making an aboutface and shooting lots of them. Some hunters recognized the importance of keeping deer numbers in check, but sadly, many others did not. As a result, over-browsing of native habitat

Pure Attraction is a great food source and attractant during fall and winter hunting seasons. Note the T planting design implemented in this plot by the author.

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Be sure to take plenty of time to determine the best locations in which to plant your food plots. If possible, always set them up to take advantage of the prevailing wind directions.

occurred in many regions. That, of course, put more pressure on food plots and added to the problem of bucks roaming more during the rut, post-rut and late seasons. About that time, many hunters recognized the importance of having a quality forage product that would serve as both a food source and attractant during the colder months of the year. This was doubly important because farming methods had changed, leaving little food in the fields after harvest. With finetuned modern farm machinery, shelling a corn field leaves almost no corn on the cob. Actually, there are few kernels even left in the field. Soybean fields are equally devoid of food. One alternative was to pay a farmer to leave an acre or so of corn or soybeans to hold deer on a lease or hunting area. I did that with success a few years ago, but with corn at $4/bushel and soybeans at $12/bushel today, that's no longer a consideration for most of us. RAY’S STILL THINKING Maybe you have encountered those problems. I have. Without question, as most of us have traveled the quality-deer-management road, we've found it to be a complex endeavor — one on which we must continue to change course, learning and experimenting. Well, the good news is that Scott is still thinking, and what he's added to the product line at Whitetail Institute can help solve several of those problems. Two recent products have helped reduce our roaming buck problem, and they also provide quality food sources for deer herds. I’m talking about Imperial Winter-Greens and Pure Attraction. Winter-Greens is a late-season brassica blend designed to hold and attract deer, especially during the late season. Deer will sometimes eat Winter-Greens before the first hard frost, but a hard frost triggers plant maturity, which results in even sweeter taste. As the late season progresses, a plot of Winter-Greens might look like a mine field. Deer love them. www.whitetailinstitute.com

Pure Attraction, with its blend of oats, winter peas and brassicas, provides whitetails with a wide variety of food they can use from early fall until deer seasons end. Before frost hits, deer love to eat the winter peas and oats. When that first hard freeze occurs, they will also tear up the brassicas in the blend. Obviously, this food source serves as a holding location for whitetails, and you can pull in neighboring deer when the weather gets brutal and good food sources are scarce. It’s no wonder many deer managers have planted these products with such great success. THE VERSATILITY OF ANNUALS On our lease, we have used Winter-Greens and Pure Attraction a lot and with great success. Many other hunters in my area, and throughout the country, have done likewise with these and other Imperial annual blends. One reason is that they’re so versatile. Many managers who already have perennial plots in place also plant annuals to target the unique needs of specific times of the year. Imperial perennials are designed to last up to 5 years. Pure Attraction and Winter-Greens are annuals that can provide deer with even more new growth in the early fall and abundant, high-carbohydrate food during the colder months of winter. Others elect to plant only annual blends. This can also be a good solution, for example, if you know you won’t have time to perform perennial maintenance next spring. Fall annuals such as Winter-Greens and Pure Attraction can provide deer with the forage they need for fall and winter. Annuals such as No Plow and Secret Spot can also be a great option if you can’t access your plot sites with equipment, or if you have a year-to-year lease and don’t want to plant a perennial on property that you may not have to hunt next year. If you rely solely on annuals for the fall and winter, be sure you also plant a high-protein annual for spring. Otherwise, the deer you hunt in the fall may not be as healthy, large or have antlers as big as they might have. Vol. 18, No. 1 /

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Protein is critical during the spring and summer for antler growth, doe pregnancy, fawn growth and herd health. Some hunters figure that whitetails can find enough native food and waste grain throughout spring and

summer to keep them fat and sassy. That reasoning is a big mistake, especially when you consider habitat destruction in many regions and clean farming methods. My in-depth studies reveal that you can’t beat having food plots that provide nutrition for deer most of

■ Tips for Good Management >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Forage Selection: Your first step is to choose the correct forage for your specific intended application. Factors include whether or not you can perform ground tillage and spring maintenance, and the soil type and drainage of the plot site. Planting: Planting Imperial forages is easy. Each step in the instructions is important. Don’t cut corners. Soil test to determine soil pH and nutrient levels. Add lime to raise the pH of soils with a pH lower than 6.5. Fertilize immediately before planting. If no soil test is available, follow the published instructions. Note that fertilizer requirements are not the same for all forages. Plant the forage seeds at the correct depth. Pure Attraction and Power Plant are “large-seed” blends, which should be covered under an inch or less of loose soil. All other Imperial forages are “small-seed,” blends which should never be covered when planted. Brassicas and Alfalfas: Brassica has a tendency to become diseased with fungus or insect larvae if planted repeatedly in the same plot without a break. Disease is usually apparent through a general stand decline. To diagnose such problems, pull up some of the plants and look at the roots. They should appear firm and fleshy. Roots appearing spindly, soft or mushy may indicate disease. A new alfalfa planting should never be made into or immediately following a prior alfalfa crop due to alfalfa’s “autotoxicity” characteristic. Mature alfalfa plants drop a toxin from their leaves and crown to inhibit the growth of new alfalfa seedlings, a trait alfalfa developed as a low-moisture plant to prevent competition for water. If a new brassica or alfalfa planting is planned for a site already planted in the same forage, the soil should be cleaned out first. Remove the existing forage plants in spring. Then, the site can be tilled a few times during the spring and summer but left fallow until fall. Another option is to plant entirely different plant species in the site during the spring and summer. Imperial PowerPlant is an excellent rotation choice for both brassica and alfalfa.

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the year. That keeps stress to a minimum, and can, at times, mean the difference between life and death. This past year in Indiana and several other states, epizootic hemorrhagic disease killed many deer. In southern Indiana, where I live, 75 percent to 80 percent of deer in some areas were killed by EHD. It is, incidentally, a disease some deer will survive, and I think a healthy whitetail has a greater chance of surviving than a nutritionally stressed deer. Likewise, Indiana hunters are finding that many of the older bucks they kill are crawling with ticks. Ten years ago in Indiana, that was unheard of. Again, when the deer herd explodes, and the quantity and quality of the food diminishes, whitetails are nutritionally weakened, resulting in an infestation of ticks. This has been fairly well documented but little understood by many hunters. So bite the bullet, and plant food plot products that will feed deer throughout the year. ONE PLAN THAT WORKS On one of our leases, my wife, Carol, and I have three food plots planted for wildlife. These plots are about one-half mile apart, and each plot is located to let us enter and exit our stands without danger of detection. These plots are on the eastern side of our lease, and they can be hunted with most westerly winds. Some can he hunted with a south wind. Each plot is located in a Conservation Reserve Program field, and we can park on a road to the east and enter our stands by going through the CRP field — an area our deer rarely use. Usually, deer never know we have been there. We carefully planned these plot locations to give us every hunting advantage, and none

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If you want to make your wife happy, plant some Pure Attraction next fall. The happy hunter here is Kelly.

of the plots can be seen by people driving down the nearby road. You might find it interesting that we hunt the plots exclusively out of ground blinds. These are left up year-around and are in the open CRP fields. Deer and turkeys pay no attention to them. Each blind is placed at the edge of each food plot so no deer entering the plots come into the CRP field behind us, where they could wind us. It’s a perfect setup for archers and gun-hunters. It’s especially ideal for children and our grandchildren. We keep about half of the plots planted in Imperial Whitetail Clover and Imperial Extreme. Extreme has worked extremely well in our region because the land is hilly, rocky and well-drained. This past year was one of the worst droughts in Indiana history, and Extreme lasted all summer and fall, yet you can see by some of the pictures with this article that the Imperial Whitetail Clover and Pure Attraction performed amazingly well too. We are limited in the number of deer we can kill out of these plots only by the precarious condition of my back. PLOT DESIGN We are very careful about how we design our plots. Explaining the various plot designs would take another article, but one design we tried for the first time was the “T” design. We used the T-design for bow-hunting, and it worked perfectly. Here is how it's laid out: Our Rocky Top food plot is at the southern edge of the top of a gully that runs east and west. Our blind is on the eastern side of the plot, and most deer usually come out of the gully at the northern edge of the plot www.whitetailinstitute.com

to feed. On the southern end of this plot, I planted Pure Attraction. On the northern end, we have Extreme planted. That gives whitetails food for a long period. To make sure we got excellent bow shots as deer season progressed into fall and winter, we planted a strip of Pure Attraction about 10 feet wide that runs from the edge of the woods southward to the large Pure Attraction plot. I figured deer would come out of the woods to our north and feed south down the thin strip of Pure Attraction, which we located at 20 yards from the blind. The plan worked perfectly. Hourglass shapes also work well for food plots as do many other designs. Again, I must caution that plot location will, to a large extent, determine your success while hunting food plots, especially if you’re a bow-bender. If you have a plot in the middle of a tract of timber and deer come into it from every direction, it’s a pretty good bet you’ll get busted sometimes when you hunt it. Conversely, a narrow tract of timber that leads from a large woods to one of your food plots would be a high-odds stand location during any hunting season. Each year, we should re-evaluate our food plot strategies. If we plant only products that provide deer nutrition during late spring, summer and early fall, we'll likely lose some of the bucks we grow to neighboring hunters. Planting additional plots in Winter-Greens or Pure Attraction will quickly solve most of that problem. To grow the healthiest deer with the largest possible racks, keep deer numbers in check, and provide them with food throughout the year. I can assure you that your hard work will pay off in the late hunting seasons, just as it has for countless other quality-deer managers. W Vol. 18, No. 1 /

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an 18 inch spread. It tells me something that when he came to a food plot to refuel himself he came to the smallest of the four which was planted with Secret Spot and passed up the larger competitive food plots. I want to thank the biologists and everyone at The Whitetail Institute for making this possible for me this year and I am definitely sold on Whitetail Institute products and will never buy anything but Whitetail Institute products again. Thanks again for making this my best year yet. There are many more good years to come.

Lewis Hall Jr. — Arkansas We’ve been using Imperial Whitetail Clover and AlfaRack since September 2003. We’re killing more bucks in the 140-150 inch range and even 160+ class bucks! Body weights are way up too. Overall herd health has improved, and we’re seeing more does with triplets. I killed this buck this past November. He scored 158 after deductions and weighed 310 lbs.

lying in some Imperial Whitetail Clover. Thank you again.

Michael Oswald — Missouri

Wade Jandreau — Maine Well first off, I want to thank Whitetail Institute for their product. I got this buck on a No-Plow field, where does were feeding on November 7th. He is the biggest buck I ever shot in my life. He weighed 275 pounds dressed. One more thing I would like to add is to thank a real close friend of mine, Dale for letting me get this memorable buck on his property. Thank you.

Stacy Chester — Georgia Here is a picture of a deer that I killed in the Imperial Whitetail Clover. I recently went on a hunt to Northwest Oklahoma. I have been telling my friend about your

I planted 4 plots of Imperial Whitetail Clover and I see lots of turkeys and deer in them. Beautiful plots that stay green year round. Also PowerPlant grows thick and I see lots of deer and turkey on these plots too. I’ve enclosed a picture of Jeff Schanke with a 235 pound buck. Thanks Whitetail Institute and God Bless.

Matt Wastler — Missouri Stephen Ehret — Mississippi

product. So he gave it a try. He was drawing deer in from all around. I went down and hunted with him and here are the results. I killed this 10 point buck. It grossed 155 7/8. I have recently purchased a farm in Kentucky and have planted 9 acres of Imperial Clover and 3 acres of the Chicory PLUS. Thanks Whitetail Institute for the great products.

Chris Dean — Illinois I started out with one Imperial Whitetail Clover field. And now I have 6. I have more deer (very healthy deer) and I love the way the does devour the clover. We all know what happens in November when there are a lot of does in your food plots. Thank you very much for an honest product that any outdoorsman can appreciate. Here is a picture of a very healthy newborn fawn that is

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This is my second year of hunting. I have moved in the past 3 years from Louisiana to Mississippi. This year I planted food plots with the help of what the locals thought would be the deer's favorite. I planted 4 food plots — 3 in competitors (mistake) and one in Secret Spot by Whitetail Institute. The one planted in the Secret Spot was the smallest of the 4 - at the end of an old logging road. You know what I shot out of the competitive food plots??? You got it. A great big nothing. I live in south Mississippi and I can say I will never ever plant anything again except for Whitetail Institute products. This deer is an 11 point with

I would like to thank Whitetail Institute for their contribution in allowing me to harvest my largest buck thus far. In January 2006 my brother Mark, my good friend Chad Prater and I purchased this land in north central Missouri and immediately started a program which included 30-06 Mineral, Alfa Rack Plus, Imperial Whitetail Clover and the Cutting Edge Products. We immediately saw great things begin to happen on our land. It was very rewarding to know that we were contributing to improving the health of many species of

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year because of the plot and maybe someone will connect again. The buck was shot by Greg R.

Russ Bigus — Pennsylvania Donnie Oates — Maryland The property I own is a 50 acre piece in Preston County, West Virginia. Alfa-Rack does great on my thin soiled mountaintop property. I have seen and videoed many nice bucks in late summer. Enclosed is a picture of the 150 2/8 11-point I harvested October 14th last year. He has a 19 1/2” inside spread and 22” outside spread. He came to the edge of my Alfa-Rack plot on a very windy afternoon. I had videotaped him 2 weeks prior. The deer and turkey cannot resist the Alfa-Rack. Thanks Whitetail Institute for a great product.

animals on our property, including turkey and deer. As you can see from the pictures that I sent you your product help transform these deer into some real “bruisers”. Thanks again for your help.

Michael Marotta — New York Our 6 acre food plot of Imperial Whitetail Clover has become the main food source on our property. The antler growth on our deer has been great. I know for a fact that Whitetail Institute products work. I used them in New York and Pennsylvania. I’m sending a picture of one of the bucks that I’ve taken off of our property. He’s an 11 point and scored approximately 150 inches. I’m sure you heard this a thousand times, but I’m going to say it again Whitetail Institute products work. Thanks.

William Croner Jr. — Pennsylvania

Dennis Gilbert — Ohio Hi again, I sent you pictures of my daughter, Alexis,’ first deer, a big 8 point that was in Whitetail News Volume 16 #3. This is my monster shot out of the same stand on its way to our Alfa-Rack plot. It was awesome. I had a lot of fun shooting this baby. It scored 173 4/8” 14 points forked brow tines.

My name is Russ Bigus and I live in Northeastern PA. My family owns 50 acres in Sullivan County. I have been using your products since 2002 and have had a great crop each year. This year, I decided to try WinterGreens too. While I still use and maintain Imperial Whitetail Clover in other locations with great success, this story is about the attracting power of WinterGreens. In July, I consulted with a Whitetail Institute consultant and a plan was formulated. As is usually the case, frost hit early in September and the deer began to use the plot very frequently. My 7 year old daughter Alexis has been very involved in every aspect of Whitetail Management since she was born. She actually helped fertilize, lime, and seed the Winter-Greens plot with me. Alexis and I hung a double ladder stand near the plot and on many occasions we used that stand in the pre-season to watch many deer feed in the Wintergreens and witnessed a few nice bucks. The first day of Archery season was September 30th. I don’t know who was more excited, Alexis or me. Unfortunately, the weather was very cold and rainy. Against my better judgment I gave into Alexis’s begging and took her hunting in the rain. We arrived on stand with about 3 hours to hunt before nightfall. At about an hour before dark, we saw a nice 7 pointer and a 10 pointer. I immediately realized I should be taking things more seriously on this hunt. My guard was down in thinking Alexis would not be able to remain quiet and still, not to mention be able to sit tight for 3 hours! The 2 bucks fed in the Winter-Greens as we watched with our binoculars. At 1/2 hour before dark, Alexis said, “Daddy, here comes a shooter!” I watched a 9 pointer step out of the pine thicket about 30 yards away. Alexis said, “Dad, I think you should whack him.” I thought so too. However he began to feed further into the field and a shot opportunity was not available. Alexis asked if she could use her doe bleat and then the grunt tube. Normally this early in the season this is not something I would be doing. She insisted and I told her to give it a try. She bleated twice and got the bucks’ attention. She then made a series of grunts. The buck folded his ears back and began to paw the ground. After another series of grunts, the buck turned and walked 75 yards right into to bow range. An important note: Alexis was attempting to capture everything on video, however she mentioned it was more important to shoot the buck and needed her hands free to use her

Two years into the Imperial Whitetail Clover plot things were looking good. Daytime activity slowed because of major human activity very close by. Still signs and sightings were impressive. The eve before the first day of rifle season there were several bucks and some does in the plot. The eve of the first day of rifle season this buck (see photo) was heading in the general direction of the plot, probably to look for hot does. A mistake for him. The brutes will be bigger next www.whitetailinstitute.com

(Continued on page 56 Vol. 18, No. 1 /

WHITETAIL NEWS

31


T H E W E E D D O C TO R By W. Carroll Johnson, III, Ph.D., Agronomist and Weed Scientist

Weed or Seed — Which Came First?

