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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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At the Whitetail Institute




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In This Issue… Features 6




God Made a Farmer

Lessons Learned from 20 Years of Food Plotting: Eight Common Mistakes to Avoid

By Matt Harper And on the eighth day, God looked down on his paradise and needed a caretaker. So He created a farmer.


Deer Prefer Winter-Greens

Introducing Imperial Whitetail Ambush


By Jon Cooner

Managing for Optimal Autumn Nutrition

The Art of Stewardship

By John J. Ozoga

By Charles J. Alsheimer The author has experienced an award-winning career since he became an outdoor writer and photographer in 1973. His whitetail journey has been a great ride.



Imperial Whitetail Extreme

By Gerald Almy By Hollis Ayres


Islands in the Sea: Why Farm-Country Food Plots Really Matter By Scott Bestul

One of the best — even in conditions that aren’t optimal for food plot success.



Planting Instructions are the Roadmap to Optimum Growing Environment

4 23 30

A Message from Ray Scott Food Plot Planting Dates Record Book Bucks


Shoot ‘Em All


Field Testers Report

By Jon Cooner, WINA Director of Special Projects

Stories and Photos

By Bob Humphrey The philosophy that you can’t shoot too many does no longer applies in many areas.


Stories and Photos


Imperial Clover: Welcome to the Next Generation By Charles J. Alsheimer Imperial Whitetail Clover started the food plot revolution in 1988. Even though the Imperial Clover is the best on the market, it continues to be improved.


First Deer — The Future of our Sport


Food Plots on Borrowed Ground By Mark Kenyon



The Whitetail Institute… Where Innovation meets Old-Fashioned Values By Matt Harper


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 & Invetory Specialist Teri Hudson Office Administrator Accounts Receivable Kim Collins Customer Service Marlin Swain Shipping Manager Bart Landsverk Whitetail News Senior 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

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Vol. 25, No. 1 /


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

Our Piece of Eden What I saw in article after article appearing in Whitetail News bore the hallmarks of stewardship — a deep respect for the resource and the land and a desire to improve hunting and the whitetail environment for all.


ot long ago I had the occasion to read through the manuscripts for this issue of Whitetail News. Normally I would look at the proofs which is a last-look facsimile of the final printed edition complete with photos, headlines and ads. For some reason I wanted to look at the raw typewritten pages and in doing so, I felt a very up close and personal connection with the stories and the authors. I knew many of them if not personally, then by reputation. Sitting in my easy chair with the stack of papers in my lap I could imagine the writers at their keyboards pouring out their own particular stories. Shuffling through the titles and noting the array of content, I was struck by the passion for the subject matter and the wealth of information provided by the manuscripts I was proud that it represented a “whitetail literacy” that could in great part be attributed to the Whitetail Institute and its products. After the introduction of our flagship product — Imperial Whitetail Clover — we realized a lot more instruction would be needed than was provided “on the back of the bag.” A whole lot more. We had created a product in search of education and Imperial Whitetail Clover was a catalyst for that education With that fact in mind we went on to develop many other products (and education) to give hunters and managers more and more control of whitetail nutrition and their hunting and management fortunes. Constant research produced better results Once given the knowledge and the means — Institute products — our field testers moved forward, using products, exchanging infor-


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mation, tracking results and encouraging development of more planting and nutrition products to enhance their own hunting results. I don’t know of another industry that has worked so closely together with its consumers. That relationship was only further enhanced by our unique customer service department only a phone call away. But another thing happened along the way which says a lot about the American hunter. It didn’t take too long before the nutrition education went far beyond growing and harvesting big bucks. What I saw in article after article appearing in Whitetail News bore the hallmarks of stewardship — a deep respect for the resource and the land and a desire to improve hunting and the whitetail environment for all. That sense of stewardship — especially love of the land — is on full display in Matt Harper’s must-read tribute to farmers on page 6. A genuine son of the soil, Matt helps us better understand why we food plotters enjoy turning soil and watching green things grow out of the ground. Charles Alsheimer (page 14) finds his own stewardship mandate in the bible, Genesis 2:15 which states that “…the Lord God took man and put him in the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.” I know I do and I think we can agree with Charles when he says that we all have a responsibility to leave our piece of Eden better than we found it.


‘God Made a Farmer’ By Matt Harper

he earliest memories of my childhood are a collage of hazy images of a farm upbringing that created the blessed foundation of my life. Memories of sitting on my dad’s lap on the tractor, of being propped up on a stack of bales of hay while Grandpa moved the sows into the barn, of sitting at the end of a long row of soybeans while Mom and Dad pulled cockleburs and watching Dad breathe into the mucuscovered nose of a newborn calf in hopes of saving a fragile life. As I grew, I witnessed and learned many truths in life that can only be gained from working with nature, animals, weather and things that are truly real and not cosmetic. I thank my Creator every day that He saw fit to bring me into this world on a small farm in Iowa.

And on the eighth day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, “I need a caretaker.” So God made a farmer. God said, “I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk cows, work all day in the fields, milk cows again, eat supper and then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board.” So God made a farmer. “I need somebody with arms strong enough to rustle a calf and yet gentle enough to deliver his own grandchild. Somebody to call hogs, tame cantankerous machinery, come home hungry, have to wait on lunch until his wife’s done feeding visiting ladies and tell the ladies to be sure and come back real soon — and mean it.” So God made a farmer. God said, “I need somebody willing to sit up all night with a newborn colt. And watch it die. Then dry his eyes and say, ‘Maybe next year.’ I need somebody who can shape an ax handle from a persimmon sprout, shoe a horse with a hunk of car tire; who can make harness out of haywire, feed sacks and shoe scraps. And who, planting time and harvest season, will finish his 40-hour week by Tuesday noon, then, pain’n from ‘tractor back,’ put in another 72 hours.” So God made a farmer. God had to have somebody willing to ride the ruts at double speed to get the hay in ahead of the rain clouds and yet stop in mid-field and race to help when he sees the first smoke from a neighbor’s place. So God made a farmer. God said, “I need somebody strong enough to clear trees and heave bales, yet gentle enough to tame lambs and wean pigs and tend the pink-combed pullets, who will stop his mower for an hour to splint the broken leg of a meadow lark. It had to be somebody who’d plow deep and straight and not cut corners. Somebody to seed, weed, feed, breed and rake and disc and plow and plant and tie the fleece and strain the milk and replenish the self-feeder and finish a hard week’s work with a 5-mile drive to church. “Somebody who’d bale a family together with the soft, strong bonds of sharing, who would laugh and then sigh, and then reply, with smiling eyes, when his son says he wants to spend his life ‘doing what dad does.’” So God made a farmer. – Paul Harvey

The History Before the advent of farming, society consisted of hunter-gatherer groups that lived a nomadic existence harvesting wild animals and plant food sources as they continually traveled in search of flora and fauna. Sometime around 10,000 to 12,000 years ago, people began planting the seeds of wild grains and harvesting the crop to use as


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food. One of the earliest known regions for farming was an area known as the Fertile Crescent in and around modern Turkey, but simultaneously, other areas in China, India and the Americas showed signs of early farming practices close to that time. From that time until now, farming has played a critical role in shaping human society. When the first settlers arrived in North America, they found an abundance of natural resources. Wild game and native plants provided needed food, but the settlers also found a climate and soils that could produce exceptional crops. They cleared land and planted fields to support the fledgling communities that dotted the Northeast. In 1790, more than 90 percent of the United States population was involved in agriculture, with most of the remaining 10 percent supporting agriculture in some fashion. As farming grew, so did our nation, as it became the backbone of westward expansion. Driven by dreams of a better life, gritty, determined pioneers ventured west to settle new lands, discovering that the new country was far richer in agricultural opportunities than anyone expected. However, that doesn't mean pioneering new lands and settling a new farm was easy. Disease, injury, wild animals, adverse weather, adversarial indigenous people and many other life-threatening factors stood in strong opposition to those early pioneers. To survive, early farm folks needed a strong, resilient physical nature and the mental fortitude and determination to exist in such a setting. At that time, a freak hail storm destroying a crop didn’t mean the family would have to forgo a trip to Hawaii or drive the old truck for another year. It meant that the frontier family might not survive the winter. www.whitetailinstitute.com

