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Whitetail Institute of North America 239 Whitetail Trail / Pintlala, AL 36043 Phone: 334-281-3006 / Fax: 334-286-9723

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In Hunting’s Top 5 Product Developments

Food Plots Rank No. 1

Story On Page 31

Indiana’s Ben Hanson With His Dad’s 170-inch Winter-Greens Buck! COVER PHOTO:


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Keep Whitetails Close By Providing Them Optimum Living Conditions By Bob Humphrey Studies show that home-range size and location is directly related to habitat quality.

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By Scott Bestul

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Benefits of Planting Perennial Plots in the Fall

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Low-Tech Grazing Gauge Measures True Crop Growth

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By Jon Cooner

Departments

Feed vs. Seed — The Smart Way to Feed Deer 365 Days A Year

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In This Issue…

Take a Big-Picture View of How Whitetails Use the Landscape

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Food Plots Rank No. 1 in Hunting’s Top 5 Developments By Charles J. Alsheimer The whitetail deer is the crown jewel of game animals in North America. There have been many industry changing product developments in hunting over the last century. Food plots are the most significant and have provided the biggest positive change in the whitetail industry.

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Choose the Right Tool for the Right Task By Jon Cooner

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Ambush — Another Winner for the Whitetail Institute By Scott Bestul Ambush is unique in that it’s the only food plot in the United States that features sweet lupine. Sweet lupine is a legume that aids in nitrogen fixation on a plot. And, deer absolutely love it. Ambush also features sugar beets and clover.

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Food Plot Planting Dates The Weed Doctor By Dr. Carroll Johnson, III, Ph.D.

Imperial Whitetail Tall Tine Tubers – Tested to Be the Best Even Through the Dead of Winter By Whitetail Institute Staff Designed for planting in late summer or early fall, Tall Tine Tubers provides two incredibly attractive food sources for deer during the fall and winter.

Features

A Message from Ray Scott Record Book Bucks Stories and Photos

By Scott Bestul

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Imperial Alfa-Rack Plus — Perennial Product Delivers Top Performance By Jon Cooner Alfa-Rack Plus offers performance and variety on well-drained soils.

By Matt Harper

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Big Success on Small Tracts By David Hart

By Gerald Almy

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How Old Bucks are Different

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Customers Do the Talking Stories and Photos

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First Deer — The Future of Our Sport

The “Orange Army” is an Economic Force that Provides for all Wildlife By David Hart

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Imperial Pure Attraction… for Fall and Winter Performance By Whitetail Institute Staff

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Life’s Roads: An Acknowledgment of Blessings By Matt Harper

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The Phases of Food Plotting By Charles J. Alsheimer

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Variety is the Spice of Life By Joe Blake

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Whitetail Oats Plus… Ideal as a Nurse Crop with Fall-Planted Perennials

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By William Cousins

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Whitetail Institute OFFICERS AND STAFF

Ray Scott Founder and President Wilson Scott Vice President of Operations Steve Scott Vice President, Executive Editor William Cousins Operations Manager Wayne Hanna, Ph.D. Agronomist & Director of Forage Research Mark Trudeau Director of Certified Research Frank Deese Wildlife Biologist Jon Cooner Director of Special Projects Brandon Self, Tyler Holley, John White Product Consultants Daryl Cherry Director of Sales Scott Thompson Upper Midwest Sales Manager Clare Hudson Northeast Sales Manager Dawn McGough Office Manager Mary Jones EDI & Inventory Specialist Teri Hudson Office Administrator Accounts Receivable Kim Collins Customer Service Marlin Swain Shipping Manager Bart Landsverk Whitetail News Senior Editor Kris Klemick Whitetail News Editor Charles Alsheimer, Tracy Breen, Matt Harper, Mark Kenyon, R.G. Bernier, Bill Marchel, Michael Veine, Dr. Carroll Johnson, III, Dean Weimer, David Hart Contributing Writers Susan Scott Copy Editor George Pudzis Art Director Wade Atchley, Atchley Media Advertising Director

For the latest promotions, sales and news visit www.Facebook.com/WhitetailInstitute

Vol. 26, No. 1 /

WHITETAIL NEWS 3


A Message from RAY SCOTT Founder and President of the Whitetail Institute of North America

Taxes You Can Love – Part 2 As someone who has made bass fishing and whitetail hunting and management my life’s work, I cannot express strongly enough my pride in American sportsmen who have put their money where their mouths are.

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f you’re scratching your head over my last column in the Whitetail News, your eyesight is not failing. The first half of the column was mysteriously abbreviated in the process of publishing. So let me catch up and add a little more information to this feel-good story. The column addressed “taxes you can love” and I was talking about the Pittman-Robertson Act which imposes an 11% tax (depending on the equipment) on guns, ammo, bows and arrows to help fund conservation. Believe it or not, foresighted hunters actually requested the taxation when they realized the declining state of wildlife in the U.S. For example, in 1900 some 500,000 whitetails remained in North America and only 100,000 turkeys. According to my research, the lowest point for wildlife populations in the country was reached about 1934. Three years later on Sept. 2, 1937 President Franklin Roosevelt signed the measure into law. But Pittman- Robertson wasn’t just about COLLECTING taxes. It was about SPENDING the taxes. Sportsmen wisely pressured congress to EARMARK the funds so they couldn’t be invaded for other purposes. Thus all the monies are spent for restoration and conservation projects, for wildlife research and habitat protection. In the intervening time it is estimated that more than ten billion dollars have been raised for wildlife conservation. Today there are over 32 million whitetail and over seven million turkeys in the country. I am proud to say America’s anglers have the same conserva-

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tion ethic. As the founder of the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (Bassmasters), it was my privilege to appear before congress to support the Wallop-Breaux Act which taxes boats, boating fuel and fishing equipment and DEDICATES the funds to protecting, preserving and enhancing the fishing environment. As monies are returned to State Fisheries it has created one of the greatest conservation success stories of all times. These are also economic success stories. As more outdoorsmen engage in their sports, the more money that is collected. The better the outdoor resources, the more engagement in the sport. The more engagement in the sport, the more money collected. You get the point. As someone who has made bass fishing and whitetail hunting and management my life’s work, I cannot express strongly enough my pride in American sportsmen who have put their money where their mouths are. It is an amazing story — one that does not receive the recognition it deserves, especially by antihunting and anti-fishing forces (yes, they exist). So the next time you buy a bullet or a bow or a lure, you have the satisfaction of knowing that your purchase is doing good for the sport and the wildlife you love. P.S. Be sure to read David Hart's article on page 42 about the amazing economic impact of hunting.

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Food Plots Rank

No. 1

in Hunting’s Top 5 Product Developments By Charles J. Alsheimer Photos by the Author

hat does the whitetail mean to you? Have you thought what your life would be like if the whitetail wasn’t part of it? Chances are that America’s favorite wild animal, the whitetail deer, evokes a million feelings within hunters across this great land. The whitetail has a way of being an inspiration and an addiction at the same time. Why else would anyone dole out hundreds of dollars to develop habitat for not just whitetails but every other species that inhabits whitetail country? Or, sit in a tree stand for hours in the most miserable conditions? Through rain, sleet and snow, deer hunters keep coming back for more. I’d hate to think what my life would have been like without the whitetail. It was what introduced me to nature and gave me a career my parents could

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never have imagined for their only son. As a child, the graceful figure of a mature buck running across a plowed field on our farm was what lit my fire — a fire that has kept me immersed in hunting and land management for more than 50 years.

A Little History “In the beginning, God created Heaven and Earth.” Genesis 1:1. Let that sink in for a moment. Earth is beyond incredible. Its land mass, with such diverse habitat, from sea to shining sea is breathtaking. God made it. And after he made the oceans, mountains and vast forests, he made thousands of animal species. Arguably, at least in North America, the whitetail deer is the crown jewel of all big-game animals. Their beauty, athletic ability and survivability is beyond reproach. When the first settlers arrived in North America, they found a paradise teeming with wildlife. Even then, the whitetail deer was the dominant big-game species. Centuries before European settlers arrived, Indians relied heavily on the whitetail for food, clothing and tools. It’s not known exactly how many whitetails inhabited North America when the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. Some estimate the

whitetail’s population was as high as 40 million. Others say there were fewer than today’s 30-plus million. At any rate, deer numbers steadily plummeted as the continent was settled. The American spirit for adventure pushed settlers westward, and they cleared land for farming and industry, and shot deer indiscriminately for food and leather. With year-round hunting, no bag limits and high demand for leather and venison in cities and logging camps, market hunting boomed across the whitetail’s range. By the late 1800s, whitetail numbers had crashed to fewer than 500,000. Around 1900, a plea went out from America’s sportsmen to regulate deer hunting seasons. Unfortunately, the damage was already done, and it took decades to rebuild healthy herds. Not until the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s did deer seasons open regularly throughout the East and Midwest.

Formula for an Industry Still, we didn’t get our first true glimpse of the whitetail’s incredible potential as a game animal and a driving force in the hunting industry until the late 1970s. “Nothing happens until something is sold” is a great quote that applies to what occurred as the 1970s gave way to the

Compound bows, portable tree stands and camouflage clothing rank in the author’s top 5.

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Vol. 26, No. 1 /

WHITETAIL NEWS 7


’80s, ’90s and beyond. Visionary businessmen saw the whitetail’s potential and jumped at the challenge to better the resource and the entire hunting scene. Their formula was simple: Exploding whitetail herds plus increasing hunter numbers plus increasing expendable income plus interest in the resource equals a multi-billion dollar industry. That’s a volatile mixture, but such is the chemistry that makes the world turn thanks to the free-enterprise system. During the past 35 years, this formula has been responsible for creating an industry that exceeds $50 billion annually in revenue. As a result, the list of developments and products created in the past three-plus decades is mind boggling. Everything from boots to advances in firearms and archery equipment have emerged to fill sportsmen’s needs.

The Big Five My career in the hunting world is approaching 40 years. Not long ago, a friend told me he thought we’d seen it all when it comes to products and enhancements in the deer hunting industry. Though that might be a stretch, I have been around long enough to see some amazing developments that have revolutionized the whitetail scene. In my opinion, five set themselves apart from the others. Let me share them, in descending order. No. 5 — The Compound Bow: In the mid-1960s, H.W. Allen applied for a patent for “Archery Bow with Force Multiplying Attachments (compound bow).”I rank this as my No. 5 because it changed the way hunters viewed hunting with sticks and strings. It took a while for the concept of cams and high let-off to become accepted by state agencies (and some traditional bowhunters), but when hunters saw the advantage compound bows brought to the table, bowhunting was propelled into a new realm. Suddenly, the advantages of 55, 65 and 70-pound bows were accessible to mere mortals, not just workout warriors. In Wisconsin, for example, bowhunter numbers jumped from 99,000 in 1972 to 254,000 by 2014. No. 4 — Portable Tree Stands: Before the 1970s, many hunters pursued whitetails from elevated permanent tree stands made mostly of wood cobbled together between tree limbs. That changed when Baker introduced its portable climber in the mid-1970s. Baker stands became so popular that other companies soon began improving upon and manufacturing their own stands. Competition and technology produced better and more reliable climbers, hang-ons and self-supporting models. Today, more than 50 manufacturers sell stands, and their revenues total in the millions. No. 3 — Camo Clothing: Like the compound bow and portable tree stands, the whitetail also drives the camouflage industry. Before Jim Crumley introduced Trebark around 1980, hunters had no real commercial camouflage patterns available. Most of us wore camo designed for World War II’s Pacific theater. When Bill Jordan’s Realtree and Toxey Haas’ Mossy Oak hit the market around 1986, they ignited a booster rocket under the market. By the mid-1990s, hunters had more than 50 patterns to choose from. Though the list of manufacturers is smaller today, the demand for all kinds of camo items is huge and growing each year. No. 2 — Trail Cameras: Some would argue that the introduction of trail cameras is the top development in the whitetail world during the past 50 years. That’s open for debate, but I believe there was a bigger development. More on that later. As demand for better and better products grew, other innovations

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Trail cameras have had a big impact on hunting and scouting deer. The author ranks this as the second most important development in the whitetail hunting industry.

came along to aid America’s deer hunters. One of the best has proven to be the trail camera. Since the late 1990s, these spies in the woods have gone from crude film cameras to high-tech digital units capable of capturing still and video images 24/7, with the ability to send what they’ve captured via the Internet. To say they have revolutionized the way serious deer hunters scout would be an understatement. All four of these phenomenal developments have indeed revolutionized whitetail hunting but as great as they are, none of them can help you have more deer and better quality deer on your land. This leads me to what is #1. No. 1 — Food Plot Industry: He who has the food has the deer. We can talk all we want about equipment advances, but nothing trumps the role that seed, soil and habitat development have done to improve deer and deer hunting. When I was growing up in farm country in the 1950s and ’60s, no one gave a thought to what was required to produce better deer and habitat. Growing food plots was on no one’s radar screen because the mindset then was that agricultural practices were all deer needed to survive. It wasn’t until 1988 that Alabama businessman Ray Scott, founder of the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, realized the imporwww.whitetailinstitute.com


tance of providing year-round nutrition for deer. Scott’s vision was so infectious that today’s deer hunters are much more knowledgeable about whitetails and their needs than their fathers were. When Scott set out to develop a seed that would be best for whitetail deer, he jumped into uncharted territory. With the expert help of Auburn University plant geneticist Dr. Wiley Johnson, he struck gold with the development of the original Imperial Whitetail Clover. It didn’t take long for land managers and hunters to see how it improved their deer and enhanced hunting opportunities. One of Whitetail Institute’s mottos is, “Research equals results.” Since 1988, research and the quest to be best has driven Whitetail Institute to be the leader in seed offerings for whitetails. Now, decades after launching Imperial Whitetail Clover, Scott and his team at the Whitetail Institute have over a dozen seed offerings and many additional support products for food plot practitioners — everything from the flagship Imperial Whitetail Clover to soil testing kits to herbicides to Tall Tine Tubers to high-quality mineral supplements, etc.

Results of a Vision What Whitetail Institute’s offerings have brought to the whitetail world is nothing short of amazing. For starters, the food plot revolution has helped fuel the whitetail information explosion. Thirty years ago, little was known about the whitetail’s nutritional needs. Scott changed that. There is no question that what you’re holding in your hands is the go-to source for everything from proper seed selection to soil enhancement. Because of this, people are much better stewards of the land than they were prior to 1988.

As hunters began learning more about food plot offerings, all wildlife — not just whitetails — benefited. As an example, food plot offerings for whitetails also benefit turkeys and many bird and smallgame populations. Knowledge is power, and as hunters became more versed in food plots, they began to better understand the role of deer management. Instead of shooting any antlered buck, land managers and hunters shifted their thoughts to quality. As a result, the quality deer management concept began to flourish — so much that today, the odds of killing a record-book quality buck are about five times more likely than they were 30 years ago. The success of food plot management has not gone unnoticed by the business world. Seed, lime, fertilizer, tractors and farm implement sales help prime the economy. In addition, when done right, these things help enhance and drive archery, firearms, clothing and many other product sales. When you follow the money in the hunting world, it inevitably comes back to food plots. And last, an aspect of the food plot revolution that rises head and shoulders above everything else is that of stewardship. Simply put, hunters and land managers walk the talk by virtue of what they do to improve wildlife and habitat. Unlike the anti-hunting crowd, these folks are the ultimate conservationists. Hunters/managers spend hundreds of millions of dollars on their passion, not to mention their time and effort. No other group comes close to what hunters do for whitetails, and it starts with food, because, “He who has the food has the deer.” Yea, as a hunter/manager you should be proud to be in this awesome group of rock-solid Americans who put their money where their mouth is. ^

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Vol. 26, No. 1 /

WHITETAIL NEWS 9


Choose the Right Tool for the Right Task By Jon Cooner

et’s say you’re looking for a tool to help you perform a specific job. Which would you rather have: something generic or something designed to do what you want? Obviously, a tool that’s built from the ground up for the purpose you intend will certainly be more effective at helping you obtain an optimum result. That’s why Whitetail Institute forage products have led the industry since 1988: They’re specifically designed for food plots for whitetail deer. Keep the Job in Mind As when selecting the right tool for a task, you must keep the nature of the job in mind. As deer hunters and managers, the main jobs we want food plot plantings to accomplish are attracting and holding more deer and improving deer quality. Many types of plantings can provide some level of improvement in deer quality and numbers. However, the biggest gains will likely come from tools specifically designed to do those things.

Generic Versus Specific Tools To explain, I’ll draw an analogy between two tools I frequently use: my video camera and still camera. Both will shoot still photos, and in some cases, both will do so with acceptable quality. Even so, I use my still camera to take photographs whenever possible because I can produce better quality photos with it. My still camera has a greater range of general and detail controls related to photography performance than my video

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camera does. In other words, my still camera is designed with photography as its primary job. Like my cameras, most food plot plantings for deer are also designed for primary jobs. Farm crops and pasture crops, for example, are designed to produce maximum yields for harvest or grazing by cattle. As such, they’re like my video camera as a tool for taking photographs.

The Importance of Specific Tool Characteristics By characteristics, I mean distinctive qualities that separate one tool from other tools for performing a job. In the context of food plot plantings for deer, these characteristics are referred to as traits. Just as my still camera is designed with a greater range of general and detail controls for taking photographs, Whitetail Institute forage products are purpose-built with traits the company considers uniquely important for any forage, the primary role of which is to serve as a food plot planting for deer. The most important of those is attractiveness to deer. Unlike cattle, which as grazing animals can use tougher, stemmier food, whitetails are selective browsers with a digestive system that requires that they seek the most tender forages. You’ll start to see why the Whitetail Institute considers attractiveness to whitetails such an important trait when you consider that it’s a unique requirement not designed into farm and pasture crops. Other traits the Whitetail Institute considers critical in food plots for deer include how quickly the planting can establish and grow in a wide variety of climates, even when conditions are less than optimum. These include disease resistance, early seedling vigor, and tolerance of heat, drought and cold. The Whitetail Institute’s dedication to accuracy in research, development and testing has been a hallmark of the company since it was founded in 1988. Nowhere is that more visible than in the consistency of its process for breeding new plant varieties for food plots for whitetails.