T

his title brings back memories of my days as a graduate student and the answerless questions posed to me by my instructors and graduate committee. Questions of this type were not to see if a student could talk his way into a knot of contradictions, although I can personally attest to that happening. Rather, the question (in this case — the title) was intended to pique the reader’s interest in this fascinating aspect of weed ecology so that the lessons can be applied to managing weeds. Weeds are propagated by seed (annuals and perennials) or vegetative structures (perennials). For our purposes, I will limit the discussion to seeds, although much of the information is generally applicable to perennial weeds as well. Annual weeds flower and produce seed — lots of seed. A single pigweed can produce approximately 200,000 seeds. A large number of weeds in a food plot will produce astronomical numbers of seed. Some weeds produce large numbers of tiny seed (pigweeds, annual ragweed, lambsquarters, and crabgrass), while other species produce fewer seed that are bigger in size (morning glories, cocklebur, and sicklepod/coffeeweed). Some of the weed seed become diseased or fall victim to predation by insects or animals, while others leave the area transported by animals, wind, rainfall, or human activities. Of course, weed seed enter the area the same way — a constant flow in and out. Seed entering the soil profile may remain dormant for an extended period of time, until specific environmental conditions unlock the code for germination. The dormancy code is unique to the genetics of the weed species. Add agricultural practices and environmental conditions to the effects of the genetic code and it is easy to see why weed seed dormancy is a complicated topic.

is easy to see why weeds appear out of nowhere the minute a harrow slices into the soil.

Use whatever means are available to deplete the seedbank and prevent weeds from producing seed. This strategy pays in food plots by giving us a chance to control troublesome weeds, some of which have few control options.

DEPLETING WEED SEED The dormant weed seed are there in the soil — waiting for the correct temperature, oxygen level, and exposure to light. You can count on it. Based on what I previously outlined, it would be prudent to count on a weed explosion as soon as the site is cleared and tilled. An important strategy used to partially deplete numbers of viable weed seed is the use of stale seedbed tillage before planting. This is a proactive approach, initiated several weeks or months before seeding the forage. Shallow and thorough tillage with a disk harrow or power tiller simultaneously kills weed seedlings and stimulates

oxygen and light, can remain dormant for years. An extreme example is the discovery of viable lupine seed buried for 10,000 years in the permafrost of Yukon Territory in Canada. Of relevance to our interest, refer to Table 1 that lists viability of many common weed seeds in controlled burial experiments. It

TABLE 1. WEED SEED VIABILITY AFTER BURIAL IN NEBRASKA1 Years of burial when seed were exhumed 0

2

6

12

17

Germination (%) Barnyardgrass

17

58

9

2

0

Large crabgrass

12

45

1

0

0

Yellow foxtail

94

85

56

9

0

Cocklebur

10

59

37

0

1

Lambsquarters

28

35

14

16

7

Jimsonweed

93

93

88

95

90

WEEDS SHOWING UP IN UNEXPECTED PLACES

Redroot pigweed

66

38

9

7

1

To begin this discussion, consider land use patterns. It is safe to say that most of the hunting sites where food plots are apt to be located have been plowed and planted to crops at some point in the last 300 years (during which the North American continent was being settled). While a potential food plot site may be nestled in the middle of a mature forest, the site probably was not always a mature forest. During the process of old field succession from a cultivated field to a forest, the types and numbers of plants changed with each species producing seed and contributing to the seedbank. Of the weed seed produced, most are lost during the first four years. The surviving seed can move downward into the soil profile through naturally occurring cracks or fissures in the soil, animal burrows, or earthworm tunnels. Buried seed, in the absence of

Tall waterhemp

40

39

0

14

1

Velvetleaf

15

27

60

29

35

Common mullein

98

88

90

90

95

Musk thistle

44

36

23

0

0

Canada thistle

60

29

25

17

7

Curly dock

76

93

94

73

61

Hemp dogbane

74

13

1

0

0

Horsenettle

0

7

6

4

5

Ivyleaf morning glory

69

10

6

6

3

1

Burnside, O. C., R. G. Wilson, S. Weisberg, and K. G. Hubbard. 1996. Seed longevity of 41 weed species buried 17 years in eastern and western Nebraska. Weed Sci. 44:74-86.

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WHITETAIL NEWS / Vol. 18, No. 1

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another flush of weeds. Repeating the process again in two weeks controls the emerged weeds and stimulates another batch to germinate. An aggressive program of this type repeated several times at two-week intervals greatly reduces the weed seedbank in the plow layer. The keys are aggressive tillage that pulverizes the soil and fastidiously adhering to the two-week intervals of repetition. Other production practices, such as incorporating lime and fertilizer, can be combined with the stale seedbed tillage to increase efficiency. The stale seedbed tillage approach is generally more effective in weed seed depletion than using fallow applications of glyphosate (Roundup and generics). Both fallow tillage and glyphosate kill weeds, but tillage stimulates another flush of weed emergence and glyphosate does not. After all, the intent of this broad strategy is to deplete weed seed in the plow layer by using exhaustive germination. This does not mean that fallow applications of glyphosate should be shelved. Fallow applications of glyphosate are a key component in the management of perennial weeds such as briars, bramble, poison ivy, common bermudagrass, and quackgrass. A reasonable approach is to integrate a fallow glyphosate application with the fallow tillage regime. Neither approach to managing stale seedbeds is mutually exclusive. There are advocates of no-till food plots that use specialized grain drills to plant forages with minimal soil disturbance. In fact, farmers routinely over-seed dormant perennial forage grasses with cool-season grasses or clover to provide winter grazing for livestock. Advocates of no-till question the wisdom of using stale seedbed tillage to deplete the weed seedbank since tillage might stimulate even more weed seed than if left non-disturbed (non-tilled). I cannot argue their logic. However, research has shown that tillage is capable of burying 80 percent of the weed seed located near the soil surface, but returns only 38 percent back to the soil surface when tilled again. The point here is that more weed seed are buried than retrieved — a net reduction in weed seeds when tilled. In contrast, sustained no-till crop production causes a rapid buildup of viable weed seeds in the shallow layers of the soil, all primed for rapid germination and emergence. No-till food plots have a role where weed populations have been previously reduced by intensive weed management, but not in cases where food plots are located on “new ground.”

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PREVENTING WEED SEED PRODUCTION In order to make significant progress in depleting the weed seedbank, preventing weed seed production needs to be a high priority. Nebraska studies showed that intensive weed control for six seasons in corn, which included no weed seed production, reduced the number of weed seed in the soil by 98 percent. Weeds are not very forgiving because in the same study, it took only three years of poor weed control before weed seed numbers rebounded to within half of the original density. Many years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting a very successful ‘old school’ farmer in southeastern Georgia who understood the value of not allowing weeds to produce seed. For several decades, entire fields were scoured for weeds that escaped earlier control efforts before they went to seed. Fallow land was routinely tilled to prevent weeds from producing seed. The end result on his family farm was excellent weed control with few herbicide inputs. These principles have direct application in food plots. Use whatever means are available to deplete the seedbank and prevent weeds from producing seed. This strategy pays in food plots by giving us a chance to control troublesome weeds, some of which have few control options. If you are ever asked: Which came first the weed or the seed? Now you might know the answer—along with more information than you probably cared to know.

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With recent surges in the price of synthetic fertilizers, poultry litter is being touted as an alternative fertilizer source for food plots. Poultry litter, whether raw or composted, is indeed an excellent fertilizer. A recurring question is why weed problems are worse when poultry litter is used as a fertilizer. Casual comments suggest that weed seed are present in poultry litter. Research has shown that poultry litter is basically free of weed seed contaminants. However, poultry litter stimulates germination and emergence of weeds already present in the soil. The relationship between weeds and poultry litter will be discussed in detail in the next issue of The Whitetail News. W

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33


D E E R N U T R I T I O N N OT E S By Matt Harper, Whitetail Institute Deer Nutritionist

Beware of the Pitfalls of Summer Nutrition

S

ummer is a magical time filled with baseball, picnics, and weekends at the lake and fireworks on the 4th of July. It's a time for watermelon, corn on the cob and the great American pastimes of barbecue grilling and sprinkler dancing. Most folks are eager to see summer come and unhappy to see it go. If it weren't for the hunting season after summer, I would also dread the end of warm, sunny months. For the whitetail deer, summer is also a time of plenty. Fawns have been born and are busy keeping up with their mothers. Bucks are hanging out in bachelor groups, displaying the ever-growing structure of their velvet antlers. Food is normally ample, and the woods and forests have grown thick and green, providing large amounts of cover. There is another side of summer, however, that is often overlooked. Late summer can often be as stressful as late winter if rainfall is deficient, especially if it's coupled with deer overpopulation. Ticks, worms and other parasites are plentiful, sapping valuable nutrients and energy from deer. In this article, I will examine the intricacies of summer deer nutrition and provide valuable management tips for providing your deer the best summer nutrition. SUMMER Much like spring, summer must be divided into two distinct times: early and late. The early summer months are a time of plenty. The combination of temperature and moisture (in a typical year) provides a bounty of food options. Browse is at its peak, with tons of new leafy growth. Further, softmast-producing species, such as raspberry and wild cherry, give deer consumptive opportunities everywhere. Food plots are in full production, with high levels of nutrients and the fastest growth rates of the year. The second phase of summer is not quite as abundant. Mid- to late summer is often drier and with higher temperatures, slowing much of the vegetation growth. As temperatures increase and moisture decreases, vegetation goes into a protective mode, slowing growth and, in worst-case scenarios, going semi-dormant. Most of the readily available browse is gone, and deer begin to focus on the most heat- and drought-resistant forage they can find. Summer is also a time for parasites. Hundreds of ticks invade the coat of deer and insert themselves into the skin, sucking blood and robbing the deer of much-needed nutrients. Blood transportation is vital for antler growth and lactation, as blood is the vehicle that transports nutrients to velvet antlers and mammary glands. Internal parasites also take their toll on deer health. Worms that have entered the system during spring are maturing and eating the nutrients intended for deer. Further,

34

WHITETAIL NEWS / Vol. 18, No. 1

many diseases become apparent during summers, such as bluetongue and epizootic hemorrhagic disease.

microbial fermentation in the rumen, meaning bucks need access to high-quality forages. NUTRITIONAL MANAGEMENT FOR SUMMER

NUTRITIONAL NEEDS Doe nutrition in summer revolves around lactation. In many cases, does are nursing twins or possibly triplets, which causes a tremendous nutritional strain on the doe. In June and July, does are supplying nearly all the food for fawns, as a fawn's ruminant stomach structure does not develop until at least three months after birth. Until then, the esophageal groove bypasses milk and other food consumed past the undeveloped rumen and to the abomasum. During that time, does require high levels of energy, protein and minerals. Doe milk is very nutrient-dense, demanding a nutrient-dense diet. Protein requirements are as high as 18 percent during this time. Bucks are also at the peak of production, as their antlers are putting on as much as a half-inch or more per day. This antler growth requires extremely high levels of minerals, vitamins, energy and digestible protein. The protein requirement for bucks during this time is a minimum of 16 percent. Bucks are not only growing antlers but also building their body condition in preparation for the rigors of rut. To build body condition, bucks need high levels of energy, which is supplied by production of volatile fatty acids, such as propionic and butyric acid. VFA production comes mostly from

Because of the variances of early and late summer, your food plot program must take into account the aspects of both periods of summer. First, highprotein, highly digestible perennials such as Imperial Whitetail Clover, Chicory PLUS, Alfa-Rack Plus, Double-Cross or Extreme are needed to supply a consistent nutrient source throughout summer. In preparation for hotter and drier times, you can include a drought-resistant high-producing annual to your food plot program. Imperial PowerPlant is a blend of specifically selected lab-lab, forage peas, soybeans and structural plants, including sunflowers and sorghum. PowerPlant is incredibly drought resistant and produces enormous amounts of forage â&#x20AC;&#x201D; even during later summer months. Mineral and vitamin supplementation is vital during summer because does and bucks require the highest level of those nutrients during this period. Imperial 30-06, 30-06 Plus Protein and Cutting Edge Optimize are excellent products, each containing vital mineral and vitamins, formulated in precise amounts from the highest-quality ingredients. Which you use depends on the preference of your deer. Each are attractive to deer but use different types of attractants. Try a sample of each, and let the deer tell you which is best in your situation. W In June and July, does are supplying nearly all the food for fawns, as a fawn's ruminant stomach structure is not developed until at least three months after birth.

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Successful Whitetail Management Varies

Region By Region By Scott Bestul Photos by the Author

I

f all hunting land were created equal, growing food plots, creating habitat and managing deer would be as simple as reading a recipe. What worked perfectly in Alabama would shine in Minnesota, and a man in New York could tell his friend in Arkansas exactly what to do and not look the fool. Whitetails are whitetails, dirt is dirt, and trees and brush look pretty much the same no matter where you hang your stand. 36

WHITETAIL NEWS / Vol. 18, No. 1

None of that is true, of course, and that’s one reason the process is challenging and fun. Whitetail management is science and art, with a healthy dose of bygosh-and-by-golly gumption thrown in for good measure. With that in mind, I talked to four men — all loyal Whitetail Institute customers — from widely different regions and asked them to share their stories. Though the men are hardcore hunters and time-tested deer managers, their situations are unique. Perhaps their successes and mistakes will help you as you manage your property.

Lyle Stine: Heartland Haven Central Illinois is also Whitetail Central — a place

known for monster bucks and some of the richest farmland on Earth. But Lyle Stine, who co-owns and manages a 320-acre tract there, knows that managing deer property is a challenge — even in a region some hunters consider paradise. “It took us a few years to realize that one of the most important things to do is keep the deer in good shape through the winter,” he said. “There is food everywhere when the crops are up, but after the harvest it can get tough for deer. A while back, the alfalfa fields on an adjoining tract were idled when a new owner took over. The deer on that property just flocked to our food plots.” Stine’s property includes woods, tillable acres, Conservation Reserve Program land and a brushy 10acre tract that he cleared so that he could plant Whitetail Institute products. “I’ve been a field tester since 1989 and have planted www.whitetailinstitute.com


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just about everything,” he said. “It takes a lot of experimenting to find out what grows best and what the deer like. You can read all you want to about this stuff, but the only way to know what works and how to grow it is to get out there and do it yourself. I help Whitetail Institute with research by testing products for them before they are made available to the public. I’ve tried several [Whitetail Institute] products that failed, and I told them. Those products never saw a store shelf.” Late spring finds Stine and his family getting seed in the ground. “We’ve found that if it’s not planted by June 1 here, it’s very tough to get good germination, unless I’m planting a specific fall mixture,” he said. “And it’s important to match the type of seed you plant to the kind of soil you have. On our 10-acre plot, the western half is good, flat bottom soil. I plant Imperial Whitetail Clover there, along with strips of other things I’m experimenting with. The eastern half is sloped and drains well; there I put out Alfa-Rack Plus.” In addition to his wooded ground, Stine finds that CRP fields provide excellent bedding cover and an important food source. “We’re able to mow our CRP after August 1,” he said. “So I mow a strip around the edge, right up against the woods. There must be enough alfalfa or clover growing in there because that small strip really attracts deer in the first weeks of archery season. That’s an excellent time for us to shoot does, and we try to take 25 to 30 of them each year.” Stine emphasizes antlerless harvest for two principal reasons. “I’ve gotten to the point where I’m more concerned

with the health of the herd than I am with shooting a big buck,” he said. “I want the deer to be healthy and the herd to be in tune with the habitat. But shooting does means better buck hunting, too. The harder mature bucks have to work to breed, the more visible and active they’ll be. When you see a 180-inch buck trotting through a food plot in the middle of the day during the peak of the rut — which happened to us just last fall — it’s pretty exciting stuff.”

Dave McGlone: North Woods Magic Northern Michigan can be a harsh, unforgiving place for a whitetail. But that hasn’t stopped Dave McGlone from doing all he can to help his deer herd live up to its potential. “There are a lot of challenges up here,” he said. “Weather is one; we’ve had years when the winter was so tough it nearly wiped out our herd. And local hunting pressure is intense. There’s still a strong shootany-buck mentality that has been hard to change, and it is made tougher by the fact that there are a lot of small parcels of land. People are reluctant to pass on a buck, knowing that it could get shot on the next property.” McGlone said hunting attitudes are changing. In the meantime, his management practices have already improved hunting for him and his son, Nathan. “One of the first things I did that showed immediate results was using 30-06 Plus Protein mineral,” he said. “I start putting it down early, as soon as the snow goes

away. I want it down there as soon as the deer need it. If I can’t find a natural lick, I’ll create one in an area without any vegetation and sprinkle two-thirds of a bag on the ground. Then I really rake it in, so that you can’t see the mineral anymore. To finish, I pour the rest of the bag out on the ground. One thing I’ve learned is that the deer dictate where the lick is. If they don’t hit one I make, I just move over 50 feet and start again. I think something in the soil sometimes just doesn’t taste right to them because moving slightly can make a big difference.” Food plots also perform an important function in attracting deer to and holding them on the properties McGlone manages. “Basically, Imperial Clover and No-Plow are what grows best here, and I time my plantings according to the recommendations,” he said. “But after that, I go a little crazy. We also have some very poor, sandy, acidic soil here; you can lime the heck out of it and be back to low pH in two years. So I lime it as well as I can — it’s tough to get in my spots because they’re so remote — and disc it all in. A lot of locals, some of them farmers, see what I’m doing and laugh. But when they come back and see a beautiful, ankle-deep clover field full of deer, they ask me for advice.” Because of the heavily-wooded terrain, most of McGlone’s food plots are small. “I have 20 plots to work each year, and my biggest is just under four acres,” he said. “Most are in that 1/2- to one- acre range. We hire a dozer guy to just carve them out of the woods. It would be nice to have a nice, flat, straight field where you could bring in a big tractor, but I have a New Holland 30-horsepower and a heavy disc. You could do some of the work with an ATV, but you’d

The powerful appeal of Magnet Mix is now available in a handy, 4-part block. Just break apart the block and place the sections wherever you want the deer to gather. In addition to being enormously attractive to deer, the formula in the 4-Play block contains a combination of essential vitamins and minerals. Four times the attraction in the block; four times the deer activity on your property. Because of the Magnet Mix line’s incredible attractiveness, some states may consider it bait. Remember to check your local game laws before hunting over Magnet Mix products.