Early farmers had to be self-sufficient. If land needed to be cleared, there was no bringing in the dozer but rather many painstaking hours with ax and saw. They built their own homes and barns, treated injury and illness themselves, and defended their home from animal and human invaders, all with the self-reliant mindset that they and their family would live or die on that patch of dirt. And although farming has evolved and changed through the years, those characteristics of hard work, determination and self-reliance have been passed down from generation to generation and are still seen in modern farmers.

marriage between a farm family and the land they work. For a marriage to work, each party has to give and receive, care for and receive care. Likewise, a farm family must care for the land and animals that are entrusted to them. Without it, the farm will not give back, but with care, a bounty can be given in return. Spending long hours in the hot sun clearing invasive weeds and brush that threaten to choke the farm will help ensure that crops and pastures are productive. Caring for the soil by making sure it's not overused and constantly replenishing what was taken out will help produce crops that will supply food and finance for the family. The blood, sweat and tears Farming and spent caring for the farm are reUrbanization paid with the production that Without farming, cities and supplies the necessities of existowns could not exist. Many tence. That's why a farmer looks would off-handedly refute that upon the farm with love. statement, but then again, more When I was very young, I witpeople than you might think have nessed this daily through my no idea where the food they buy grandfathers and father in how at the grocery store or a restaurant they viewed and treated their comes from. In the early years of farms. Many times, I would be settlement and expansion, farming with them, maybe sitting on an was primarily subsistence in naold H Farmall tractor looking ture. Farmers raised enough food over a new crop of corn. We to support their family, with any wouldn’t be doing anything other extra being used for trade. Therethan just looking at it. I was too fore, most people had to be inyoung to know what they were volved in farming to survive. As thinking, but I later came to unfarming methods expanded and derstand the pride they felt in improved, farmers raised crops new life springing out of the and livestock that produced more ground. Not the kind of pride than they needed for themselves, that is filled with conceit, but allowing them to sell those goods rather that which comes from to others. seeing the result of hours upon With that excess, other people hours of back-breaking work. could specialize in other trades, I’ve also seen the look of concern such as being blacksmiths, supply and acts of compassion as they merchants, hotel keepers, and would stay up all night with a clothing and boot makers. Before cow trying to have a calf. long, towns that supplied varied I would go to bed but Dad goods and services sprung up, would be in the barn with the but they still depended on farmers cow, and I’d wake up to find This was my Grandpa Davis’ favorite tractor. Here he to supply the food for town folks. him still there. I also saw the is with my mom and aunt cultivating corn. As farms became bigger and more pain in his eyes when he had to productive, the towns grew into put the cow down because of cities driven by the excess of food supplied by farmers. In short, the inevitability of her death, and the desire to not make her endure modern society and urbanization only exists, and can only continue any more pain than she had already endured. Maybe if more of us to exist, because of farmers. Farmers were critical in settling our still dealt with reality more than theory, we wouldn’t deal with some nation, and farming remains one of our largest industries. of the seemingly nonsensical issues we encounter today.

The Marriage of Farmer and Land I’m not necessarily trying to be poetic when I say there is a

Farming Today and Beyond Farming has changed from the days when my grandparents still

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Vol. 25, No. 1 /


Farmers care for the livestock because they depend on them. This picture was taken in 1908. One of the young boys is my Grandpa Harper.

relied on horses for much of the work on the farm. For that matter, farming has changed a lot from the days my dad pulled a 14-foot disc with the “big” tractor, which was a 706 International. Agricultural technology has grown rapidly during the past 100 years, but the pace has quickened greatly in the past 30 years. Although farmers might adhere to traditional values, they have always been quick to embrace technology, from the advent of the plow, to gas- and then dieselpowered tractors to the incredible technology we have today. For example, GPS systems in modern equipment lets farmers be much more specific in the application of fertilizer. They can conduct soil analysis on various spots on a field and then apply fertilizer at varying levels and ratios to meet the specific needs of various areas. This is more efficient economically and also better for the environment. Combines now drive off of GPS and track the yield throughout a field, allowing the farmer to identify problem areas within that field. Improvements in genetics for crops and livestock have resulted in far greater yields and more efficient food production. Nutritional improvements in the way we feed livestock have resulted in healthier, faster and more efficient growth. Further, management practices and techniques have increased livestock health, efficiency and overall production. As a result, the American farmer remains the most productive in the world. In 1960, each American farmer raised enough food for 26 people. Today, on average, each farm produces enough food for 155 people, and does it so economically that Americans enjoy the most economical food supply in the world. American farmers not only feed their country but also export more food to other countries than any other nation. In fact, American agricultural exports are nearly double that of the second highest exporting nation. Fewer than one percent of Americans farm, yet America is the most productive, efficient food producer in the world, which is a testament to the tradition of American farming excellence. Because 99 percent of Americans do not farm, and many have not


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even seen a farm, many hold misconceptions about modern farms. One of the biggest misconceptions is that because the size of farms has increased and techniques have changed, modern farming causes a greater environmental impact. The opposite is true. For example, nowadays, it takes one cow to produce the same amount of milk as it took five cows in 1944. It takes 34 percent less land and 14 percent less water to produce one pound of beef today than it did in 1977. Corn production averages have increased from 100 bushels per acre in the early 1970s to more than 160 bushels per acre on average today. All of these improvements have not negatively affected food safety, as Americans enjoy one of the safest food supplies in the world.

Farming to Food Plots I don’t farm full time for a living, but I live on and remain tied to the farm. Someday, farming might be all I do, but regardless, you do not have to be a full-time farmer to experience the sense of fulfillment that comes from working the land. I still spend many hours a year in a tractor seat, tilling soil and planting seeds, but for a different kind of food production. Wildlife food plots — particularly deer food plots — receive most of my farming effort. I'm not raising a crop to harvest and sell, but I'm raising a crop that will help the health of the deer herd. My family and I harvest a few of those deer each year, which we in turn process ourselves and use as food for our family. The satisfaction you receive from working the soil, managing and caring for the land and growing new life is gratifying. Maybe you didn’t grow up on a farm, but someday, you might find yourself at a piece of ground on an old tractor sitting over the first field you have ever planted, marveling at the new shoots of clover just emerging from the soil. You’re not doing anything; you are just looking at it, remembering the hard work and effort it took to plant it, feeling concerned about how it will grow or what could happen to it, but mostly just enjoying a sense of accomplishment and a strange www.whitetailinstitute.com


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Farming is a family practice. This is my dad and grandpa bringing in the fall corn crop in the 1970s. feeling of peace. You might not be a farmer in the traditional definition, but in a small way, you have entered the ranks of your farming ancestors.

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You’ve probably guessed that I have a deep passion for farming and the people past and present who have fed and helped build our nation. The farming tradition runs very deep in my family, and I will be forever tied to it. I have the good fortune of owning the farm my Grandpa Harper bought in 1944 and lived on until his death in the 1980s. My dad then bought the farm, and I bought it from Dad, so it has been in our family for many years, and my roots are firmly planted there. Farming teaches the wisdom of self-reliance. A farmer learns the value of being a good neighbor, as neighbors are the first to help in times of trouble. Farming exemplifies independence, determination, bravery, humbleness, charity and the God-fearing hard work that formed the bedrock of our culture. And even though most folks don’t farm today, the core is still there and is embedded throughout our society. ^

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Technology has grown but the same hard work, independence, and determination are still farming traits. CONSISTENTLY LEADING THE WAY... CONSISTENT


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Imperial Whitetail eads up, folks. The Whitetail Institute has developed Imperial Whitetail Ambush, a new fall annual forage product unlike anything most of you have ever seen. I’m always excited to see the Whitetail Institute offer any new product because I know the company won’t sell a forage product unless it offers the best attraction and nutritional performance possible. Even so, I’m especially excited about new Ambush because I have seen how well it excels in both categories.

Like all Whitetail Institute forage products, Ambush establishes and grows very quickly. It is also high in energy and protein; tolerant of heat, cold and drought; and can even tolerate poorer soils better than some other forages. The biggest eye-opener, though, is how impressively attractive Ambush is to deer. This past fall, I observed final testing of the blend that would ultimately become Imperial Whitetail Ambush at a Whitetail Institute certified research station. I first visited the Ambush test plots about two weeks after planting and continued to visit regularly thereafter. No matter what time of day I visited those plots, they always had deer in them — early morning, midday and afternoon. Exclusion cages had also been installed in each of the Ambush test plots, and comparison of the height of the forage inside and outside the cages confirmed remarkably heavy deer usage. Based on what I’ve seen, I believe Ambush is one of the most attractive annual forage products the Whitetail Institute has ever produced for fall planting. And yes, I know that’s saying a lot. I’ve been with the Whitetail Institute for more than a decade, so the fact that


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New for Fall 2015 By Jon Cooner any Imperial forage would be highly attractive to deer comes as no surprise. Even so, I was a bit startled at how quickly deer hit the Ambush plots and how heavily they continued to graze them.