The Scientific Method: Whitetail Institute Forages The scientific method is considered by scientists to be the exclusive process for reaching reliable conclusions. Reliability is assured by the scientist carefully controlling and replicating tests, and collecting and analyzing data from the tests purely as an observer. By following the scientific method in all phases of development and testing, the Whitetail Institute ensures that its results are extremely reliable. And that’s true whether you’re talking about the Whitetail Institute’s selection of existing forage components or its development of new forage varieties such as Tall Tine Tubers. The best example of the Whitetail Institute’s consistent adherence to the scientific method is Imperial Whitetail Clover, the only clover product that contains clover varieties scientifically developed specifically for food plots for whitetails. If you’re a longtime Whitetail Institute customer, you might already know the story of how Imperial Whitetail Clover came about. In 1988, the Whitetail Institute’s www.whitetailinstitute.com


founder, Ray Scott, charged the Whitetail Institute’s first director of forage research, Dr. Wiley Johnson, with the job of scientifically designing a clover product specifically for deer. Dr. Johnson gathered more than 100 clover varieties from the United States, Europe and the Middle East and evaluated them for the specific traits mentioned earlier: rapid growth, disease resistance, early seedling vigor, attractiveness to whitetails, and tolerance of heat, drought and cold. The clovers that best exhibited those traits were then crossbred with the help of bees. The offspring were evaluated for the same traits, and the best went on for additional testing. Through years of this repetitive process, Imperial Whitetail Clover was improved and continues to be made even better. Dr. Wayne Hanna, who joined the Whitetail Institute as director of forage research after Dr. Johnson passed away, recently completed development of additional new clover varieties that are now part of the backbone of Imperial Whitetail Clover. This process has continued through the years since the Whitetail Institute developed its first proprietary clover varieties. As Dr. Hanna explained, the Whitetail Institute’s process of developing new forage varieties continues to emphasize reliability through the use of the scientific method. “Our initial focus as we set out to develop the new Whitetail Institute clover varieties was to select hardy clover plants that had stood the test of time from around the United States to use in our crossbreeding program,” he said. “We searched from Colorado to Pennsylvania, and from Wisconsin to Florida to be sure the candidates represented a broad range of different environments. At this early stage, we were searching for clovers that natural selection had already shown were superior in ability to flourish in their environment. An

example is a clover we obtained from an old farm in Texas. The landowner had planted the clover in 1960. After so many years, only spots of the clover remained. We selected clover from one of those spots because it had survived so long even with all sorts of stresses, abuse and overgrazing. Nature had already done that part of the plant breeding for us.” “Once we had selected the candidate clovers, the next step was to subject the seeds to real-world stresses to see which best exhibited the growth and resiliency traits we were looking for. We planted them next to each other and then monitored them for two years. By then, we could visually identify those that best exhibited vigorous growth, drought and cold tolerance and disease resistance. We started with about 30,000 clover plants in the first stage of testing, and from that we selected only about 50 to go on for further research.” “The next stage was to isolate the selected clovers and allow bees to cross-pollinate them to combine drought tolerance, cold tolerance and disease resistance. The process continued for several years until we reached the replicated-trial stage in which the clovers were planted in different soil types and conditions, from heavy clay to well-drained soil. We then selected the clovers that consistently showed the characteristics we were looking for. The whole development process took several years.” The level of attention to scientific detail Dr. Hanna describes is difficult and time-consuming, but it’s necessary to obtain dependable research results. Is all that time and effort worth it? Only to folks who won’t settle for anything less than products painstakingly developed for the specific job of attracting, holding and growing bigger and better deer. ^

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Vol. 26, No. 1 /

WHITETAIL NEWS 11


Another Winner for the Whitetail Institute By Scott Bestul I’m a writer, not a businessman, so I know just enough about developing and marketing a product to be dangerous. However, I know enough successful company owners to realize that one of the toughest things to resist is bringing products to market before they’ve been tested and proven. Many companies have experienced an initial rash of success with a killer product but then succumbed to consumer pressure for more and newer gizmos like the first. If the follow-ups aren’t at least as good as the first one, the company’s reputation suffers, and long-term success can be compromised. As the originator of whitetail food plot seeds in the United States, the Whitetail Institute recognizes that temptation well. After introducing the wildly popular Imperial Whitetail Clover, the pressure to produce a latest-and-greatest follow-up had to be intense. The company has resisted, only offering a new product after an extensive period of development and testing. In short, when something new comes out from the Whitetail Institute, serious hunters and managers pay attention. I know I did when I learned about Ambush, a new product introduced last summer from the Whitetail Institute that proved so popular it sold out before many people even had a chance to order. I was one of the lucky ones to get some Ambush, and like every Whitetail Institute product I’ve used, the new kid on the block was impressive. I talked to William Cousins, product manager at the Whitetail Institute, about the development of this exciting seed blend. “Ambush is unique in that it’s the only food plot product in the United States featuring sweet lupine,” Cousins said. “Lupines are not

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widely known about in the U.S. There are hundreds of varieties of lupine, but only a handful that whitetail deer are really attracted to. We’ve been experimenting with them for years but obviously wouldn’t introduce them into a blend until we knew we had the most attractive and hardy variety.” According to Cousins, the sweet lupine in Ambush is a legume that aids in nitrogen fixation on a plot. “They’re a perfect complement to the high-sugar and winter-hardy oats (also found in Ambush) because of that nitrogen-fixing capability,” he said. “Deer are immediately attracted to the oats, and the nitrogen boost the soil receives from the lupines make the oats even more tolerant of grazing. Like most new plants in a blend, it can take deer a few visits to a plot to figure out what the lupine is and that it’s something good to eat. But when they do, they’ll start hammering them. We’ve also put our sugar beets and clover into the mix to provide attraction throughout the hunting season.” “Ambush should be planted in late summer or fall and does best in medium- to well-drained soils,” he said. “Sites with wet, heavy soils are not the best for this product, as the lupine will not perform to its potential. We have found that Ambush is a little more forgiving on pH than some products. Obviously, the closer to 7.0 the pH is, the better. But we’ve seen it perform very well in soil with just over 6.0 pH.” Newt Norton, a veteran food plotter and deer manager from central Alabama, planted two 2-acre plots with Ambush last season. “We plant close to 50 acres of food plots on the 3,000 acres we manage each year and we wanted to test Ambush,” he said. “Our deer have always had a strong preference for Whitetail Oats Plus, and as great as it has performed for us over the past few years, the Ambush we planted this past year was as good and maybe even better. Both of the plots we planted Ambush in were hammered by the deer. I have baskets (exclusion cages) on each plot, and the plants inside the baskets are 8 to 10 inches tall, while the plots outside are mowed down to less than two inches.” Norton said the soil in his two Ambush plots differ greatly. “One is sandy loam that requires constant maintenance; I have to lime it every other year,” he said. “The other is heavier clay and easier to maintain. I fertilize both plots with 300 pounds of triple-17, plus 100 pounds of nitrate. My procedure is pretty simple. I do a rough disc over the plots, fine-disc the fertilizer in and then cultipack before and after seeding. The cultipacking has made a big difference in ensuring seed-to-soil contact and better germination.” Norton’s management plan and attention to detail has paid big dividends. “Until last fall, we’d only killed a couple of bucks that weighed more than 200 pounds in 16 years on this lease,” he said. “Last season, we killed seven heavier than 200 pounds, and five of those bucks were shot over those Ambush plots.” www.whitetailinstitute.com


My home in Minnesota is several hundred miles north of Norton, but the two plots I planted with Ambush also performed very well. But one plot really caught my attention. I call it the Rocky Plot, and it’s been kind of a challenge. On the plus side, the Rocky Plot is situated tight to a creek, which naturally attracts and funnels whitetails. Another food plot is just 75 yards away, and it’s a favorite feeding spot for area deer, so many bucks visiting the nice plot eventually drift to the Rocky Plot and spend some time there. Finally, I’d started a mock scrape on one edge of the Rocky Plot several years ago, and for reasons known only to the deer, that scrape has been a hub of activity from mid-October through the end of the rut. So, for a generally underachieving plot, Rocky did OK. But the place had challenges. For a plot near a creek, the soil was surprisingly thin and, of course, rocky. Things got worse a few years back when a huge rainstorm (as in, 16 inches in 24 hours) created a massive flood that blew material from the creek bank into the Rocky Plot. In one season, a ho-hum plot had turned into a real problem. So much of a problem, that there were times I’d seriously considered just giving up on the Rocky Plot. Still, I hate quitting. So I decided to roll up my sleeves and do what I could for the place. Starting in July, I started hauling cow manure to the Rocky Plot in the back of a pickup truck and shoveling it out on the plot. Sure, a tractor and manure spreader would have been easier, but I lived 35 miles from the farm, so the truck was just easier and quicker. After five loads, I had a nice layer of nature’s best fertilizer on a quarter-acre plot, which went a long way toward building some much-needed organic matter. I disked the manure into the plot, and gave it a few weeks, figuring weeds would enjoy the cow poop too. Then, I nuked the plot with Roundup®, gave it another week, and disked and fertilized the plot before planting Ambush. The results were pretty amazing, even for the Rocky Plot. With the much-needed shot of fertilizer, the Ambush seeds flourished in the richer soil. Although I don’t hunt the plot much during bow season — the landowner is a bowhunter and enjoys sitting on the plots, so I defer to him on those stands — deer sightings spiked on the Rocky Plot. Even more interesting to me was the clear preference of whitetails for the Rocky Plot over the neighboring plot, which had been their favorite feeding place for many seasons. And during the November gun season, the landowner’s guests shot a pair of 3-1/2-year-old bucks that were trolling through the Rocky Plot, seeking does. But the clearest recommendation whitetails gave for the Ambush plot occurred during the rut. Although the mock scrape I create each fall next to the Rocky Plot always gets hammered by bucks, this past fall was exceptional. My camera there revealed an increase in the overall number of bucks and also their size and maturity. This was certainly no scientific study, and the spike in mature buck numbers could have been explained by other factors. But in my experience, big bucks spend the most time where the most does are hanging out. And because the Rocky Plot was the preferred feeding area for does, it didn’t take much deductive reasoning to figure out why my cameras lit up over that mock scrape. John Bowen from Pennsylvania had this to say about Ambush. “We have planted many different food plot products and NONE have been as successful with attracting game. Ambush is the best product we have found.” The takeaway? Whitetail Institute has clearly come up with another winner in Ambush, and I intend to get my order for this fall’s seed in early. ^

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Keep Whitetails Close

By Providing Optimum Living Conditions

neighbors might not share your management philosophy. Fortunately, the solution to prevent your deer from becoming rolling stones is fairly simple and straightforward, and it starts with providing optimum living conditions.

Happy Several studies show that home-range size is a direct result of habitat quality. Give deer what they seek to keep them happy. The basic elements of habitat are food, water and cover. The more diversity of each your property has and the closer in proximity they are to one another, the more time deer will spend there. Remember also that deer prefer edge habitat — the ecotone or transition area between various cover types. Again, the more habitat diversity and, therefore, edge on your land, the more time deer spend there.

Brown Sugar One of the best ways to enhance habitat and keep deer on your property is by providing an attractive food source or several sources. Feeding only represents a small fraction of a deer’s daily activity, but outside of the rut, that’s when they’re most vulnerable. You do this

By Bob Humphrey Photos by the Author

itting in my tree stand, I was texting a friend from up North who had inquired how my deer season was going. “Miserable. Six days, haven’t seen a set of horns yet,” I responded. I had barely hit send and slipped the phone back into my pocket when I heard a distant “brrrrrrrrrp-brrp-brrrp” and knew immediately what it was and what it meant. My gun came up to the shooting rail just as a flash of brown materialized into a doe that stopped in an opening in the evergreens. She looked back over her shoulder, flicked her tail and was gone. The next deer in the opening was a racked buck, which paused just long enough for me to settle the cross-hairs on his vitals and squeeze off a shot. The buck went exactly three feet — straight down. I pulled out my phone to continue the conversation with one word: “Done.” Then I went back and looked at the time stamp to see how much time had elapsed between texts — a minute and 30 seconds. Think about all the deer you’ve killed. Now consider how much time elapsed from when you first saw them until you pulled the trigger. If you hunt in the woods, I’ll bet the average is probably less than two minutes. It might run a bit higher for food plot hunters, but not much. That shows how important every minute is and why a landowner and manager wants to maximize the number of minutes deer spend on their property, particularly on smaller parcels, and where your

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by establishing food plots and mast orchards and enhancing natural food sources, especially woody browse. We need not go into detail, as plenty of other articles do that. Just remember that you want to provide quality year-round nutrition. First, this produces healthier deer. Second, it keeps them closer to home. Deer that wander off in search of food outside the hunting season will be more inclined to do so during the season, even if your land has ample food. If you build food plots, maintain a good ratio of cool- and warm-season plots and something that will persist through winter.

Gimme Shelter Next comes cover. Deer spend most of their day lying down, so you want to make sure there’s adequate bedding cover on your property. What that actually means can vary considerably with local conditions. In the Southeast, it could be young, regenerating pine stands with a dense understory. In the Midwest, it might be CRP, and in the North, it could be adequate softwood stands. Figure out what type of habitat deer prefer to use as bedding cover on your land, and make sure there is plenty of it. Just because you can’t plant it or hunt it doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable.

More important than just any cover is security cover — places where deer feel completely safe. Various figures are thrown out as to how many acres or what percentage of your property should be maintained as sanctuary — places where humans rarely if ever go. The real answer is as much as possible. Equally important is the location of sanctuaries, particularly on smaller parcels. The optimal place for sanctuary cover is usually the interior of your property. That way deer dispersing out of it are still on your property rather than wandering onto the neighbor’s. However, what occurs on neighboring parcels might influence that. If your neighbor to the east is an avid hunter but your western neighbor doesn’t allow hunting, you might want to concentrate sanctuaries toward the western side of your land. This creates an even larger buffer between you and your hunting neighbor.

Before They Make Me Run Obviously, you have to spend some time on the land managing habitat and, of course, hunting, but the less interaction you have with deer the better. First, keep non-hunting activities to a minimum. It’s best if you don’t ride ATVs, horses or mountain bikes on your land, nor shoot skeet or target practice. If you have no other land available and

Studies show that home-range size and location is directly related to habitat quality.

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enjoy these things, do them as far away from sanctuaries and hunting areas as possible. Conduct these and other activities like scouting, setting stands, building food plots, checking trail cameras and trimming shooting lanes as far outside the hunting season as possible. Other activities, such as filling feeders, checking trail cameras or any work that requires multiple trips, is best done on a routine basis so deer become accustomed to your coming and going. Further, do as much as you can with an ATV or truck rather than on foot. Deer seem less disturbed by vehicles. During the season, you should still keep the disturbance to a minimum. Several studies of mature bucks fitted with GPS collars found, not surprisingly, that deer moved less during daylight and spent more time in thicker cover when exposed to hunting pressure. Researchers also found a correlation between the level and duration of hunting pressure, and recommended reducing hunting pressure as an effective way to “mitigate loss of harvest opportunities due to avoidance by whitetail deer of hunted areas.” I hunt a farm (about 640 acres) in southeastern Ohio every fall. Our group typically has five to seven bowhunters, and we hunt from fixed stands or blinds. There is an observable decline in deer movement during five or six days just from our daily coming from and going to stands. If you want consistent deer sightings and reasonable odds of taking a good buck, I recommend you restrict still-hunting and eliminate deer drives, as both alter deer behavior and put them more on alert. You should also keep the pressure down even when stand-hunting. Researchers from one study suggested that providing a break between hunting periods might result in increased deer observations. I seldom hunt the same stand consecutive days or more than two or three times a week. How you approach and exit stands is another important variable. Plan your approach carefully to minimize disturbance. That might mean taking a much longer route or avoiding certain stands altogether during certain conditions, particularly if the wind is wrong.

The more does on your land, the less bucks have to travel to find them. Further, better habitat and more does might attract more bucks from surrounding areas. More research suggests that different bucks key on specific areas during the rut, presumably on concentrations of doe groups. Last, research also suggests that site fidelity increases as bucks get older. Yearling bucks have a natural tendency to wander and disperse, but after they’ve made it through a couple of hunting seasons, they’re far more likely to stick close to home, especially if not disturbed. Throughout the year, mature bucks use only 5 to 10 percent of their home range for core area activities. Even during the rut, they still use only about 30 percent of their home range. Let those young bucks go, and they will grow older and are more likely to stay on your land.

Satisfaction The only way you can be completely confident that deer will spend all their living minutes on your land is by putting up a high fence. Outside of that, there’s much you can do to increase the odds. You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you might find you’ll get what you need. ^

Following the River Often the most overlooked leg of the habitat tripod is water. Several years ago, I did a geographic analysis of where the most deer and the biggest bucks were taken in my state. The variable that stood out most was proximity to water, usually a large river system. It makes sense because wet areas produce the densest (for shelter) and most nutritious (for food) cover. On a more local scale, that could be a stream, pond or simply wet bottomland. Outside of more arid regions, water is usually not in short supply, but even where it is plentiful, you can still enhance your land by making more available, particularly during dry periods. Digging small ponds or tanks is one way. Preserving riparian corridors is another. Wet soils typically aren’t conducive to timber production anyway, so you might just set those areas aside.

Midnight Rambler Regardless of how attractive you make your property, bucks still have a proclivity to wander off, especially during the rut. Research has shown they make brief excursions outside of their core areas of roughly 24 to 48 hours. But you can influence this, too. Better habitat holds more does, which is what the bucks are leaving to find.

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Every negative interaction a deer has with a human increases its awareness of and wariness toward us. Minimize those, and deer are less likely to wander off your property. www.whitetailinstitute.com


Benefits of Planting Perennial Plots in the Fall By Gerald Almy Photos by Charles J. Alsheimer

ike many land managers, when the last day of the hunting season arrives, I immediately start thinking ahead and planning how I can work the land during every free minute. I usually have woods projects, such as hinge-cutting trees and creating cover, thickening up a potential travel corridor or planting a few shrubs in a thin staging area. I might need to remove rocks and branches at some fields and update soil samples or apply lime or fertilizer at others. But the overwhelming urge to sow seed and see it start growing often leads to plans for another plot. And so it was during a recent spring, when I decided to plant a small Imperial Whitetail Clover plot. I have lots of these plots already, but some are getting older and might need to be plowed under soon, so I decided to put in one small clover patch that spring. By late March, I had killed the weeds with glyphosate, tilled the ground several times, added the recommended fertilizer and was ready to plant. After cultipacking, I spread the seeds carefully, re-packed and then sat back to wait. It wasn’t long before a lush, green plot began to appear. The clover had emerged and was thriving. I was elated. But as the plot continued to grow, something more started to grow. Weeds. And then grasses. At first, there were just a few. Then they multiplied. But the clover was young and, being a little inexperi-

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enced, I didn’t want to stress it that early with herbicide applications aimed at weeds and grasses. So I waited a bit and decided I’d whack them down later. (I’ve since learned that herbicides are much more effective on young weed and grass seedlings.) When the weeds and grasses grew tall enough, I mowed the plot just above the tops of the clover. That helped prevent them from going to seed. But the weeds kept multiplying, as did the grasses. My Imperial Clover was doing fine, but it was slowly being overtaken by competing plants. Then summer grew hotter. Rains stopped coming. Being a highquality plant the clover held on but the weeds seemed to thrive in the dry conditions, and the competing grasses were not slowing down, either. Finally, I sprayed with selective herbicides, but it did not knock the weeds or grasses out completely. They had already grown too tall. To make a long story short, that small plot is still alive, and there’s still quality clover in it. But the weed and grass competition took a toll. It’s far from my best perennial plot. In a year or so, I expect, I’ll be forced to throw in the towel. I’ll till it under, plant an annual such as Winter-Greens or PowerPlant for a year or two and then try again. And when I do, I’ll make one major change. I’ll plant in fall. That’s what I did with another similar-sized plot that year, and the differences in the plots are stunning. One has almost no weed or grass competition. It's taller and thicker, and deer feed there regularly. Now I’ll admit, some skilled habitat managers can get awesome plots planting in spring. To them, I say congratulations. Keep growing them. For those living in northern climates, that's definitely a viable option. And frost-seeding in very early spring can also be successful. But for most food plotters of average skills with limited time, fall plant-

ings are by far the best way to go for healthy, enduring perennial plots. We’ve already touched on a few of the challenges you face when putting in plots during spring. But let’s look in more detail at some of the hurdles spring perennial plantings must overcome and, by implication, why fall plantings are usually preferable for folks in the middle or southern portions of the country, or those of us with meager skills and limited time.