800-688-3030 whitetailinstitute.com The Whitetail Institute 239 Whitetail Trail Pintlala, AL 36043

Research = Results. 38

WHITETAIL NEWS / Vol. 18, No. 1

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have to make a million passes. And some of this ground is just wet and nasty. You need heavier gear to get the job done.”

Gary Chamlee: Southern Style Northern Alabama is textbook, Deep South whitetail country full of timbered ridges, gnarly sidehills and bottom fields that can grow a bumper crop ... or go bust as fast as you can break a sweat in August. That's where Gary Chamlee manages a deer herd on 700 acres containing 50 food plots. “I’m like most hunters; I’ll try any gimmick at least once,” Chamlee said with a laugh. “I’ve tried all the other food plot brands, but Whitetail Institute is what works here. It’s the buck-drawingest stuff I’ve ever seen. But like everything else, you have to do the right things to be successful.” And it should be noted Chamlee knows how to make seeds grow. Raised on a farm, he’s intimately familiar with the challenges of soil types and weather. “We can go four to six weeks in late summer without a drop of rain,” he said. “That’s why they recommend you not plant Imperial Whitetail Clover here in Alabama until early fall. But I can’t wait that long; I want those bachelor groups to find my place in early summer and stay there. I plant in late spring, so when those bucks find me, that clover is 10 to 12 inches tall. I’ve watched 22 bucks on one field during summer, so I guess it's working.” Like most successful food plotters, Chamlee is

Food plots perform an important function in attracting deer, like this fine buck, and holding them on properties.

Getting big bucks with big racks takes an exceptionally nutritious forage, and that can be hard to grow in hilly areas with lighter soils. Alfa-Rack Plus solves this problem. The extensive root structure of Alfa-Rack Plus allows you to grow this high-protein forage in areas that might otherwise be inhospitable to the foods deer like best. Alfa-Rack Plus includes our special blend of alfalfas, chicory, and Imperial Whitetail Clover. When the buck you are after is King of the Hill, make sure the hill is planted in AlfaRack Plus.

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Research = Results. 40

WHITETAIL NEWS / Vol. 18, No. 1

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Since itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s introduction in 1988, Imperial Whitetail Clover has become the standard by which other food plot products are judged. Imperial Whitetail Clover changed deer nutrition forever. Now after years of painstaking research, the Whitetail Institute has added newly developed Insight clover to our super-nutritious blend of clovers. Insight is genetically formulated specifically for whitetail deer. With the highest level of protein available, up to 35 %, Imperial Whitetail Clover provides optimal nutrition throughout the year for the entire herd. Whether your deer are producing and feeding their young or building antlers, Imperial Whitetail Clover provides them with the nutrients they need to do it well. And when the deer get what they need to maintain healthy herds and grow big healthy bucks with impressive racks, you increase your odds of bagging record-setting deer. For decades now, deer hunters all over North America have enjoyed the results of our innovative and aggressive approach to deer nutrition, and have planted over a million acres of Imperial Whitetail products. All those years of research continues to produce results â&#x20AC;&#x201C; in the fields and in the record books. We do the research. You see the results.

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meticulous about soil testing and preparation. “Growing up on a farm taught me the importance of lime,” he said. “It just makes plants sweeter. Right after that, I fertilize, then use a disc harrow to work that into the soil, and then level the field. I do have to mow weeds to keep them down. But I’ve learned to be careful and wait until right after a rain. I ruined a beautiful clover field once because I mowed it when it was hot and dry. Now I don’t care if the weeds get knee-high on me. I just wait for the rain, then go right out and mow, and that clover is just beautiful.” Hunting over greenfields is a popular tactic in Chamlee’s area, but he takes a different tack on the technique. “As soon as the guns go off, my neighbors complain that they don’t see deer on their food plots,” he said. “I don’t have that problem. I set up my greenfields next to dense cover and keep them skinny and 300 yards or longer. I set up my shooting houses so I can sneak in and out of them undetected, and I always hunt with the wind. Also, when my friends hunt here, they hunt with me; there’s no one just wandering around. That’s made a huge difference.” Chamlee’s results have been impressive. He’s placed at least six bucks in the state record books, and Alabama’s liberal limits have let him shoot many mature bucks. But the amiable deer manager is just as proud of the health of his deer herd. “I’ll shoot 10 deer a year that weigh more than 200 pounds, and that’s saying something around here,” he said. “It’s been a lot of fun for me, and I look forward to sharing it with my grandchildren. One of them killed his first deer with me last year, and that was special.”

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Because of the 30-06 products incredible attractiveness, some states may consider it bait. Remember to check your local game laws before hunting over the 30-06 site.

Research = Results. The Whitetail Institute

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Mark Rutledge: Keystone Capers

Scott Bestul, the author, smiles as he looks at this great bow-kill buck.

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Most hunters create food plots to feed deer or shoot them. Mark Rutledge had a much simpler goal when he started the practice on 320 acres in southwestern Pennsylvania. “I just wanted to see deer,” he said. “Our timber was so thick that I couldn’t assess our deer population. We cut an eight-acre field in the middle of the woods, more for observation than hunting purposes.” The food plot helped Rutledge realize that things needed to change. “We figured out our doe-to-buck ratio was about 20to-1,” he said. “It was just out of control. We got into the DMAP (Deer Management Assistance Program) so we could get more antlerless tags, and then we hammered the does. We try to harvest every mature doe we see, and the meat we can’t eat goes straight to a donation program. It’s made a world of difference. The ratio is down to close to 2-to-1 now, and we’ve been able to get a lot of bucks into the 3-1/2-year-old age class. Some of those bucks are pretty impressive.” Aggressive food plotting and timber management have improved nutrition and natural habitat, as well. “We do regular TSI (timber stand improvement) cuts, and that’s a huge benefit, both to the deer cover and as an income-generator,” Rutledge said. “The cornerstone of our food plot program is Imperial Whitetail Clover. It took a while to get the soil right, though. When we cleared the timber, the pH was in the low 5s, and it took a lot of lime to get it up to the mid 6s. I plant

it in April or August. We’ve tried frost-seeding, but the timing here has to be perfect. I used to mow to control weeds, but it could only do so much. Now we use Arrest or Slay, and it’s been perfect. I wait until the grasses and weeds get about four to six inches tall and then hit them. It just knocks them out and there’s no affect on the clover at all.” In addition to clover, Rutledge plants strips of other forages to supplement the whitetail diet. “I’ve had good success with Chicory Plus, which is really drought-tolerant, as well as PowerPlant,” he said. “And last year, I put in Winter-Greens, which also did well. A lot of people say you need long, skinny food plots in order to see deer during the day on them, but I think location is much more important. If the field can’t be observed from a road and is near thick cover, bucks will continue to feed during daylight hours. Human disturbance is responsible for bucks getting shy around food plots.” Despite the tremendous success his family has enjoyed, Rutledge has learned that deer management requires realistic expectations. “We’ve been able to produce really good 3-1/2-yearold bucks, but getting them beyond that level is very difficult,” he said. “There’s a tremendous amount of pressure on neighboring properties, and trespassing is an ongoing and frustrating problem. We had a really nice bunch of those bucks running around last fall, and they just got hammered. I’ve learned that it’s important to have realistic expectations in line with your property, not only where it exists but the size of it. That’s the only way to make sure you’re having fun.” W

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T

he Whitetail Institute’s Winter-Greens brassica blend has been on the market for two years. Has it been a success? Without question, the answer is a resounding, “Yes!” In fact, Winter-Greens is well on the way to dominating the brassica food-plot market. Let’s look at why. Actually, the reason is very simple. It’s because Winter-Greens is an incredibly superior forage product for deer. The brassicas in Winter-Greens are not standard brassica varieties. Instead, they are lettuce-type brassicas, which have a vegetable genetic base. These lettuce brassicas are vastly more tender, palatable and attractive to deer. In fact, tests of Winter-Greens alongside other brassica blends continue to show that deer prefer Winter-Greens 4 to 1.

Winter-Greens: The best of the brassicas By Jon Cooner

You may ask yourself, “How can that be? How can one all-brassica blend outperform other all-brassica products by 400%? Since they’re all brassicas, how can that be possible?“ If you’ve asked that question, you are assuming that all brassicas are the same. Let me assure you — they aren’t! Remember the old commercial on TV where the old guy says, “Motor oil is motor oil” just before his car’s engine blows up? I may be showing my age here, but I

remember it. The point of the commercial was that all motor oils are not the same — that some outperform others. The very same thing is true of brassicas — all brassicas are not the same, and the lettuce-types brassicas in Winter-Greens are truly preferred by deer. Anyone familiar with the history of the Whitetail Institute knows that the Institute is the leader of the food-plot industry. The thing that got it there, and that keeps it there, is the fundamental principle that gov-

Once again Research=Results at the Whitetail Institute. We are proud to introduce, Imperial Whitetail Winter-Greens, our new annual brassica blend designed specifically for late season food plot sources and hunting opportunities. Winter-Greens blend of brassica is extremely attractive, and during tests was preferred 4 to 1 over other brassica products. Winter-Greens stands tall and stays green, even in the coldest winter weather. The colder it gets the more sweet and attractive it becomes which creates perfect food plots for late season hunting. So this year plant our highly drought resistant Winter-Greens and give your deer a valuable source of nutrients for the winter season.

FREE Trial Offer! - Call 1-800-688-3030 Offer 1- only $ 8.95 (shipping and handling) FREE all new video or DVD / FREE Winter-Greens TM / FREE Imperial Clover TM FREE Chicory PLUS TM / FREE Extreme TM / FREE Alfa-Rack TM PLUS FREE N0-PlowTM (each sample plants 100 sq. ft.)

Offer 2- only $19.95 (shipping and handling) Same as Offer 1 PLUS FREE 30-06 TM Mineral (5 lbs.) FREE Cutting Edge TM Supplement (5 lbs.)

The Whitetail Institute 239 Whitetail Trail Pintlala, AL 36043 www.whitetailinstitute.com

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erns all the Institute’s research, development and testing of potential new products: the Whitetail Institute will never release a new product until it is absolutely certain that is the very best that they can make it. And be sure you understand this critical point: the Whitetail Institute doesn’t stop development and testing of a new product once it will outperform the competition. New products have to go farther — much farther. Every new product has to satisfy the Whitetail Institute that it is the best that the Institute can make, and that is a much higher standard! In fact, their commitment to testing new products against their own abilities rather than just against the competition is the single biggest reason for Winter-Greens’ superiority over competing products. Let’s look at why. The Whitetail Institute has been testing and marketing brassicas since the early 1990s. In fact, the Institute’s Imperial No-Plow blend was the first nationally branded product to include brassicas. When the Whitetail Institute started testing brassica varieties during the initial research-and-development stages of Winter-Greens, it started with a goal. That goal was to produce a forage blend that would be highly attractive to deer and provide forage even in the cold winter months. Protein is a critical nutrient for deer, but it is at its most important during spring and summer when bucks are re-growing antlers, does are in the later stages of pregnancy and, even later, producing milk for their fawns. In the fall and winter, though, protein is not nearly as important a nutritional element as it is during the spring and summer. That’s not to say Winter-Greens is not highly nutritious — it certainly is! In fact, the protein content of Winter-Greens is as high as 30% or higher. However, because Winter-Greens is designed for fall and winter when natural food sources are scarce and most food-plot plantings may be exhausted, the Institute’s main goals when developing Winter-Greens was to create a blend that would provide abundant, highly attractive forage for deer during the coldest winter months and be the most attractive brassica product available. Once the Institute identified its main goals for the new product, the research and development team moved on to the next stage of product development: www.whitetailinstitute.com

selecting candidate brassica varieties to test all across North America. These candidates included brassica varieties that were already well know and others that were not. This is the same approach the Institute has followed all the way back to the very first clover varieties its first Director of Forage Research, Dr. Wiley Johnson, selected for breeding Imperial Whitetail Clover. for breeding stock Dr. Johnson selected candidate clovers from the U.S. commodities market, Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere. This is the same approach the Institute took when selecting potential candidates for a new, all-brassica blend that would carry the Imperial name. They didn’t just start with well-known varieties for breeding-stock candidates. They looked at everything — varieties that were well-known, and others that weren’t. Choosing candidate brassica varieties that were well-known in the U.S. was pretty easy. Standard brassicas had been included in food-plot blends for years. In fact, the Institute tested these brassica varieties before they were even introduced to the food-plot market in North America, but it elected not to release an all-brassica blend at that time because the Institute’s early focus on research and development was to create a food-plot planting that would provide deer with year-round forage that was highly attractive and nutritious. The Institute’s early tests of standard brassicas quickly showed that they were not the best candidates to meet those goals because they were highly attractive to whitetails for only a brief period of the year, following the first hard frost of fall. Although standard brassicas did not meet the Whitetail Institute’s early research and development goals, the Institute did find a great use for them. Because they do become sweeter after the first frost of fall, standard brassicas have been used as a component in some of the Institute’s forage products ever since 1993, specifically those blends the Institute intentionally designed to provide deer with multiple plant varieties, each of which performs best at a different time during the life of the plot. The key to the overwhelming superiority of WinterGreens, though, lies in the other brassica varieties the Whitetail Institute gathered as test candidates — those that were not already well-known in North America. These included unique brassica types that, unlike standard brassicas, have a vegetable genetic base. These “lettuce-type” brassicas are so attractive to whitetails that it’s almost unfair to compare them to standardbrassica blends on the market today. Like all brassica varieties, the lettuce brassicas in Winter-Greens are also at their sweetest after the first hard frost of fall. However, the Whitetail Institute realized early on in the development and testing of the new Winter-Greens blend that deer often utilized Winter-Greens even earlier, and Field Testers all across North America continue to confirm that. Even here in Alabama, where temperatures often don’t dip below the freezing mark until November or even December, it has been found in many cases that deer heavily utilize Winter-Greens plots as early as September. That’s why in all honesty, the overwhelming success of Winter-Greens is not surprising. Like all forage blends that bear the name “Imperial Whitetail,” you can be assured that it contains the very best product the Whitetail Institute could make. That’s why the Whitetail Institute remains the industry leader. More information on Winter-Greens is available online at http://www.whitetailinstitute.com/products/wintergreens/. W

Features

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Dennis Shimp — Illinois I’m writing to add to your numerous accounts of the benefits of using the Imperial Whitetail Clover and 3006 Mineral supplements. I’m enclosing “proof” that reveals why I’m a “believer”. This deer will probably be my largest archery harvest of my life having scored 172 4/8 gross and just shy of 160 net (B&C). You will have to forgive the blood stains as in my excitement to take pictures I didn’t take time to “clean-up” for photos!

deer and much higher levels of deer activity. I took this 167 inch bruiser at 28 yards on my 82 acre farm.

Phillip Bennett — Michigan

Ken Southworth — Iowa Prior to using Imperial Whitetail Clover we saw mostly does on this farm until the rut. The big boys seemed to live elsewhere and only showed up for the rut. Now we are seeing big racks year-round, and many more than before! This season I’ve actually seen more bucks than does for the first time. And I’m passing up bucks that most people would love to shoot because there are other real “monsters” running around! I’ve enclosed a photo of a 141 inch bow kill.

Just wanted to send you a picture of some of the success I had this season with 30-06 Mineral and a field I planted of Imperial No-Plow. I believe the products have helped us have a lot of success in getting trophy deer to come close enough for bow shots. I shot this one with a bow at 30 yards on November 13th last year in Washtenaw County, MI. He was chasing does that were at my 30-06 lick. He is a twelve point with a 18.5

not seeing the deer. I’m seeing bigger bodied bucks, does and fawns. In 1998 I finally got smart and started managing the property for bigger bucks. My buck-doe ratio was out of whack, so we started harvesting more does and letting the bucks mature. Enclosed is a picture of the deer we have harvested in the last eight years. Not too bad from only 86 acres. I’m anxious to try the Chic Magnet. In the picture, that’s me in the middle. My brother (Ed Smola) is on the left and Ed’s son (Travis Smola) is on the right. The bucks from left to right, Ed’s shotgun buck, and my 3 bow kills and Travis with his two shotgun bucks. All deer taken in or around Imperial plots.

Larry Woodward — Missouri We planted Chicory PLUS and Winter-Greens this past fall on our Missouri and Illinois farms and although it was dry they both came up great and grew like crazy. The last week of October on my Missouri ground I was able to kill a 156 inch 10 point on Chicory PLUS. (Photo 1). Also my friend and business partner Bob Richardson killed a 185 inch 10 point (Photo 2) on the same field

Mike Maine — Kansas I use Imperial Whitetail Clover, Alfa-Rack Plus, Chicory PLUS and 30-06 Minerals and since the introduction of these products and incorporating “basic” whitetail management practices I continue to enjoy increased numbers of deer with much higher quality

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inch spread. He had a live weight of 205 pounds. This one will make the record book. Unofficial green score is 144 2/3. I also bow shot an 8 point on October 15th from the same tree stand, but it does not compare to this one. This has been my best year of hunting since I started hunting about 35 years ago. Many thanks for the proven products that the Whitetail Institute has perfected over the years.