Forage Components The reason for Ambush’s outstanding attractiveness undoubtedly lies in the nature of its complementary forage components: Whitetail Oats, sugar beets, winter peas and a major forage component many folks in the United States might have never heard of before: sweet lupines. Sweet Lupine Component: Sweet Lupines, as they’re called in North America, are legumes that are more familiar to folks elsewhere in the world, where they’re generally referred to as lupines. Although there are hundreds of lupine species, only sweet lupines — meaning those lupine varieties that are low-alkaloid — are appropriate for use as a forage planting for deer. And some sweet lupine varieties are far more attractive to deer than others. Here’s how William Cousins, Whitetail Institute director of operations, explained the attractiveness and other outstanding benefits of the sweet lupine varieties in Ambush. “The Whitetail Institute has been experimenting with sweet lupines for nearly a decade,” he said. “Early in that process, it became apparent that there were big differences in how attractive different sweet lupine varieties are to deer. Although deer would lightly browse most sweet lupine plants, a few varieties consistently proved so attractive that deer absolutely devoured the plants like a favorite candy. Ambush contains these exceptionally attractive sweet lupine varieties.” Cousins said exceptional attractiveness isn’t the only performance category in which the sweet lupines in Ambush excel. “The sweet lupines in Ambush are also high in protein, and the high protein content and overall forage quality tends to remain high even as the plants mature,” he said. “Because they’re legumes, they are also excellent nitrogen fixers, and their strong tap root helps improve soil structure. They will even tolerate mildly acidic soil better than other legumes, which helps them produce even on poorer soils.” www.whitetailinstitute.com

Whitetail Oats: These are the same oats that serve as the primary forage component in another outstanding Whitetail Institute food plot product, Whitetail Oats Plus. Whitetail Oats are so attractive to deer that independent university researchers had to remove them from grain-production studies because deer grazed them so heavily. They’re also high in sugar and extremely cold-tolerant. Winter Peas: As with Whitetail Oats, the winter pea varieties in Ambush are also a major forage component in another hugely successful Whitetail Institute annual blend: Winter-Peas Plus. These winter pea varieties have proven to be the most attractive the Whitetail Institute has ever tested. Sugar Beets: Sugar beets can be an excellent attractant and food source for deer, which heavily use the foliage and roots of the plants. Like the other forage components in Ambush, the sugar beets in the blend are also very sweet. In fact, sugar beet roots are usually commercially processed for sugar. And like the other forage components in Ambush, sugar beets can also tolerate a fairly wide variety of soil types, as long as the site drains well. Proprietary Annual Clover: The final forage component in Ambush is a proprietary Whitetail Institute annual clover. Like other forage ingredients in Ambush, the clover component is nutrient-rich and highly palatable to deer, and it remains so even as it matures.

Performance from Fall Through Winter As with other Whitetail Institute forage products, Ambush contains forage components that are only available in Whitetail Institute products. As we’ve discussed, each component has been carefully researched and tested on its own to ensure top attractiveness and outstanding performance in all other categories for which the Whitetail Institute tests. And like all Whitetail Institute products, the forage components in Ambush have also been painstakingly chosen to ensure they complement each other, and then are repeatedly tested in various combinations and percentages to ensure that Ambush can deliver top overall stand performance. Early Season: As mentioned, Ambush establishes very quickly. In the early season, all the forage components in Ambush attract deer heavily as they search for food sources that will help them pack on energy reserves for the coming cold weather. Late Season: As the weather turns cold, the Whitetail Oats in Ambush continue to attract and hold deer. The sugar beets also continue to serve as a major attractant and food source, first as deer are attracted to the foliage and later as they dig the sweet roots up out of the ground.

Conclusion The bottom line? Do yourself — and your deer— a favor, and include Imperial Whitetail Ambush in your food plot plantings this fall. Based on what I’ve seen, I bet you’ll be blown away by how hard your deer hit it. Ambush is easy to plant, establishes quickly and is exceptionally attractive to deer from the moment it appears above ground. And it provides deer with lots of energy for fall and winter. For more information about Ambush or to order, go to whitetailinstitute.com, or call the Whitetail Institute’s in-house consultants at (800) 688-3030. The consultants are available from 8 a.m. through 5 p.m., Central time, Monday through Friday. The call and service are free. ^ For the latest promotions, sales and news visit www.Facebook.com/WhitetailInstitute

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THE ART OF STEWARDSHIP By Charles J. Alsheimer Photos by the Author

n many ways, my career as an outdoor writer and photographer began in 1973. At the time, my wife and I had been married for a little more than a year. She was a public school teacher, and I was just getting started working in sales and marketing for a major furniture manufacturer. What was significant about 1973 is that we took a leap of faith and bought a farm in western New York state. Bear in mind, Americaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s economy was not as good then as it would become in the 1990s and early 2000s. In 1973, the median household income was just shy of $13,000. So for us, the thought of having a substantial mortgage payment was a bit daunting. Though my job required a coat and tie, my love of farm life made me feel more comfortable in T-shirts and blue jeans. My parents were potato farmers, and as long as I can remember, I loved dirt and tractors. So when our farmâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s purchase became final in October 1973, the dream of owning a property to live and hunt on became a reality. To say I had big dreams for the place would be an understatement. To say I knew what it would take to turn our 200 acres into a hunting paradise would be more than a stretch, for many reasons. For starters, I knew of no one who had attempted to manage their


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property for wildlife. In the early 1970s, the bells and whistles today’s hunters have were not even thought of. Compound bows were in their infancy, and there were no rangefinders, no trail cameras, no commercial camo patterns, no synthetic-stocked firearms, few in-line muzzleloaders, no state-of-the-art hunting apparel, no commercial food plot seed blends and no information on how to manage a property for better deer, habitat and hunting. The best way to describe my foray into land/hunting management was, “I flew by the seat of my pants,” and made a lot of mistakes.

In the Beginning A quote I like says, “Nothing great has ever been accomplished without enthusiasm.” The definition of great is relative, because what is great for some might not be for others. What our family has accomplished on our farm in 40-plus years might not rival other properties across the country, but to us, it has been great to see what we've done with hard work, perseverance, patience, a willingness to learn and a truckload of enthusiasm. When we bought our place, it had not been farmed in more than 15 years nor had a timber harvest in close to 40 years. So, the only wildlife food sources were natural, and from the browse lines we saw, it was obvious that other than cyclical acorn mast, food was limited. Because we didn’t take ownership until fall 1973 there was no chance of planting anything that resembled a food plot, even if I knew how, which I didn’t. So, I spent the first autumn learning, hunting and dreaming of ways to make the farm more attractive for deer and other wildlife. In Winter 1974, I ordered 12,000 shrubs and evergreen seedlings and waited for spring. When the snow melted and green-up arrived, we began working, which turned out to be tougher than anticipated. Had I known how difficult it would be to plant all those shrubs and trees one at a time with a spade, I would have downsized the order. Fortunately, with the help of a couple of friends, everything made it into the ground on time. Though I wanted to experiment with a wildlife planting (the term “food plot” had not yet been coined), the time required to plant the shrubs and trees didn’t leave enough time for a spring planting in 1974. During the summer, I knew I wanted to plant something for deer and turkeys but didn’t know what. So, I drew upon what my dad alFor the latest promotions, sales and news visit www.Facebook.com/WhitetailInstitute

Vol. 25, No. 1 /


ways planted for a fall cover crop: winter wheat. In early September, I had a local farmer plow three acres. Our farm’s soil is rocky loam, so after picking rocks, I dragged and planted winter wheat. With that planting, my journey as a food plot practitioner was born. Unfortunately, it took a few years to begin unravelling the mystery of where, when and how to come up with the best offerings to have better deer, better habitat and better hunting.

throughout the 1990s, we held an annual Antler Round Up at a local school to educate landowners and hunters on the benefit of managing for better deer, habitat and hunting. The Round Ups were a huge success, with many attendees coming from several surrounding states. It’s unknown how many landowners and hunters were influenced by what came out of the Round Ups, but it's safe to say many were, including me. Though I was always one of the presenters, the knowledge I got from other presenters helped take our farm’s deer management to a higher level because I began thinking more seriously about our soil, habitat, food plot offerings and deer harvest. Though we had done two selective timber harvests before the 1990s, I believed there was a need to get a better handle on the timber resource. So, we hired a well-known forester to do a timber management plan that would benefit wildlife and trees. That was an eye-opener because it showed what needed to be done to improve both resources. To benefit the deer and help hold them on the farm during hunting season, we set aside 100 acres of prime bedding area as a sanctuary, where no one entered from early fall to early spring. The only time our sanctuary is penetrated is to recover a deer during hunting season. In retrospect, creating a sanctuary was one of the most important things we did for deer and our hunting opportunities. By limiting the human presence, deer and other wildlife are active throughout daylight.