Differences, Spring and Fall Before getting into those, however, it’s worth pointing out that “fall” plantings really mean late summer for most parts of the country. And that solves one of the worries novices have about planting at that time. They’re concerned about giving up hunting time. Generally, you can have most or all of your fall plantings done well before archery and gun seasons arrive or just run into those openers by a few days. The weather’s usually too hot for much good deer movement then anyway. Wet soil. Sure, there’s plenty of moisture in spring. That and the urge to get out and plant tempt us to put in plots in March and April. But in most parts of the country, spring soils are often simply too wet to work. If you rush things and try to till anyway, you’re simply compacting the soil more with your tractor or ATV and making it harder to get good germination and root growth. If you don’t till the soil well enough because it’s wet and clumpy, you’ll probably be tempted to re-plow. That will bring to the surface more competing weed and grass seeds in the soil bank. When you plant, your clover, chicory and Alfa Rack Plus will likely come up well

One of the benefits of fall planting is the reduction for weed and grass competition. For the latest promotions, sales and news visit www.Facebook.com/WhitetailInstitute

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Another advantage of planting perennials in the fall versus the spring is you are less likely to compact the soil. in the wet ground. But so will the newly energized competition — weeds and grasses. Root development and summer’s heat. There’s no question that hot summers, particularly in the South and middle part of the country, are challenging for perennial plots. To adequately endure long summer days of sunlight and little rainfall, clovers, alfalfa and chicory need to develop their roots. That takes time, because most perennials are slow-growing. And time is something spring-planted perennials don’t always have. Within a few months after sprouting, it’s facing long hours of harsh sunlight and extreme heat. If you plant in late August or September, on the other hand, the plants will have almost a year for the roots to develop before they must face searing hot summer sun and long days. Plots planted in late summer and early fall experience some hot weather, but the days are considerably shorter, so the parching sun isn’t as damaging. And soon, cooler fall weather arrives, in which the plants thrive. Precipitation. Besides the hot sun and long daylight hours, springplanted plots can also face a lack of rainfall during June, July and August. Unless your area gets those stray pockets of thunderstorms that pop up on the radar, summer plants must often face weeks with no meaningful precipitation. Plots planted the previous fall have a strong, mature root structure to cope with those dry periods. But springplanted perennial plots may be small and immature and can be stressed by lack of moisture. In most areas, fall is when rains increase. This comes at the perfect time for plants you’ve just put in, when they need the moisture to develop their roots before cold conditions arrive. By the time the next hot, dry weather spell occurs the next summer, the plants will be taller,

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with a strong, mature root structure, and able to better withstand it without problems. Weeds. Almost all weeds and grasses begin growing aggressively in spring, with increasing daylight, warming soil and abundant moisture. That’s why after years of trying to knock down those competitors and plant a perennial plot in spring, I gave up. Sure, I’ll put PowerPlant in during late May or June and Tall Tine Tubers in July. But it seems impossible to get all the weeds and grasses gone in time for a March or April clover planting. I’ll bet many of you feel the same way. And this is true even if you started trying to kill the weeds the previous fall. More will pop up the next spring — lots more. That’s why I like to devote spring and summer to getting plots ready for fall perennial plantings. I focus on eliminating weeds and preparing the soil rather than planting them. By spraying with Roundup® or a generic glyphosate, tilling the soil repeatedly and spraying again if more weeds crop up, you can eventually get a plot almost weed-and grass-free. Not completely, but almost. And that’s a lot better than one in a spring plot destined to burst out with weeds and grasses. Sometimes to help make a plot even more weed-free, I’ll plant it with an annual such as Winter-Greens or Tall Tine Tubers and wait another year to put in the perennial plot to make doubly sure the plot is as weed-free as possible. The Winter-Greens and Tall Tine Tubers will outcompete and shade out many weeds, sort of mopping up after you’ve killed most of the weeds with herbicides and repeated tilling. Not to mention the added benefit that Winter-Greens and Tall Tine Tubers make great hunting plots in the fall and winter. Soil pH and fertilizer. A final benefit of planting in fall is it gives you plenty of time to fix pH or fertilizer deficiencies your soil tests revealed. You’ll have time to get the results back, buy or order appropriate fertilizer, and apply lime. (Note: If possible, apply lime several months in advance of planting but apply fertilizer at the time of planting). More important, you’ll have time to work the lime and fertilizer into the soil where they're needed by disking or tilling them into the dirt several inches. Lime especially tends to stay where it’s applied, so working it down into the soil is required to boost the pH where the roots of your clover, chicory and alfalfa will grow. The nurse crop option for fall planting: To give my fall-planted perennials an added boost and give the plot even more appeal to deer, I sometimes use a cover or nurse crop with the clover, such as Whitetail Oats Plus at about 1/3 to 1/2 the recommended rate. First, I lightly disk the oats in 1/2-inch or so. Then I cultipack, broadcast the Imperial Whitetail Clover or other Whitetail Institute perennial and cultipack again. That cover crop will provide an alternative food source for deer throughout fall and winter and relieve some of the pressure on the freshly emerging young clover. It will also help outcompete and shade out any potential weeds.

Conclusion Whether or not you use a nurse crop, my bet goes to fall plantings for perennials. The odds are stacked in your favor at that time. And I want everything I can control pointing toward success when I put my time, money and work into planting a plot for deer. The reasons are obvious. We want to see our work succeed, and we want to help wildlife. But the bottom line is the better the plot, the more likely a heavy-racked old buck will find it to his liking. ^ www.whitetailinstitute.com


By Jon Cooner

“W

hy isn’t my food plot growing?” Thankfully, this question is one Whitetail Institute consultants are rarely asked. Even so, most of us have occasionally experienced a plot that seems to grow too slowly. It might surprise you, but in many cases, the forage is actually growing well, and the problem is simply grazing pressure. There’s only one way to know for sure: Put a grazing gauge in the plot. When a food plot doesn’t seem to be growing as well as it should, diagnose the situation step-by-step. The most common reasons are low soil pH, heavy grazing pressure, or that you cut corners during seedbed preparation and planting instructions. The first factor to eliminate in the diagnosis is grazing pressure; make sure what you’re seeing isn’t the result of deer heavily grazing the plot. The only practical way to do that is to install a grazing gauge in the plot so you can comparatively measure how much of the forage is being eaten. What is a grazing gauge? A grazing gauge is a small cage you can put over a small section of the plot to prevent deer from eating the forage inside. That lets you compare the height of the forage inside the cage to the unprotected forage outside. Over time, the difference in height will reveal if the plot is

being subjected to heavy deer usage or eliminate that as a potential factor, allowing you to investigate further. Grazing Gauge Tips. Building a grazing cage is simple. It only has to protect a small part of the forage stand from grazing. Even so, these tips can help you get the most out of it. Although there’s no preferred shape for a grazing gauge, making a simple cylinder and cap out of hog-wire fence is easy and effective. Make the gauge tall enough to allow the forages inside to grow as quickly and fully as possible. Also, it should be wide enough so representative samples of all forage components are protected. For most forages, a cylindrical gauge at least two feet tall and about two feet in diameter suffices. Finally, the gauge and how it’s installed in the plot should be strong enough to withstand deer pushing on it. When it comes to building an effective grazing gauge, the old saying, “It ain’t rocket science” fits. You can easily figure out how to do it without instructions. Even so, we’ve picked up a few ideas along the way that will help you build a gauge that will be sturdy and last as long as possible, allowing you to use it for years. You’ll find a materials list and instructions following this article. ^

MATERIALS LIST 14-Gauge Hog Wire Fencing The grazing gauge must be strong enough to withstand deer lightly pushing on it. 14-gauge hog wire fencing with a mesh size of 2” x 4” is sufficiently strong, its 2” x 4” mesh is wide enough to easily see the forage inside, and it’s readily avalable from most farm supply and home improvement stores. Lighter wire or plastic fencing material can also work, but you may need additional support for the grazing gauge, especially at the top. CUT TWO PANELS: 29 Squares (Approx. 5’)

FIRST PANEL

9 Squares (Approx. 18”)

SECOND PANEL

5 Squares (Approx. 20”)

Low-Tech Grazing Gauge Measures True Crop Growth

Pack of Cable/Zip Ties

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INSTRUCTIONS Step 1.

Bring the short ends of the first panel (the larger panel) of fencing together to form the 2-foot tall grazing gauge body, and secure the ends together with zip ties.

Try to cut each of the fence pieces as a complete panel by leaving the outer border wires intact. That will help keep the grazing gauge sturdy and easy to handle.

Step 2. 6 Squares (Approx. 2’)

Lay the second panel (the smaller panel) of fencing on top of one open end of the grazing gauge body, and secure it to the grazing gauge body with zip ties.

Don’t bend the corners of the grazing gauge cap down or cut them off. They will help keep the cage rigid and make it easy later to disassemble the cage for transport or storage.

Flagging Tape Step 3.

Two Support Stakes

Set one stake against the outside of the grazing gauge and Step 4. Tie flagdrive the stake vertically into the ground until it is solid (usually about ging tape on top of the 8” to 12”). Secure the grazing gauge to the stake with zip ties. Repeat grazing gauge to help with the other stake on the other side of the grazing gauge. keep people from accidentally walking or driving over it.

that are at least 3 feet long. The stakes must be long enough to be hammered into the ground until solid (usually 8” to 12”) and still reach the top of the 2-foottall grazing gauge.

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FEED VS. SEED —

The Smart Way

To Feed Deer 365 Days A Year By Matt Harper Photos by the Author

y wife contends that when I’m in a farm store, I don’t have a shopping problem but rather a buying problem, and for the most part, she is spot on. I can pretty much guarantee that if I walk into my local farm store, I will walk out with something — or likely multiple somethings. One summer day, I was in the midst of full-blown shopping gluttony when I noticed a guy filling up the back of his truck with bags of deer feed. Curious, I walked over and asked the seemingly dumb question of what he was doing with all that deer feed, and he promptly told me the obvious answer: “Feeding deer.”

This monster was killed on a snow covered Winter-Greens plot.

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Imperial Whitetail Clover is still the King of perennial food plots.

Before you question my mental prowess, consider that I was in the Midwest, and it was summer — growing season. When I asked Mr. Deer Feed what food plots he uses, he said, “Oh I don't mess with food plots. This is way easier. I don’t spend a ton of money on seed and equipment, and besides, this feed provides better nutrition.” Before we dive into the food-plot-versus-feed debate, I want to be clear that I’m not insinuating that the use of deer feed in a whitetail management program is not sometimes warranted. You might experience a severe drought or, conversely, a year when flooding has drowned out your plot, leaving your property with little food for deer. If you are in a northern climate and you didn’t plant enough winter food plot acreage to sustain deer throughout winter, you might find yourself in a nutritional deficit situation. Further, you might live in an area where food plot production is simply not practical because of climate or topography, but that would be rare, as whitetails typically live where food plots can be grown. Certainly, there are many situations in which deer feed can be used in conjunction with food plots as a part of an overall nutritional management program. But none of these scenarios were in play during the conversation I mentioned. It was the Midwest, arguably one of the best places to grow anything, and we were not suffering from extreme weather conditions. The man’s reasons had to do more with lack of knowledge and a hefty dose of short-term thinking. The arguments he gave me at the farm store that day are the same ones typically used when debating the advantages of deer feed over food plots. Admittedly, at first glance, some of these arguments seemed valid. However, if you dig deeper, you find that these arguments don't hold water. First, let’s look at the thinking that using deer feed is easier than food plots. Buying some bags of feed, driving out to the property and dumping it in a feeder does seem pretty easy compared to building and planting a food plot, at least on the surface. The time it takes to plant a food plot is variable depending on many factors, including the size of the plot, the equipment you’re using and whether the plot area needs to be cleared or is an existing field. For this example, let’s say we’re planting in a previously cleared field. You might say, “Well, you can’t take that out of the equation. That takes a ton of time.” Remember, clearing is a one-and-done process. After the area has been cleared, that job is completed for as long as you use that area for food plots. If you average the time needed

to clear the field over the course of several years, it becomes so minimal that it’s really not worth adding into the equation. But for argument’s sake, let’s assume it took 10 hours to clear one acre. If you use that acre as a food plot for 20 years, it results in an annual time expenditure of 30 minutes. If you’re using medium-sized equipment, liming, fertilizing, tilling and seeding should take no more than three hours, and that is being conservative. If you’re using small equipment, it might lengthen the time to maybe six hours. Throw in maybe a couple of more hours for maintenance trips (mowing and spraying), and you end up with five to eight hours of time for that one acre. Now let’s say that one acre will produce about six tons of forage/feed for the deer herd. That would equate to 12,000 pounds of deer feed, which would feed maybe 20 deer for eight months (2.5 pounds per deer per day). If you have a 500-pound feeder, you would have to make about 24 trips to get that much feed delivered, but we will say you have three 500-pound feeders, so that cuts your trips to eight. Obviously, the time it takes to make each trip is variable, but if we use one hour of time to pick up the feed and drive to and from the property, plus two hours to cut bags and fill up three 500-pound feeders, it would take three hours per trip. Do that eight times and you have 24 hours of time invested. The result is you have three times more time involved using feed compared to a food plot. If you think that’s not a significant difference, let’s say the food plot you planted was a perennial and will last five years. You have two hours of maintenance for four more years for a total of eight hours, plus the original first-year planting time of eight, giving you a five-year total of 16 hours. Take five years multiplied by 24 hours invested for feeders and you end up with 120 hours of labor, or 7.5 times more compared to the food plot. So we now know that food plots can be a time saver, but what about the cost difference? If we use the same example, buying feed would require purchasing 240 50-pound bags. Again, there is variability in cost of the bags depending on what product you buy, but it will likely range from $10 to $20 a bag, or a total cost of $2,400 to $4,800. For our food plot planting, we will use Imperial Whitetail Clover. It will

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Alfa-Rack Plus thrives on well-drained soils. Vol. 26, No. 1 /

WHITETAIL NEWS 27


cost about $80 for the seed, maybe $200 for lime and fertilizer and another $100 for maintenance (spraying and mowing). I’m not going to consider fuel cost because I didn’t consider the fuel cost in driving back and forth to fill feeders, so we will call that a wash, although I think it would cost more in fuel to fill feeders than to plant a one-acre food plot. Now the big one: equipment. Obviously, you can spend hundreds of thousands on equipment, but realistically, for food plots, you will likely not do that. Often, you can borrow or share equipment from a neighbor, hunting buddy or local farmer at little to no cost. You could also hire it done for $200 to $300 per acre. However, we will say that you’re going to buy a tractor and some equipment. You pick up a tractor for $20,000 and equipment for another $5,000, for a total cost of $25,000 in equipment. For the first year, your planting cost will be $25,380. That’s a lot more than $3,600 (average of $15 per bag) for the feed, right? But you have an asset of $25,000 worth of equipment you could turn around and sell for probably about what you paid for it if you bought it used. But you will likely keep the equipment, so to figure your cost per year on the equipment, you would need to use a depreciation value. Using the reasonable number of a 20-year depreciation gives you an annual cost of $1,250. Imperial Whitetail Clover can last five years, so seed cost is a whopping $16 per year, and your lime, fertilizer and maintenance cost would stay at $300 per year, costing you a total of $1,566 per acre. Now, that $3,600 for the feed looks a heck of a lot higher. I’m being pretty conservative in my comparison. First, you can buy equipment cheaper than the numbers I used. For example, I bought a good old tractor and some equipment for about $12,000. Also, if you have equipment, you will probably not just plant one acre. If you plant three acres, the cost of the equipment per acre goes down to $416, and the cost of feed to equal the food plot product is multiplied by three, creating a bigger gap in cost of feed versus cost of food plots. Finally, there is the argument of feed providing better nutrition. Honestly, this is not an argument I hear very often, and the only reason it comes up is because marketing departments sometimes paint deer feed products as nothing less than deer food from heaven. Deer do not naturally eat “feed.” It’s not that they won’t eat deer feed, obviously, but it’s not their natural food source. Before you think that I’m some wacko all-natural proponent, I’m not making the argument based on ideology. Deer are ruminants — more specifically small ruminants, which make their nutritional living primarily off various forages. Using a food plot is simply enhancing the nutritional plane by introducing a forage variety that’s highly nutritious. Further, deer nutrition management is a 365-day-per-year program. Most people putting out deer feed do not faithfully fill up feeders 12 months a year, and even if they do, they typically don’t put enough out to equal the food provided by a food plot. In my example comparison, I used the amount of feed required to equal the amount of food supplied by a food plot to get an accurate comparison. In reality, most people don’t put out that much feed, often putting out a token supply, therefore supplying far less nutrition than if they had planted a food plot. When you plant a perennial food plot, you are planting a yearround, consistent, almost-always-there food source. Granted, there are some months in northern climates in which perennials might be dormant or times of hot, dry weather in the South during which perennials might not be as productive, but usage of annuals targeted at those times takes care of that. Brassicas planted for

28 WHITETAIL NEWS

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a food supply in winter or a heat-tolerant planting such as PowerPlant for the hot summer months are a couple of examples of annual plantings that fill gaps that might occur with perennials. For many parts of the country, a perennial such as Imperial Whitetail Clover provides a food source 365 days a year. If you compare specific nutrients found in deer feed versus food plots, you will also find some big differences. For example, the protein level in deer feed is typically 16 to 20 percent, as compared to Whitetail Institute’s perennial line of products, some of which have more than 30 percent protein. Remember, deer will not eat just the deer feed — or just the food plot, for that matter — and the rest of what they eat (other browse) is often lower in protein. Therefore, you want your supplemental nutrition source to be higher in protein to equal out any deficiencies. Energy is something often overlooked but is one of the most important nutritional aspects in a deer’s diet. Deer feed contains energy, but the total volume of energy supplied by a food plot far exceeds that of a typical deer feed formula. This is especially true if you are planting a food plot variety that is particularly high in energy, such as soybeans or brassicas. Minerals and vitamins are also derived from food plot forages. In particular, calcium is very high in legumes such as alfalfa and clover. However, I recommend a good free-choice mineral program in conjunction with a food plot program to supply sufficient amounts of macro and trace minerals and vitamins A, D and E. Deer feed really doesn’t have an advantage with minerals either, although they are normally part of the blend. The levels of mineral found in deer feed are normally formulated as a complete diet and would only satisfy the nutritional requirement if deer only consumed the feed as their sole dietary source and further consumed enough of that feed to meet the full mineral needs. So as you can see, there’s little doubt that food plots are the most efficient, economic and productive means of providing nutritional supplementation to deer. Not to mention that the use of deer feed is illegal in some states, and food plots are legal in all states. I realize you might think that I am against deer feed. As mentioned, the reality is that I’m not unless it’s used in place of food plots where food plot usage is feasible. Deer feed can certainly play a role and using it should be considered, but for a 365-day-per-year deer management program, food plots remain the easiest, most economic and most effective tool we have as managers. ^

Winter-Greens is the choice of many veteran food plotters for ensuring they have an attractive high quality food source in the fall and into late winter.

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Whitetail Institute RECORD BOOK BUCKS… Tom Dial – Illinois Finally, this year was my year. We started using Whitetail Institute products more than 20 years ago. Several years ago, my friend Mark Wakefield killed a B&C, 199-inch monster which was the biggest buck killed in Illinois with a gun that year. Two years ago, my son, Andrew killed a 166inch 8-point. Mark killed another B&C that scored in the mid-170’s.We have killed 150inch plus deer every year but one since we started planting Whitetail Institute products. I killed the buck in the enclosed photo on Nov. 11 with my bow. He was chasing a doe beside a Winter Peas Plus plot. He is a 4-by-8 that scores roughly 160 inches, and as you can see in the photo the mass is incredible. Through the years, we have planted Imperial Whitetail Clover, Pure Attraction, Whitetail Oats Plus and Winter Peas Plus, and the fact that we are still using them more than 20 years later says it all. They are the best. My doctor has seen what we have killed through the years and has been using Imperial Whitetail Clover for several years as well. He told me recently that he had procrastinated this year and bought some regular clover from the co-op to plant. He said it’s the worst mistake he’s made on his land. He said there is no comparison. His deer prefer Imperial Whitetail Clover, and he will never make that mistake again. Another benefit with these products is how they attract turkeys. I killed my first ever fall bow-kill turkey in an Imperial Whitetail Clover plot.

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/ Vol. 26, No. 1

Ryan Day – Pennsylvania 

We have numerous plots of Imperial Whitetail Clover we have planted and been maintaining on our 300 acres for about five years now. The deer stay in them all the time, and they bed close to them also. We have killed two other big bucks over one specific Imperial Whitetail Clover plot, and we have noticed a huge increase in the number of deer on our properties since planting these plots. We also plant two plots in fall with the Winter-Greens, and we strategically set up these plots and stands around them for archery hunting. During the rut with the first frost and for late season hunting, when the ground is frozen, it really is a special thing to watch a deer dig up the turnip bulbs out of the frozen dirt in January. Photo (1) shows one of the big bucks my brother, Corry, took on a Winter-Greens plot. This year, the week before Labor Day, my son helped me with the process of planting the Winter-Greens plots. I had already been following a great buck that we called “The Big One Two,” since July. The plots turned out just perfect, and even though the apples were very plentiful here this year, the deer were hitting the tall, green leaves way more than the apples. On Saturday, Nov. 1, I decided to set up on a creek draw between the Winter-Greens plot and the top Imperial Whitetail Clover plot. I saw a lot of deer activity early in the afternoon, including a few small bucks chasing does around me. Later, I heard the leaves crunching in the bottom about 80 yards below me, and I knew it was him. He headed straight toward me. With his nose in the air, he was checking for does in the plot. He walked up to 15 yards and turned looking into the plot at the doe. He turned broadside to walk to the corner of the plot, and I grunted with my mouth to stop him, and I hit the trigger on my release and watched the arrow hit its mark. The deer expired less than 50 yards from my stand. He has 12 points, a 191/2-inch inside spread and gross scored 140. Not my biggest buck, but very special to me because it's the first buck that my son helped me harvest. The buck was walking from the Winter-Greens plot, to the Imperial Whitetail Clover plot looking for does. Thank you very much Whitetail Institute for your wonderful products. Enclosed is a photo (2) with my son, Nevin,  with my buck.

www.whitetailinstitute.com


Dennis Dahlke – Kansas

Ben Hanson- Indiana

When I bought property almost 20 years ago, the first thing I did was clear two areas: one 2-acre tract and one 4-acre tract. I planted Imperial Whitetail Clover. I have harvested a number of record book bucks since. The last two years, I planted Tall Tine Tubers which is also a fantastic draw during deer season. In October, the deer love to eat the large green tender leaves. When ready, they eat the turnips. In February last year, I planted Extreme and it is doing great. I really like having a food plot that produces quality forage all spring and summer, as well as a late-season draw for deer and turkeys. I harvested a 12-point the morning of Oct. 31 as he browsed in the Extreme. I don’t believe it is an accident that I found both his sheds March 7 last year, together on the field edge 40 yards from where he lay. My goal every year is to keep my property attractive to deer and keep them healthy. Of course, larger bucks are nice, too. I also use 30-06 minerals during the antler growing season. I’m glad Ray Scott took the time out from bass fishing to start the Whitetail Institute. I am also an avid bass fisherman as well. Keep up the good work, Whitetail Institute.