Bob Smola — Michigan Alfa-Rack Plus is the best product to date that I’ve tried. Increased deer numbers.They just hammered the stuff. Neighbors got jealous real quick. They just were

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about the last week of November. When Bob killed his deer there was a foot of snow and ice on the field. The buck came in amazingly enough at 2:30 in the afternoon. It shows what having the right food planted can do. Photo 3 shows two bucks Scott Schultz and I took the opening morning of the Illinois shotgun season. Scott’s deer scored 155 inches and mine scored 174 4/8 inches. We had deer piling into the Winter-Greens and Chicory PLUS all fall and winter. We followed the Whitetail Institute’s advice on planting. We did soil tests and added the right amount of lime, and our results have exceeded our expectations. We will be planting even more next year. Thanks for the help and the products.

was 250 pounds — fully fifty pounds heavier than any buck taken on our property to date. With our emphasis on habitat management, weight is really important to us. The key to hunting mature bucks on small properties is “keeping bucks close to home”. This big guy and three or four of his buddies had been enjoying our food plots all spring and summer. With plenty of food and cover, there was no reason for them to ever leave our 500 acre property. 2006 was our first year we planted Whitetail Institute products on our property. Our weights are up, our racks are bigger and our mature deer are staying home. Our deer aren’t the only ones “living large” at Kindred Spirits.

Chad Daniels — North Carolina

Mike Richardson — Wisconsin

Craig Dougherty — New York This buck is one of the finest bucks ever taken at our hunting ground, Kindred Spirits. He and a two and a half year old 8pt. were hot on the trail of a very tired and harassed doe. She led them past my stand overlooking an out-of-the-way plot of Extreme, and the rest is history. He is one of three or four “shooters” my son, Neil had photographed on food plot cameras he set up in early September. We photographed him on a Chicory PLUS plot in mid-September and again on a Winter-Greens plot in mid-October. He was “living large” on food plot forages. “Shooters” for us are mature bucks generally aged 3 1/2 or older. We believe this buck is 4 1/2 years old. He scored 140 with terrific mass, but the real excitement came when we hoisted him on the scale. His live weight

proven to me that the Whitetail Institute has a line of food plot products that are the “Right Stuff’ for the herd. Last spring I also planted Chicory PLUS for the first time. We had a very dry summer and I was afraid due to the drought and the heavy grazing from the deer that this newly established plot was going to fail. Was I surprised when the rains finally came. Take a look at the 136 inch P & Y gross eight point in the picture and you will see just how good this plot looked when I harvested this buck in late October. And it looks as good right now. As a matter of fact there are nineteen turkeys feeding in it as I write this note. My favorite Whitetail Institute product is still Imperial Whitetail Clover. Please pass on my appreciation to all the Whitetail Institute Team. I’m proud to tell others that I am a Whitetail Institute Field Tester. And I will continue to use and promote these products as the “Right Stuff” for bigger and healthier deer.

We have attracted more deer with Imperial Whitetail Clover — many more — we’ve seen them walk across other products to get to the Imperial. They love it. We see more bucks. This buck was taken by Ralph Kilby who has hunted with us for 20 years. Ralph arrowed this guy last November near a food plot with Imperial No-Plow. 23” outside spread. W I am sending this to let you know how impressed I am with the Extreme Product. I planted a two acre plot in Central NC and am pleased to send you this story and picture of my first P&Y deer. I was hunting over the food plot Monday, September 10th 2007. The temperature was 101 degrees but the bucks started pouring into the plot about an hour before dark. I had passed on four other bucks before this one came in on the same trail as the others. I noticed when I first saw him coming through the brush that he was a mature deer so I prepared myself for a shot. I drew as he got within 30 yards and made a good shot right behind the deer’s left shoulder. It was when he spun to exit the plot that I realized how big he really was. He ran across the field and piled up within 20 yards of the field. Thanks Whitetail Institute for a great product that works even in extreme conditions.

Mike Connett — Ohio I have been using Whitetail Institute products for years and have been inspired by their positive effects on the herd. These products attract more deer than any other product I have used. Not to mention the nourishment they provide to the herd. This area has great genetics. But as you all know deer can only reach their full potential eating the “Right Stuff.” And it’s been www.whitetailinstitute.com

Send Us Your Photos! Do you have a photo of a buck that qualifies for the Pope & Young, Boone and Crockett or your state record books that you grew or took with the help of Imperial products? Send it to us and you might find it in the Record Book Bucks section of the next issue of Whitetail News. Send your photo and a 3 to 4 paragraph story telling how you harvested the deer and the role our products played to:

Whitetail News, Attn: Record Book Bucks 239 Whitetail Trail, Pintlala, AL 36043

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New York I Hunter Shares Successful QDM Practices

n August 2000, my wife and I purchased a 104acre parcel in upstate New York. At that point, I was an average hunter who had read about quality deer management in magazines. I had bought into many of the ideas, mostly because of the larger bucks that QDM can produce. Since I was a teenager, I had dreamed of killing a trophy buck. But after buying my land, my reasons for practicing QDM have expanded beyond tagging a trophy to include improving habitat for whitetails, turkeys and other animals. Before owning my land, I didn't have a place to practice QDM and knew no one who did. I had no idea where this would lead me. But I have no regrets, and it has been an exciting adventure. When I bought my property, it consisted of a swampy area, an uncut hay field, a small piece of wooded mountainside and two smaller fields undergoing succession by shrubs. There were already some nice bucks in the area. A neighbor had killed a respectable 10-pointer and a smaller 10-pointer the first year. Still, most of the bucks were yearlings, carrying their first set of antlers.

By Russell Nitchman Photos by the Author

GETTING TO WORK

I began my QDM program by planting two fields with two and three acres of Imperial Whitetail Clover. I had taken the soil samples, and with my experience of working on a farm as a youth and teaching Agricultural Science in high school, I had a good

understanding of basic agricultural practices. My soils were quite acidic, with pH ranging from 4.6 to 5.2. The previous owner had not limed or taken proper care of the soil. I put out two to three tons of lime per acre on my fields, hiring a local Ag business that sold and applied lime. That first application brought the pH to about 6.0. The Imperial Clover germinated and thrived, though the improvement was far from ideal. The next year, I again called in the lime truck and added another two tons per acre. Meanwhile, I began work to reclaim a secluded five-acre field, which also had low pH. I limed it heavily. By the third year, I put down my final lime application on all the fields. Six months later, my soil tests revealed improved pH â&#x20AC;&#x201D; about 6.5 to 7 â&#x20AC;&#x201D; on all the fields. Even at first, the Imperial Whitetail Clover I planted had done very well, even in the lower-pH soils. The improved pH level was ideal. At spring green-up and late August, I applied 300 pounds per acre of 0-40-10 fertilizer to my fields. When I bought the farm, I also bought an old 68horsepower diesel tractor. I began to add equipment as fast as I could afford it. First was the medium-duty brush hog. By the way, one of my biggest mistakes was cutting too much brush. Deer love brush and need it for bedding areas. In one field, I cut all the brush and created a great food plot that left deer with no nearby thick bedding areas. That was a big mistake. Now, the edges of that field are uncut, and I have planted trees and encourage thick growth.

Here is a 120-inch 10-pointer taken in December 2007 by the author on the southern 5 acre food plot.

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The past three years, I added a york rake, three-point spreader, three-bottom plow, 12-foot cultipacker and 14-foot boom sprayer. My local farmer lets me borrow his 12-foot disk when I need it. Other than that and a drill to put large seeds directly into the ground, I think I've finally obtained all the equipment I need. I use a commercial walk-behind broadcast spreader that I push to sow small seeds, such as Imperial Clover, Alfa-Rack and Winter-Greens. I believe I have a lot more control over the thickness of the application when I walk behind the spreader and watch the seeds hit the soil. It’s more work than using a tractor spreader, but a tractor spreader is not nearly as controllable. I use the tractor spreader for larger seeds, such as PowerPlant. I get great results sowing my seeds that way. I planted half the Imperial Clover seed with winter wheat and rye in the fall. In early spring, when ground was still thawing and re-freezing, I went back over it with the rest of the clover seed. That frost seeding did a great job of putting seed into good contact with the soil. Then, in late May or early June, I cut the wheat and rye down, leaving lush, dense clover. Before I plant, I disk the seedbed, smooth it with the cultipacker, spread the seed, and run over it again with the cultipacker. I also learned to plant my fields in strips. Rather than one large five-acre field with one great crop in it, I mixed it into strips 30-feet wide. I plant corn, then Imperial Clover, then Winter-Greens and then Power Plant. While on stand, I contemplate how to plant the field next season. “How can I improve it?” I ask. That might be the best part of managing fields for deer. I planted apple trees my first year, and they are final-

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ly beginning to produce a few apples. This past winter, I released six mature apple trees along field edges by heavily pruning and fertilizing them. I planted 27 apple trees and seven pear trees the past two years. I have tried to enhance my woodlands by planting oaks with protective cages around them. In addition, I planted 100 Northern cedars, better known as arborvitae. I grow them in five-foot-tall concrete-wire cages. Whatever plant parts grow through the six-inch squares of the wire is for deer to eat in winter. The inside portions remain alive and let the plant regrow in spring. THE FUN STUFF My Whitetail Institute food plots became an instant magnet to deer. A neighbor has a bow stand on the edge of a field planted in Alfa-Rack, and he said, “I can get a doe any evening just by going over to that bow stand!” He’s pretty much correct. On four of the past six opening evenings of bow season, he has tagged mature does. My most productive stand is on the twoacre field where I had mistakenly brush hogged the dense cover. The food plots have involved work and definitely cost money. And it’s worth every penny. It’s awesome to look out in the fields during summer and watch deer pour into them. To see three mature bucks come to the same field, as I did one early August morning this past year, is even better. Because my property is only 104 acres, I cannot expect to hold deer exclusively, though I still try to. I have worked to educate my neighbors on QDM, and to

Nitchman sometimes uses a commercial walk-behind broadcast spreader he pushes.

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shoot does and let small bucks walk. One has bought into it, but another rejects it. A neighbor across the road enthusiastically practices QDM. In 2002, just two years into the QDM program, my friend Josh shot a nice 2-1/2-year-old buck. My neighbor who embraces QDM killed a large buck with a 19-inch spread in 2004. In 2005, good friend and fellow teacher Frank Grunseich shot the largest buck on my property at that time. He rattled the deer out of a swamp just before 4 p.m. during the opening day of gun season. The nice, heavy 8-pointer had a rack just to the ends of his ears. it was perfectly symmetrical — a beautiful specimen of what a well-fed buck should look like after 2-1/2 years. Also in 2005, fellow QDMer Jerry Moore convinced me to purchase two digital cameras. Even though I started late in summer, I took hundreds of pictures. We saw many good bucks that year, but none were mature. This past season was different. I had learned where and how to film deer on my property. The cameras went out in mid-July, and we identified four mature bucks with antlers outside their ears. Three frequented my property regularly. I attribute this to the food plots and habitat improvements I've made. The secluded five-acre field has become my honeyhole. A friend tagged an antlerless deer there on the evening of opening day two seasons ago. The field has a smorgasbord of forges, including Power Plant, Imperial Clover and Winter-Greens. My friend said the field was full of deer. FATEFUL EVENING During the past couple of years, Nitchman’s management plan has finally come together to create a property of which he’s always dreamed. Winter-Greens (pictured above) has become a big part of the plan.

After that hunt, we avoided the field until the late gun season. With little pressure, a great food source,

With Secret Spot you can keep your favorite hunting location between just you and the deer. This easy-to-plant annual blend makes it a snap to put in a nutritious, attractive forage without attracting the attention of anyone other than the deer. Minimal ground preparation with just a rake or hoe is all it takes to plant a super-nutritious forage that deer will love. Keep your spot a secret; share the results with your friends.

FREE Trial Offer! Call 1-800-688-3030 Offer 1- only $8.95 (shipping and handling) FREE all new video or DVD / FREE N0-Plow TM FREE Imperial Clover TM / FREE Extreme TM / FREE Alfa-Rack TM PLUS FREE Chicory PLUS TM (each sample plants 100 sq. ft.)

Offer 2- only $19.95 (shipping and handling) Same as Offer 1 PLUS FREE 30-06 TM Mineral (5 lbs.) FREE Cutting Edge TM Supplement (5 lbs.)

The Whitetail Institute 239 Whitetail Trail Pintlala, AL 36043 www.whitetailinstitute.com

Research = Results. www.whitetailinstitute.com

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great bedding areas and the second rut, things looked promising. The evening of Dec. 9, I planned to slip out into a stand along the edge at the midpoint of the food plot. From there, I could reach almost the entire field with my 12-gauge. The field is surrounded on three sides by thick bedding areas and the mountain on the fourth. I quietly slipped into the stand at about 2:30 p.m., well before sunset. The wind was out of the west. Just as the sun went over the horizon, the steady winds decreased and then came out of the south, which is ideal for hunting that setup. It seemed like forever until the first doe entered the field about 4:30 p.m. She was in a group of three: two mature does and a fawn. Five or 10 minutes later, another mature doe entered. Five minutes later, another mature doe came, and later a sixth joined them. From behind me, I heard the distinctive crunching of leaves as deer approached. Remaining motionless, I caught movement as five deer passed beneath my stand and moved toward the field. I watched the group ease across the field and split up to consume their favorite food. I’m not sure whether it was the sound of crunching leaves or simply movement in my peripheral vision, but I looked to my left and saw a mature buck headed right at me. Moving quickly and with purpose, he turned 90 degrees to his left and walked into the field. He did not hesitate at the field’s edge to stop and check it out. The 11 antlerless deer eating seemed to be all he needed. My hands were already on the gun, ready for a

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Abi Nitchman shows off her beautiful 6-pointer taken in the southern 5-acre food plot. “This was exciting...I’m glad that I came,” she said.

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shot. I slowly moved the gun to my shoulder and found the buck in the scope. He was walking through a small shooting lane. Not feeling comfortable about taking a walking shot and not being in a rush, I picked the next opening. When he entered the second shooting lane, one of the does bleated. He took two more quick steps, stopped and snapped his head back around toward me. I could tell that the 50-yard shot was good as he took off across the field with difficulty. He tore for the far corner of the field but disappeared in the PowerPlant about 30 yards from the edge of the field. Does ran past him and left the field. There was no sign of the buck. He was down. Later, my hunting buddies drove the truck across the large field to my area. Two remaining deer cleared the field, and I climbed down. We found the buck with no problem. The 3-1/2-year-old 10-pointer was the largest deer killed from the property. Checking my digital cameras, I found eight pictures of that deer. The cameras told me there were two larger bucks on the property. The largest, a split G-2 10-pointer, was captured on pictures opening morning and a week into the season. My cameras are positioned to capture his movements after the season. I think both deer are still alive. MY DAUGHTER’S BUCK KILL What an evening! With high hopes my daughter and I returned to our farm. (I live in NY City, 230 miles away from my farm). My goal was to harvest some deer, but more importantly, get my daughter Abigail her first gun deer. In the back of my mind I thought there might be an outside chance of harvesting a trophy buck as well. That Saturday evening was the best time for hunting that I have ever experienced. The rut was over, there were 8 inches of snow on the ground, and a large cold front was heading in. The wind was out of the southeast, which made hunting the southern 5-acre food plot the place to be. Abigail and I climbed together into a wooden box with our muzzleloaders in hand for the evening hunt. At 3:45 p.m. the first deer, two smaller 1-1/2year old bucks and a doe, showed up. Moments later I shot the doe. We remained in the stand as I figured more deer would be coming. By 4:20 p.m. more deer began to appear. Within minutes we had deer coming from the north to our left and a larger group from the south to our right. This time I would wait until a suitable deer got closer to Abigail for a better shot. What amazed me the most was that 1/3 to 1/2 of the more than 30 deer that entered the food plot in the next 30 minutes were antlered bucks. My neighbor had killed seven bucks already. I figured most bucks were gone by now, with only a few remaining. These deer must have been attracted from miles around. I had the best groceries in town and the deer knew it. We picked out a larger bodied buck from the group and when Abigail was sure that she could make the shot, she let me know. I continued to scan the field as more deer piled into it. When Abigail shot, she was certain she had hit her buck. We climbed down with 10 minutes of light left. I followed a blood trail in the snow to her beautiful 6-pointer on the edge of the field. My 100-pound doe lay dead another 20 yards beyond. Her buck was a muscular 2-1/2 year old that dressed out at 120 pounds. That evening Abi said about our 30 hour whirlwind trip, “This was exciting...I’m glad that I came.” I will never forget the old timer who helped me get my first buck 27 years ago. I doubt Abigail will ever forget this evening either. CONCLUSION The newest weapon in my management plan is a secluded boomerang-style food plot in the woods next to thick bedding areas and in the midst of heavy travel corridors. This past summer, I cleared a 100-by-25-yard area into a boomerang shape. Remaining trees were downed in late December. That was a lot of work, and it produced more than 18 cords of firewood. Next spring, I hope to lime it and then plant Imperial Clover and Winter-Greens. It is so much fun to manage property and see it get better every year. I also hope to build another food plot 150 yards away in the woods, in the shape of an S. During the past couple of years, my management plan has finally come together to create a property of which I’ve always dreamed. I believe things will continue to improve as I grow quality food, learn more about my property, determine new ways to hunt it and hopefully convince more neighbors to practice QDM by example and the regular harvest of large bucks. I look forward to continuing to use Whitetail Institute products on my property. They helped me grow these quality deer. The research and development put into their products are what make their products superior to others. Being a high-school science teacher, I place great value on that kind of research. W

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Tink’s® Power Scrape™ Mock Scrape Starter™ capitalizes on a buck’s curiosity and drive for territorial dominance. Apply Power Scrape to natural or mock scrapes one to two weeks prior to the season opening. This will peak the buck’s curiosity and is also a powerful scouting tool. Applying Power Scrape regularly conditions bucks to visit the location throughout the season. Try Power Scrape this season and be prepared for enhanced performance. To learn more about Tink’s Power Scrape visit www.tinks69.com

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(Continued from page 31)

calls. I made the shot and she was ecstatic! She said, “Daddy, I think it was a double-lung shot!” She followed the trail and the recovery was quick. The photo is enclosed. I have hunted for 30 years and have been fortunate to harvest many nice deer that are larger than this buck. However, this was the highlight of my hunting career and I have a child hooked for life. She is already talking about our food plot for next spring. Without Whitetail Institute products, I truly believe this type of deer activity is not possible. Sullivan County, PA is mostly “big woods,” and the deer are true browsers. Their only food source is beech and cherry mast, along with browse. I will continue to use Winter-Greens and am in the process of developing an additional food plot location this spring. Thanks Whitetail Institute for a great product!