Getting Schooled

Food Equals Gold

For the first five years, I experimented with red clover and winter wheat food plots for the deer on our farm. Though this provided some success, it wasn’t until we addressed the natural side of the food equation that things began to improve. In 1979, we hired a professional forester to help us with a selective timber harvest on the farm’s 140 acres of timber. Ten years later, we had a second selective timber harvest performed. These logging efforts were only selective cuts, but enough light was able to get through to the forest floor for some regeneration to occur, providing cover and natural food for deer. As I reflect on the past 40-plus years, I’d have to say that for the first 17, our efforts were mediocre at best. Yes, we provided food plots and thought we had good cover, but the quality of our deer herd never seemed to improve. It wasn’t until I traveled to southern Texas in 1989 to do a magazine story on legendary whitetail biologist Al Brothers that I had an awakening. During our time together, I learned much about this great American. More important, I received a primer on deer management from one of the most knowledgeable whitetail men of all time. He explained to me a concept he called quality deer management. As he put it, to have a great deer herd, you must address food, cover and the management of all age classes. He also encouraged me to begin a quality deer management program at our farm. At the time, I didn’t think Brothers’ quality deer management would work in New York, because historically, our area had always operated under the concept of “if it’s brown, it’s down.” As a result, very few bucks lived past 1-1/2 years of age, and we had an overabundance of does.

When we'd met the cover piece of the puzzle, we had to better address the food side of the equation, because he who has the food has the deer. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, we began our food plot journey planting red clover and winter wheat. In the 1990s, that changed. Knowledge is power, and never is this truer than when it comes to food plot offerings for whitetails. As I write this article, we are in the throes of one of the coldest winters on record for western New York. For days on end, the temperature has ranged from minus 20 to 20 above zero, with far too many sub-zero days. Needless to say, it has been very stressful on our deer. However, from experience, I know our deer herd has not reached the danger point because of the year-round food plot offerings we provide.

Timber management is crucial to properly managing your property.

Stewardship Journey After returning from my time with Brothers, I sat down with a few like-minded neighbors to discuss the possibility of having a quality deer management program in our area. In winter 1990, eight of us formed The Steuben County Quality Whitetail Group. Each year


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The author has closely studied whitetails for more than 40 years. www.whitetailinstitute.com

Deer are browsers, not grazers. It is important to have mast crops as well as food plots to provide even more nutrition for your herd.

roam our farm. Before 1995, we had only harvested two bucks that would score more than 120 inches Boone and Crockett. Since 1996, more than 15 have wound up on our deer pole. The hardest part of our management program is controlling the overall deer herd. With the help of trail cameras, we attempt to get a handle on the antlerless deer population. After we know that, we determine how many does to harvest. This can be tricky, but through the years, we’ve been able to do a pretty good job of keeping the overall deer population in line with what we believe our carrying capacity is. Last night, as I sat in our den thinking about writing this article, I couldn’t help but think of how fast the past 42 years have flown by. Yes, life is but a vapor. It seems like only yesterday that I planted that first evergreen seedling. I thought of the failures and the successes we’ve had along the way, and what I have learned from working with soil, seed and deer for more than four-plus decades. My mind kept coming back to that word stewardship and what it really means. Well, I believe Genesis 2:15 nails it pretty well: “Then the Lord God took man and put him in the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.” The bottom line is that we all have a responsibility to leave our piece of Eden better than we found it. Succeeding to do so is seldom easy, but with hard work, perseverance, patience, willingness to learn and a truckload of enthusiasm, it is possible. ^

To have the best possible management program requires knowledge of the whitetail’s month-by-month food requirements as well as soil type, because soil type often dictates what grows best. Our farm’s soil is very rocky and must be heavily limed, so certain seeds will not provide the best offering. Clover and grain varieties do, however. In the 1990s, I was introduced to Imperial Whitetail Clover. Since then, this has been our No. 1 warm-season food offering for our farm’s whitetails. It provides high protein levels throughout the antler-growing and fawning season. Though it stops growing in our area of New York about Oct. 15 (the end of our plant growing season), our deer feed on it heavily until snow arrives in early to late December. I’ve experimented with several late-season/winter forages, but the two I rely heavily on are Tall-Tine Tubers and Whitetail Oats Plus. Both offer high levels of nutrition and are accessible to deer during the harsh winter months, until the snow depth exceeds 1½ feet. The beauty of Tall-Tine Tubers is that deer will feed on the leaf portion of the plant in late fall, after it has been subjected to a few frosts. Then when the plant has been consumed, deer feed on the tubers well into March in our area.

The Fruits From the beginning, the goal on our farm was to have great deer hunting. Though the hunting was very good by New York standards for the first 20 years, what has occurred the past 20 years has been something I never thought possible. In the late 1990s, we put yearling bucks off limits to everyone but young and first-time hunters. One of our goals was to try not to harvest a buck until it was at least 3½ years old, which is about all that can be expected for our area because many surrounding properties do not manage for age. Next, we do not measure success by inches of antler. Rather, we use what is called the percentage principle, in which we attempt to hunt only the top 10 to 15 percent of the bucks that


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The author poses with a great deer shot by his son, Aaron. www.whitetailinstitute.com

Imperial Whitetail Extreme One of the best — even in conditions that aren’t ave you ever wished for a perennial food plot product that can tolerate low rainfall, low soil-pH — or both — attract deer like a magnet, and do so for several years from one planting? That’s a lot to ask of even the best food plot product. After years of proving it can do all those things — and do them well — Imperial Whitetail Extreme can claim the title of a landmark product. If we lived in a perfect world, all of our food plot sites would have rich, fertile soil. We’d also receive at least 30 inches of rainfall every year without fail. Although many hunters and managers east of the Mississippi River are blessed with such planting conditions, some aren’t. Poor soils such as reclaimed strip mines, soils that are light or sandy, and areas where the soil can’t be tilled can make food plotting difficult. Also, unexpected droughts and heat waves of more than 100 degrees can take their toll on food plots even in normally temperate areas. More folks than you might think have to deal with such situations. In fact, it’s so common, the Whitetail Institute noted a trend in customers asking for a perennial food plot planting that could flourish in such less-than-ideal conditions. In response, after years of development, the Whitetail Institute brought Imperial Whitetail Extreme to market. And the rest is history. Most other high-quality perennial food plot plantings require a minimum of 30 inches of rainfall per year to survive. Extreme can tolerate

as little as half that — only 15 inches per year. And because of its ability to do so, it can also stay green longer than other perennials during severe droughts in areas that typically receive more rainfall. Extreme also tolerates soil pH as low as 5.4, a level of acidity in which many other high-quality forage plantings simply couldn’t survive. The primary component of Extreme is the Whitetail Institute’s Persist Forb, an evergreen plant that produces a deep tap root that can reach down as far as two to three feet into the soil to find moisture. What’s so startling, though, is that as durable as Persist is, it’s also incredibly sweet. Likewise, Extreme’s other perennial component, WINA-100 perennial forage chicory, is deeply rooted and drought tolerant. And unlike other chicories, which can get stemmy and waxy as they mature, WINA-100 chicory stays tender, highly palatable and attractive to whitetails. Extreme also includes specially selected annual clovers to help make sure your food plot can green up and start attracting deer as soon after planting as possible. And make sure you understand: Extreme will also flourish even more in seedbeds with higher soil pH and in areas that receive abundant rainfall, making it one of the most versatile food plot products available. Extreme is a high-quality, protein-rich food source that is exceptionally attractive to whitetails and provides crucial nutrition for deer year-round. With protein levels up to 44 percent, Extreme helps provide deer with protein they need for trophy rack production, doe lactation, fawn growth and overall herd health. And it can do so in areas where growing conditions are ideal as well as where rainfall levels and soil pH are so low that other perennials aren’t an option. If you live in an area where the climate or soil pH is less than optimum (and even if you don’t), give Imperial Whitetail Extreme a try. You’ll find that it’s one of the most attractive, durable and versatile food plot plantings ever offered. ^

The components of Extreme, top to bottom, Persist Forb, Clover and WINA100 Chicory.