We plant approximately six acres of Winter-Greens and they far surpass other companies seeds! My father and I both killed mature bucks this year. Mine was a 150-inch (photo 1) and my dad’s was a 173inch (photo 2: yea, that’s me with my dad’s buck). Both were killed in Winter-Greens. I should have

 passed on the 150 but when he’s making a scrape at five yards and won’t go away, next to the WinterGreens? I lost my cool and smoked him. My wife is new to hunting. This is her first year and she’s after a deer of a lifetime. While sitting with our nine- year-old, the evening after I shot my buck we had a 200-inch 10-point at 150 yards. He can’t shoot past 75 yards. I hope my son or wife gets him! Thank you Whitetail Institute for offering such a great product.



Steven Baitinger – Wisconsin Last year I planted Winter-Greens and shot my buck in that plot on the second night of the gun season (photo 1). He was chasing a hot doe. My son, Logan shot an 11-point, 132-inch P&Y as well (photo 2). Thanks again, Whitetail Institute. ^

Brandon Harris- Ohio 

This past year, I planted Whitetail Institute products for the first time. The enclosed picture will help explain why Whitetail Institute products will be the only thing I plant in my food plots from now on. I was hunting a Pure Attraction plot in the afternoon, and a doe had to have a bite about an hour before dark. Right on her tail was this buck, which is the biggest one I’ve ever killed. Fortunately, I was able to control the buck fever until after I made the 40yard shot. After the shot, the emotions and buck fever took over. And I started wearing out my phone. A couple of friends showed up pretty quickly, and the celebration began. He scored 173 inches.



Send Us Your Photos!

Do you have photos 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. Email your digital photos and a 3 to 4 paragraph story telling how you harvested the deer and the role our products played to info@whitetailinstitute.com or send them to:

Whitetail News, Attn: Record Book Bucks, 239 Whitetail Trail, Pintlala, AL 36043 For the latest promotions, sales and news visit www.Facebook.com/WhitetailInstitute

Vol. 26, No. 1 /

WHITETAIL NEWS 31


Management from a Bird’s Eye —

Take a Big-Picture View of How Whitetails Use the Landscape By Scott Bestul Photos by Charles J. Alsheimer

“What’s on your mind?” I asked, after noticing his deeply furrowed brow. Tom laughed. “Well, actually, I’m kind of projecting,” he said. “Like in a film?” “Um, well, no. Like in remembering what’s around here for surrounding cover and how that relates to this rub. There’s a green cedar swamp about a mile from here. And an oak ridge off to the west a halfmile, that’s a huge food source in a good acorn year. Then, about another mile to the south, there’s a clearcut that’s just about three years old. The buck that made this rub probably uses all those spots. And I’m just thinking about when he uses them and how this rub fits into the whole picture.” Have you been around people who are just, well, a lot smarter and more intuitive than you? People who are great teachers and they don’t even know it? Well Tom is such a guy, and he taught me a lot about whitetails that day — and he wasn’t even trying. What Tom got me thinking about was something I’ve kept in my head since: taking a big-picture view of how whitetails use the landscape. At the time, I limited that experience to hunting those vast woods of northern Wisconsin. Later, I realized the concept also applied to habitat and whitetail management back home in my decidedly more civilized farm country.

Avoiding Tunnel Vision

’m just dull enough that I don’t experience many “ah ha!” moments, so when they happen, I tend to remember them. One of the best (related to deer hunting, at least) occurred a few years ago, when I was scouting Wisconsin’s big woods with my buddy, Tom VanDoorn. A logger and expert deer hunter, Tom has dragged me through some rugged and remote country that he knows like some Hollywood stars know rehab centers. We were on such a scouting mission and had just found a dandy buck rub on a hemlock tree as thick as my thigh. As deer nuts will, we were using that clue to formulate a strategy for killing the buck. I was looking at the cover adjacent to the swamp edge where we’d found the rub. But Tom — infinitely smarter and more intuitive than me — seemed to be thinking deeper thoughts when I looked at him. 32 WHITETAIL NEWS

/ Vol. 26, No. 1

Obviously, the goal of most land managers is to make our property more attractive to whitetails. An admirably simple goal, of course, but our struggle is more complex. What do area whitetails need that our property can offer? And unless we own a seriously large chunk of real estate, it can be more difficult to make our property attractive to deer in all the ways we’d like. The land might not have the capability in size, cover or topography. For example, in my area of Minnesota, winter whitetails love to bed on south-facing slopes. Not only do these hillsides provide warmer ambient temperatures and lower snow depths, they usually have the browse, grass and forb species that feed winter deer when other food sources vanish. So if I own a chunk of real estate that doesn’t have south-facing slopes, I’m far better off focusing less on winter bedding cover and focusing more on improving some other food or habitat need. Conversely, although my property doesn’t have the topography for prime winter bedding cover, it will certainly have other features I can enhance: a superior oak ridge that will feed deer if managed properly, prime openings that can be converted into food plots or tree species that can be clear-cut to maintain the young growth whitetails adore for other bedding or feeding needs. How does taking a big-picture view play into these management decisions? In my view, it’s a matter of looking at surrounding properties — what I like to call “the neighborhood” — to get an idea of how whitetails use the entire landscape (including your acreage) for food, bedding and travel. The better I understand how deer use the real estate surrounding my property, the more effectively I can enhance the ground I hunt and manage. With that in mind, here are some suggestions for getting a better look at the big picture.

Expand Your Scope Google it: If you’re a pilot and have access to a small-engine plane, you already have the greatest big-picture scouting tool going. But if www.whitetailinstitute.com


Food Plot Planting Dates… PLANTING DATES FOR IMPERIAL CLOVER, ALFA-RACK PLUS, EXTREME, NO-PLOW, CHICORY PLUS, CHIC MAGNET AND EDGE    

 

Call for planting dates



Apr 1 - July 1 Apr 15 - June 15 Aug 1 - Sept 1 Coastal: Feb 1 - Mar 15 Sept 1 - Oct 15 Southern Piedmont: Feb 15 - Apr 1 Aug 15 - Oct 1 Mountain Valleys: Mar 1 - Apr 15 Aug 1 - Sept 15 Feb 1 - Apr 1 Aug 1 - Sept 30 Feb 1 - Apr 15 Sept 1 - Nov 1





North: Mar 15 - May 1 Aug 1 - Sept 15 South: Mar 1 - Apr 15 Aug 15 - Oct 15



Apr 1 - June 15 July 15 - Sept 5



Apr 1 - May 15 Aug 1 - Sept 15



Mar 20 - May 15 Aug 1 - Sept 15



Sept 15 - Nov 15



Feb 5 - Mar 1 North: Sept 5 - Nov 15 South: Sept 25 - Nov 15 Feb 15 - Apr 1 Sept 1 - Oct 30 North: Sept 15 - Nov 15 South: Sept 25 - Nov 15

  21  22

Feb 1 - Mar 1 Coastal: Sept 25 - Oct 15 Piedmont: Sept 1 - Oct 5 Mountain Valleys: Aug 25 - Oct 15 North: Sept 25 - Nov 25 South: Oct 5 - Nov 30 Mar 1 - May 15 Aug 1 - Sept 15 Feb 1 - Apr 15 Aug 20 - Sept 30 Apr 15 - June 15 July 1 - Aug 15 May 15 -July 1 May 1 - June 15 July 1 - Aug 15 May 15 - July 1

PLANTING DATES FOR DOUBLE-CROSS, PURE ATTRACTION, SECRET SPOT, WINTER PEAS, BOWSTAND AND AMBUSH      

Call for planting dates Call for planting dates Aug 1 - Sept 15 Coastal: Sept 1 - Oct 15 Piedmont: Aug 15 - Oct 1 Mountain Valleys: Aug 1 - Sept 15 Aug 1 - Sept 30

 

North: Aug 1 - Sept 30 South: Aug 15 - Oct 15



July 15 - Sept 5 Aug 1 - Sept 15



Aug 1 - Sept 15 Sept 15 - Nov 15 North: Sept 5 - Nov 15 South: Sept 25 - Nov 15

Aug 15 - Nov 1

 

Sept 1 - Oct 30 North: Sept 15 - Nov 15 South: Sept 25 - Nov 15 Coastal: Sept 15 - Oct 15 Piedmont: Sept 1 - Oct 5 Mountain: Aug 25 - Oct 15

    21  22

Aug 20 - Sept 30 July 1 - Aug 15 June 15 - July 15 July 15 - Aug 31 July 1 - Aug 15

North: Sept 25 - Nov 25 South: Oct 5 - Nov 30

   

Call for planting dates Call for planting dates July 1 - Sept 10* Coastal: Aug 15 - Sept 30 Southern Piedmont: Aug 1 - Sept 15 Mountain Valleys: July 15 - Sept 15



July 15 - Sept 30 Aug 1 - Oct 1 North: July 15 - Sept 30 South: Aug 1 - Oct 10 July 1 - Aug 30 July 1 - Aug 30



July 15 - Sept 15*



Sept 15 - Nov 15 North: Sept 5 - Nov 1 Central: Sept 15 - Nov 15 South: Sept 25 - Nov 15 North: Aug 15 - Oct 1 South: Sept 5 - Nov 1 North: Sept 5 - Oct 30 Central: Sept 15 - Nov 15 South: Sept 25 - Nov 15 Coastal: Sept 1 - Oct 1 Piedmont: Aug 15 - Sept 20 Mountain Valleys: Aug 5 - Sept 15

     21  22

North: Sept 15 - Nov 15 Central: Sept 25 - Nov 15 South: Oct 5 - Nov 30 July 15 - Sept 1 Aug 1 - Sept 30 July 1 - Aug 15 June 15 - Aug 1 July 15 - Aug 31 July 1 - Aug 15

Use the map below as a guideline for when to plant Imperial Whitetail Oats Plus in your area. For best results, wait to plant until excessively hot, droughty summer weather has passed. Imperial Whitetail Oats Plus is highly cold-tolerant and designed to provide abundant forage from fall into spring in the southern U.S. and from fall into winter in colder climates

 

Aug 1 - Sept 15

PLANTING DATES FOR WINTER-GREENS AND TALL TINE TUBERS    

PLANTING DATES FOR WHITETAIL OATS PLUS

* Earlier (spring) planting dates may be applicable. Call Whitetail institute for more information. ** For northern Pennsylvania, earlier (spring) planting dates may be applicable. Call Whitetail Institute for more information.

*Do not plant PowerPlant until soil temperatures reach a constant 65 degrees F. Wait as long as necessary for soil temperatures to reach a constant 65 degrees F before planting PowerPlant.

For the latest promotions, sales and news visit www.Facebook.com/WhitetailInstitute

Aug 15 - Sept 15



Sept 1 - Oct 1

Sept 1 - Oct 20

PLANTING DATES FOR IMPERIAL POWERPLANT AND TURKEY SELECT

Do not plant PowerPlant in black areas.

 

May 20 - June 30 April 1 - May 31

Vol. 26, No. 1 /

 

May 1 - June 30 June 20 - July 31*

WHITETAIL NEWS 33


you’re grounded like me, you still have access to one of the coolest aerial scouting tools: Google Earth. And you can get it for free on your computer or smart phone. If you haven’t used this wonderful tool, consider this a gentle slap on the wrist. GE lets you zoom in on a specific area and then view satellite photos in sometimes-shocking detail. Depending on where you live (more civilized/populated areas seem to have the best photos), you can zoom in close enough to see details as small as a kiddie pool in a backyard. It would be nice to check out rubs and scrapes, but that technology is not yet available to ordinary citizens. I’ve used GE to scout and pre-select stand sites in terrain funnels and help buddies decide where to put food plots — all on properties on which I’ve never set foot. This is a favorite tactic of my hunting buddy Dave, who lives in upstate New York. Dave has called me several times to tell me about properties he recently accessed. We’ll hop on our computers and call up Google Earth, and Dave will get me locked in on the property. Then we’ll comb over the satellite photos together and scout the ground virtually. The beauty of GE for land managers is it lets us “walk” not only our

land but our neighbor’s. The beauty of the latter is — assuming we haven’t been on the ground — it lets us see exactly where the cover and food on those properties are and, consequently, how deer using our property also use the neighbor’s. This can be critical information that helps us decide if we can offer something on our property that deer can’t get on the neighbor’s. I’ve used GE to determine where cover and potential food sources are on neighboring grounds and used that information to make management decisions on real estate I can hunt. Ground-pound it: Scouting from the air is undoubtedly helpful, but nothing beats putting boots on the ground and walking it. If your neighbor is a deer hunter, there’s a chance he won’t want you on his property, and, of course, that’s OK, and you can’t walk it if he denies you permission. However, there’s a growing effort to create cooperatives, in which neighbors join forces to manage area deer in a joint effort. If you’re lucky enough to be a part of one, it’s a wonderful chance to take a broad-picture view of the neighborhood and then take the management of habitat and food to a higher (and usually more successful) level. I’ve also walked some properties that were off-limits to me during fall by gaining access during the off-season. I’m usually doing something in the woods every month of the year, whether it’s shed hunting, tapping maples during the syrup season or turkey hunting. I’ve gained permission for these activities many times through the years, and when I’m lucky enough to do so, I always keep an eye open for deer activity and food/habitat status. One easy example occurred during the past few maple syrup seasons. I tap trees on neighboring State land as well as a neighbor’s farm I can’t hunt. Walking these tracts made it clear that lots of the surrounding property contained little-to-no bedding cover. The next winter and spring, I worked with friends to hinge and clear-cut trees on land I could hunt. This created two marvelous bedding/sanctuary areas that were more attractive to area deer because such cover was lacking in the “neighborhood.”

Conclusion

Aerial scouting is helpful, but nothing beats putting boots on the ground.

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It’s important to remember that getting an accurate view of the big picture in your neighborhood can take time. Scouting, finding sheds, studying trail-cam photos and previous knowledge you’ve gained by observing and shooting deer should be combined with your expanding knowledge of what’s happening in the area. Keeping a journal will help, and if you hunt with one or more partners, combine your observations and knowledge to create a clearer picture of your management plans. Keep that long-term mindset active as you create food plots and start habitat work. It’s often tempting to knock out a quickie food plot, but sometimes that spot where it takes a little more work and effort is a better location for you and the deer. Habitat work — especially timber management — is also critical. Don’t start up a chainsaw until you’ve carefully thought out your plan and, if possible, consulted with a knowledgeable professional. It takes minutes to cut down a tree but years for the regrowth, and there are few “little mistakes” with timber harvest. It’s been a few years since my buddy showed me a rub in a vast forest and then taught me to fit the obvious element into a picture that included habitat a mile or more away. But it’s a skill that’s paid huge dividends for me since, and I trust it will do the same for you. ^ www.whitetailinstitute.com


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The WEED DOCTOR By W. Carroll Johnson, III, PhD.,, Weed Scientist and Agronomist

Principles of Herbicide Selectivity:

Academic Gibberish or Real-World Implications? y role with Whitetail Institute boils down to three primary duties: Consult and advise on all herbicide-related matters, write articles related to general agronomy and weed control, and identify weeds for customers and make control recommendations. These duties are identical to my first career stop after graduate school as an extension-service technical specialist with the University of Georgia. From March through September, many weed identification requests filter through the front office and eventually find me. Weed identification requests are often the only direct contact I have with customers, and I want to provide thorough and correct answers. To do so, I often need additional information beyond what was initially submitted. There is a reason for additional information, because weed species distribution varies across the continent, and not all weeds respond equally to herbicides. The latter is our current topic. Selectivity is one of the modern marvels of agriculture, by which some plants — ideally weeds — are killed by a herbicide, and other plants — hopefully crops — are not. Selectivity can also mean some weeds are controlled by the herbicide and some are not. The chemical

properties of a herbicide and physiological processes of the plant affect selectivity. In other words, no herbicide controls all weeds in every possible crop. Although the phenomenon of selective weed control provides many useful and convenient weed-control options, avoid the

Figure 1. Comparison of crabgrass (left) and yellow nutsedge (right).

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pitfall of unreasonable expectations, such as the idea of a magic bullet herbicide that selectively controls all weeds in all forage crops. You can achieve selectivity by three general methods: timing of herbicide application, precise applications directly to weeds and physiological processes unique to specific plants or groups of plants. The first two are simple and intuitive. Some herbicides will generally control all plants during normal conditions (broad-spectrum, non-selective herbicides), but can be used selectively with careful timing and precise applications. These herbicides tend to have no soil residual activity and are absorbed only through foliage. Glyphosate is the best example that has food plot uses. Glyphosate is nonselective, generally controlling most plants in food plots. However, glyphosate can be carefully applied and provide selective weed control. For example, stale seedbeds are formed several weeks before seeding the forage. In the interval between seedbed formation and seeding the crop, weeds emerge in the food plot and can be controlled by a pre-plant application of glyphosate. That application will have no effect on the later-seeded forage. This timing strategy gives selectivity to glyphosate, which is typically nonselective. You can precisely apply some herbicides to weeds with no spray contact with the crop, and that application technique provides selectivity. Farmers commonly use precisely aimed herbicide applications onto weeds with no incidental contact with crops. This is done through the use of high-tech precision sprayers with GPS guidance to direct nonselective herbicide spray onto weeds with minimal contact with the crop. An example in the context of food plots is a weed wiper, or wick-bar, to wipe glyphosate on tall weeds without touching lowgrowing forages. In this example, a nonselective herbicide (glyphosate)

is selectively applied to weeds. Entire scientific careers have been sustained by studying physiological means of herbicide selectivity. To keep this discussion succinct, physiological selectivity are plant-based biochemical processes that toxify or detoxify herbicides after they enter the plant. Although all plants generally have the same basic physiological processes — such as photosynthesis, respiration and energy conversion — secondary processes might vary among species or groups of plant species. These secondary processes are often targets of herbicide selectivity. Consider the herbicides 2,4-D and 2,4-DB, which are closely related but distinctly different herbicides. Legumes crops — clover, alfalfa, soybeans, peanuts and peas — are naturally tolerant of 2,4-DB but are significantly injured by 2,4-D. Plants — weeds and crops alike — that are sensitive to 2,4-DB readily convert 2,4-DB to 2,4-D, which actually kills plants. Legumes lack the physiological process for the conversion to the toxic form, which allows 2,4-DB to be safely used on legumes. Of course, some weed species are legumes, and those weeds are not controlled by 2,4-DB, so the selectivity pendulum swings both ways in this example. The physiological properties of plants that are the foundation of herbicide selectivity are almost countless when you consider all possible combinations of hundreds of herbicides and thousands of plant species. Sure, you can make generalizations, and even then, comprehending the discussions can be daunting. I can relate to that statement, and I have been in this science for more than three decades. However, at the core of herbicide selectivity are the basic sciences of organic chemistry and plant physiology. Mercifully, that is as far as I will take this discussion.