Randy Valentine — Virginia Yes whitetail deer hunters you can make it happen. The dream of harvesting a true trophy buck can become a reality, a dream come true on small acreage hunting land. I have 25 acres and lease another 45 acres next to the 25 acres. In my local area of Central Virginia the primary agriculture is raising beef cattle and timber. No crop production such as corn, soy beans and wheat. My Imperial Whitetail Clover and Alfa-Rack Plus draw deer like a magnet. Since 1999 when I planted my first food plot of Imperial Whitetail Clover I have had a big increase in sightings of mature

Don Arbaugh — South Carolina I tried many other products, with little success. Then I began planting Whitetail Institute forages about 4 years ago, on our farm in Aiken, SC. After getting the soil right, lime, fertilizer, etc. I was able to produce 2 good 1 acre fields. Now I have 7 good fields of 1/4 to 2 acres planted with No-Plow, Extreme and now Chicory Plus. The picture is of me and my grandson Dillon

Arbaugh and 2 four year old bucks. The one I'm holding was before I used Whitetail Institute products and the one Dillon has I killed last December. The difference the Whitetail Institute products made is remarkable and even the neighbors around me have been getting much larger bucks. I'm hoping this opening season will be the year Dillon gets his first buck. Thanks Whitetail Institute and keep up the good work.

John Schiavone — New York I began using Imperial Alfa-Rack several years ago on our land in Western New York. Upon planting 1-1/2 acres, we noticed an increase in resident does and smaller bucks utilizing the area. I have been impressed with the plot’s ability to draw the deer. Since that season we have added 56

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Extreme and Imperial Whitetail Clover in locations close to cover and natural travel corridors. We have enjoyed many sightings of bucks in the years that followed, especially around the rut and during the late season when they dig down through the heavy snow to get to clover. The plots do indeed work very well and were worth the time we put into planting them. Enclosed are some bucks my wife and I were lucky enough to harvest thanks to Whitetail Institute products! P.S. The turkeys love them too!

Chris Beaty — Tennessee Whitetail Institute products are great. I plan to keep using them for along time. You can probably see why. Thanks.

eight and ten point bucks. A well maintained food plot is the key. Arrest and Slay herbicides have helped protect my investment. In the enclosed picture the food plot is three years old. This past summer weeds and grasses had almost taken over the food plot. By using Arrest and Slay I have almost eliminated the weeds and grasses. In turn the clover and Alfa-Rack plus have more nutrients and water and I have a beautiful food plot as shown in the picture. I have also noticed that the bucks’ racks have greater mass since I have been using Whitetail Institute food plot products. Yes deer hunters your dream can come true. Mine did. Thanks Whitetail Institute. You have made this past deer season unforgettable.

Clay Williams — Virginia Four years ago my father David Williams purchased 40 acres in Nottoway County, VA. It had everything a whitetail loves — thick pines, hardwoods and swamp land. The only problem was we really didn’t have a spot that could be cleared out for a nice food plot. Ten acres became available the next year that adjoined our land and we bought it. In no time dad had a bulldozer in there and cleared two acres for a food plot. Boy, was that the right move! We planted Imperial Clover. There is no clover planted anywhere near our property, and when the deer found it, oh my gosh, it was unbelievable. Now all my dad and I wanted to hunt was the food plot! This hunting season coming up will be three years of having the clover and it still looks great! We also planted a small patch of Winter-Greens last year, and www.whitetailinstitute.com


when the weather got cold the deer tore this stuff up! We have started seeing more deer now and bigger bucks. I let a trophy get away from me during muzzle loading season, but that same week I was able to harvest a nice 9 pointer! Dad also took a nice 8 point in the food plot during late season at 4:15 pm eating our clover. Thanks for all your help anytime we have called asking questions about our food plot! And to everyone else who has a small tract of land like we do, plant yourself a food plot. It works! Here is a picture of the food plot in its early stages and the 9 point buck!

Mark Moldenhauer — Wisconsin Several deer were shot over our Imperial Whitetail Clover food plot, including one buck that scored 147. See photo.

Ron Schaalma — Wisconsin Since I’ve been using Alfa-Rack I have seen 50% more deer, and the best part is they are heavier and have larger racks. They are also easier to hunt because the product lures the deer directly to it, thus cutting www.whitetailinstitute.com

down the area I used to hunt. There are nights I see as many as 11 different bucks heading to the 1.5 acre plot. Enclosed is a photo showing the results of a gun hunt two seasons ago.

Curt Krajniak — Michigan My son Cooper and I were on stand when this 10 point, 165-pound dressed bruiser came through. The deer will score in the low 130’s. My nicest Michigan buck to date. But most importantly my 5 year old loved it. We have been using Winter-Greens for a couple of years now. Deer really like this product.

Thanks again Whitetail Institute for helping me harvest these great shooter bucks.

Nathan Zeroth — Minnesota Four years ago I planted Alfa-Rack. I took a 125 class 10 point and a 125 class 8 point over that food plot. Then we planted Alfa-Rack Plus last spring and even though it was very dry this past summer the food plot came up nice. Then during muzzle loader season my dad shot a real nice 10 point 153 inch. See photo. I really enjoy watching deer come into the food plots. We planted four more plots last year. I’m looking very forward to next hunting season. Thanks Whitetail Institute. W

Rodney Pettit — Indiana I have been using Whitetail Institute products since the spring of 2005. I started out with just 2 acres of “Whitetail Clover” and now have 6 acres planted, and I have no intentions of stopping. I have harvested two of my biggest bucks ever in the last two seasons. You can see deer every evening grazing our clover fields. The does and bucks are much healthier, larger bodied deer. I have also been using “30-06 Plus Protein.” Thank you Whitetail Institute for helping me harvest these bucks and making all my fellow hunters salivate when I show them my mounts. I have included pictures of the 13 point buck I harvested during firearm season two seasons ago, and a 10-point I harvested during last archery season. The 13-pointer weighed over 200 lbs field-dressed, and scored 181 2/8” gross and 166” net. While the 10-point won’t net well he grossed 154” and had a nice spread.

Send Us Your Photos! Do you have a photo and/or story of a big buck, a small buck or a doe that you took with the help of Imperial products? Send it to us and you might find it in the Field Tester section of the next issue of Whitetail News. Send your photo and a 3 to 4 paragraph story telling how you harvested the deer and the role our products played to:

Whitetail News, Attn: Field Tester Response 239 Whitetail Trail, Pintlala, AL 36043

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EVERY ACRE COUNTS By Bill Winke Photos by the Author

W

hen managing your deer hunting property, you have a limited number of acres with which to work. It makes no sense to waste even one of them. Do your best to make every square foot produce something that benefits your long-range goals.

If you find an acre that doesn't produce optimal food or cover, you should do something about it. SETTING THE STAGE Regardless of how much land you have, there is no such thing as too much. You can’t afford to waste any of it. You paid for it all, so you might as well use it all. That means that every acre should produce maximum benefit. To a deer hunter, that means that every acre of the property should do one of two things well: It should produce as much food as possible for deer or produce the best possible cover. In some cases, it will do both. I have gone through my farm and looked at every acre with an eye toward maximizing each. These are the things I have learned and the steps I have taken to set things right. In no way should this be the final word on land management. Everything takes time, and we learn as we go forward. However, I hope this will at least get you thinking critically about your property.

Planning how you can best use every acre on your hunting property is not only fun but also good resource stewardship. It will pay off in better hunting and healthier animals.

IN THE TIMBER When I bought this property, I noticed the open timber. I even had people tell me how “pretty” it looked. Of course, I didn’t really want “pretty,” and what I did to the place after buying it was anything but pretty — except to deer. 58

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Most deer managers understand that by opening up the timber canopy, they permit more light to reach the forest floor, encouraging plant growth. The result is better browse and cover for deer. Sunlight can make a dramatic difference, as I learned. My first step in dealing with the open timber was to engage in a timber-stand improvement project that spanned five years and encompassed every timbered acre on the farm. I hired the work done, because cutting thousands of trees over the course of several years didn’t fit into my work schedule. I made a few mistakes. The first step should have been a commercial harvest of mature timber. That makes the most sense: get the valuable stuff out before you turn the rest of the timber into matchsticks. A few species are still in reasonably high demand (and there are always some good local markets), but in general, today’s timber markets are depressed because of the lull in new home building. However, like everything, they will eventually cycle back. When that happens, if you have mature timber, it would be wise to hire a consulting forester and work out a timber harvest plan. I started my timber-stand work two years before I sold any commercial timber, so it was a bit more difficult for the cutters to get through all the downed junk in a few areas. They complained a little, but in the end, I still got fair market price for the logs, so it worked out. The forester can help you fine-tune a plan to meet your goals. I wanted the thickest possible cover without cutting any of the young medium-sized oak trees on the farm. I was green and didn’t understand the logging process. As a result, I let the timber buyer (I didn’t hire a forester) talk me into taking just the best mature

oak and walnut. There was nothing wrong with that part, but I should have pressed to have him take the marketable pallet trees, too. There were plenty of remaining oak trees, so removing the larger junk trees — ash, elm, cottonwood, hickory and hackberry in my area — would have increased my income while reducing my timber-stand improvement time. When full sunlight reaches the forest floor, it causes a flush of new growth. In just two years, the forest looks completely different. Some benefits occur as a result. One is improved security cover and a dramatic increase in browse. The second benefit is also important — thick cover makes it easier to sneak around in your hunting area without blowing deer out of there. If they can see you coming and going from 300 yards away, your property is going to burn out quickly. A friend who specializes in creating thickets on otherwise open pasture farms claims that he can hold a mature buck per 40 acres of thicket cover. That seems incredible to me, but I have not done the experiment, so I have no basis to doubt him. However, I have noticed that I am holding more mature bucks on my farm now, presumably because of the thicker cover. The final benefit is less obvious and relates more to your grandchildren than to you. If you are serious about regenerating oaks on your property, there is only one way you can do it — through an aggressive timberstand improvement program. Oak will not regenerate well in the shade because seedlings need maximum sunlight to grow and flourish. I now have five years worth of timber-stand improvement on the farm, some of it very aggressive. We did some areas five years ago, during January 2003. We

did more each winter thereafter through January 2007. I can now see what a timber-stand improvement project looks like after one, two, three and four growing seasons. It is interesting to see how things have changed in just five years. Three things jump out at me. First, I learned that I was not aggressive enough when I started in 2003. I didn’t trust the outcome well enough to go for broke, so I cut fewer trees than I should have. I will have to go back and hit those areas again soon. During each successive year, I became more aggressive as I gained confidence from watching the regrowth spring up in prior project areas. Again, it is best to hire a forester to help you make these decisions. I would hate to have you hammer the timber in an area of your property based solely on my experiences, because growing conditions and soil types may be different where you are managing. The second thing I learned is the importance of studying the forest before cutting to determine what will take over after you start removing the canopy. This is as simple as looking at the young growth in the affected area and directly nearby. What are you going to release? I was generally releasing desirable brush and crop trees. However, I had a few areas where I released honeysuckle bushes. A little bit of honeysuckle is fine, but I don’t want my timber taken over by this very aggressive invader. I will watch it carefully and if it starts to spread, I will have to take measures to beat it back. In some areas, there was very little young vegetation, so it was difficult to predict what would respond to the sunlight when the junk trees came down. In these areas, I often ended up with grass. Believe it or not, I have some small, dispersed grassy openings now

Making it greener on your side of the fence! Proper soil pH is the key to successful food plots. You can save time and money on all your liming needs by using the GroundBuster® Pulverized Lime Spreader. It pulls easily behind your ATV, tractor or vehicle and dispenses lime evenly, whether it’s damp or dry. The GroundBuster® Soil Preparation Implement is the only piece of equipment that you will need for successful ground preparation and planting. The GroundBuster® has two sets (front and rear) of heavy duty 18" disc blades which are easily adjustable for very aggressive cutting. It also comes with a grading mat and heavy duty compact roller.

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growing in the middle of my timber in areas that had a bare forest floor at the time of the timber-stand improvement cut. When dealing with such areas, where you canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t predict what will grow, you have two choices. You can skip those areas and live with the open timber (not a solution I am willing to tolerate; remember the title of this article), or you can open it up knowing you might have to come back later with a back-pack sprayer filled with Roundup and seedlings or nuts to plant or you canplant asmall food plot with Secret Spot. Fortunately, most of my property produced desirable regrowth, but I have some planting work ahead of me the next few years. OPEN GROUND

Removing junk trees for the purposes of releasing higher quality trees and undergrowth is called timber-stand improvement.

When deciding what to do with open ground, food takes a priority over cover. Determine how many food plot acres you need before deciding what to do with the rest of your open ground. As a general rule, try to have roughly one acre of well-maintained food plots for every five deer you expect to be on your property during fall and winter. You might end up feeding some of your neighborâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s deer, so factor those numbers in too. If the number of food plot acres you come up with is unreasonably high, maybe it is time to start shooting more does. Even if you have to plant some of your plots in marginal soils to meet your food plot goals, the production you get from these acres is better than nothing. Proper soil treatment (affecting fertility and Ph) will help to rev up poor soil when planted to certain crops, such as clover and chicory. It is difficult to make poor soils pro-

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í˘ľ July 15 - Sept 15 í˘ś Aug 1 - Oct 1 í˘ˇ North: July 15 - Sept 15 South: Aug1 - Oct 1

í˘¸ North: July 20 - Aug 1*

South: July 15 - Aug 15*

í˘š July 1 - Sept 15 ě?&#x2026; July 15 - Sept 15* 60

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ě?&#x2C6; Sept 15 - Nov 15 ě?&#x2030; North: Sept 5 - Nov 1

Central: Sept 15 - Nov 15 South: Sept 25 - Nov 15

ě&#x201D;&#x2C6; North: Aug 15 - Oct 1

South: Sept 5 - Oct 20

ě&#x201D;&#x2030; North: Sept 5 - Oct 30

Central: Sept 15 - Nov 15 South: Sept 25 - Nov 15

ě&#x201D;&#x160; Coastal: Sept 1 - Oct 1 Piedmont: Aug 15 - Sept 20 Mountain Valleys: Aug 5 - Sept 15

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When trying to reforest marginal open ground, consider planting acorns instead of seedlings. This practice is known as direct nut seeding. It takes time, but promises to produce a full stand of trees.

duce corn and beans, however. Assuming you still have some marginal open ground left after meeting your food plot goals, you must decide what to do with them. Obviously, these acres arenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t needed for food, so they might as well be cover. Donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t wait for nature to convert old pastureland into timber cover. That might take 40 years. Instead, help the process. Finding something to plant that produces the best possible cover in the least possible time is the goal. There are three options. First, you can plant switchgrass or a mix of native warm-season grasses to produce bedding cover. I have planted switchgrass and found that it can be fickle to establish. In the best conditions, it will take at least two years to establish a stand. Some of my stands never came in and had to be replanted several years later. There are many thoughts on how to establish switchgrass. Seed depth is critical. It is best to consult with your county's soil conservation officer or contact a local agronomist to learn the methods that have worked best there. Follow all guidelines to the letter, including the application of lime and fertilizer. Switchgrass is a crop like any other, and you need to manage it as such. The second option for marginal acres is to plant seedling trees. You can often buy these in bulk from the state nursery operated by your state's game and fish department. After planting many thousands of trees, I have been generally disappointed with the result. The true survival rate after all that work is less than 25 percent. Some years, not one tree survived from that yearâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s planting. Seedlings are especially vulnerable to drought and mishandling. If their roots dry out, or they are exposed to air pockets in the soil when planted, they will quickly die. If you are serious about planting seedlings, it is a very labor-intensive job. You have to handle the seedling very carefully, keeping the roots wet until planted. Make sure they have complete root-to-soil contact (no air pockets) and that the root is pointed downward and not forming a J shape. Then you must water the seedlings regularly for the first three months. Watering several thousand seedlings is far too much work for me. Again, there might be better ways, such as dormant fall plantings, but I have all but given up on seedlings. If you want to try them, contact the local state forester for advice on supply and the best methods to assure maximum survival, or plant them on a limited basis. For example, I planted 40 apple trees last year, and that proved to be much more successful because I was able to give each tree the care it required. There is a big difference between hand-planting 40 trees vs. 4,000, however. www.whitetailinstitute.com

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This past fall, I took a different approach to producing tree cover on my marginal ground. I engaged in a direct nut-seeding project on 22 acres. It is still too early to know how well that will turn out (I am writing this in January), but I can at least offer a few suggestions about methodology and then report back after the spring growing season reveals the results. Instead of planting young trees, I planted seeds â&#x20AC;&#x201D; five bushels of acorns (red and white oak) and one bushel of walnuts per acre. That amounts to roughly 20,000-plus seeds per acre. If even 25 percent of them germinate and grow, I will be more than satisfied. First, we prepared the soil by spraying the grass with Roundup and then waited three weeks before tilling it to create a fine, mellow seedbed. We broadcast the seeds and immediately disked them in to a depth of roughly two to three inches. I was lucky that it rained the day after I finished and didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t stop for more than a week, so I had the best possible conditions for keeping those white-oak acorns alive. They germinate in the fall and had already partially germinated when I planted them. For the first two years, I need to spray the planting area with a weed killer, such as Oust, to reduce competition. By the third year, I can just let the planting area go, and the trees will compete well enough with the weeds to hold their own. We planted in mid-October, and by May 2008, the trees are supposed to be six inches to a foot tall. They are supposed to then add about 10 to 12 inches each year thereafter. By all accounts, this is a better method of establishing a tree planting. I look forward to reporting on the results later in the year. By the way, I got a list of consulting foresters from a sawmill and called

Fruit trees, such as these apple trees, are a great way to improve some of your marginal open acres. Before engaging in an apple planting, make sure the area you have selected is conducive to fruit production.