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Planting Instructions are the Roadmap to Optimum Growing Environment By Jon Cooner, WINA Director of Special Projects

o get the best results from your food plot efforts, make sure you control all the important factors you can so your food plots will have an optimum growing environment. The Whitetail Institute makes that easy by providing detailed planting instructions on the back of every bag of Whitetail Institute seed. In this article, we’ll look at how to anticipate and deal with timing issues that sometimes arise during seedbed preparation so you can be sure your seedbeds are ready when your planting date arrives. Along the way, I’ll provide tips that can help you work as efficiently as possible. Planting Instructions are More Than Just a Checklist. They’re a Journey It’s my observation that many folks see planting instructions as a simple checklist — that is, as a list of steps to be completed. Although that's true, planting instructions are more than a simple checklist.


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They’re really a roadmap for a journey to a specific destination — making sure your food plots have an optimum growing environment. To explain, let’s say someone walks up to you and says, “I want you to take a trip in your car.” Then he hands you a page of instructions for the trip that has four steps: Step 1: Pack a suitcase. Step 2: Put gas in your tank. Step 3: Get in your car. Step 4: Start driving. If you were in that situation and viewed the page of instructions as a simple checklist, you’d hop in your car and start driving. But most of us wouldn’t do that without first getting some additional information. Because you’ve been given no clue about your destination, the first question is obvious: “Where am I going?” You’d also need a bit more information to figure out when you need to depart, such as, “How much time will it take to get there?” As you’ll see, these are the same questions you need to ask when you’re following planting instructions, because, as with any journey, you need to plan before the trip.

A Closer Look at Seedbed Preparation In this article, we’ll focus on planting instructions for Whitetail Institute food plot products designed for planting in seedbeds prepared with ground tillage. We’ll use the planting instructions for Imperial Whitetail Clover as our example, but the approach I’ll cover also applies to the planting instructions for any Whitetail Institute perennial food plot product. Whitetail Institute planting instructions are designed to help you make sure your forage plants have an optimum growing environment. www.whitetailinstitute.com



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

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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


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 Aug 1 - Sept 15


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




* 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.

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Aug 15 - Sept 15

Sept 1 - Oct 1

Sept 1 - Oct 20

PLANTING DATES FOR IMPERIAL POWERPLANT Do not plant PowerPlant in black areas.


May 20 - June 30 April 1 - May 31

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May 1 - June 30 June 20 - July 31*


Previous Whitetail News articles in the “Turning Dirt” series of articles discuss various tillage implements and how they are typically used and are available at www.whitetailinstitute.com.

The planting instructions for Imperial Whitetail Clover list three general phases to that process: site selection, seedbed preparation, and planting. Although we'll touch on all three phases, we’re going to focus primarily on seedbed preparation, because it sometimes requires a bit more planning than the other two phases.

Seedbed Preparation: “Where am I Going?” Seedbed preparation destination: the ready-to-plant seedbed. The intended destination of the seedbed preparation phase of your journey is to make sure your seedbed is in a specific state when your recommended planting dates arrive. That state, which I call a readyto-plant seedbed, means three physical characteristics of the seedbed have been brought to these optimum conditions: Soil pH: 6.5 to 7.0 (neutral soil pH). Soil fertility: sufficient levels of important nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium in the soil. Seedbed surface: existing vegetation removed, and sufficiently smooth and level. As mentioned, seedbed preparation can require a bit more planning. That’s because two of the physical characteristics — making sure soil pH is neutral and the seedbed is free of competing vegetation — depend heavily on a variable you can’t completely control: time. Soil pH of a ready-to-plant seedbed: neutral soil pH (6.5 to 7.0). Soil pH is the most important factor you can control to assure food plot success. For most high-quality food plot plantings to flourish, soil pH must be 6.5 to 7.0 (neutral soil pH). Most fallow soils, though, are acidic, meaning soil pH is less than 6.5. When soil is acidic, some nutrients are bound up in the soil in a way that plants can’t access


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them. That’s true of nutrients already in the soil and nutrients you add as fertilizer. And the lower soil pH is, the worse it gets. For example, if you bought $100 worth of fertilizer and planted a highquality food plot product in a seedbed with a soil pH of 5.0, the plants wouldn’t be able to access about half the fertilizer. You would have wasted about $50. That’s why part of making sure the seedbed is ready to plant is to make sure soil pH is within the neutral range at the time you plant. If soil pH is low, you should add lime to the seedbed several months in advance, if possible, to increase soil pH. As you’ve likely read many times in Whitetail News, a professional soil test is the best way to determine soil pH. Surface of a ready-to-plant seedbed: weed free. Another important aspect of making sure your seedbed is ready to plant is eliminating competition from existing weeds as much as possible. Doing a good job of that allows as much root space as possible for your forage plants and keeps them from having to compete with weeds for soil nutrients and moisture.

How Much Time Will it Take to Get There? The time variable. This is an important point, so don’t miss it: By time, I’m not referring to how long you have to complete the steps in the planting instructions, but rather how much time it will take for the effects of your actions to reach the optimum level. If the soil pH of your plot is acidic — again, most fallow soils are — you need to increase it before planting by adding lime to the seedbed. A question we’re often asked is, “Is it OK to lime the seedbed and then plant even though soil pH is still rising toward the neutral range?” In some cases, the answer is no. Alfalfa is an example. Any farmer will tell you that unless soil pH is already at 6.5 or greater www.whitetailinstitute.com

when you plant alfalfa, the planting will struggle. Other high-quality food plot products such as Imperial Whitetail Extreme can tolerate soil pH that’s a little lower than 6.5. But again, I said tolerate. Neutral soil pH is optimum even for Extreme. In short, for optimum forage growth, soil pH should be at 6.5-7.0 when you plant. For weed removal, you can effectively reduce the number of broadleaf weeds in a seedbed by tilling the soil, especially by tilling it several times at two-week intervals prior to planting the seed. Spraying the site with a Roundup-type glyphosate herbicide is another option that works well in most cases.

The Journey to Optimum Growing Environment: Preliminary Matters This is the procedure I follow when I’m faced with a new food plot site in fallow soil to be sure my seedbeds are ready to plant when my fall planting dates arrive for Whitetail Institute perennials and fall annuals. The journey approach also lets you use the same general concept for preparing to plant in spring. Either way, the seedbed should be ready to plant when your recommended planting dates arrive.

Steps 1 through 3 Start early to account for the time variable I mentioned earlier. This procedure is not mandatory in all cases. I follow it every time, though, out of prudence, to make sure soil pH is neutral and that the seedbed is free of competing vegetation. As discussed,

these factors take time to bring a plot to the optimum state, and how long each actually takes varies from site to site and is unknown until you start. That’s why, if possible, you should perform steps 1 through 3 several months before planting to be sure your seedbed is ready when your planting date arrives. As mentioned, this is the procedure I follow when preparing a seedbed in fallow soil. In most cases, the soil in fallow sites is acidic. If you’ve jumped ahead of me and guessed that my first step is to test the soil, you’d be incorrect. The reason will become apparent later, but for now, take a look at the planting instructions. The first phase is site selection, or making sure you select the right product to plant at the site. Step 1: Site selection — selecting a food plot product designed for the site. Remember I said to keep in mind our journey approach, making sure the planting will have an optimum growing environment? This is where you’ll start to see the real benefit of a journey approach to planting instructions instead of viewing them as a simple checklist. Making sure you select the right product for the site is the first step in the roadmap to an optimum growing environment, because it takes into account factors that can’t be easily changed, such as soil type, slope and whether you can access the site with equipment. Because these factors differ from site to site, the Whitetail Institute has developed forage products designed for various combinations of these conditions. Let’s say, for example, you can’t access the site with equipment. In such a situation, select a product designed for planting with minimal seedbed preparation, such as Imperial Whitetail No-Plow, BowStand or Secret Spot. That leads to my first tip: It’s always better to select a product designed for site conditions you can’t change than to select a

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Vol. 25, No. 1 /


SOIL TEST KITS Whitetail Institute

Soil testing is one of the most important things you can do to ensure the success of your plantings — of any kind. The Institute is pleased to now provide soil test kits and results for all Imperial products or any other type seeds. (Complete instructions and all related information will come with kits.) Test results include pH, phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). Fertilizer and lime recommendations for maximum performance from your plantings will be provided. The average turnaround time is 24-48 hours after our lab receives the sample. The charge for the kit and results is $10.95. If ordered alone, add $2.90 shipping and handling for unlimited number of kits. If ordered with other Imperial products there is no shipping charge. Please send ______ soil test kits at $10.95 each. Add $2.90 shipping and handling for each order regardless of number of kits desired. (There is NO shipping charge if kit is ordered with other Imperial products.) Cost of kit includes test results and consultation.