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Awareness of herbicide selectivity is important when developing a weed-management strategy in food plots. Assuming that any food plot herbicide will control all weeds will frequently result in disappointing weed control. Correct weed identification and knowledge of herbicide capability, which essentially refers to degrees of selectivity, sets the stage for improved weed control. Here is a common example I have encountered with food plots and also in my full-time career. Yellow nutsedge (Cyperus esculentus) is a common perennial weed in temperate and tropical regions and considered to be one of the world’s worst weeds. (Yes, there is a book called the World’s Worst Weeds). Yellow nutsedge is colloquially called “nutgrass,” and most of our society, including my wife, uses that term, suggesting that the weed is a grass. Arrest Max controls grasses, and that’s a well-established fact. In the classical sense, is nutgrass a grass? No. Yellow nutsedge is a sedge, not a grass, and is tolerant of Arrest Max and other similar herbicides because of physiological processes that allow Arrest Max to specifically control grasses. How do you tell if the weed is yellow nutsedge or an honest-to-goodness grass? Look at Figure 1 on page 36. This is a side-by-side comparison of crabgrass (a classic grass and common weed species) on the left and yellow nutsedge (a perennial sedge) on the right. The overall differences in appearance between the weeds are obvious. To carry this comparison a step farther, true grasses will have stems that are flattened or have a round cross-section (Figure 2). In contrast, yellow nutsedge and other sedges will have stems that are triangular in cross-

section (Figure 3). Remembering this simple comparison will improve weed-control success and lessens chances for mismatching the herbicide with the weed. What is the point to this slippery discussion? No herbicide is the answer to all weed problems in all crops, and that’s particularly the case in food plots, where herbicide options are limited and weed species are diverse. We have effective tools for many weed infestations, but not all infestations. Selectivity gives us the ability to destroy grass infestations without forage injury in Imperial Whitetail Clover by using Arrest Max, yet selectivity also prevents Arrest Max from controlling yellow nutsedge and broadleaf weeds. Another example is the outstanding selective control of wild radish in Imperial Whitetail Clover using Slay, yet that herbicide cannot be used for weed control in brassica forages because of certainty of crop injury. Fortunately, it’s not necessary for customers to be innately knowledgeable of all aspects of herbicide selectivity. All of the information we need to correctly match herbicide with the weed is on the herbicide label, which spells out in great detail crop uses and weeds that are controlled. The nuts and bolts of herbicide selectivity are somewhat like calculus — best accepted at face value. Leave the fundamental understanding of herbicide selectivity to plant physiologists, where it belongs. When questions arise, take advantage of the vast amount of knowledge available from the Whitetail Institute by calling (800) 688-3030, extension 2. ^

Figure 2. An identifying characteristic of crabgrass is the round cross-section of the stem. Some grasses may have a flattened stem in cross-section.

Figure 3. An identifying characteristic of sedges, including yellow nutsedge, is a triangular cross-section of the stem.

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Imperial Whitetail

Tall Tine Tubers

Tested to be the Best Even Through the Dead of Winter By Whitetail Institute Staff Photo by Charles J. Alsheimer

Is Tall Tine Tubers better than other turnip products as a food plot planting for deer? If better means the only turnip product ever specifically developed for deer, the answer is yes. Designed for planting in late summer and early fall, Tall Tine Tubers provides two food sources for deer during fall and winter. The first is its foliage, which grows quickly, produces abundant tonnage and becomes even sweeter with the frosts of fall. The second is the sweet tubers it produces, which can grow large underground. Deer dig them up when cold weather sets in. The backbone turnip variety in Tall Tine Tubers is Tall Tine Turnip, a proprietary turnip variety developed by Whitetail Institute scientists. Initial research and development began with the Whitetail Institute’s agronomists, who painstakingly selected and tested numerous turnip varieties to determine which ones best satisfied specific goals

the Whitetail Institute considered important for a turnip product that would be planted in food plots for deer. Criteria included tuber size, high tonnage, sustained availability, attractiveness to deer, and rapid establishment and growth. The No. 1 selection consideration was preference by deer. Researchers then tested various formulations until the list of candidate blends was narrowed to the best. The remaining candidates then underwent real-world testing on wild, free-ranging deer at the Whitetail Institute and its certified research centers across North America. The Whitetail Institute is committed to ensuring that the results of its forage testing are accurate. Without question, the Institute’s diligent product development process is what separates its forage products from the crowd. Although it might seem simple, you get the picture of how rigorous, time-consuming and reliable that approach is when it’s conducted the way the Whitetail Institute does it: by strict adherence to scientific method. In a nutshell, scientific method describes the established way scientists generally go about proving something or solving a question. It’s a step-by-step process that starts with setting the research goal, and then repeatedly testing assumptions based on research until reaching an accurate conclusion. For the results of any experiment to be accurate, testing must be set up so its results are absolutely reliable, and the scientist is merely an observer. It took the Whitetail Institute six years to develop Tall Tine Tubers — six years of constantly evaluating candidate components, alone and in different ratios, in a reliable way: by planting according to directions; observing the stand for establishment, growth and production during actual climactic conditions; and letting wild, free-ranging deer show the variety they preferred most. When testing proved preference for a variety, that plant was isolated and protected from further browsing to let it produce seed. That seed was then put back into testing the next year, and researchers continued the process of developing the most attractive turnip variety. Think about it. If you’re developing products intended to establish quickly, grow well, attract and hold deer, and perform in various climates, what could be a more reliable test than actually planting those varieties and observing what happens in real-world conditions? It’s expensive and time-consuming, but that’s how the Whitetail Institute does it, for one simple reason: It’s as reliable proof as you can get. And that’s the real beauty of Tall Tine Tubers. As with all Whitetail Institute products, the guesswork has been taken out. You have the luxury of relying on the Whitetail Institute name and what wild deer have shown during real-world conditions. Six years of research, development and real-world testing have proven that Tall Tine Turnip is drought resistant, cold tolerant and the most attractive turnip variety the company has ever tested. Tall Tine Tubers is available in 1/2 and 2-acre bags. For more information, see www.whitetailinstitute.com, or call the Whitetail Institute’s in-house consultants at (800) 688-3030. The call and the service are free. ^

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The “Orange Army” is an Economic Force that Provides For All Wildlife If hunting was its own corporation, it would rank 95th on the Fortune 500 list. By David Hart f you have a deer tag in your wallet, you’re likely a married white male between 35 and 44. You attended college, and you and your spouse earn a combined income of $50,000 to $75,000. According to a 2006 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report, you aren’t afraid to spend some of that money. The average deer hunter spent $885 on gear, guns and gadgets designed to help find, fool and kill more deer. The orange army is an economic force unto itself. Ten million of us spent $8.9 billion on trips and equipment in 2005, the last time the USFWS examined deer hunter demographics and spending patterns. That’s more than the combined total revenue of Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops in 2013. It’s more than the entire gross domestic product of dozens of countries. If hunting was its own corporation, it would rank 95th on the Fortune 500 list, ahead of such giants as DirecTV, Time Warner Inc. and Nike. By itself, deer hunting would rank higher than nearly 200 corporations on that list. Overall, America’s hunters spent a whopping $33.7 billion in 2010, an average of more than $2,500 per person on hunting-related expenses. The 60 or so deer hunters who book with outfitter Gene Pearcy each season likely spend more than twice that. Like countless other outfitters who have built businesses around America’s insatiable appetite for big whitetails, Pearcy has made a career of helping hunters fulfill their dreams. Despite the lagging economy, his business is thriving. He figures his clients spend an average of $6,000 each on outfitter fees, travel, tips and other expenses. Pearcy spends that much just on food plots each year. He’s not alone. According to a 2010 USFWS survey, hunters spent $703 million, or two percent of the total expenditures, on “plantings.” That’s a lot of clover and chicory, and the Whitetail Institute, which started the food plot phenomenon in 1988, has benefitted, along with fertilizer and lime producers and many other businesses. And one thing that isn’t talked about enough is that all wildlife benefit from this effort and investment. “You have to remember that food plots don’t just benefit deer and deer hunters,” Whitetail Institute Vice-President Steve Scott said. “All wildlife that lives on the land take advantage of the food plot and habi-

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tat work conducted by deer hunters. It’s money well spent for the conservation community, and it undoubtedly benefits local economies, because people who plant food plots buy fertilizer, lime and equipment from their local farm stores.” Our money doesn’t just go to food plots, outfitters, Cabela’s and the hundreds of mom-and-pop hunting stores around the country. We buy licenses that pay for the agencies entrusted to manage deer and other wildlife. Ohio deer hunters, for example, spent more than $10 million on licenses in 2014, nearly one-sixth of the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s entire revenue. As with most state wildlife agencies, the money goes into the agency’s general fund, where it is used for various purposes. However, our money is vital to their missions, and much of it goes

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directly to deer management, recruitment programs and enforcement efforts. Wisconsin has four dedicated deer biologists on staff. The Mississippi Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks also has four biologists whose primary duties focus on deer management. We spend the rest of our money on things such as leases and land purchases, which totaled $7.1 billion for hunting in 2010. Dan Perez, who founded Whitetail Properties 11 years ago, said the recreational land business is booming and is driven largely by deer hunters. He started his company in response to the growing interest in trophy deer management and hunters seeking their own place to do it. Despite the protracted economic downturn, Perez said plenty of hunters are still snapping up prime deer ground in places such as Illinois, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri. Thanks to those of us who pay for leases and buy land and countless other deer-specific products, folks such as Perez and Pearcy have turned their passions into careers. America’s deer hunting culture has helped turn countless blue-collar workers into multi-millionaires and pseudo-celebrities. What deer hunter hasn’t at least heard the names Lee and Tiffany Lakosky, Bill Jordan or Larry Weishuhn? Perez’s entire 30-year career has revolved around whitetail deer in one form or another. Thankfully, our passion for whitetails doesn’t revolve entirely around money. Success can be found on a 9acre lot. In other words, anyone with a battered rifle, a few shells and a deer tag can

participate in one of America’s richest traditions. Some will argue that the food plot revolution and the dedicated hunters and managers that put their time, effort and money into food plots have created one of the most significant evolutions in the history of hunting. No doubt, stopping market hunting and restocking of whitetails across the country were among the most important occurrences in the history of hunting, but food plots and the hunters who plant them are making a huge difference economically for conservation and the benefit of all wildlife. Whenever an anti-hunter attempts to degrade what we love, our food plot and management efforts give us the ammunition to fire back with, “We’re putting our money where our mouths are, plus putting in our time and effort that benefits all wildlife. What are you doing to provide for wildlife?” Plus, folks on the fence who don’t hunt but are not anti-hunters will see our food plot efforts in an extremely positive light. Hunting is a huge business, and food plots play a big role in it, which gives us even more positive public relation benefits. ^

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REAL HUNTERS DO THE TALKING about Whitetail Institute products…

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e recently moved from Oklahoma to South Carolina after nine years of success with Whitetail Institute products on our 195-acre farm in Oklahoma priming it with 10 acres of Whitetail Institute products. (Photo 1 shows a buck my wife took on our Oklahoma farm) We dreaded having to start over again, but we knew our ace in the hole was Whitetail Institute. If you plant it, they will come. We had plenty of cover, but the deer lacked

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vegetation, which made this a prime opportunity to show the power of Whitetail Institute products. We purchased a new tractor with a 6-foot reverse tine tiller and prepared a few promising spots for food plots. Previous experience had taught us Tall Tine Tubers and Winter-Greens were extremely drought tolerant, grew quickly and were great options for shed hunting in early March. As the plants reached 6 inches tall the deer started topping them as a farmer would  a tobacco patch. Deer piled into the plots. We began to worry the deer would wipe our plots out before prime hunting came around. Our fears subsided as we scrolled through past food plot pictures, reminiscing how well these two products pack on the foliage. Additionally, the tubers grew larger than softballs which the deer pummeled in January and February. On Nov. 1, after two months of food plot growth, my wife and I each hunted over the two plots. An hour after setting up, I heard the sweet sound of her .243 crack and she sent me a message she just took a nice buck. After a short tracking job, a 225-pound eight-pointer aged at 5-1/2 years was found on an old logging road. The buck scored 130 inches and was our first deer taken at our new farm in our new home state. (photo 2) I wholeheartedly believe this feat would not have been possible without Whitetail Institute products. Are there other food plot companies and products out there? Not in our “record book!”

Ben May – South Carolina



e purchased the first 22 acres of our property in spring two years ago and started with a couple of small food plots we planted in August. They were carved out of a high spot in the swamp and another small area that was partially open. We planted No-Plow in both spots because we didn’t have access to equipment. We had great success with No-Plow. My son Drew shot a buck that fall in one of the food plots that we planted. I was also fortunate to harvest a 10-point with a bow that year on our property. We purchased the neighboring 20 acres to our property in October, and this allowed us to plant additional food plots this past year. We planted Imperial Whitetail Clover and Chicory Plus in our first food plots, and we were able to plant an additional acre of Imperial Whitetail Clover along with Tall Tine Tubers and Pure Attraction on the new property. Drew shot another buck in the Pure Attraction field, and I was able to take a larger 10-point this year. We definitely saw more bucks this year than last, and we are looking forward to this coming year with our food plots and making our property even better for the deer.

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fter years of hunting and studying whitetails, my family and I decided to step up our food plots and use premium seed. I opened last year’s Kentucky muzzleloader season sitting over an Imperial Whitetail Clover plot where I had been getting dozens of pictures of a 150-inch deer. After seeing 10 to12 deer feed through my plot, I caught the glimpse of a big rack downwind from the food plot. I could tell the deer was winding the does that were feeding on the clover and after about five minutes, he turned broadside enough for me to make the 128yard shot. He is my biggest deer to date. (Photo 1) This past weekend was the Kentucky muzzleloader hunt, and my dad hunted the same stand as I did the previous year. I’m quite pleased to tell you my dad killed his biggest buck to date overlooking the same food plot. (Photo 2) Imperial Whitetail Clover has helped our land produce quality bucks year after year. I know Imperial Whitetail Clover helped them due to the abundance of nutrition, but it also brought them out in the open so we could harvest them. Thanks again, Whitetail Institute, for a wonderful product.

Tyson Childers – Kentucky

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Andy Seiser – Michigan

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have purchased a couple of properties for hunting through the years, and one in particular stands out from the others. This particular property was one that my hunting buddies thought I would never buy. After walking all of the land and not being able to find any deer trails and only a small amount of sign, they wrote it off. But I had a gut feeling I could turn this into something special. This property had a water source, thick cover and only a few oak trees and no real focal point to attract deer. After working with Whitetail Institute products on my other property, I knew what needed to be done. I decided to buy it. I strategically opened up several sections of land that would get planted and also created a road system throughout the property that linked to these open areas. This gave me access with a tractor and equipment to plant and maintain my food plots. After getting soil tests done, I went to work planting Imperial Whitetail Clover, Tall Tine Tubers and Whitetail Oats Plus. Last season was my third year owning the property, and all the work was really coming together. From only seeing a few deer and a couple of young bucks the first season, I now had deer showing up all over this property and good deer trails leading to all the food plots. Enclosed are a few trail cam photos of bucks on the property and a photo of some of the bucks I’ve taken over the years. Starting into Season 4, the overall buck size is increasing even more, and I am seeing more does and fawns than prior years. So from starting with a property that showed no promise to most people, implementing a good plan, the right products and some work, this diamond in the rough is starting to shine! Thank you, Whitetail Institute, for making such great products for us hunters to work with.

Hank Taylor – Virginia

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his buck was shot on the second day of our Pennsylvania deer season in western Pennsylvania. The quality of deer, from fawns and does to this nice buck has greatly improved since we started to use Whitetail Institute products. We use Imperial Whitetail Clover and Alfa-Rack Plus and have also had much success with Whitetail Oats Plus and Pure Attraction.

Walter Blasco – Pennsylvania

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hese three bucks were all killed two years ago on or around Imperial Whitetail Clover fields in northern Alabama. They scored 127-4/8, 148-5/8 and 152-5/8. Thanks, Whitetail Institute. Keep up the good work.

Gary Chamlee – Alabama

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Imperial Pure Attraction… for Fall and Winter Performance By Whitetail Institute Staff Photo by Charles J. Alsheimer

Nothing beats annuals for delivering abundant forage at specific times of the year. Imperial Whitetail Pure Attraction delivers immediately in early fall and continues attracting deer through the coldest winter months. There’s no question why perennials often serve as the backbone of a food plot system: When it comes to delivering year-round forage from one planting, perennials are king. Whether or not you plant perennials, though, Pure Attraction can take your food plot system to a new level through its precisely crafted combination of cold-hardy plants: Whitetail Oats, winter peas and WINA annual brassicas. Just like all forage blends that bear the Imperial Whitetail name, Pure Attraction is the result of the Whitetail Institute’s exhaustive research, development and real-world testing across North America. The Whitetail Oats and winter peas in Pure Attraction germinate and grow quickly and start attracting deer right away. The WINA brassicas in Pure Attraction provide even more tonnage during the early season. As the weather turns colder later in fall, frosts cause an enzyme in the brassicas in Pure Attraction to turn starches in the plants to sugars, making them even sweeter and more irresistible to deer. These brassicas stand tall, even in the snow and continue to provide deer with highly attractive and nutritious forage during the coldest months. Pure Attraction is simply phenomenal for attract-

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ing deer in the early and late hunting seasons. The availability of highly nutritious forages during winter can be a huge benefit to deer, helping them maintain body weight and health. This helps them recover from winter more quickly in early spring. And remember, the sooner a buck can recover his winter health losses, the earlier in the antler-growing season he can direct more nutrients toward building antlers. Pure Attraction is designed for late summer or fall planting. Planting dates are printed on the back of the bags and also at whitetailinstitute.com. Pure Attraction is easy to plant. Seedbed preparation doesn’t require deep tillage, and if you must add lime to raise soil pH to optimum (6.5 or higher), it only needs to be tilled into the first few inches of soil. Getting the seedbed as smooth as possible before planting is also not as critical when planting Pure Attraction as when planting perennials, because unlike perennials, Pure Attraction should be covered under a thin layer of loose soil. Just disk, leave the soil loose, fertilize and then broadcast the Pure Attraction seed. Then very lightly drag over the seed. As with any forage, it’s best to perform a laboratory soil test to determine lime and fertilizer requirements and follow them before planting. If a soil test is not available, though, you can fertilize Pure Attraction with the most commonly available fertilizer blends, such as 17-17-17 or 20-20-20 at a rate of about 400 pounds per acre. If possible, fertilize Pure Attraction again 30 to 45 days after planting with 100 pounds per acre of 33-0-0, 34-0-0 or equivalent high-nitrogen fertilizer to further boost forage growth. If you’re looking for something to plant this fall that will establish quickly, attract deer immediately and keep them coming even through the late hunting season, Pure Attraction is an excellent option. If you have questions about Pure Attraction, call the Whitetail Institute’s in-house consultants at (800) 688-3030. ^

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Life’s Roads: An Acknowledgment of Blessings By Matt Harper Photos by the Author

ife is often compared to a journey that’s full of crossroads, where the directions you choose to travel will lead you on a meandering adventure that can change at the next fork in the road. I don’t believe in chance or that life is completely random. That’s not to say that life won’t throw you curveballs now and then. However, if you have a destination in mind, you normally find yourself in that vicinity, regardless of how many turns and twists it took to get there. I’m also Christian, so I believe God is at work in our lives, and although the path might not seem crystal clear, with His guidance, the people and circumstances you encounter will shape your life’s journey in specific directions. These are called blessings, and I’ve had an abundance of them. At the time, I might not have recognized some of those as blessings, but they were there. 48 WHITETAIL NEWS

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Faith, Family and Farming When I was asked to write this, it made me do some introspective thinking on how I got where I am. I realized it occurred partially from my efforts and planning but largely from the family, friends, relationships and situations God, through His grace, blessed me with. The logical place to start is the beginning, with probably one of the greatest blessings I have experienced: the family into which I was born. I’m not sure if you could ask for better parents, and even if you did, I’m not sure where you would find such parents. My dad and mom are loving, kind, selfless, hard-working people who raised me in an environment that formed a solid bedrock of Christian morals, values and beliefs. That’s not to say I haven’t strayed and occasionally still do, but the fundamental foundation that was built for me as a child remains steadfast and is a light that shows me the way back to the right path. I might have ended up as a Christian without this upbringing, but I feel extremely blessed that it was afforded to me. I also was blessed by having the opportunity to know both sets of my grandparents, even though they were elderly when I was born. My grandparents were born from 1900 to 1915 and grew up in a time that was vastly different than the entitled society we live in today. They lived through two world wars and the Great Depression, and saw how by faith, sacrifice and determination, a nation and its people could rise above adversity to accomplish great things and live even greater lives. I think having that kind of influence in your life, even as a child, is overlooked in its value. But I honestly think that enrichment received from people who have garnered the wisdom and perspective that can only be gained by living through such hardships, is priceless. I would be remiss to not mention I was also blessed with an older brother and sister who have also been wonderful mentors in my life. Yes, I am the baby and, yes, probably spoiled, but I’m truly thankful to have had all the guidance given me by a wonderful family. Today, I have a wonderful, gorgeous wife (yes, I will make sure she reads this) and two

One of the many trophy bucks the author has killed since he started managing his land and deer. beautiful daughters who also love to hunt. These three girls are a blessing to me beyond compare, and I can only hope I can be a blessing in their lives. I was also blessed to be born and raised on a working farm in southern Iowa. I say “working” because in no way was the farm a hobby. Along with my mom’s nursing income, the farm is how our family made a living. It was a childhood of chores, muddy boots, patched coveralls, sunburned forearms, loading hay, walking beans and pitchforking endless loads of manure. But it was also fishing ponds that doubled as swimming pools, finding cool rocks at the creek, building forts in the pasture and going on countless adventures through the hills and trees that seemed endless at the time, even though the farm was only a few hundred acres. It was a childhood that taught me hard, physical work along with the importance of completing your job. If rain was coming and the hay was on the ground, it simply had to be picked up and put in the barn before it was ruined, which meant you stayed at it regardless of how tired you were, what time of day or night it was or what your friends might have been doing. In winter, when the pond was frozen over, you had to grab the axe and walk back to the pond to chop a hole in the ice for the cows to drink. Was it fun? Well no, but the cows had to drink or they would die. I also experienced firsthand the miracle of new life through sprouting grass, crops of freshly planted fields, and the birth of calves, pigs and lambs. I learned responsibility from these experiences and also discovered the reciprocity of giving and receiving. Whether it’s caring for land or an animal, you give to it, and it will give back to you.