FA LL P L A NT I N G DAT E S

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í˘š Aug 1 - Aug 31 ě?&#x2026; Aug 1 - Sept 15 62

WHITETAIL NEWS / Vol. 18, No. 1

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several of them to find one who would collect the acorns and store them in a cold place until I needed them. Acorns are expensive, so if you can collect your own with a simple acorn-collection basket (a roller that you can buy online), you will save a lot of money and will likely get the freshest possible seed. It is not as critical with acorns from the red-oak family because they germinate in spring, but you need to get white oaks in the ground as soon after collecting them as possible. FOOD PLOT ACRES Regular Whitetail News authors pepper this magazine with all kinds of great advice about how to make the most of your food plot acres. I wonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t rehash that here, but I encourage you to take their advice seriously. You can produce a lot of forage on a limited number of acres if you do it right. Buy good seed, test the soil, prepare it properly and then maintain the plot as recommended. This simple blueprint will help you make every precious food plot acre count. CONCLUSION

It takes good soils to grow row crops such as corn and soybeans effectively. If you have marginal soil in your open areas, consider your alternatives. Also, only a percentage of your food plots should be devoted to winter food sources.

Grab an aerial photo of your property, and walk the ground from end to end. Note any areas that are producing less then optimal food or cover. Coming up with a plan to address those areas is the fun part. You likely bought the property for deer hunting, and you have a lot invested in time and money. Good stewardship requires that you take all the steps needed to bring the land to its maximum potential as a deer factory. W

Ensure the success of your food plots. Our line of herbicides protect your investment by making sure that the plants you have so carefully planted can compete with grasses and weeds for nutrients and water. Arrest kills most grasses, but wonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t harm clover, alfalfa, chicory or Extreme. Slay eliminates broadleaf plants and weeds, and is safe for clover and alfalfa. Both herbicides are extensively field-tested and can be easily applied by 4-wheeler or tractor sprayer. Easy and effective protection for your crop.

The Whitetail Institute / 239 Whitetail Trail/ Pintlala, AL 36043 / 800-688-3030 / www.whitetailinstitute.com

Treated

Un-Treated

Research = Results.

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ASK BIG JON By Jon Cooner, Institute Director of Special Projects

Common Questions — Straightforward Answers Q: I am just learning about food plots, and I have a question. It seems to me that the more seed I put out on my plot, the more plants I’ll have growing there, and so the more forage the deer will have. That would be a good thing, correct? A: Great question! It’s one I hear a lot, and the answer is, “probably not — it might even REDUCE the performance of your planting!” Think about it — let’s consider just one square yard of plot. Within that area, you only have one square yard of seedbed to sustain forage plants. That’s all the room the plants you’ll be growing there will have in which to sprout, grow, and become as healthy, vigorous, and as drought, heat and cold-tolerant as they were designed to be. If you try to grow too many plants within that one square yard of seedbed, the plant roots won’t have enough room to grow as big as they otherwise might have. Smaller roots can result in LESS heat and drought tolerance, and because smaller roots can inhibit the growth of the forage plants, perhaps even

LESS available forage. For optimum results, stick to the recommended seeding rates as closely as you can. Our forage blends are so efficient that with many of them it takes a very small amount of seed to plant a plot. Imperial Whitetail Clover, for example, should be planted at a rate of only eight pounds per acre, and “Chic” Magnet at as little as three pounds per acre. Obviously, these forage blends are extremely efficient, but that can make it hard to stick to the correct seeding rates and not run out of seed for the plot too quickly. Here’s a tip to help you be efficient in seeding these blends. Start by determining the size of the food plot you will be planting (e.g.: 1/10th acre, 1/2 acre, 3 acres, etc.). Next, choose the correct Imperial forage for you application based on anticipated rainfall levels, intended planting method (with our without ground tillage equipment), how heavy the soil is and the plot’s drainage characteristics. Once you decide on what forage you’ll be planting, you can look right on our website, on the front of our forage bags, or call our consultants to determine how much seed you’ll need for that plot.

Once your seedbed has been prepared according to our recommendations for planting the product you have chosen, plan on planting the seed with a shoulder-type broadcast spreader if possible. Unlike other spreader types, a shoulder-carried broadcast spreader will allow you to keep your hand on the spreader bag as a constant gauge of how much seed the spreader is putting out, and how much you have left in the bag at any given time. Also, consider only putting 1/2 the amount of seed required for the plot into the spreader and trying to cover the whole plot with it. Then, put the other 1/2 of the seed in and cover the whole plot with it again, but from a different direction on the second pass. That may be the best way to ensure that you get broad, even coverage without overloading the plot with seed. Again, seeding rates for Imperial forage blends are shown right on the front of the forage bags and are also listed on our website, www.whitetailinstitute.com. Our highly trained, in-house consultants are also standing by to answer your calls at (800) 688-3030, ext 2, any time between 8 a.m. — 5 p.m. Central Time, Monday through Friday. W

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SEEK THE EDGES FOR

BETTER HUNTING By Scott Bestul Photos by the Author

I

faced the whitetail hunter’s version of the bottom of the 9th inning. There was one day left of the early archery season. I was hunting a farm I barely knew, in a state where I didn’t live. And I knew if I didn’t fill my tag on this trip, a return visit to the state was probably not in the cards.

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Fortunately, I had walked just enough of this farm — which had just been purchased by a buddy that spring — to know the basic layout and property lines. Actually, this was also a good thing. With one day left, I didn’t have time to agonize about a dozen setups where a monster buck might run into me. I needed one or two basic ambush sites that would funnel as much deer movement as possible. From there, I’d just pray that a good deer would happen to be in the neighborhood. Happily, the wind direction narrowed my choices to two spots, and the reason I chose the spot I did was pretty simple: it contained the most edge cover of any place on the farm. Of course, whitetail hunters know all about edges. I’ve been hearing that deer are creatures of the edge since my gun was longer than I was tall. And naturally, when I thought of edges, the most obvious came to mind: the break formed where a woodlot gives way to a field, a lakeshore or creek bank — any hard line that marked an obvious transition. But the longer I spent in

the deer woods, the better I became at spotting more subtle edges. Indeed, when I analyze habitat on any property these days, I find my eyes taking inventory of all the edges on the place — and where I can create more. With that in mind, here are some tips for identifying or creating edges — from the obvious to the subtle — on your property and how to use them to improve your hunting. FOOD SOURCE EDGES Perhaps the most obvious edge is one you create when you construct a food plot or cultivate a field. Obviously, anyone who’s hunted a green field or hails from farm country recognizes the attraction these areas hold for whitetails. From a sprawling Alfa-Rack Plus, corn or soybean field to a small Imperial Whitetail Clover plot, field edges are sure to be full of feeding sign and breeding spoor such as rubs and scrapes.

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The trouble with field edges is that they can be frustrating spots to hunt. Because whitetails are reluctant to expose themselves in open areas during daylight, the chances for killing a mature buck that’s received any hunting pressure in such spots is often remote. The only exception to this rule is when extreme or extenuating circumstances (peak rut or intense cold and deep snow) force bucks to visit these areas. There are, fortunately, ways to make such potentially frustrating sites produce. One is to create a smaller staging-type food plot just off of a main field edge. I tried this last summer with excellent results. I had a friend bush-hog a small semi-circular space from a section of my woods this past spring. I tilled and sprayed this quarter-acre clearing, and then planted it with Imperial Clover. The L-shaped plot lay less than 100 yards from the destination food source, but that distance made all the difference. I enjoyed several hunts in a stand hung on the edge of my tiny food plot, and I rarely got skunked. Deer felt completely comfortable feeding in this small and secluded field. I’d created a huntable edge. SECURITY COVER EDGES It’s common for hunters to associate edges with whitetail food sources, but they’re also an important source of security for deer. Anytime I need a reminder of this, I think back to hunting my family’s property in central Wisconsin. The Bestul homestead is home to several stands of aspen (we call them popple) trees, and the standard method for harvesting mature aspen is a clearcut. Though any clearcut looks pretty pathetic immedi-

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Some hunters plant strips of switchgrass, corn or other tall-growing plants for screening cover as they access stand sites.

ately after the saws are done, any deer hunter can spot the positive results within months. The sterile, trackless monoculture of large-trunked trees is soon replaced with hundreds of slim “suckers.” This dense new growth provides deer with not only the security cover they crave, but also a source of browse for several years. Scouting the edges of popple clearcuts is one of my favorite activities, as I know I’ll discover an explosion of sign in the form of rubs, scrapes, trails and feeding sign. So a logging operation is one way to create the edge habitat whitetails love so much. But don’t think you need to have a forester arrange a pulp or hardwood lumber cut to create/improve deer habitat. Some of the best deer managers I know create their own security cover by taking a chainsaw to low-value stands of trees and creating their own mini clearcut. In the Midwest, species like aspen, box elder, ash and some species of elm are perfect candidates for this type of cut. Most guys I know who practice this technique select an area that is already difficult to hunt (a hollow or ravine notorious for fickle wind direction, for example).

Then they fell or hinge-cut every tree in the prescribed area. Hinge-cutting is a technique where the tree trunk is cut deep enough to topple the tree but not completely through. This allows nutrients to continue to flow from the roots to the tree top, thus allowing leaf growth for a while. But since the tree has been removed from the canopy, sunlight is allowed on the ground, which encourages new plant growth. The key to these mini-clearcuts is to treat them as sanctuaries. My friend Tim Walmsley, an Illinois bowhunter who manages his own farm, never enters these small cutovers unless he has to trail a deer. His success on big bucks proves he has this technique nailed down well. TRAVEL ROUTE EDGES Hunt whitetails long enough, and you’ll recognize two things about how they travel. First, given the choice, deer will select travel routes with some sort of security cover nearby. Second, whitetails prefer to take the path of least resistance. If you can create an edge that offers deer both of these traits, you’ll have made a significant improvement in deer habitat — as well as opened up some hunting opportunities. One of the simplest ways to create an edge travel route is to clear a path or lane through extremely dense cover. We’ve used this technique on our Minnesota hunting lease with great success, and we discovered it by accident. One section of the property features an extremely dense apple orchard. Because it’s so thick, the orchard is very difficult to hunt, so out of frustration, we took a skid loader and simply pushed a path around the outside edge of the apple trees. The path

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connected several good stand sites and would also serve as our exit/entry route. Well, surprise — the deer liked our path even better than we did. They cruise the orchard easily and silently, and they were never more than one hop away from security cover. In the years since, we’ve used this technique to improve habitat in several areas of the property. As this example illustrates, creating edge cover not only enhances whitetail travel, it can help you. One of the greatest challenges of hunting destination food plots such as Imperial Clover or other short-growing plants is that deer often spot hunters as they enter and exit stands near these plots. Several of my friends have experimented with planting strips of switchgrass, corn or other tall-growing plants for screening cover as they access stand sites. Planting trees or shrubs is another method for accomplishing this goal. Though it will obviously take a while for tree seedlings to reach a height suitable for hiding your comings and goings, planting a line of quick-growing shrubs will keep you covered until the trees catch up. Plantings like these are extremely effective in areas with Conservation Reserve Program grasses, and old farm fields and pastures. CONCLUSION Back to my last-day whitetail deer hunt on my friend’s farm. As noted earlier, I’d decided to hunt a corner of the farm where the wind direction was in my favor and there was the greatest amount of edge cover possible. So I hung my stand in a big walnut tree and settled in. In front of me was a tangled creek bottom that bisected a standing cornfield. To one side was an overgrown pasture full of hedge trees and multiflora

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The Whitetail Institute / 239 Whitetail Trail Pintlala, Alabama 36043

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rose. And at my back was a huge CRP planting pock-marked with small patches of timber and brush. I was so surrounded by edge I honestly had no idea where deer would come from. The old pasture ground produced. I had just checked my watch to see how much legal shooting time I had (40 minutes) when I looked up to see a doe running, tailup, across the creek. Behind her was an adult 8-point buck I’d have been proud to tag on the season’s first day, not to mention the last. He was headed away from me with a determined stride when I cracked my rattling antlers together. His response was swift and certain; never have I seen a buck so ready to tangle. He crossed the creek and three fence lines before I had time to get nervous, and I’d barely grabbed my bow and clipped my release to the string before I was grunting him to a stop. I found the buck barely 100 yards from my walnut stand tree. It took about all I had to get him loaded in my truck, which I’d parked on a scenic knob in the CRP. When I was done, I sat on the tailgate, resting and taking in the scenery. I wouldn’t be hunting this place for a while, but my buddy certainly would, and he’d be looking for some good spots to hang stands. I knew at least one place where he’d have an edge. W

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WHITETAIL NEWS / Vol. 18, No. 1

Want to give a skeptic some ammunition? Announce, “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.” But if you’re a conservation-minded landowner, Uncle Sam might be one of your greatest allies. The Natural Resources Conservation Service, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is an agency charged with “providing technical and financial assistance for the establishment of fish and wildlife habitat development.” Armed with money from the 2002 Farm Bill, the NRCS is able to assist private landowners with habitat work. (A new Farm Bill is currently being debated by Congress, but is expected to offer similarly funded programs). It works like this: A technician from the NRCS office in your county (there is one office/county across the country) visits your property after you contact him. This is critical, as participation is voluntary. You walk your land with your technician and discuss some of your goals for improving the land. Then he makes recommendations about specific programs that might meet your needs. Nothing is forced upon you, and it is up to you to apply for the various programs recommended. Among the programs the NRCS oversees is the Conservation Reserve Program, which pays farmers to retire highly erodible soil from crop production or pasturing. Less well know is the Wetlands Reserve Program, which pays up to 100 percent for the restoration and maintenance of a former wetland; the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program, which pays up to 75 percent of the costs for creating or restoring wildlife habitat; and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, which pays up to 75 percent of the costs for constructing, restoring conservation or environmental-quality practices on crop land, grass land, pasture land or non-industrial forest land. My friend Roger Deets, who purchased a 250-acre Minnesota property a few years ago, has worked extensively with the NRCS to turn a degraded farm into a wildlife haven. EQIP and WHIP dollars were used to construct a large, erosion-controlling pond, plant trees and plant food plots nearby. Once-tilled — and highly abused — soil was retired into native grasses, shrubs and food plots using CRP money. Finally, WHIP money was used to create a variety of wildlife openings (planted to annual and perennial food plot mixes) and also selectively harvest mature trees as part of a timber-stand improvement cut that will improve habitat for deer and turkeys and put money into Deets’ pocket. What’s the catch? There are two, actually. The money allocated to various regions for each program can vary according to year, and — predictably — in some cases you might have to wait to accomplish projects. But if you’re a landowner with big plans that you can’t afford, or you’re looking for technical and financial assistance, the NRCS might be there to help. “My impression has been that if a project makes sense for the environment and wildlife, they’ve been able to help me,” Deets said. “The thing that excites me the most is that, although I’ve seen immediate results, the most important ones are down the road. My greatest pleasure will come when I walk this place in 20 or 30 years and be able to say, ‘Wow, we really did something special here.’” For information, contact the NRCS office in your area by looking in the “Government” section of your phone book or by visiting www.nrcs.usda.gov.