Name ________________________________________________________________

Address ______________________________________________________________

City _______________________________________State ______Zip _____________

Phone _______________________Email ___________________________________  Check or Money Order enclosed Payment: : Charge to:  MasterCard  Visa  Discover

Credit Card # __________________________Exp. Date _______Sec. Code________ Signature _____________________________________________________________

Mail to: Whitetail Institute • 239 Whitetail Trail • Pintlala, AL 36043 or CALL TOLL FREE 1-800-688-3030


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product that will require you to cut corners on the planting instructions. The Whitetail Institute designs its planting instructions so you can get the best results in the fewest steps possible. That also means that all the steps in the instructions are very important, and if you cut corners in the preparation and planting process, it can detract from the performance of the stand. To make sure you select a product that’s specifically designed for the conditions of a specific site, the Whitetail Institute has a Product Selector program on its website. You’ll find the link at the top of the home page, whitetailinstitute.com. The Product Selector is designed to lead you to the right product(s) for each of your food plot sites with the push of a few buttons. You can also call the Whitetail Institute’s professional consultants to ensure you make the best choices. Step 2: Look ahead, and get a general idea of when you plan to plant. After you’ve selected a product, the next step is to look ahead and get a general idea of when you should plant. That tells you how much time you have to make sure your seedbed is ready, including how much time you have to increase soil pH, if necessary, and clear the seedbed of competing vegetation. Planting dates for each Whitetail Institute food plot product are printed on the back of the product bags and are also available at whitetailinstitute.com. Now, I’m not suggesting that you have to choose an exact planting date several months in advance. For our purposes, you’ll just need a general idea. For example, the fall planting dates for Imperial Whitetail Clover in my area of Alabama are Sept. 5 through Nov. 15. I plan on planting my fall food plots sometime around the third week in September, because that’s usually when the worst of the hot weather is finished and rains have returned. Just getting a general idea like that is exact enough for our journey approach to planting instructions. By the end of Step 2, you’ll know two things: (1) what forage you’ll be planting and (2) how much time you have to make sure the seedbed is ready. The next steps concern the all-important issue of how much time it will take for your preparation efforts to take effect. Step 3: Perform a laboratory soil test to determine lime and fertilizer requirements. Why perform a laboratory soil test? Remember one of the two important time variables I mentioned: If soil pH is low, how long will it take for lime you add to the seedbed to increase pH to neutral range? The answer depends on several factors, one of which is how much lime should be added. That can only be accurately determined by scientific analysis of your soil’s profile to determine how well (or poorly) the soil at the site can hold lime activity. This is also why you should decide what forage you’ll be planting before you test the soil. If you tell the lab what you’ll be planting, the lab can also make precise recommendations about what blend and how much fertilizer you should add to the soil for optimum fertility. And as with lime recommendations, making those determinations about fertilizer also depends on scientific soil analysis. That’s so important I’ll stress it again: Only a qualified soil-testing laboratory can scientifically analyze soil to reach a specific recommendation on exactly how much lime you need to add. That way, you can be sure you buy enough lime and you don’t waste money buying lime and fertilizer you might not need. To save time, you can also start on weed control when you’re at the site pulling soil samples. Take a spray tank of Roundup-type glyphosate spray solution with you. Pull your soil sample first, and then spray the seedbed. This is especially helpful when you do most of your www.whitetailinstitute.com







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seedbed preparation with an ATV, as I do. Glyphosate kills grass pretty quickly. That causes the grass roots to loosen their grip on the soil, allowing light ATV disks to penetrate the seedbed much more easily. As soon as you get home, complete your soil test kits, and send them to the lab. The Whitetail Institute soil-testing lab processes samples and sends reports out very quickly — usually in a day or two. Step 4: If soil pH is lower than 6.5, add lime to the seedbed, and incorporate it by disking or tilling. As soon as you receive the soil test report from the lab, look at the soil pH reading. If it’s lower than 6.5, there will also be a lime recommendation. Return to the site with tillage equipment and the amount of lime recommended in the report, add the lime and disk or till it thoroughly into the seedbed. (By then, the glyphosate you sprayed in Step 2 should have done its work, and you’ll have an easier time disking or tilling the seedbed, especially if you use an ATV.) This will immediately start the process of increasing soil pH to optimum range. Again, if possible try to do this several months in advance of planting, and be sure to add all the lime recommended and incorporate it thoroughly. It might not take that long for soil pH to reach neutral, but it will in some cases, so start early. Step 5: Optional weed control measures. Now that you’ve selected a product for the site, had the soil tested, added any lime recommended and disked or tilled it into the seedbed, you’ll be at sort of an interim period. In other words, there are no more steps in the planting instructions until you reach your planting dates. Even so, this dead period is a great time to keep working on weed control if you want to. One way is by repeatedly disking or tilling the seedbed


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at about two-week intervals. Each time you disk, it will bring some dormant weed seed to the surface, allowing it to germinate. When you disk again in two weeks, you’ll kill those weeds before they have had time to flower and produce new seed. Several rounds of disking or tilling will usually markedly reduce the amount of weed seed that would have produced future competition to your forage. Try to till to the same depth at which you incorporated the lime so you don’t bring up more dormant weed seed into the upper layer of soil you’re cleaning. Another option is to till the soil one final time about three to four weeks before you intend to plant, wait two weeks for weeds to return and then spray them with glyphosate. Don’t turn the soil again before planting to avoid bringing more dormant weed seed to the surface. Step 6: Soil fertility. Fertilize the seedbed, and lightly drag the fertilizer into the seedbed. Unlike liming the seedbed, fertilizer should be added just before planting. Step 7: Planting and finishing the seedbed. Follow the remaining instructions for smoothing and firming the seedbed before putting the seed out and for finishing the seedbed after planting. Note that the instructions concerning final seedbed preparation and planting are not identical for all Whitetail Institute food plot products. As mentioned, that’s the procedure I follow, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find even better ways to be efficient in preparing your seedbeds and planting. Just remember that the planting instructions are more than a checklist. They’re a journey to a specific destination: making sure your food plot plants have an optimum growing environment. ^


Whitetail Institute RECORD BOOK BUCKS… Gary Brickl – Wisconsin I tried many other clover varieties that the deer browse on, but nothing compares to Imperial Whitetail Clover. It’s sort of like your favorite food. They just can’t get enough. The deer stay home and don’t have to go out to dinner on surrounding properties. The same holds true for Winter-Greens, especially when November, December, and January come around. In Wisconsin, that is a huge plus. Enclosed is a picture of the most recent buck taken on my farm: a 15-point 170s class with a bow. Thanks Whitetail Institute.


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Dustin Specht – Illinois I planted Imperial Whitetail Clover in the spring two years ago. After the plants’ root system established, the plot took off and looked great. During the early season up until about late November, I see deer almost every time I hunt my clover plot. I harvested this beautiful 175-inch 12-pointer opening weekend of this past archery season here in Illinois on the clover plot. Thanks, Whitetail Institute for making a great product.