Hunting, Food Plots and Careers

This monster 5-point is one of the author’s favorite deer.

Growing up, I aspired to be a farmer, professional hunter or professional sports player (football, basketball or baseball — it didn’t matter which). I was OK at sports and maybe could have played at a small college, but I certainly was not professional grade. Regardless, a knee injury during my junior year pretty much put the kibosh on any dream of millions through a lucrative sports contracts. And although I’m also not a full-time farmer or professional hunter, I’ve been blessed far beyond what I deserve to have made a few good choices that let me at least dabble in both.

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My early influence in hunting was my dad. He primarily hunted pheasants, quail and other small game because when he grew up, our part of Iowa had very few deer and no turkeys. So, when I was old enough to keep up, I walked alongside him, first with a toy gun, then a Daisy BB gun, then an unloaded shotgun and, finally, an old Stevens pump 12-gauge that weighed about twice as much as I did. I can still vividly remember the fall afternoon in the south field slough where I downed my first rooster. I can still hear my dad yelling to run to the spot where it fell because, “He may run on ya.” We didn’t have a hunting dog, unless you count me, so that’s what I did, and the smile on my face when I turned to face my dad holding that beautiful bird was only matched by his. As often happens to a teenage boy, my interests started to include girls, friends and doing things I should probably not have done. However, hunting remained a part of my life, and I started deer and turkey hunting along with the upland-bird hunting. When it was time to go to college, I thought wildlife biology might be a good choice. However, I was talked out of that major by an advisor who said the lack of jobs in correlation to the amount of competition made wildlife biology a poor option. So, I headed next door to the Animal Science Department to see what it had to offer, and even though I had more interest in wildlife than livestock, that was a blessing in disguise. I graduated with a degree in animal science with an emphasis on nutrition—specifically, ruminant nutrition. I was hired by a company to work in its tech service division, formulating diets and rations for livestock. Because I was the youngest of the group, I was also tasked with all the weird stuff that came in, such as buffalo, elk and deer diets. Of course, I didn’t mind, as that was my passion anyway, so I spent countless hours on research, reading books and working on data, along with talking to some of the best deer researchers at that time, to gain the knowledge for my job. During this time, another major blessing came my way: I was introduced to Steve and Wilson Scott with the Whitetail Institute of North America.

A Major Blessing — The Whitetail Institute At the time, the Whitetail Institute was working on a concept that had not been seen in the deer mineral/supplement market. Steve had the idea that the company could develop a line of products that would match the specific nutritional needs of deer depending on time of year. Imperial 30-06 and 30-06 Plus Protein had been wildly successful but were primarily used in spring, summer and early fall. Steve thought a product or products could be designed to supplement deer in winter and early spring. Steve and Wilson were also looking for someone to manage and develop an outside sales force that would work with Whitetail Institute dealers. I flew to Alabama and nervously interviewed for the position, and a few weeks later, my life’s path changed, as I accepted a job with the Whitetail Institute in outside sales and as a member of its product development team. A few months later, we introduced Cutting Edge Nutritional Supplements, the first seasonspecific nutritional supplements for deer. As it turned out, even though I was advised to turn away from wildlife biology/management in college, my knowledge of nutrition enabled me to land a job in the hunting industry. I spent several years at Whitetail Institute, and the blessings I experienced went far beyond having a long-desired position in my dream industry. Although I had never stopped hunting, my passion for it had cooled through time, as things such as career, house payments and

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This giant, killed by the author four years ago, has a nearly perfect rack. starting a family occupied much of my energy immediately after college. But that was not the entire reason. When I got my first BB gun, I was excited to run around and shoot cans, rocks, sparrows and whatever I could without getting in trouble. The same held true for when I got older and hunted pheasants, deer and turkeys. I was just happy to shoot anything I could legally shoot. As I got older, I still loved to hunt, but it was not a priority because the fascination had diminished. When I went to work for Whitetail Institute, a few things rekindled a passion for hunting that will likely stay with me the rest of my life. First, I met several great people in the industry who had a passion for hunting, and that passion was contagious. One was Rob Kaufhold, who owns Lancaster Archery Supply. I walked into Rob’s shop to talk to him about Whitetail Institute products, not knowing him or really anything about archery. I walked out having made a lifelong friend and carrying a new bow and all the accessories. I don’t recall selling Rob anything on that visit, which means he’s probably a better salesperson than I am, but that visit and the introduction to bowhunting opened up a new world of hunting.

The Concept of Food Plots Also, Whitetail Institute introduced me to the concept of food plots and deer management through improving deer habitat. My area of southern Iowa had pretty good habitat for deer, and when whitetails were reintroduced, the population grew quickly. However, I was not aware how much the quality of deer and hunting would improve by planting forages oriented or even specifically designed for deer. I will never forget the first Imperial Whitetail Clover plot I planted. It was only a half-acre, but I would sit and watch deer walk through a 10acre clover hay field to get to the Imperial Clover. While at the Whitetail Institute, we developed more food plot products, all of which I tested on my farm. I have probably grown hundreds of varieties of food plot forages on my farm because of the testing protocols we followed. The result was that I saw better quality and quantity of deer on the farm. That was not the only benefit, however. I www.whitetailinstitute.com


developed a deep appreciation for doing something to help manage wildlife by supplying something beneficial. I began to enjoy the hunt even though I was not hunting. In fact, the management aspect of hunting became nearly as enjoyable as actual hunting. Plus, I also rekindled a passion I didn’t even really know I had for growing things, turning dirt and farming in general. In fact, I loved it so much that I risked a beating from my wife to buy my first farm of my own; 70 acres. I’ve since expanded that, but I still have the original 70 acres. As mentioned, growing up, I just shot deer — legally of course — but didn’t care much about what kind of deer I shot. When I went to work for Whitetail Institute, I started managing the farms we hunted and learned more about the art of hunting, and my passion for it grew exponentially. I had deer hunted from age 14 to about 26 and had shot one deer that scored more than 120 inches. That was a 185-inch monster that was dumb enough to run in front of a 16-year-old with a lot of slugs in his pocket. During the past 17 years since my involvement with Whitetail Institute, I have been blessed to have harvested about 20 Pope & Young bucks and a few other monsters with my muzzleloader. My first trophy bow buck scored 173 inches and weighed 315 pounds on the hoof. I have also shot two other deer in the 170s, including a giant 8-pointer that gross scored 178. I have shot several bucks in the 160s range and three in the 180s, but the biggest deer to date is a 193-inch buck on the farm where I live. In fact, almost all those deer have come from my parents’ farm, which I manage, or my farms. By the way, on that 70-acre farm I mentioned earlier, I harvested a deer that was 7-plus years old and scored 138 inches as a 5pointer.

I’m not throwing out these big buck scores to impress anyone, because another one of the blessings in my life is I live in the best state in the country for producing big bucks and I know hunters who have killed bigger and more trophy bucks than I have. I’m not an expert hunter, but I’ve been extremely blessed — not just because the trophies I’ve taken but because of the all of the blessings I’ve derived from a few choices I made and meeting the right people, all of which I believe was overseen by God. My position at Whitetail Institute was no doubt a godsend because of the opportunity to work for the best company in the food plot business. It also offered me an opportunity to prove myself in the sales and marketing fields but the job did require me to be on the road a lot. A few years ago a large nutritional business saw enough in me to give me a job opportunity that allows me to be at home with my wife and two girls more often. I did take that job but am grateful for the opportunity Whitetail Institute gave me and I am grateful for the things I learned while working there. It also helped me improve the quality of the deer I hunt and kill and I plan on always using Whitetail Institute products because I know firsthand the effort put into producing them and the results they provide.

Conclusion I’m now, more or less, in the middle of my life, and the forks in the road will likely decrease with age, although you never know. What I know, however, is that every day I will do all I can to thank God for the many blessings He has given me. ^

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By Charles J. Alsheimer Photos by the Author

he heart and soul of the American deer hunter has been defined by researchers. Nearly a half-century ago, Robert Jackson and Robert Norton from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse set out to see if hunters progressed through stages in their pursuit of whitetail deer. After interviewing more than 1,000 hunters, they concluded that America’s deer hunters pass through five stages in their lifetime deer hunting journey. 52 WHITETAIL NEWS

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Five Stages of the Hunter The Shooter Stage: This is when hunters begin. They need to have some success and be able to have a level of accomplishment. The Limiting-Out Stage: From Stage One, most hunters progress to this stage. In Stage Two, the hunter’s goal is to harvest as many animals as is legally possible. The Trophy Stage: In this stage, the hunter has enough knowledge of his quarry that he begins to exhibit selectivity. Bigger antlers and a keen knowledge of stewarding the whitetail resource begin to take center stage in the deer hunter’s life. The Method Stage: By the time a hunter reaches this stage, he is beginning to mellow out. With many autumns under his belt, he begins to become more interested in how he hunts. Understanding deer behavior also becomes paramount. www.whitetailinstitute.com


The Sportsman’s Stage: By the time a hunter hits this stage, he truly knows who he is. He knows deer behavior, has killed many deer, has probably become involved in the preservation of hunting and makes a conscious effort to see that hunting is passed on to the next generation. This is also the stage when many deer hunters become involved as managers of their own deer hunting properties. I’ve often viewed this stage as the reflective stage, with many similarities to the stewardship and slow-and-steady phases of food plotting. Though all five stages can stand alone, stages three through five are often interwoven. As a 68-year-old, I see how I’ve progressed through the five stages in my deer hunting journey, but it’s the latter three that have given me the greatest satisfaction. In many ways, how I viewed whitetails and hunted and managed them took a quantum leap forward in December 1989, when I traveled to Texas to do a magazine story on legendary deer biologist Al Brothers. The encounter really got me thinking about what I call total deer management (TDM); the management of all segments of a deer population and the natural habitat and all wildlife that inhabits the property. Many now look at TDM as quality deer management (QDM). Since 1989, I’ve become immersed in practicing TDM/QDM on my family farm. Writing, lecturing and consulting about the virtues of

the concept has let me interact with sportsmen across the whitetail’s range. I’ve gleaned from these encounters that a person’s or group’s desire to have better deer and deer hunting often parallels the five stages of the deer hunter. What follows are the five stages of food plotting and deer and land management, which I believe hunters progress through as they strive to have better properties, deer and hunting.

Five Stages of Food Plotting Intro Stage: Everything in life has an introductory step. The key to successful food plotting is taking the first step, when a hunter or landowner becomes interested in having better deer and deer hunting. This process usually begins simmering when they are introduced to the benefits of growing food plots for deer, from magazine articles, through a friend, by attending seminars or through social media. Skeptic Stage: After being introduced to the many nuances of quality deer management, the wheels begin turning in the hunter’s mind as he wrestles with whether he can do it. Unfortunately, this stage keeps some hunters and landowners from seeing the beauty of food plotting and natural habitat management. For many years, I was a bit skeptical about wasting my time doing food plots and managing for

A lifetime of food plotting success in New York!

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Many food plotters seek information at seminars, in the field, or auditoriums.

better deer. I can vividly remember my first thoughts when Brothers introduced me to what he called quality deer management. While bumping down a dusty ranch road in southern Texas, looking for whitetails, he asked me if I had any desire to have better whitetails on our farm. My response was sure, but that would never happen in my region of New York because of tremendous hunting pressure. Our area is the poster child for the phrase, "If it’s brown it’s down," so the chances of seeing any buck older than 2-½ is close to zero. I also told Brothers that most people didn’t have enough land to make it happen. In the months that followed, Brothers stayed in touch and continued to encourage me to think about planting food plots on our farm and shying away from harvesting yearling bucks. Admittedly, I struggled as a skeptic, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought it was worth a try. Toe-in-the-Water Stage: You can’t put land managers in a box, because everyone progresses in the food plot/deer management game differently. Unlike their fathers and grandfathers, many of today’s deer hunters know little about farming practices. This causes many initial food plotters to cut corners or simply ignore the role soil pH, seed selection and other aspects play in a successful program. As a result, they do little more than stick their toe in the water, hoping for the best. A downside of this stage is that it causes some to give up trying to have better food plots and natural habitat for deer. These folks throw in the towel because of the cost of equipment, seed, lime and fertilizer, or they don’t believe they have the time to turn a property into a whitetail paradise. Though a few drop out at some point, many others succeed and progress to the next stage.

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Slow-and-Steady Stage: All successful food plot practitioners have one thing in common. They thirst for knowledge, because knowledge is the doorway to success. They acquire their food plot knowledge through experience, social media, by attending seminars or through reading books and magazines, such as the one you're holding. As they progress slowly through this stage, they acquire a keen knowledge of soil chemistry, seed selections, food plot layout, natural habitat creation and how deer roam the property. These folks have experienced success and failure as they’ve worked through the food plot, land and deer management process and know what it takes to have the best deer and deer hunting experience possible. They also know that without having great food offerings, the level of success they desire is not possible. Simply put, food plots are what makes their quality deer management process exciting. At some point in the process, slow-and-steady stagers come to realize their efforts benefit much more than whitetails. No longer just deer hunters, they become stewards of everything that lives on the land they love while mentoring the people they bring along for the ride. Stewardship Stage: I planted the first ‘green field’ on our farm 42 years ago. It was a 2-acre winter-wheat plot. At the time, no one in our area even thought of planting for deer, but I had heard and read enough about them to take the leap by providing a late-season food source. My goal was to have more food for our farm’s deer with the hope of having increased sightings and better hunting. Compared to today, my initial efforts were marginal at best. In spite of that, there was an upside to my feeble beginning. What I experienced was enough to keep my interest in the benefits planting for deer could bring to the deer-management equation. So, during the next 15 years, I kept nibbling around the edges, planting a couple of plots each year while www.whitetailinstitute.com


working to improve the farm’s natural habitat. Throughout, I kept learning all I could about how to make the farm better for wildlife. I inched from the toe-in-the-water stage to the slow-and-steady stage in 1989, when Al Brothers encouraged me to give the quality deer management concept a shot. In the years that followed, my planting and deer management journey accelerated. To say it has been special would be an understatement. When I became serious, and went from green fields to food plots along with deer and land management, the quality of our farm’s deer herd blossomed. Instead of planting just late-season grain food plots, I added warm-season plots of Imperial Whitetail Clover. To complement our food plots, we ramped up the way we managed the farm’s natural habitat for natural food and cover. This also had a significant impact on antler growth. When we began changing the way we do things in 1989, it was a rare treat to see any buck older than 1-½. Now, we see older bucks regularly. The accompanying photos illustrate some of the successes my son and I’ve had since our management program took off in the early 1990s. Thanks to great food plot offerings, our deer now get the nutrients needed for doe lactation and optimum antler growth. What I’ve discovered after 27 years of being immersed in the food plot and deer management game is that progressing through the phases of food plotting has affected more than just the deer. What has truly been special about the process is how it has strengthened the relationship I have with my son, Aaron. He was 11 years old when I began seriously managing our farm for better deer. As a result of our

successes, he bought into what I wanted to do before he could legally carry a firearm. Now as a successful attorney in his late 30s, he’s still excited about turning the earth, planting seed and hunting mature whitetails, all possible because he’s seen the benefits of food plotting. As great as all this has been, there is much more to the joy of my journey. Through the years, I’ve met hundreds of people who have reaped the benefits of food plots and deer management. All say the same thing — that the food plot experience has brought so much joy to their lives because of the way it allows them to give back to nature and the people around them. Everything from deer to small game to songbirds to their property’s soil and forests has benefited, allowing them the satisfaction of being true stewards of the land God entrusted to them. The longer I live, the more I realize the brevity of life’s journey. It seems like only yesterday that I planted that first green field. Yes, that journey began 42 years ago, but what an incredible journey it has been. Thanks to the whitetail deer and embracing the process required to make them thrive, my life has been special. Winston Churchill was so right when he said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” I’ve been blessed to have been a part of many things in the hunting world. One of the best is the way I’ve seen sportsmen give back to the wildlife they pursue. They’ve always put their money where their mouths are. This is especially the case of those involved in the food plot process, because their efforts benefit all of nature, from deer to the plants and trees that grow on the land. ^

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Variety is the Spice of Life Offering more than one type of planting in a food plot makes perfect sense from a biological and hunting standpoint. By Joe Blake Photos by the Author

rriving at the base of my ladder stand, I tied my longbow to the haul line and prepared for my ascent. Although it was only early afternoon, I took a quick look toward the 5-acre food plot 100 yards distant and was surprised to already see a handful of deer greedily wolfing down mouthfuls of clover and brassicas. Obviously, the local deer herd was very comfortable at this remote site, and I quickly and quietly climbed aloft while using the tree’s trunk to help cover my movements.

Another way to offer food plot variety is to blend seeds together: PowerPlant is a great example of different seeds blended together that creates an awesome spring/summer plot.

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Although it was early November, the Minnesota rut had yet to kick into high gear. Mild weather and clear skies were keeping buck movement to a minimum, but with several does and fawns in the field and more streaming in, I knew it would only be a matter of time before some antlers arrived. As if on cue, the does became nervous and locked their attention to the south. Almost immediately, the sweet sounds of an amorous buck’s grunts reached my ears on the gentle afternoon breeze. Cresting the hill in a stiff-legged trot, the big whitetail immediately scattered the group of deer feeding on Imperial Whitetail Clover and headed for a smaller group of does greedily devouring brassicas along the edge of the heavy woods. I glassed the buck as he cut a huge doe from the field and ran her back and forth across the food plot before she tired of his advances and disappeared into the thick cover with her suitor in tow. I had no history with the buck, but with a huge body that would dress in the 200-pound range and a main-frame 10-point rack that would push 140 inches, I knew I would press my longbow into service if he cut the distance. Of course, that was up to the doe. I was hunting in one of my favorite setups in Minnesota: a five-acre food plot on private land more than a mile from any road and surrounded by heavy woods. Deer hammer the plot all season and at all times of day because of its remote location and proximity to miles of thick cover. The plot is set up with two distinct plantings each year: three acres of Imperial Whitetail Clover in the center and a two-acre ring around the outside that’s rotated from beans to corn to Tall Tine Tubers. Each year, the food plot enjoys the most deer activity of any I plant, proving my long-held belief that offering whitetails a smorgasbord is the key to successful deer management and the best way to hang your tag on a good buck. As the adage goes, “Variety is the spice of life,” and never is that more true than when dealing with whitetail food plots. I plant about 20 to 25 acres into food plots annually, and at least half of those acres feature more than one type of planting. Some of those plantings come directly from the Whitetail Institute with more than one type of seed mixed together, but I purposely separate other plantings, such as corn and beans, beans and brassicas, or clover and brassicas, as with the plot mentioned in the opening story. Although it’s more time-consuming to plant more than one type of seed in one plot,

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and green and remained attractive to deer.