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A Recipe for Successful Food Plots in Michigan

SOUTHERN MICHIGAN (MIXED FARMLAND AND DEVELOPED AREAS) I live on 38 acres in southern Michigan. The property was once used for agriculture, but not for the last 30 years. The high ground was farmed intensively and the wetlands were even used for cattle pastures. Over the past few decades, the land has grown back with lots of brush along with cattails, flooded and upland hardwoods (maple, oak and cherry) and softwoods (pines, cedar and tamarack). My property is currently bordered by active farmlands on one side, a large swamp on the back, and lots of small parcels along the remainder. In fact, I have more than a dozen neighbors that border me, and that number seems to be growing every year as properties are split and developed. Deer hunting pressure is extremely intense. In fact, deer hunters outnumber the deer during modern gun season. My food plots, stands and access routes are all laid out so that my property serves primarily as a sanctuary to attract deer from the highly pressured surrounding area. Since the land is mostly wetlands with thick, heavy cover, it works out great. My food plots were installed on high spots where access will not likely bump deer from the sanctuary areas. Because the neighboring agricultural crops are rotated between corn, winter wheat and alfalfa, my food plots had to have an edge to up my odds for success. Also, I did not

have much tillable land to work with, so I had to maximize my food plot strategy as well. Because my property dries up every year during the summer and early fall, I rented a mini-excavator and dug several waterholes along the edge of thick cover near bedding areas. I then installed my food plots near the water holes. By giving deer a bedding sanctuary, steady water supplies and food sources all located within protective cover, the deer typically stay on my land during daylight hours and then venture onto the neighboring fields under the cover of darkness. Due to a seasonal stream that runs through the front of my property, the plots are very hard to access with large equipment; so all the work was done with handheld equipment. I put in my food plots by cutting small openings about 1/4 acre in size using a chain saw and brush cutter. I chose brushy areas consisting mainly of various hardwood saplings. I cut the brush off as close to the ground as possible and just mowed regularly for two years to allow the small stumps to rot down and build up the sandy soil with humus. At the end of the second year, I sprayed the plots with a non-selective herbicide and obtained a few soil samples. The pH was slightly acidic, so I limed the plots by shaking bags of lime across the ground by hand. The next spring I sprayed the plots again with a herbicide using a backpack sprayer. After a couple weeks, I fertilized the “browned down” plots with low nitrogen fertilizer and then tilled using a garden tiller. I’ve experimented with all kinds of different seeds on

By Michael Veine

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Whitetail Institute

I

’ve been tinkering with food plots for more than a decade and have learned what works and what doesn’t in “my neck of the woods.” I own hunting land containing food plots in two distinctly different areas. One location is in southern Michigan’s farm country, and the other parcel is in the Big Woods country of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (U.P.). In the past five years alone, I’ve managed to take my legal limit of 10 adult bucks hunting the food plots on my properties. Here’s my recipe for successful food plots.

Due to a seasonal stream that runs through the front of my property, the plots are very hard to access with large equipment; so all the work was done with hand-held equipment. Vol. 18, No. 1 /

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Whitetail Institute

UPPER PENINSULA PROPERTY (BIG WOODS)

The author uses selective herbicides every other year to halt weed and grass invasion.

those plots and now only use Imperial Whitetail Clover for all my food plot needs. Because I don’t have much room to work with, all of my southern Michigan food plots are of the small “kill plot” variety. I have stands hung right over them and doctor them up to attract bucks by installing rubbing trees and licking branches at strategic spots. I also

funnel deer to and from the plots by manipulating the habitat. I maintain my plots with two or three mowings per year along with spring and late summer applications of fertilizer. I also use selective herbicides every other year to halt weed and grass invasion. Because the plots are small, I even weed them by hand at times.

My U.P. property consists of 160 acres of mixed hardwoods (maple and aspen) and softwoods (cedar, balsam and pine). A stream runs the length of the property. The entire watercourse is laced with beaver ponds and is quite marshy and brush-filled. The rest of the property is a 50/50 mix of cedar swamp and low ridges. Hunting pressure is relatively low in the area, which is composed entirely of large private parcels managed mostly for deer hunting and timber production. There isn’t any agriculture in the area so it is pure “big woods” deer hunting, which I truly love. Half of my property received aggressive timber treatments in 1996 and 1997, with a 40-acre clear-cut being the most noticeable result. Another 40 was selective-cut, and most of the back 80, which is comprised of a big cedar swamp, has not been timbered much in more than 100 years. I plan to leave it mostly alone as winter cover. When we bought it, access on the property was restricted to foot travel only. As a result of the logging and road and food plot projects, we now have roads and trails throughout the parcel. In 1998, we broke ground with our first food plots. I hired an excavator to doze out two decent-size plots and also carve out some roads, trails and small openings. One plot is about three acres and was created on a stump-filled maple ridge in the center of an aspen clear-cut. Another plot was carved out of an old burn and is surrounded by thick balsam, maple and cedar cover. When the excavator originally cleared the plots, he did a good job of plowing up the soil. I did not apply any herbicides to those plots before the original plant-

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WHITETAIL NEWS / Vol. 18, No. 1

239 Whitetail Trail, Pintlala, AL 36043 FAX 334-286-9723

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ing. The pH was very acidic everywhere on the property, so we had to add tons of lime. By hand, we cleared away most of the rocks, sticks and other debris and then pulled a drag behind a big lawn tractor to level the fields and to help mix the lime and fertilizer into the soil. I’ve planted a variety of seed brands into the plots as a test to see what would work the best. My results were very mixed, but the Imperial Whitetail Clover I tested performed the best with the highest germination rate of any seeds that I tested. The Imperial Clover also stood up to the heavy grazing better than anything else. I soon replanted every bit of ground available with Imperial Whitetail Clover, including strategic stretches of roadways and more food plots that I added later. I eventually bought an ATV along with a heavy-duty disk, a boom sprayer and a large-capacity, pull-behind spreader. That equipment investment has paid big dividends in the quality of my food plots. I am convinced that spraying selective herbicides like Slay and Arrest is the key to keeping Imperial Clover thick and lush with minimal effort over the long haul. Now, I simply spray my food plots with selective herbicides when needed, and the longevity of my food plots has more than doubled. The ATV and equipment makes maintaining the plots a snap. I still do my mowing with an old lawn tractor. Used lawn tractors can be found cheap and they work great for mowing plots, roads and trails. In the spring of 2005, I limed and replanted a plot with Imperial Whitetail Clover, and it germinated well, but we had one of the worst droughts I can remember. When I checked things out in late summer, the clover was brown and dried-up. I thought it was dead and I’d lost my entire planting. However, in September, the rains finally came, and that clover surprised me by greening up like magic. In just a couple of weeks, it sprouted up thick and lush. During the October bow season, my plots were hammered as dozens of whitetails were drawn to the succulent food source. I nailed two nice bucks near that plot. Never give up on Imperial Whitetail Clover. My hunting strategy on my U.P. property does not involve hunting directly over the food plots. I treat them like part of a sanctuary by hunting no closer than 100 yards. I’ve created funnels between the bedding areas and the food sources, and that’s where I set up my ambushes. The deer on my land hit my food plots hard, and I plan to expand two of the food plots, adding another eight acres of high-quality forage with Imperial Whitetail Clover. I’ll take it one step at a time. W

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WHITETAIL NEWS

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FAMILY OPERATION CASHES IN WITH IMPERIAL CLOVER Michael Manley and his family own a 1,900-plus-acre chunk of land and lease another 200-plus-acre parcel from a neighbor in the upper Northeast. The land consists of many fields and all types of cover that ranges from hardwoods, pines, sections filled with apple trees, blueberry patches, and any other possible scenario you can come up with. The following is his story about the great success that he, his family and his friends have enjoyed with Imperial Whitetail Clover.

W

e started using Imperial Whitetail products around nine or ten years ago. Our family started using Imperial products because of the overwhelming results people we knew were getting. We run a private hunting camp that during a busy year can become 20 family and friends all hunting for a big buck. This camp takes no strangers, and requires the trust and fellowship that friends have earned over the past several years. The terrain has rolling hills, and some of it stays fairly damp year round. There is a small stream that runs through the property, which is fed by a large pond that has great fishing (big northern pike and some nice largemouth). Other structures include 14 other ponds, which are all stocked and mostly all spring-fed. The fields that aren’t Imperial Clover, are mostly hay fields, and some are year-round brush (switchgrass). The soil might not be best for growing Imperial Clover but it isn’t that bad. The size of the deer did increase. We had thought over the years that the average deer size was decreasing in New York state, but with a quality food source we have a found a median which in some cases when deer (male) hits its peak growing size can reach up to 185 to 200 pounds. We have also noticed with good buck management and a good food source that antler size of our deer has greatly increased. About six years ago my father implemented a 6-point rule, which has been followed fairly well besides an occasional “mistake.” Since we have gone to that rule we feel that we have tagged more mature bucks on average per year. For instance, three years ago we tagged 22 bucks, which means every sin72

WHITETAIL NEWS / Vol. 18, No. 1

Joe Siemetowski displays a fine 10-pointer taken on the Manley farm.

■ Tomas Manley Farm Provides Great Deer Hunt >>>>> By Styles Bridges I had been in the area for almost a week bow hunting with a few friends passing the time before gun season opened up. I spent the last two days before opening day putting up some portables and helping my son, Styles, find a spot. I took care of the small stuff so I could concentrate on the big one. I was going to hunt in my honey hole which was located in the hardwoods on top of large hill. The area was open and a haven for big bucks in the past. I have taken plenty of 120- and even a few 130-class bucks out of this spot. I awoke two hours before daylight and went to my tree stand. The 2005 deer season brought some changes. It was the first ever Saturday opener in the Southern zone. I also was carrying my rifle, which felt out of place since I had always had a shotgun in my hand opening day. The laws changed for the county and opened up for rifle hunting this year. The weather was ideal for deer hunting. The temperatures hovered around 30 degrees; the wind was still, and the leaves crisp on the floor of the woods. I can remember years when I’ve sat through winds that would make my tree stand rival a carnival fair roller coaster ride. In other years, snow and freezing rain have prevailed. As the sun brightened the Eastern sky, I could hear movement coming my way. A doe quickly came into view, stopping frequently and looking back. I immediately lost composure as I knew a buck had to follow. The second deer had horns extending well above and beyond his ears. Both deer quickly marched by my stand sensing something was not right. I steadied my gun and whistled in attempt to stop the buck. Instead of stopping the buck turned directly toward me and was mostly hidden by a large maple tree. I thought for sure I had lost my chance for an easy shot. He started marching like a German soldier tentatively toward me. I shot as he presented his shoulder from behind the tree. At the ring of the shot, both deer spun and ran directly away from me. Because so much of the buck was covered by the maple tree, I did not get to appreciate his body language at the time of the shot. Within milliseconds I thought I had missed. Both deer disappeared into the distance. I sat in my stand for what seemed like hours but probably only moments wondering whether I had blown a great opportunity for an easy shot on a good buck. After what I had thought had been 20 minutes, I decided to get down out of my stand and look for blood. As I approached the maple tree, the only evidence was torn up maple leaves with nothing but mud on top. I followed the disturbed leaves for about 70 to 100 yards and decided I had better start moving in stealth mode. As I covered approximately another 100 yards I saw no evidence of any kind of a wounded deer. Disappointment began to overcome me. As I turned to go back toward the maple tree and start again, I saw a patch of white 100 yards to my left. My disappointment turned to elation. It had to be the buck. He had run all that distance without ever showing any evidence of being hit by a high caliber rifle bullet. The Thomas Manley Farm has been a haven for big bucks in the last 15 years. Our group of hunters has always endeavored to let the first year bucks go unharmed. In more recent years we have aspired only to shoot bucks that have three points on one side. This combined with Mother Nature’s diminishing the population has left a crop of deer that are bigger and of more trophy class. I am already looking forward to next year heading out to my opening day perch.

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Left to right: Styles Bridges IV, Styles Bridges Sr., and Joe Siemetowski show off the results of a successful hunt.

gle hunter filled a tag with a deer 6 points or better. A majority of the bucks were 8 pointers and four were 10point bucks. Last year we tagged only eight bucks, all of which were 7 points or better. In 2005 we tagged 13 bucks and only three of these bucks were less than 7 points. In all we bagged three 10-pointers, two of which were trophies in any state, one big 9-point bruiser, a big

8-point buck and many other re-spectable deer that any hunter in the area would pull the trigger on. In fact, as I write this story one of our neighbors has just killed an 8-pointer with a 20” spread… nice deer. Three years back the third biggest buck in the state was taken by a neighbor. it scored an impressive 168 inches of antler. My father is good friends with the

gentlemen, and he has also implemented the 6-point rule. As for the Imperial Whitetail Clover, it has attracted a ton of deer. It is a great attractant. I personally have seen some amazing deer just off the food plots. For instance, the year we took 22 deer, my youngest brother and I made frequent trips to a certain rectangular food plot in the early fall-late summer time period. We would park our bike several hundred yards away and stalk our way to the field. With the wind perfect most every time we would go undetected in full camouflage to the edge of the field, binoculars in hand. It never failed; a buck was there almost every night. A trophy 10-point buck and a mountable 8pointer were frequently spotted. We studied the 10point buck distinctively, and got to know it fairly well. My brother noticed one of the dog horns were shoveled, or had a flatness to it that was noticeable. We told the guys, and everyone was excited. My uncle hunted the plot hard. He harvested a nice 8 pointer. The third day of the season the 10 pointer was harvested and it was the same deer we had studied earlier that year. Behind our house we have three or four food plots that are anywhere from 1-3 acres. They are all in Imperial Clover. Most of them are in the open and are rarely hunted. The one that is hunted has produced three 8-pointers in the last five years. There are four clover fields across the road that are a little bit smaller. Two of them have a stand or a blind nearby. Otherwise all of the hunting takes place off of the plots on trails in the woods. Most of the larger bucks this year were never seen during the preseason. All of the bucks killed this year were chasing does. W

Putting out the welcome mat for deer is as easy as pouring from a jug. Deer are so attracted by the smell and drawn to the taste of Magnet Mix that they will come from miles around – and keep coming back. Just shake and pour (no mixing required) and wait for the deer to show up. Just seconds of preparation provides gallons of attraction. Because of Magnet Mix’s incredible attractiveness, some states may consider it bait. Remember to check your local game laws before hunting over Magnet Mix.

The Whitetail Institute 239 Whitetail Trail / Pintlala, AL 36043

800-688-3030 www.whitetailinstitute.com

Research = Results.

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Vol. 18, No. 1 /

WHITETAIL NEWS

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I'm a Master Sergeant and have been in for 20 years now. I'm currently deployed to Baghdad, Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. I'm on a 15-month deployment that will end in October of 2008. My current job title is Medical Regulating Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge. What that means: I have a 10 man/ woman crew who work 24 hours a day and coordinate moving all injured patients to the appropriate level of care in Iraq. If and when need be, we also move them back to the U.S. for care. It is a very difficult but very rewarding job knowing that we are helping save lives every single day. I will be retiring to Rocky Head, Ala. (just outside Ozark) when I return. My family is already there waiting for me. I look forward to getting back and climbing that tree to watch that wonderful world pass by that we call "Hunting Season" with a little more appreciation after being over here. MSG Steven Rutland Baghdad, Iraq

Once I came back down to earth and realized I had killed the biggest deer of my life the work began to get him out and hang him in a tree.

Despair O to Euphoria (What a difference 3 hrs 40 minutes can make) By Stephen Rutland 74

WHITETAIL NEWS / Vol. 18, No. 1

n this November day, I traveled the full spectrum of the mental highs and lows of hunting. At 1:18 p.m. I had walked out to the small wooded island in the field that sat 300 yards in front of my stand. I had been watching deer travel to the island day in and day out like clockwork. The Imperial Clover field was doing it’s thing.

It had rained that morning, was nearing 70 degrees and there was just no interest to get out of bed at 4 a.m. to get wet and hunt. Around midday we decided the front was moving out and that the deer would probably start to move a little more. In the 30-minute drive to the hunting area the temperature fell at least 15 degrees. I decided that I would venture out to the island and take a look. This would work out well since wind was blowing from the southeast from my stand.

As I entered the island I was able to move very quietly due to the morning rain showers. The left side was thick with vines and briars. The middle and right sides were fairly open. As I approached the middle I heard this thundering crash to my left not 20 feet from me. A buck and doe had jumped and headed toward the next zip code. All I saw was a huge rack and white tails fleeing. His rack had hit a limb and it sounded like a Louisville Slugger smacking a telephone pole. I ran as fast as I could to the edge of the island and managed to get a three second glance at the buck 300 yards away slowly walking into the woods. I could hardly believe the body size of this animal. I have never felt such despair in my 30 years of hunting. I was almost physically sickened because of the missed opportunity. I played it over and over in my mind. What could I have done differently? Could I have moved slower or waited longer between short movements? No, I don’t think any of that would have mattered. He didn’t get that big because he was dumb or slow. As I sat there on the Imperial Clover field the rest of the afternoon in a depressed mood I was trying to pep myself up for just having the opportunity of seeing a deer like that. I watched the far wood line as the young bucks chased does around and sparred back and forth over them. Just before dark all of the bucks in the field scattered. I knew this would happen for one of two reasons. A predator (human or animal) will make the deer scatter, but the does didn’t leave. The second was a large or dominant buck. This convinced me that the old man of the woods was probably making his presence felt. I peered back into the woods and noticed what I thought was a deer looking out. For a few minutes I kept talking myself out of believing that it could really be a deer that big. Then the deer leaned his head over and back up. I got to my feet as quickly as I could. I had been sitting there for hours watching and ranging the distance. I knew that it was 289 yards from my stand. www.whitetailinstitute.com


The deer I had spooked had merely just wandered in the woods and laid down right there the entire time. The pucker factor was pushing 10-plus at that point. He got up and eased out into the edge of field to rough up the scrape the young bucks had been working. He was standing broadside to me. I leaned against a tree and squeezed out a round from my rifle. The bullet hit under him and sprayed him with dirt. He immediately flung his body around looking at the ground. To my complete shock he did not run away. He turned completely broadside once again and went back to working the scrape. I chambered another round and took the time to properly count the lines on my scope. I then managed to pull the trigger with the right crosshairs on the animal and he dropped in is tracks. So did I. I had to sit there for a few minutes to let my brain and body adjust the chemical imbalance created from the previous few minutes. After I was able to walk and think straight I went back to the truck and got the 4-wheeler and a buddy to go with me to pick the animal up. As I approached the deer I just could not believe the body on this animal. He was pushing 275 pounds. He was the largest deer I had ever seen in the woods. I attribute this to genetics and the Imperial Whitetail Clover and the Imperial No-Plow that I had planted. I planted Imperial Clover and Imperial No-Plow in several locations on my 16-acre Kentucky farmland. My farmland is mostly rolling hills to flat terrain. The soil is a dark clay based soil, so both the No-Plow and Imperial Clover are great choices. Once I came back down to earth and realized I had killed the biggest deer of my life the work began to get him out and hang him in a tree.