Pete Alfano – Kansas/Oklahoma Growing big mature whitetail deer has always been a passion of mine. Along with my passion, I need the right tools to do it. I’ve got to give my whitetails a reason to make my farm, home. I’ve harvested many mature bucks over Whitetail Institute products over the years, but this year was extra special. I was fortunate enough to buy a property that was in Kansas and Oklahoma. My biggest challenge was drawing deer in right away and taking inventory. I was faced with a short planting season, so I made the decision to plant Extreme and Tall Tine Tubers, and after some much-needed rain, I was impressed as usual with the growth of both. Within a short few weeks of planting, I was starting to really draw in the deer and got a good idea of the quality of the bucks. I decided to pass up quite a few of my really good 3- to 4-year-old bucks that I think have potential to gross 180-plus as 5- and 6-year-olds and focus on harvesting mature management bucks. I was fortunate to harvest two on my hit list, one in each state and planting the food plots was the key to my success. My deer numbers have doubled in less than a year already. Whitetail Institute of North America has always been on the leading edge of food plot and deer nutrition technology, and my trophy room is proof! www.whitetailinstitute.com

Fred Abbas - Michigan

Bob Lott – Wyoming

We were aware of this buck for about three weeks. He had been working one of our mock scrapes (She Heat). About a week and a half ago, I had an 8-pointer come into the scrape. A few minutes later, a bigger 9-pointer came in with ears laid back shuffling sideways in an effort to intimidate the smaller buck. I had no intentions of shooting either buck and possibly blow my chances with the 12-pointer. The smaller buck yielded but didn’t want to leave, and both deer stood in the bushes about 15 yards from the scrape. All of a sudden, both bucks came to full attention, I followed their gaze. It was the big buck and he was coming right toward me with little caution. I felt so confident that I would get a shot that I took a picture of him. The big buck winded the other two bucks and immediately gave chase. There went my buck. My son, Greg and granddaughter Alyssa came down to the camp a few days later after getting my report. Greg and Alyssa would hunt the scrape stand. I decided to hunt a different stand on the edge of one of our food plots planted with Imperial Whitetail Clover and Whitetail Oats Plus because there was a lot of doe activity there. As fate would have it, I didn't have long to wait, I spotted several does feeding toward me, and a few minutes later, I spotted the big buck following the does at a distance. The does angled perfectly in front of me at 30 yards, the big buck took the same angle. I ranged him at 37 yards and then drew my bow, aimed and let loose. I clearly saw the arrow slice through him and could see heavy bleeding as he ran. Ironically, the buck had staged 80 yards in front of Greg and Alyssa's stand for at least 25 minutes before he decided to follow the does into the clover and oat field. Greg and Alyssa witnessed the whole scene. Once word got out via radio, it turned into a family affair. Greg and Alyssa came over to help track, and then my brother Allie and his granddaughter Caitlyn came over, and we all went tracking. Had I not seen the hit, I would have felt very uncomfortable with the sparse drops of blood that we were finding. Experience told me this this buck was running all out until he died some 200 yards from the point of impact, thus the reason for the small blood drops. As I followed the blood drops, everyone else was scanning the woods ahead for a body, and that's exactly what happened when Greg said, “there he is,” just before Caitlyn did. Everybody in our family who was there that day played some type of role during this hunt and recovery of such a beautiful animal, making lasting memories for all of us.

With Whitetail Institute’s help, our efforts at the Solitude Ranch have improved deer quality by 20 percent in the last three years. We have another possible state record buck to prove it. Before this year, four of the top 10 P&Y bucks for the state of Wyoming were taken off of the Solitude Ranch. This season, ranch manager Frank Amos took a new ranch record buck grossing 188 1/8 inches. This deer, and the deer Mike Schmid (ranch owner) took, are truly a testament to Whitetail Institute and quality deer management. Tall Tine Tubers, Double Cross and Cutting Edge nutritional supplements are all used at the Solitude Ranch. Attached are pictures of the bucks I mentioned. ^

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. 25, No. 1 /


Shoot ’Em All The philosophy that you can’t shoot too many does no longer applies in many areas By Bob Humphrey

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” — George Santayana

I began deer hunting in a time much different than today. Deer were few and far between. At the end of a day’s hunt, bragging rights in camp often went to anyone who saw a deer, and being selected for one of the coveted antlerless permits — or “doe tags,” as we called them — was like winning the lottery. Gradually, the situation began to improve. Photo by Dustin Reid


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My first revelation that things had changed occurred one fall when I returned to my home state of Massachusetts to deer hunt after a 10year absence. The fact that I could go to a regional fish and game office and purchase a doe tag over the counter was amazing. But when I got there, the agent tried to sell me two and even pleaded with me to buy a second. That was in the early 1990s, near the beginning of what would eventually become a North American whitetail boom. During the ensuing two decades, whitetail numbers soared across much of the species’ range. In many states, deer numbers and harvest rates reached levels not experienced in modern times, if ever. That ultimately launched a change in management philosophy that was nothing short of a paradigm shift. Ages-old management schemes and attitudes directed at growing deer herds by protecting antlerless deer were gradually replaced. As deer herds burgeoned, states slowly liberalized bag limits on antlerless deer, in some cases removing them where populations reached nuisance levels. And on managed private lands, the answer to the question of which doe you should shoot became, “The one in front of you.” Hunters and managers were suddenly faced with the dilemma of how to kill enough does. But all good things must come to an end.

What Goes Up ... More recently, we’ve seen a noticeable shift in the opposite direction. The reasons are numerous and varied, including drought, severe winters, urban sprawl, chronic wasting disease and epizootic hemorrhagic disease outbreaks, and deliberate management efforts intended

to reduce deer numbers. This change is widespread and in some cases significant. In 2014, the Iowa DNR reported deer numbers were down about a third since the peak year of 2008. Wisconsin reported the lowest deer kill in 30 years, and Virginia’s kill was down 40 percent from the previous year. The philosophy that you can't shoot too many does no longer applies in many situations, and if you’re still using it, it might be time to review your antlerless harvest recommendations. If you think your deer numbers are down, the first step toward rectifying it is to determine the cause(s). Then you can take steps to remedy the situation, in some cases.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside Declines caused by climatic conditions are usually easy to detect. Those of us in the North Woods pay close attention to snow depth and winter temperatures, as do our biologists. They take weekly measurements to derive a winter severity index, which they then use to estimate winter loss. And with decades of data, they usually come fairly close. They then combine that with harvest numbers and other data to create a prescription for how many does can or should be removed. There’s not much you can do to counteract winter severity short of supplemental feeding and scaling back on your doe harvest. Keep in mind that unless done properly, winter feeding programs often do more harm than good (See the sidebar “Winter Feeding”). It might be a little tougher to enumerate drought losses, but if your area experienced a drought, you know there likely were some losses. Lack of water means poorer nutrition, which affects antler growth and fawn production. How great the effect is depends on how severe the

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Vol. 25, No. 1 /


It’s a little easier to recognize their effect, particularly if you’ve been keeping records. Though they’ll prey on deer of any age, predators such as coyotes have the biggest impact on young deer. And it’s most recognizable in doe-to-fawn ratios. If you notice your does have fewer young than in the past, it’s a good indication of predation. Fortunately, there is something you can do about it. Predator removal can have a positive effect, though to be effective, it can be costly and time-consuming. Common sense can be a reasonable guide to determining how many does to shoot. If you’re seeing a lot of deer in your food plots, it’s a good indication you can safely remove a few. drought. You might be able to improve future production by providing water sources, but again, you’ll have to scale back the antlerless kill.

I Got a Fever Drought can also promote disease outbreaks. The EHD outbreak of 2012 was epic. Losses in some areas were so severe that states curtailed seasons and bag limits. Again, beyond waiting for the herd to rebound, there’s little you can do, with one glaring exception, which we’ll get to in a bit. Meanwhile, if you keep deer numbers from getting too high, you can reduce the potential for future outbreaks.

The Big Bad Wolf and Coyote Predation is becoming an increasingly important factor in deer population declines, particularly in the Southeast, Northeast and upper Midwest. Deer program managers from several Southeastern states have suggested that the only way to counteract the impact is by cutting back on harvest, and hunters might see some pretty stringent cutbacks.

Winter Feeding In the northern United States, the road to disaster is paved with good intentions. Many well-intentioned folks provide supplemental feed, hoping to carry more deer through the harsh winter. Most fail to realize that these efforts might ultimately do more harm than good. Northern deer typically migrate to, and concentrate in, traditional wintering areas or deer yards, which generally provide good cover but moderate to poor nutrition. Feeding tends to pull deer away from these areas, concentrating them in areas of even poorer habitat where they’ll be more vulnerable to predation and starvation. There, they’ll also feed heavily on surrounding natural vegetation, depleting an already poor resource. Eventually, with little or nothing else to eat, they become dependent on supplemental feed. Adults then pass along the tradition of visiting feed sites, which attracts more deer, increasing the feed demands and further depleting the habitat. This can be particularly damaging to managed forests. Concentrating deer in areas of poor habitat makes them more vulnerable to predation, which is a more important source of winter mortality than starvation. Supplemental feeding also draws deer closer to humans and their pets. Dogs might not kill deer, but even chasing them increases stress and depletes important fat stores needed to nurture growing fawns.