Symbiosis Another plus in adding variety to individual food plots is the symbiotic nature of some vegetation. I can think of no better example than Imperial PowerPlant. It’s quickly becoming one of my favorite food plot plantings because it grows quickly, offers an incredible tonnage of vegetation that’s very attractive to whitetails and even provides excellent bedding cover that my deer herd uses throughout the year. The seed mix in PowerPlant includes forage beans and peas, lablab and a small amount of taller growing sunflowers and Sunn Hemp. The taller plants actually provide a climbing lattice for the peas and beans while helping protect the growing legumes from overgrazing. An added plus with PowerPlant is that turkeys absolutely love the sunflower seed in spring, and I always have a blind or two set up close to fields of Imperial PowerPlant when chasing birds with my longbow. Setting up trail cameras immediately adjacent to food plots on entrance and exit trails is a sure way to inventory your herd. several considerations make it worthwhile.

Palatability Some plants are more attractive to whitetails at certain times of the year than others. My favorite five-acre plot in Minnesota provides a good example. The clover attracts and holds large numbers of deer throughout spring, summer and fall, but as cold weather hits and the clover starts to brown, the brassicas — by then two feet tall — attract the most attention. Similarly, after the herd has taken the brassica leaves down to the dirt, the turnips (tubers) are still available, and deer devour them during the long, cold winter. The same is true when I plant the outer ring with corn or beans. The clover attracts deer as soon as it greens up in spring and keeps them coming into the fall, after which the row crops carry the animals through the rest of the fall and winter.

Feeding or Hunting Finally, most deer managers designate certain food plots for hunting and others as feeding plots, but by blending seeds or adding variety to each food plot, everyone can do double duty. A perfect example would be the five-acre plot from the opening story. When I first planted this field, it was strictly in Imperial Whitetail Clover, and although deer used it extensively, the plot became less attractive in the late hunting season in the far north of Minnesota. However, when I broke up the outside edge and added a rotation of beans, corn and Tall Tine Tubers, it became a year-round whitetail buffet and a great place to tag a good buck.

Cover Up In an area with a high deer population, food plots often don’t reach their potential before they are grazed to the ground, and one way to help alleviate this problem is through the use of cover crops. The Whitetail Institute offers several seed blends that are ideal for cover crops. Mixing clover or other perennial with faster growing annual seeds helps ensure a plot’s main seed offering will get a chance to grow and thrive, because local whitetails will focus their grazing on the faster-growing plants. Similarly, certain seeds are more drought tolerant or more tolerant of specific conditions, such as shade, sun or too much moisture. By blending a mix of seeds, you can help your food plot thrive even though conditions aren’t perfect. My favorite perennial planting is Chicory Plus (now Fusion) because when conditions are good, the entire plot thrives. But when conditions are poor, such as the drought we’ve experienced in Minnesota in recent seasons, the chicory still shines, and deer continue to visit these plots. In fact, my family has taken several deer off our field of (Fusion) during recent drought conditions. Although the clover growth was slowed, the chicory was tall

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This trophy 8-point buck posed for the camera at a 30-06 Plus Protein mineral lick located next to a field of PowerPlant. www.whitetailinstitute.com


The author's daughter Megan tagged her first-ever deer while hunting over a field of Winter-Greens and Imperial Whitetail Clover.

Conclusion Eventually, the huge doe slinked out of the heavy cover 80 yards from my ambush site and cut across the grassy field between us. At first, I thought she’d given her boyfriend the slip, but it wasn’t long before crashing along the edge of the timber, he trotted into the open with his nose to the ground like a bird dog on the trail of a rooster pheasant. The doe had already disappeared up the oak ridge beside me, but the buck’s nose made short work of her course, and in the blink of an eye, he was standing less than 30 yards away at the base of the ridge. That might have been the end of my hopes, because the doe had already disappeared over the ridge to the north. But as the buck stood pondering his next move, a couple of button bucks beside my ladder stand decided to leave, and their loud footfalls through the dry leaves caught the big boy’s attention and led him to me. At nine yards, the big deer walked through my shooting lane, oblivious to the danger perched 12 feet above him. As I tracked his progress and picked a spot on his grayish hide, I pulled the 54-pound longbow to full draw and sent the 750-grain arrow through both lungs. The mature whitetail rocketed back across the grassy meadow, back toward the food plot where he’d made his entrance. But his flight would be short, and I watched him tip over less than 50 yards away. It was with great satisfaction that I attached my tag to the trophy whitetail. Not only would he fill my freezer and a special place on my wall, but he also proved without a doubt that when it comes to food plots, variety is the spice of life. ^ For the latest promotions, sales and news visit www.Facebook.com/WhitetailInstitute

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By William Cousins Photo by Charles J. Alsheimer

The Whitetail Institute’s recommended fall planting dates are just a few months away, so it makes sense to start preparing now, if possible, to ensure your food plots are as lush and attractive as possible when hunting season rolls around. If you’ll be planting Whitetail Institute perennials this fall, consider planting them with a nurse crop of Imperial Whitetail Oats Plus. Doing so can yield many benefits. 62 WHITETAIL NEWS

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What is a nurse crop? In general terms, a nurse crop is a secondary crop (usually an annual) planted with a primary crop (usually a perennial) specifically to help minimize competition from weeds. In the specific context of perennial food plot plantings, though, a nurse crop of Whitetail Oats Plus provides additional benefits. Let’s look at the major ones.

Reasons to Plant Whitetail Oats Plus With Fall-Planted Perennials As mentioned, one universal reason for planting a nurse crop of Whitetail Oats Plus with perennials is to minimize weed competition right after planting. Most perennial plants build a lot of their root system before they appear above ground. Annuals generally come up quicker than perennials because their life cycle is usually shorter, so they have to grow more quickly. That’s why planting a nurse crop of Whitetail Oats Plus with fall-planted perennials helps the planting emerge and start attracting deer as quickly as possible. It’s also why doing so leaves less time and room for weeds to compete right after planting. Planting Whitetail Oats Plus with perennials in fall also increases the early tonnage and variety (attraction) of the stand. The main for-


age component of Whitetail Oats Plus is Whitetail Oats, an exceptionally attractive, high-sugar, cold-tolerant oat that outperforms every other oat variety the Whitetail Institute has tested. The Whitetail Oats Plus and perennial forage will be great to hunt over in fall and winter. And after that first fall and winter you get all the benefits of the quality perennial crop. A nurse crop of Whitetail Oats Plus can even serve as a sort of safety net to help ensure that you have an attractive food plot to hunt over even when fall rainfall levels are unexpectedly low after planting. Whitetail Oats Plus establishes and grows extremely rapidly, and it can do so with less soil moisture than most perennials require. The fibrous roots of the plants in Whitetail Oats Plus help hold the soil in place while the perennials establish, and they also create a favorable microenvironment of higher humidity near the surface of the soil, which enhances seedling establishment. This microenvironment — especially when coupled with the water-holding benefits of the Whitetail Institute’s Rainbond seed coating, which comes on Whitetail Institute perennials — can provide even greater protection and benefit for perennial seedlings as they sprout and grow. Whitetail Oats Plus is also extremely attractive to deer, and because it’s also likely to be some of the only fresh grazing available during low rainfall spells in early fall, it can attract deer and give you something highly attractive to hunt over almost immediately, even though the primary perennial crop might not be fully established. And when rains return, a highly attractive nurse crop of Whitetail Oats Plus provides another benefit. If you’ve used a grazing gauge in your perennial food plots to monitor plant growth and grazing pressure, you know a lot of nibbling occurs while the plants are starting to emerge. Because Whitetail Oats Plus is so attractive to deer, it will shoulder some of the early grazing pressure on developing perennials during this critical growth period.

How to Plant Whitetail Oats Plus with Fall-Planted Perennials Seedbed Preparation: Preparing the planting site for a nurse crop of Whitetail Oats Plus and a Whitetail Institute perennial is no different than preparing the seedbed to plant a Whitetail Institute perennial by itself. In both cases, have the soil tested with a laboratory soil test kit. When preparing the soil sample and paperwork to send off to the lab, ask the lab to perform the test and make recommendations for the primary perennial crop, not the nurse crop of Whitetail Oats Plus. The reason will become apparent when we discuss fertilizer. When you receive your soil test report from the lab, check the soil pH reading on the report. If soil pH is less than optimum (lower than 6.5), the report will also give you lime recommendations. Add the recommended amount of lime to the seedbed, and disk or till it into the soil. If possible, this should be done well in advance of planting so the lime will have time to work if soil pH is low and you must lime the seedbed. Planting: The planting instructions published by the Whitetail Institute for forage products are designed on the assumption that the product will be planted by itself. Also, the instructions are different for Whitetail Oats Plus (a large-seed product) and Whitetail Institute perennials (small-seed products). Accordingly, you’ll need to know how to combine the instructions to do an optimum job of planting a nurse crop of Whitetail Oats Plus with a perennial in fall. First, I’ll

highlight the things we must address. Then, I’ll provide a step-by-step guide on how to do it. When the recommended planting dates arrive, disk or till the soil if you haven’t done so within the previous few weeks. Then, add the fertilizer recommended in your soil test report, or if you didn’t take a soil test, follow the fertilizer instructions for the perennial you’ll be planting. The fertilizer for the Whitetail Institute perennial will include some nitrogen, and it will be more than enough for the nurse crop to get started. And in a few weeks as the perennial legumes develop, they will provide additional nitrogen to the Whitetail Oats Plus, so no additional nitrogen fertilizer should be required. That’s why I suggested earlier that you ask the lab to test the soil for establishment of the perennial you’ll be planting, not the nurse crop of Whitetail Oats Plus. Because you’ll be planting Whitetail Oats Plus and a perennial in the same ground, you’ll need to alter the amount of seed you’ll put out. Reduce the seeding rate for Whitetail Oats Plus from 90 pounds per acre when planted alone to a maximum of 30 to 45 pounds per acre when planted as a nurse crop with a perennial. The perennial seed should be put out at its full seed rate.

Summary Here’s a step-by-step guide for planting Whitetail Oats Plus as a nurse crop with Whitetail Institute perennials. You can find the planting dates, seedbed preparation and planting instructions, and the seeding rate for each Whitetail Institute perennial forage product on the bag and at whitetailinstitute.com. • Prepare the seedbed according to the seedbed preparation instructions for the perennial you’ll be planting. • Plant during the recommended fall planting dates shown for the perennial you’ll be planting. • When the planting date arrives, disk or till the seedbed. • Add the fertilizer recommended in your soil test report to the seedbed. If no soil test is available, add the lime and fertilizer recommended in the planting instructions for the perennial you’ll be planting. • Broadcast Whitetail Oats Plus at a rate of no more than about 30 to 45 pounds per acre. • Drag the fertilizer and Whitetail Oats Plus seed into the seedbed. This will lightly cover the seed. Whitetail Oats Plus should be planted no deeper than one inch. • If you have a cultipacker (heavy roller), cultipack the seedbed. • Broadcast the perennial seed at its full seed rate. • Do not cover the perennial seed. It should be left on top of the soil or even better, if you have a cultipacker, cultipack the seedbed again after putting out the perennial seed. This will help ensure that the perennial seed is in good contact with the surface of the soil without covering it. For more information, call the Whitetail Institute at (800) 6883030. ^

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WHITETAIL NEWS 63


How Old Bucks are Different

Geriatric bucks don’t live and behave like their junior brethren, so it makes sense that you must hunt them differently. Here’s a primer on chasing old-timers.

By Scott Bestul Photo by Charles J. Alsheimer

My best hunt this past fall happened in a Subway sandwich shop. And no, for the record, I do not hunt in restaurants. But for some reason, I couldn’t hunt the afternoon of Oct. 26, and after I checked off whatever business was on my list that day, I stopped to grab dinner. Seconds after sitting down, my phone buzzed with an incoming text from my neighbor, and the six words made my heart leap.

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“I think I just killed him.” Dave Olson is one of my closest neighbors and friends, and I knew he was on a mission to kill a 5-year-old buck. Dave had found one shed from the buck the previous spring, and we each had numerous trail-cam pics of the massive deer during the past two years. And all that contact had seeped into Dave’s psyche. There were several great deer in the neighborhood, but that one had wriggled under his skin. There’s something about prolonged contact with a buck through time. Other deer can just kind of fade in importance. So when I got that text, I knew my buddy had not just killed a giant deer; he’d fulfilled a dream. Not long ago, getting a buck to live three seasons was a big deal in this area. These days, thanks to a combination of factors — some intended, some pure happenstance — setting your sights on an even older deer is a real possibility. It’s added a lot of fun and even more challenge to the annual hunt. And in the process, it’s piqued my curiosity about older whitetails; how they differ from their junior herd-mates and how those differences influence our management and hunting plans.

sometimes a pretty poor indicator of age. For example, in some areas of the country, a 2-1/2- or 3-1/2-year-old buck can grow a rack worthy of the record books. I once chased a Wisconsin 12-pointer — a buck that made the B&C minimum — for an entire bow season. He was only 3-1/2 years old. I’d have gladly tagged that monster, but he was certainly not an old deer. On the flip side, there are regions where — thanks to genetics, nutrition or other factors — even an ancient deer might not have a highscoring rack. My friend Kip Adams, outreach director for QDMA, shot an 8-1/2-year-old buck on his Pennsylvania property that scored just more than 120 inches B&C. Although not a big-scoring buck, that Keystone State deer was rightfully one of Kip’s most treasured trophies. So even if a truly old buck doesn’t grow monstrous headgear, he’s special for a simple reason. He’s a survivor. Life is extremely hard for whitetails but especially so for bucks. They run a gauntlet of predators, fights, vehicles, hunting pressure and just plain bad luck. When one survives several seasons, it becomes — in my opinion — a trophy by default, regardless of antler score. And as more of us manage property by improving habitat, planting food sources and becoming selective in what deer we shoot, old bucks are becoming more common on the landscape. That has certainly been true in my area, as we’ve seen more bucks reach maturity. Sightings, trail cams and the occasional successful hunt have made hunting in this area simply more exciting, rewarding and fun. And in that process, I’ve read more and pondered much about how old deer are different. Here are some thoughts.

The Old Buck Mystique Not long ago, I think I was like a lot of American deer hunters. I figured if a buck grew a nice set of antlers, he was an old-timer. When I started hunting in the 1970s, some of my mentors at least partially believed that the number of tines on a rack indicated the buck’s age. Obviously, we know that old wives tale is nowhere close to true. So although many trophy-class bucks are geriatric deer, antlers are

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WHITETAIL NEWS 65


They Move Less Modern telemetry research has pretty much proven that as a buck ages, he simply doesn’t travel as much. For a long time, I attributed that to a degree of intelligence, as if a buck had the power to think, “Gee, when I walk around a lot, I get in trouble, so I’m just going to lie on my belly and stay safe.” I don’t believe that anymore. I think that in most cases, old bucks move less because they’re just lazy. Think about it: As any other animal (dogs, cats or livestock) ages, it just no longer scampers around like a youngster. They spend more time lazing in the shade on hot days, finding a sunny spot on cold ones and snoozing more than walking. The other thing that telemetry has proven about old bucks goes hand-in-hand with this. As whitetails mature, their home ranges and core areas tend to shrink. Again, it’s natural for us to believe that a buck hangs out in a certain area because he’s got Mensa-level intelligence. In fact, the buck has selected the spot because experience has proven to him that it provides the things he needs most — food, cover, water, lack of disturbance — to simply make his life easier. The buck my neighbor, Dave, tagged this past fall (mentioned at the start of this article) illustrated that tendency perfectly. When we started getting photos of the deer, he was 2-1/2 and, like many bucks of that age class, was quite active and moved broadly across two farms we hunt. The next year, the buck showed up only on a couple of cameras consistently, and those cams were within 3/4 of a mile of each other. And except for a brief period during the rut, his territory seemed to get even more specific as fall progressed. The next spring, Dave found one shed from the buck on his farm, and my other neighbor, Alan, found the other side on his property. The antlers were about a half-mile apart. By this past summer, the buck had an extremely tight core area — three food plots and a bedding area — right behind my house, but as soon as he shed velvet, the buck shifted his core area slightly to include a habitat-rich area right behind Dave’s barn. Dave started to see the buck occasionally as he did chores, and his cameras were full of pics of the buck. After several sits, Dave was finally able to arrow the buck the final week of October, right in the small area the buck had adopted as his own.

They Develop Personality One of the most fascinating aspects of watching bucks mature in our hunting area the past several years has been seeing how different they are. Mature bucks share tendencies, such as shrinking core areas and lackadaisical movement, but they have personalities as distinct as a fingerprint. Some are fighters, some are babies, some are just shy. The list goes on. Knowing a buck’s personality can be critical in developing a hunting plan. Trail cams and personal observation can prove that a buck is aggressive toward other bucks, as we found with a buck we nicknamed “Mr. Mellow” this past year. At first, our many observations of this deer during summer suggested he was just a calm deer that didn’t seem to get bothered by much. I photographed him several times from my truck at closer than 50 yards. But after he shed velvet, Mr. Mellow turned into Mr. T. He was simply unafraid of anything, including any of the other nice bucks in the neighborhood. That trait proved to be his undoing, as one of our neighbors found out when he staked a buck decoy out during an afternoon bowhunt. Mr. Mellow, already missing several tines from fighting, trotted in to clean the clock

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of the intruder and took an arrow for his trouble.

They Rut Differently Another thing that took me a while to figure out about mature bucks was how differently they behaved during the rut. Most of us have seen the classic chasing scenario, where multiple bucks are harassing a doe that’s obviously come into estrus. Interestingly, as the mature buck population grew in my area, I rarely saw one of the old studs participating in such a chase. So I started asking biologists and experienced hunters about that and learned something I’ve seen play out many times in the years since. Like everything else old bucks do, they breed efficiently, too. So rather than chase a doe across the landscape hoping to get lucky, they watch for the scent and body language clues that indicate she’s ready, and then they simply walk in and do their job. As biologist, Karl Miller, once told me, “Old bucks are just more gentlemanly about breeding. They’re also far more sensitive and aware of the rut than younger bucks. By the time you see little bucks chasing all over the place, an old buck is already holed up in a patch of brush with his first estrous doe.” The takeaway is simple: If you wait for classic signs of the rutting frenzy to start pursuing a big buck, you’re probably too late. Use your knowledge of him to jump on any signs of increased activity or signmaking in the days before peak rut. And then there’s the silver lining: Mature bucks will continue searching hard for does long after younger bucks have run out of gas. Consequently, it pays to save some of your hunting effort for late in the rut.

They’re Affected by Herd Dynamics To make things even more fascinating, a buck’s personality can change, especially if decent numbers of other mature bucks inhabit the area. Remember, whitetails are social animals, and their interaction with other members of the herd has a big influence on how they behave. Not many years ago, mature bucks were pretty rare in my hunting areas. Uninfluenced by competition, those older deer did whatever they felt like; traveling where they pleased, eating when and where they wanted, breeding does at will. But now that there’s a better age structure in our herd, mature bucks are more sensitive to where they live and how they behave. The presence of an aggressive bully buck can make another great deer decide to move to another part of the farm or simply relocate to another. Also, as a buck ages, he might lose his status in the pecking order. Several of my friends in Iowa have watched bucks reign supreme for a couple of years as they hit their prime at age 4-1/2, only to lose status when their bodies could no longer back up the fight they wanted to bring.