The best part of the whole experience was that I had my two best hunting buddies, Mike and Tony Rubel of Florida, there with me. My 12-year-old son was there the following weekend to kill his first deer ever, just 45 yards from where I dropped my deer. My 5 year old daughter asks me everyday when she will get to go hunting with me. I tell her this Christmas. I look forward to her going out there with me and seeing the excitement in her eyes. W

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Soil testing is one of the most important things you can do to ensure the success of your plantings — of any kind. The Institute is pleased to now provide soil test kits and results for all Imperial products or any other type seeds. (Complete instructions and all related information will come with kits.) Test results include pH, phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). Fertilizer and lime recommendations for maximum performance from your plantings will be provided. The average turnaround time is 24-48 hours after our lab receives the sample. The charge for the kit and results is $9.95. If ordered alone, add $2.00 shipping and handling for unlimited number of kits. If ordered with other Imperial products there is no shipping charge.

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75


Do I Have What It Takes? A Boy, A Buck and A Step Toward Manhood By R.G. Bernier Photos by the Author

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lthough most fullgrown men would never verbalize such an inquiry as, “Do I have what it takes?”, the nagging question of self-doubt remains nevertheless whenever embarking upon a trial that has yet to be experienced. Sadly, doubt and fear of failure have prevented many an otherwise willing soul from making an attempt at what may not be so easy to accomplish. Standing up to bat for the first time and facing a pitcher 60 feet away that is preparing to throw a hard round sphere at you is rather intimidating. The stands are filled with spectators including family and peers, all of whom are expecting you to hit a round ball with a round wooden bat. As you tentatively dig into the batter’s box, the fear of being hit becomes as real as the dread of striking out, failing and embarrassing yourself. Every Major League baseball player has faced this very same situation, as has every accomplished deer hunter. Once the ball is struck or the first kill is made, all misgivings quickly fade. After all, success breeds confidence. Indeed, there was a time when the hunter’s horn was trumpeted with the call being eagerly answered, not out of a sense of obligation, but as a rite of passage. The only question being, as Robert Ruark, author of Horn of the Hunter, pointed out, not if, but when that resonating noise is heard. “The hunter’s horn sounds early for some, later for others. For some unfortunates, prisoned by city sidewalks and sentenced to a cement jungle more horrifying than anything to be found in Tanganyika, the horn of the hunter never winds at all. But deep in the guts of most men is buried the involuntary response to the hunter’s horn, a prickle of the nape hairs, an acceleration of the pulse, an atavistic memory of his fathers, who killed first with stone, and then with club, and then with spear, and then with bow, and then with gun. How meek the man is with no importance; somewhere in the pigeon chest of the clerk is still the vestigial remnant of the hunter’s heart; somewhere in his nostrils the half-forgotten smell of blood.” Fortunately for me, I heard the horn early in life. I was a deer hunter long before I became a man. But, as you are about to read, my initiation into the fraternity of deer hunters was not without its share of doubts. The story begins with an untested fledgling, marching down a dimly lit forest pathway, into a labyrinth of skeletal trees that would soon swallow him up like a tempestuous, hungry ocean far removed from the harbor’s familiar security. Embarking upon a pre-dawn wood is always a bit unnerving, what with the sounds and shadows of night, the inability to clearly identify what is around each bend of the trail, and the mere act of navigating

in the dark is not comfortable. This is especially true for a young man who is about to be tested for the first time. This initiation into manhood, to be tested, to see if I had what it took to become a full-fledged hunter came abruptly and without warning. Following along behind the footsteps of my father, much like the many other mornings since I began my hunting career, all seemed typical. But today would be different. A day like no other, one that comes only once in a man’s life. For some, such as myself, it comes early. For others much later and perhaps with no father to follow, and sadly, there are those that never get to this place. It seemed odd that we were stopping so soon; there was a good bit of ground left to cover in order for us to top the ridge and be in position before first light. That interruption in our trek is when my world suddenly changed completely. Without explanation, my father turned to me, pointed towards the trail and said, “That’s your hunting grounds today,” turned and continued on his way leaving me speechless and alone. There I stood on the dirt roadway, gun in hand con-

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templating what I should do. Uncertainty clouded my mind. It would have been easy to hike back to the safety of the car. After all, my lunch was there and no one would be the wiser to this decision, no one except for me. In my youthfulness I could not comprehend why I was being abandoned, why I was suddenly being forced to engage into something so terrifying. Mustering all of the intestinal fortitude that an adventurous young lad possesses, I cautiously began to tiptoe down that aforementioned, dimly lit pathway — gun at port ready should any lions, tigers or bears make an attempt to ambush me. Such are the thoughts of boyhood fantasy. With each step I penetrated deeper into this cloaked abyss. The forest had swallowed me up and I had now reached a point of no return. The familiar had disappeared and I was clearly in uncharted waters. The morning star rose to the east, providing providential light to erase the darkness, and thankfully, some of my imagined fears. I pressed on with slightly renewed confidence. Believing that I had to have walked several miles by now (in reality it was probably no more than a few hundred yards), I found a good stump on which to sit that offered me a good vantage point. Shortly into my vigil, the forest occupants came to life, much like a city filled with bustling people heading off to work for the day. Birds could be heard chirping, squirrels were rummaging through the leaf litter attempting to locate breakfast, and what I thought was someone’s feeble attempt to start their engine proved to be the drumming of a male partridge. Suddenly, above the ruckus I heard the distinct footfalls of a much heavier animal. Closer they came. My lit-

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tle heart was pounding. I almost didn’t dare to breathe. I certainly didn’t move as that was a cardinal sin ingrained in me during my initial hunting forays. Searching desperately for what I hoped was a deer, my eyes could not pick out any movement from the direction of the disturbance. The brush was just too thick from whence the noise came. And then everything went silent. For what seemed like hours to a pint-sized lad, it was probably no more than a few short minutes that had elapsed before the sound of movement in the leaf litter began again. Whatever it was, deer — bear, man, who could tell at this point — was definitely moving from behind the screen of fir toward an opening to my right. Sliding off the stump, I quickly got down on one knee, placed my rifle across my other knee and prepared for a possible shot. At this point, my heart was pounding in my throat, reverberating in both ears with each breath coming in short gasps. Finally, the deer stepped out — a fine, fat buck, which was quite oblivious to my presence. He was no more than 50 yards distance and offered a broadside shot. When the smoke cleared from my shot, there laid my buck, its tongue out, his eyes dim. He was dead. As I stood straddling my buck, smiling from ear-toear, I felt triumphant. I’d done it. Alone, or so it seemed in this vast terrain, I had single-handedly captured my prize with one well-placed shot. In the scope of less than two hours, a frightened, uncertain young man became transformed into a self-confident hero that had made a huge leap into manhood. Much to my father’s wisdom, this was no cruel joke or harsh treatment as I first thought, but rather the very thing that would serve to catapult his young son into an adventuresome life of chasing whitetails with reckless aban-

don in some of the wildest places on the planet. Every boy, every man, everyone that calls himself a hunter must know that he has what it takes. Our masculine soul needs the trials and adventure, the experiences that bring him to this settled confidence. Failures will come; it’s part of the learning. Hunting is hard. But isn’t that the epic that we are all after? Teddy Roosevelt spoke of the thrill of the chase: “In hunting, the finding and killing of the game is after all but a part of the whole. The free, selfreliant, adventurous life…the wild surroundings, the grand scenery… all these unite to give the career of the wilderness hunter its peculiar charm. The chase is among the best of all national pastimes; it cultivates that vigorous manliness for the lack of which in a nation, as in an individual, the possession of no other qualities can possibly atone.” Men and boys learn by doing; we learn to hunt through experience. Although we may have fathers and mentors, we still need to discover for ourselves that we have what it takes through some trial brought on in a hunting adventure. The experience becomes a revelation revealing to you that you have what it takes. This initiation, like hunting itself, is not a spectator sport. It is something that each of us must enter into — face head-on — and conquer. W

Vol. 18, No. 1 /

WHITETAIL NEWS

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WHITETAIL NEWS / Vol. 18, No. 1

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COLLECTOR’S SERIES Lockback Knife Features: • Limited edition — only 175 serially numbered knives • Large lockback knife (8-5/8”) with natural wood handle • Beautiful walnut presentation/display box • Blade is constructed of 440 stainless steel • Bolsters are made of the highest grade nickel silver • Made in the USA

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78

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From Ray Scott’s Private Collection

MOST WANTED: The Imperial Buck By Eddie Leroy This unique portrait of the Intitute icon named “the Imperial Buck” was commissioned by Ray Scott for his personal collection. As owner of the Imperial mount, he wanted the distinctive buck mythically recreated and transported to the southern climes of the Whitetail Institute and set among a gentle autumn and the Spanish moss of Pintlala, Alabama. The original painting is recreated in the ultimate Giclée printing process which is able to reproduce the fullest spectrum of colors, displaying an extraordinarily vibrant palette and texture on the finest acid-free paper. • Each print is numbered and signed by both the artist and Ray Scott. (Dimensions: 26” x 31”)

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Mail To: Whitetail Institute of North America 239 Whitetail Trail • Pintlala, AL 36043 Or Call Toll Free: 1-800-688-3030 • Fax Orders To: (334) 286-9723

Vol. 18, No. 1 /

WHITETAIL NEWS

79


The Future Of Our Sport REX LOVELADY — ARKANSAS My wife Stephanie decided to go hunting with me when our 11 and 14 yr. old boys wanted to wait for the youth gun season. The boys and I had been seeing a lot of does and a couple of nice bucks in our 3 acre Imperial Clover field but they couldn’t get a shot because it was just too dark when they came out. We had cleared and planted the field in the middle of our 40 acres of mostly pines and a few hardwoods. Oct 21 we got to our stand at 4 pm and by 6 pm 18 does and fawns had been in the clover but got spooked by a dog barking. There was probably about 20 minutes of shooting light left when a small spike came to feed. As we were watching him this nice 200 lb 7 point with an 18 in wide spread came out feeding on the clover. We waited until he was broadside at 50 yards and she took the shot with our muzzleloader. When the smoked cleared he was laying right where he had been standing when she shot. If everyone could have heard her scream as she looked out and saw him laying there you would know how excited she was. The boys wished after we got home they would have gone with me. They may have to take turns now. We have never seen so many deer. Whitetail Institute products and information are great. Keep them coming. We have 4 more larger bucks on camera. Hope me and boys get our chance. Thank You!

JOHN WALKER — DELAWARE There is no doubt that Whitetail Institute products have improved our property and our deer herd. They have given us memories that will last a lifetime. Last year was a great year! I had high hopes. My grandson Luke Czapp was going to shoot this year if the opportunity arose. We passed on a small 6 pt. on the first day, which to a youngster was discouraging. We discussed the importance of patience and passing on smaller bucks. Well, patience and passing had surely paid off. He shot this buck on the last day of the season, one hour before it was over. The only thing better was the shot he made on it. He made an excellent shot at 85 yards. 80

WHITETAIL NEWS / Vol. 18, No. 1

TERRY GREENE — GEORGIA Enclosed is a picture of my son Mac Greene with his first deer. Mac is 10 years old. We were hunting last season on our property in Elbert County, Georgia in late October. He and I were sitting together in a buddy stand late one morning after a rainy night. The big bodied 3 pointer walked out of the pines into a food plot we had planted with a mix of oats, chicory and Imperial

Whitetail Clover. Mac took the 75 yard shot with a Ruger .243 and killed it with one shot. I was so proud to be sitting with him and seeing how excited he was. I was also proud that he took the deer on a food plot that we had created together and he and I could see the results of our hard work. Two weeks later he and I were sitting together again in the same stand when a 9 point came out and Mac dropped it with one shot at 100 yards. I’ve enclosed a picture of it as well. Thanks so much Whitetail Institute for all you do.

TONY PIZZO — ILLINOIS Enclosed are pictures of my son, Angelo 13, and his first two deer

that he harvested. The experience of being there at my son’s first harvest was overwhelming!

MICHAEL STRICKLAND — ALABAMA One year and one day separate two of the most exciting moments in my life. December 9, last year my then 10 year old daughter, Anna, killed her first deer

which was a mountable 8 point buck. December 10, this year my 9 year old son, Will, killed his first buck. It was a main frame 8 point with 4 additional points that could be scored. I have been lucky enough to be the person with both of them when they took their deer. Thanks to the Whitetail Institute, Will was lucky enough to be able to choose from 8 racked bucks on a food plot and Anna chose from 4 racked bucks. We started using Whitetail Institute products in 2001. The number and quality of deer seen has steadily been increasing from year to year. I have used the perennial products as well as the annual products of which all bring in and hold deer. Not only have the racks increased but so has the body size and weight of the deer. It was an extremely warm Sunday afternoon when we decided to go hunting. We arrived at the field around 3:30 CST which gave us about 2 hours to hunt. The field was planted with Whitetail Institute No-Plow. Like any 9 year old, he was a little fidgety because it had been 5 minutes with no deer. We did not have to wait long before the first deer walked on the field at 3:45, 150 yards away. One side of the deer’s rack had been broken off just above the brow tine and the other carried 4 long points. In the south, he is what we call a “moose” of a deer due to his body size. I estimated he weighed 220lbs to 230lbs because the deer ultimately shot by Will weighed 200lbs. The first deer far exceeded Will’s deer in body and antler size. The next 7 deer to walk into the field all had nice racks. Only one was a 6 point and the rest were 8 points or better. To say the least, we were both excited. After watching and judging the deer for a few minutes, I finally figured out which one to shoot as he exceeded the other deer in noticeable body size and none of the deer challenged him in the field. All of the deer except for the half rack and Will’s deer were involved in some type of fighting during the 30 minutes that we watched. There were 8 points with taller and wider racks but none had 4 additional kicker points. I gave my son the choice of deer and he chose points and body size. He fired the 7mm08 and the deer dropped in its tracks. I still have no idea how he shot the deer because if he was shaking half as much as I was looking through the binoculars the deer should have looked like a rabbit hopping through his scope. It took another 20 minutes for the remaining deer to leave the field before we could look at the trophy. Whether it is a spike or a 12 point, being with both my children on their first deer goes down as a trophy time. Thanks for the Whitetail Institute products. W www.whitetailinstitute.com


The foundation of Pure Attraction’s early-season attraction and nutrition are WINA-Brand oats which are winter-hardy and drought-resistant. Their high sugar content makes them exceptionally attractive and palatable to deer. WINA-Brand Oats performance is unsurpassed by all other forage oats tested. WINA-Brand forage brassicas are also included in Pure Attraction to provide abundant forage during the coldest months of the winter. Read the early reviews from all over the country: • From Virginia: “The Pure Attraction blend is extremely winter-hardy and lasted through the winter. It really grew well the whole time too. Even though it was heavily grazed, it continued to provide food for the deer during the cold weather.” • From Michigan: “The deer ate the Pure Attraction like crazy. The WINA-Brand oats and winter peas came up first and then the brassica. The deer hit the WINABrand oats and winter peas first. As of Nov. 18, both plots had been grazed low, but the plants were still green.”

Research = Results

• From Maine:“Pure Attraction is awesome. The blend seemed to click with my soil and the deer. Another great product.” • From Missouri: The Pure Attraction blend was “among the most attractive I have ever planted.” • From Alabama:“Deer completely mowed the Pure Attraction plot down. Even so, it continued to provide forage and grew well all through the winter. Deer were in the plot every night.” • From Vermont: “In our experience in testing a broad range of oat products currently available on the market, it is our belief that deer heavily prefer the oats in Pure Attraction over all other oat products we have ever tested. ” Plant Pure Attraction during the same dates as the fall-planting dates for Imperial perennials. Since Pure Attraction does not require the sort of deeper ground tillage required for planting some perennial blends, it is even easier to plant. Looking for a product that will establish quickly and give your deer the one-two punch of both early- and late-season attraction…? Give Pure Attraction a try!

The Whitetail Institute 239 Whitetail Trail • Pintlala, AL 36043 1-800-688-3030 • www.whitetailinstitute.com

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Whitetail News Vol 18.1