Conclusion: They Require More Thought In my opinion, all these factors combine to make old bucks tougher to kill. The first challenge, of course, is simply finding one. But assuming you clear that hurdle, the more quickly you can realize that you’re not going to be able to hunt him like other deer, the more successful you’ll be. It will take some careful study of bits and pieces of information amassed during a long period; sign, sightings, encounters, shed antlers and trail-cam pics. Adding up these puzzle pieces is critical to arranging an encounter with an old-timer. But when you finally make that happen, the experience can be one of your most satisfying as a www.whitetailinstitute.com


Big Success on Small Tracts

You don’t need 1,000 acres to attract and hold deer. By David Hart Photos by the Author

f Steve Scott had a nickel for every time he heard a variation of, “Why bother?” he could take his family out for a nice dinner. As the vicepresident of Whitetail Institute, he talks to a lot of deer hunters who have doubts whether food plots and other management activities are pointless on small acreages.

The author killed this buck in a plot of Winter Greens planted on a 22acre tract surrounded by a 500-acre pine plantation hunted by a club that does not practice any management.

“They tell me they only have 20 or 30 or 50 acres and that there’s little, if any, benefit in doing any management activities because the deer don’t stick around and they get shot by their neighbors,” Scott said. That’s true to some extent. Whitetails have home ranges of a square mile or more on average, so it’s almost impossible to prevent a deer from hopping your fence. That can dash the hopes of the most enthusiastic small-tract landowner. Don’t tell that to Sam Fleener, though. The 31-year-old Indiana resident not only keeps lots of deer on his 50-acre farm but keeps some impressive bucks around, too. His secret? A two-acre plot of Imperial Whitetail Clover tucked along the back edge of his property. “You aren’t going to keep a deer on 40 or 50 acres 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year,” Scott said. “That’s not realistic. But the longer you can keep deer on your property, the better your hunting opportunities will be. If increasing the time they spend on your land goes from 10 minutes per day to an hour or from a few days per year to a few weeks per year, you’ve already come out ahead. The goal is to have them spend as much time on your property as possible. Food plots are one of the best ways to encourage deer to spend more time on your property and the addition of fruit trees such as pears or

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Vol. 26, No. 1 /

WHITETAIL NEWS 67


Thinning your timber is a great way to increase natural foods and bedding cover. Just make sure you remove the right trees. A consulting forester can help.

apples can be a good addition as well. The more food choices the deer have, the more time they’ll spend on your land,” Scott said.

Feed Them One of the best ways to do that is to do what Fleener did: Give them a high-quality food source that lasts all or most of the year. If deer have a choice between a healthy stand of clover that stays vibrant nearly all year and a hay field a quarter-mile away, they’ll almost always choose the clover. Fleener started with a half-acre of clover but increased it to two acres after he noticed heavy browsing pressure on the smaller plot. There was little food left when hunting season opened. The larger plot made a big difference. Fleener’s property consists of about 30 acres of timber. The rest is in hay fields. He’s surrounded by other crops such as alfalfa and corn, but he says his deer prefer the clover over the other food choices. They like it so much, in fact, he almost always sees deer in his plots. Fleener even killed the biggest deer of his life, including a Pope & Young buck, over his food plots. Part of his success revolves around the plot location. He made sure it was hidden from roads, surrounding houses and an adjoining public hunting area. Fleener often sees whitetails during legal shooting hours, even later in the season, because the deer feel secure. That’s smart, said Scott, who added that other considerations can improve your management efforts. “Don’t locate food plots along property boundaries if you can avoid it,” he said. “Deer will be more likely to spend time on your neighbor’s property, or they could be prone to poaching. Perennial products like Imperial Whitetail Clover will provide forage longer than annuals, but if you have room, it’s not a bad idea to mix things up. Put the bulk of your plot acreage in perennials, but add some fall annuals and even some spring-planted annuals if you have available open acreage.”

Cover for Bedding There’s more to attracting and feeding deer than planting a food

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plot or two. You can provide additional food by improving the natural habitat. Fleener hasn’t seen the need to do that yet, mostly because his 50-acre farm already has two well-used bedding areas that consist of thick timber and abundant edge habitat. However, small-tract owners with mature, open woods that end abruptly at a field can create additional food through various means. Scott said timber stand improvements can pay dividends. “Cutting mature trees produces a lot of new, thick growth that can be ideal bedding habitat,” he said. “You might actually make a little money by having a logger remove those trees that don’t provide any benefit to wildlife. If nothing else, you might at least break even while improving your land at the same time.”

Don’t Pressure Them Attracting deer is one thing. Keeping them on your land is another. There’s no faster way to run deer off your small slice of heaven than by invading it regularly. It doesn’t matter if it’s bow season, rifle season or even the off-season. Spook them a couple of times and there’s a good chance they’ll find refuge somewhere else. There’s no question whitetails can become conditioned to human presence. Watch deer in any urban environment and they seem oblivious to the sight and sounds of humans. Even rural whitetails get accustomed to farm trucks and tractors. However, deer seem to have a sixth sense. They know when they are being hunted. That’s why Scott recommends practicing what he calls low-impact hunting. “Only hunt when the wind is right,” he said. “Come in and out quietly, and avoid walking through or letting your scent blow through bedding areas. I know some guys that actually rake the leaves to make a path to their tree stands so they don’t make much noise when they walk through the woods.” Fleener doesn’t rake a path to his stands, but he is adamant about hunting during the best winds. In fact, he’s avoided hunting his land for weeks because the wind wasn’t right. “We never walk through the bedding areas, and we limit our activity,” he said. “I only go to my food plots when I need to. I spray herbicides once in spring and summer, but other than that, I do www.whitetailinstitute.com


everything I can to avoid disturbing the deer.”

Form a Cooperative Over-pressuring your deer is a realistic possibility, and it’s one of the drawbacks of a small farm, but minimizing pressure, during the hunting season, is a critical factor. Additionally, a small tract might limit your management abilities, and it might seem pointless to practice selective harvest if your neighbors shoot every legal buck they can. However, they might be shooting small bucks because they think you’ll shoot them if they don’t. Go talk to the neighbors. Suggest working up a mutual management plan. They might not agree, but there’s a good chance they will. By combining small acreages and devising a habitat and harvest plan, multiple landowners can effectively increase buck ages and improve the habitat on a larger scale. If the idea isn’t appealing to them, simply follow a few simple steps to keep as many deer on your land as you can. Fleener admits that it hasn’t been easy. Even with just 50 acres, he’s had to call on two friends, Seth Shields and John Frye, to help undertake the most difficult chores. It’s been worth it, though. “I never killed a really good buck before I planted that food plot and really started thinking about how I was hunting my land,” he said. “We see a lot of deer, and we actually pull them from surrounding properties. It just shows that you don’t have to have a big farm to have success.” ^

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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. Please send ______ soil test kits at $13.95 each. FREE shipping and handling. Cost of kit includes test results and consultation.

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WHITETAIL NEWS 69


®

Perennial Product Delivers Top Performance By Jon Cooner

Looking for a perennial food plot product that leads the industry in performance and versatility on good, well-drained soils? Look no further than Imperial Whitetail Alfa-Rack Plus. Like other Whitetail Institute food plot products, Alfa-Rack Plus is designed to deliver top performance in a broad range of categories specifically related to food plots for deer. Protein content is one reason Alfa-Rack Plus is in the top category of food plot products for deer. It can produce tons of forage with protein levels as high as 35 percent — and on a year-round basis. Other categories in which Alfa-Rack Plus excels include early seedling vigor, rapid stand establishment, resistance to heat, cold and disease and, most important, attractiveness to whitetail deer. The reason it’s able to fulfill all those goals so well

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is due to the unique nature of its blended components.

Alfa-Rack Plus contains specially selected annual clovers to fill a specific role: rapid stand establishment.

Components Product Preparation “Complementary” Forage Components. When you’re considering what food plot product to buy, there are more than a few things to keep in mind, at least if you want to make sure you get the best-performing food plot you can have. One such consideration is that almost always, blends of multiple plant varieties tend to offer more complete, overall performance than single plant types. And this isn’t just opinion. It’s a fact. That’s why almost all Whitetail Institute seed products are blends of multiple plant varieties. To make sure you identify the seed products that offer the very best food plot performance, though, you need to take your knowledge one step further, because as I said, blends almost always offer superior performance over single plant varieties. Specifically, top performance is assured by more than just blending multiple plant varieties. The varieties must also complement one another. That’s because it’s rare for even the best single plant variety to deliver top performance in all categories, so blends must be pursued with a purpose: so that each component works well with the others and makes up for any performance shortcoming they may have. Alfa-Rack Plus is a perfect example of how the Whitetail Institute uses complementary components so that your food plot can truly max out as a food plot planting for deer. Another huge benefit of blends is that they give your deer a variety of different food choices in the same plot. Imperial Whitetail Clover. Whitetail Institute forage products contain plant varieties available only in Whitetail Institute products. An example is Imperial Whitetail Clover, the number one food plot planting in the world — and the perennial clover in Alfa-Rack Plus. Imperial Whitetail Clover has been scientifically created by the Whitetail Institute through repeated cycles of cross-breeding and goal-oriented selection for traits such as attractiveness to whitetails, protein content, and sustained palatability. Forage-Type Alfalfa. The main perennial components in AlfaRack Plus are specific varieties of “forage alfalfas” (aka “browsing alfalfas”) that continue to prove to be the most attractive and cold-tolerant alfalfas the Whitetail Institute has ever tested. One reason they’re so attractive to deer is that they grow more leaf relative to stem than ordinary hay-type alfalfas do. If you’ve ever seen deer browsing in hay-alfalfa fields, then you’ve likely seen for yourself why this is so important when it comes to deer. Most folks who have seen deer feed in standing hay alfalfa have noticed that the deer hit it heavily when it’s young, but they back off a bit once it starts to mature. When the hay is cut, though, the deer return to the field in a big way as new growth appears. The reason that happens lies in the nature of the small ruminant digestive system of deer, which can’t digest fibrous material very well. That’s why the carefully selected browsing-type alfalfas in Alfa-Rack Plus, which have more leaf relative to stem than hay-type alfalfas, continue to attract deer heavily much longer than standard hay-type alfalfas. WINA-100 Perennial Forage Chicory. Alfa-Rack Plus also contains WINA-100 chicory. This specially selected chicory variety is superior to other chicory varieties traditionally planted for deer in one very important way: Unlike other chicories, which can become stemmy and waxy, WINA-100 chicory remains tender and highly attractive to deer even as it matures. Annual Clovers. In addition to its perennial forage components,

Rainbond Seed Coating. To the Whitetail Institute, “product quality” isn’t measured just by how much effort goes into selecting, combining and testing forage varieties. It’s not about what the Whitetail Institute does, but what the customer sees for himself. It’s about Results. That’s why the Whitetail Institute is never satisfied with just making sure a forage product contains only the finest forage components in the best ratios the Whitetail Institute could make. The Whitetail Institute makes the same effort to ensure that each product is prepared for planting to help customers get the thick, lush, attractive food plots they want in the real world. A big part of that is the Whitetail Institute’s Rainbond seed coating. Rainbond isn’t just any old seed coating. It’s very high-tech and packed with features that serve several functions, all of which maximize the ability of the seeds to survive and vigorously grow. An especially important function of Rainbond is to protect the seedlings from dying from lack of water. Like human infants, plants are at their most vulnerable to death from lack of water when they’re very young. Uncoated seed can germinate when exposed to very tiny amounts of water, and if there isn’t enough moisture in the soil to sustain the seedling, it can die. Rainbond protects the seeds from germinating when there’s insufficient moisture in the soil. Once there is enough moisture, it penetrates the coating, and the seed germinates. But Rainbond doesn’t stop there. Rainbond also contains polymer beads that absorb up to 200 times their weight in water and keep it right next to the seed as it germinates. And as the seedling uses that moisture, Rainbond continues to replenish itself by drawing more moisture from the soil, giving the young seedlings you planted a better chance to survive and flourish. Inoculant. Some seeds require soil bacteria to grow and thrive. Examples are clover and alfalfa. These bacteria are specific to the plant type. It’s so important that seed stores sell these bacteria as “inoculant”, which must be mixed with uninoculated raw seed before planting. Whitetail Institute seed coatings take care of that for you too. They contain the correct inoculant for the product and keep it right next to the seed.

Alfa-Rack Plus Earns “Imperial Whitetail” Name One thing Alfa-Rack Plus shares with every other Whitetail Institute forage product are the words “Imperial Whitetail” right on the front of the package. That’s the Whitetail Institute brand, and the Whitetail Institute didn’t choose it by chance. Quite the opposite: “Whitetail” speaks for itself, and “Imperial” defines the nature of all Whitetail Institute products, including Alfa-Rack Plus. You’ll understand why if you look up “Imperial” in a dictionary. When I checked several dictionaries, I found one definition of “Imperial” that they all had in common: “in the nature of supreme quality.” That definitely describes Alfa-Rack Plus. Like every Whitetail Institute product, Alfa-Rack Plus is the result of the Whitetail Institute process: scientific research, development and real-world testing on free-ranging deer across North America, followed by detailed product preparation to ensure top performance. ^

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Vol. 26, No. 1 /

WHITETAIL NEWS 71


REAL HUNTERS DO THE TALKING about Whitetail Institute products… (Continued from page 45)

14

A

ttached is a photo of what we believe is a 4-yearold making his way across a plot of Chicory Plus. This is the third year we have pictures of him, and with the help of Whitetail Institute products, he has gotten better every year. He is one of at least five shooters we have on our hit list for the upcoming season. As you can see, this plot is a little weedy because we had record rainfall in central Indiana for June and July, and we couldn’t get in it to spray it. But with that said, the deer still hit it on a consistent basis. The other plots we have of Whitetail Institute’s Edge and Clover are thriving as well. We greatly appreciate the tremendous products the Whitetail Institute continues to provide for not only avid hunters but for the ones like us who truly believe in quality deer management. Whitetail Institute’s personal customer service goes above and beyond the expectations of the blue-collar consumer. Thanks again, Whitetail Institute.

years ago, I retired as a public high-school teacher. I joined QDMA and became very involved with Gary Alt and the Pennsylvania Game Commission transition to antler restrictions and more doe tags. Also, my two brothers and I started planting 7 to 8 acres of food plots on land our parents gave us from a former family dairy farm in northeastern Pennsylvania. After experimenting with several companies’ clover, including Imperial Whitetail Clover, it became obvious the deer preferred Imperial Whitetail Clover. Since then we only plant Imperial Whitetail Clover and other Whitetail Institute products, mostly Winter-Greens and Tall Tine Tubers. Enclosed is a picture that shows eight of nine bucks all scored over 130, all taken in the last 13 years. Before that, we had no 130-class bucks and only a couple more than 100. Thank you, Whitetail Institute and QDMA.

Chip Sorber – Pennsylvania

Rob Costin – Indiana

W

e started planting food plots here in upstate New York about five years ago on a couple of acres of our old family farm. We only use Whitetail Institute products. Our plots have grown to about 5 acres now and what a difference we have seen in the amount of deer and the antler size. This buck was bedded down in a 1-acre plot of Winter Greens tending to a doe that was eating. And everything was covered in a foot of snow! Unbelievable results from Whitetail Institute products. We used to only see small “scrub” bucks. The Whitetail Institute staff has always been very knowledgeable, helpful and very professional when I called.

Chris Lape – New York

^

I

planted Whitetail Oats Plus for the last couple of years, and the deer will not leave it alone. Our deer plot is behind our barn. This time of year, they are there morning, noon and night, based on our trail cams. This plot provided for some outstanding hunting this weekend. Thanks again from a proud husband and a happy wife, Thelma, who was able to harvest a great 16-point buck Saturday evening that scored 180plus inches.

Seamus Lichlyter – Kansas

Send Us Your Photos! Do you have photos and/or a 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. Email your digital photos and a 3 to 4 paragraph story telling how you harvested the deer and the role our products played to info@whitetailinstitute.com or send them to:

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

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Vol. 26, No. 1 /

WHITETAIL NEWS 73


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Please send _____ 33 lb. quantities of Imperial Alfa-Rack PLUS™ Alfalfa-Clover Blend.

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Please add $18.00 for shipping and handling for each 33 lbs. ordered. (Canadian residents call for shipping charges.) Please enclose with shipping and payment information.

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Please send _____ 24 lb. quantities of Imperial Winter-Greens™.

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Please add $12.00 for shipping and handling for each 24 lbs. ordered. (Canadian residents call for shipping charges.) Please enclose with shipping and payment information.

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Please send _____ 24 lb. quantities of Imperial Tall Tine Tubers™.

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TOTAL Including shipping and handling $_______

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Please add $12.00 for shipping and handling for each 24 lbs. ordered. (Canadian residents call for shipping charges.) Please enclose with shipping and payment information.

Please add $18.00 for shipping and handling for each 52 lbs. ordered. (Canadian residents call for shipping charges.) Please enclose with shipping and payment information.

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Please add $18.00 for shipping and handling for each 40 lbs. ordered. (Canadian residents call for shipping charges.) Please enclose with shipping and payment information.

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74 WHITETAIL NEWS

/ Vol. 26, No. 1

Please add $9.50 for shipping and handling for each 9 lbs. ordered. (Canadian residents call for shipping charges.) Please enclose with shipping and payment information.

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

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WHITETAIL NEWS 75


Matthew LaRoche – Maine

Shane Denham – Alabama

My wife, Ruth, shot her first deer over a half acre Imperial Whitetail Clover patch planted on our 80-acre Maine woodlot. I was so excited for her after she made the kill that I couldn’t even talk in complete sentences. All the work that went into that food plot seems like a distant memory. My wife is an outdoor type of girl who was brought up in a hunting family. She is an avid grouse hunter, likes to fish and generally likes the outdoors. But she had never hunted deer much and wasn’t certain that she actually wanted to shoot one. The legal shooting time ended at 5:48 p.m. At 5:35 p.m., out came the same spike horn I had seen two days earlier. He was a nice size animal and a good first deer for Ruth. The deer gave her a broadside shot just a few minutes after coming out into the food plot, but she didn’t shoot. I was sitting right next to her thinking. She is not going to shoot. The deer started feeding facing straight at us; not a very good shot. It was getting darker by the minute, but we still had about 10 minutes before the end of legal shooting time. After what seemed like an eternity, the deer gave Ruth a quartering shot. To my surprise, she pulled the hammer back and fired. I saw the deer hump-up at the shot. It ran about 50 yards into the woods and died. On the way to the tagging station, I asked her what had made her decide to shoot? She said, “I thought that it was going to be a good eating deer!”

I planted an Imperial Whitetail Clover field for the first time this year. My son, Brandt, was hunting with his grandfather on the field on Jan. 5, and his first deer stepped out at 7 a.m. We are all so proud. By the way, Brandt doesn’t like his picture taken.

George Allen – New York We have been using Whitetail Institute products for eight years. Our plot we call the “Tower Plot” is planted in Winter-Greens, and is about 1 acre in size and has been a super place to harvest does for management. The Saturday after Thanksgiving, my daughter Hannah and I went out for an afternoon hunt, and 15 minutes before dark, we were watching this buck and waiting for it to turn broadside. She took a shot at this 3 point, missed, but followed it up with a great second shot. Buck fever it was! We waited a bit and then decided to give it some time, and went home and got tracking gear and Hannah's youngest brother, Nathan, who is an avid outdoorsman. It turned out to be a super blood trail. Hannah had taken her first deer after passing up on a few does the last several years. Thanks, Whitetail Institute, for a great product! ^

Email your First Deer photos and story to info@whitetailinstitute.com or send them to Whitetail Institute of North America, 239 Whitetail Trail, Pintlala 36043, Attn.: First Deer Dept.

76 WHITETAIL NEWS

/ Vol. 26, No. 1

www.whitetailinstitute.com


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W H I T E TA I L I N S T I T U T E A P PA R E L CAPS All our Whitetail Institute caps are made from top quality cotton, and feature detailed embroidered logos and graphics. Caps: $9.95 Beige Logo Cap

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Black Logo Cap

SHORT SLEEVE TEES All our Whitetail Institute tees are made from 100% preshrunk cotton, and feature screen-printed back and breast pocket designs. Short Sleeve Tees: S-2X: $13.95, 3X: $16.55 (Please add $5.50 for shipping and handling.) Front Chest Design

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Call Toll Free To Order: 1-800-688-3030 or Mail Your Order With Payment To: WHITETAIL INSTITUTE OF NORTH AMERICA 239 Whitetail Trail, Pintlala, AL 36043 Fax Orders To: 334-286-9723


Whitetail News Vol 26.1  

Volume 26 Issue 1

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