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You Have the Power You are a tool. I don’t mean that in the derogatory sense. A wildlife manager’s most effective tool is the hunter — you. That’s primarily because it’s the easiest variable to control. The best way to reduce, enlarge or maintain your deer herd is by regulating the number of antlerless deer you harvest. That’s been fairly easy the past decade or so but not any more. Deciding how to proceed is mostly common sense, but it helps if you have a basic understanding of population dynamics. Most hunter-managers are familiar with the concept of carrying capacity (K) — the number of deer that an area can support without deleterious effects to the habitat. Intuitively, you would think that should be your objective. However, when you reach about 50 percent of K, recruitment rates drop, and there are actually fewer deer available for harvest. Biologically, the maximum sustained yield (MSY) — the most deer you can continually harvest during the long term — occurs at around 50 percent of K. It is sometimes a difficult concept to grasp, but it’s somewhat analogous to weeding the garden or mowing the grass to promote growth. However, it might not be what most hunters want. You’re not going to see as many deer, and you’re going to have to hunt harder for them. But those you see and shoot will be healthier, sport larger racks and Artificially concentrating deer increases aggressive encounters, causing more stress and increases the opportunity for disease transmission. Attracting deer closer to human habitation increases the risk to humans. More Americans are killed or injured by whitetail deer each year than by any other animal, from car-deer collisions. The feed itself can be harmful to deer. Whitetails have a very complex digestive system, and it might take them several weeks to adjust to new and different foods. In a natural state, their system adjusts to digesting coarse, woody browse in the winter. A sudden shift to corn or hay could not only be harmful but also fatal. Many supplementally fed deer have died of starvation with a full belly. Another often-overlooked effect of deer feeding is anthropomorphism. Being able to see deer up close changes people’s attitudes toward them, fostering protectionist views. The starving deer may seem tame, giving non-hunters the false impression that they’re easy to kill. These reasons are why few, if any, state wildlife agencies condone supplemental winter feeding, and quite a few prohibit it. If you want to help deer through winter, consider efforts to improve overall yearround nutrition through habitat improvement. Leave stands of mature softwoods for shelter, and cut adjacent hardwoods stands to provide woody browse — the whitetail’s natural winter diet. Plant food plots and fruit- and nut-bearing mast trees. And of course, do your best to keep the herd in balance with existing habitat by harvesting a sufficient number each fall. ^




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produce more fawns annually. Several states have moved in this direction, much to the chagrin of many hunters (See the sidebar “The Pennsylvania Experiment”). In his book, A Practical Guide to Producing and Harvesting Whitetail Deer, James Kroll suggests an alternate strategy. Optimum sustained yield (OSY) is the population density that best maximizes deer harvest and hunter satisfaction, and Kroll claims that level occurs at around 60 to 70 percent of K. Which you choose depends on your specific objectives. If you’re a true believer in quality deer management — balancing deer with available habitat — then MSY might be your best option. If you’re more concerned with harvest, OSY provides a viable alternative. In either case, you can increase the carrying capacity simply by enhancing the habitat with food plots. If you’re serious about your deer management and have control over a large area, you should consider hiring a biologist to help you formulate harvest recommendations. They can look at your deer and habitat and tell pretty quickly how close they are to being in balance. Otherwise, you can simply apply a large dose of common sense. If you're seeing what you consider a lot of antlerless deer on your food plots every night, you probably need to cull a few. If they’re relatively scarce, especially outside the rut, you might need to scale back a bit. And if your doe-to-fawn ratio is down, you’ll want to give your herd more opportunity to grow. And don’t be too concerned if you’re not sure which way to err. Whitetails are an incredibly resilient species, and with very few exceptions, it's easier to build the herd back up than bring it down. And if you end up with too many, the solution is simple and fun. ^

The Pennsylvania Experiment By the late 1990s, Pennsylvania’s deer and their habitat were in dire straits. The Game Commission was trying to sustain more deer than the land could support. There was virtually no regeneration of browse and mast-producing hardwoods. Many other wildlife species that require a dense understory were vanishing, and many native plants were largely absent. Even conservation organizations such as the National Audubon Society and the Nature Conservancy were calling for increased harvests to counter what was being called an ecosystem crisis. Further, undershooting does and overshooting bucks resulted in 85 to 90 percent of Pennsylvania’s annual buck kill consisting of yearlings. The solution, from a biological perspective, was simple: Shoot more does and fewer young bucks. To sell that to Pennsylvania’s estimated one million hunters, the Game Commission provided a carrot of sorts in the form of mandatory antler restrictions. Rather than a reason for increased doe harvest, it was a positive side effect. Results are subject to interpretation. Environmentalists and hunters willing to sacrifice quantity for quality deemed it a success. Hunters, many of whom had never even seen a branch-antlered buck, were now regularly killing older, bigger bucks with much larger racks. Those who preferred numbers and weren’t concerned with the size of the deer they killed were, not surprisingly, less enthusiastic. ^

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/ Vol. 25, No. 1





During a recent interview, I was asked what I’ve seen occur in the hunting world during my 36-year career. I paused for a moment before answering because so much has changed since I became a full-time outdoor writer and nature photographer. My response was, “Nearly everything except the animal.” Clothing, firearms, archery equipment and more have evolved and revolutionized the hunting industry. Couple that with the way hunters view the management of deer and you have a world my father never could have imagined. As fascinating as the evolution in hunting gear has been during the past 40 years, it’s the deer management side that intrigues me most. For the latest promotions, sales and news visit www.Facebook.com/WhitetailInstitute

Vol. 25, No. 1 /


When I was growing up in farm country in the 1950s and 1960s, no one gave a thought to what was required to produce better deer and habitat. And the notion of growing food plots was on no one’s radar screen because the mindset then was that agricultural practices were all deer needed to thrive. It wasn’t until the late 1980s that Alabama businessman Ray Scott, founder of Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, realized the importance of providing year-round nutrition for deer.

Research Equals Results When Scott set out to develop a seed that would be the best for whitetail deer, he jumped into uncharted territory. But with the expert help of Auburn University plant geneticist Dr. Wiley Johnson, he struck gold with the development of the original Imperial Whitetail Clover, because 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.” Though the name on the bag remains the same, today’s Imperial Clover is far superior to the blend Johnson and Scott came up with in 1988. Thanks to science and demands from customers, it’s been improved upon many times since its introduction. As a result, it's now considered by knowledgeable food plot practitioners as the gold standard clover offering for deer. The Bible says, “Where there’s no vision, the people perish.” The

same can be applied to the business world. Make no mistake, competition drives innovation, and without a vision toward future success, a product’s interest quickly fades. Whitetail Institute is run by savvy businessmen who rely heavily on science and input from their valued customers. Because of this, they are continually working to improve upon their products. When I asked Whitetail Institute’s Steve Scott why the company needed to improve Imperial Clover, he said, “We need to continue improving and leading the industry. We are making obsolete what was already the best. Through the years, we’ve continually worked to improve all our products, and now we are taking Imperial Clover to the next level.”

Raising the Bar When Johnson died more than six years ago, the company turned to Dr. Wayne Hanna, one of the foremost plant breeders in America. The question at the time was: Even though Imperial Whitetail Clover is the best clover on the market, can it continue to be improved on? During the past six years, Hanna has worked diligently to take Imperial Whitetail Clover to the next level. The results have been impressive. When I asked him how he improved on a clover variety that was already considered the cream of the crop, Hanna offered some background. “I began my career working with white clover, which is the key ingredient in Imperial Whitetail Clover,” he said. “When Whitetail Institute asked me to come up with an improvement to its clover offering, I knew I couldn’t do it alone. It had to be a team effort. I personally made plant collections across the Southeast, and reached out to friends from across America who had access to white clover germ plasms. “I collected more than seed, because when it comes to white clover, it’s critical to have the plant if you want to develop the best possible variety. By having good white clover plants that have gone through natural selection, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, so to speak. So, I took stem cuttings of the best plants from across America, put them into small pots and grew those into plants for testing. From there, we put the plants into small test plots and looked at them weekly or monthly for two to three years to determine which variety of white clover was best. Once the selection was made, I took stem cuttings from the best plants and grew them into better plants by crisscrossing them with the aid of bees to ensure they would thrive in a variety of environments.”

The Results

Imperial Whitetail Clover continues to improve. The work of Dr. Hanna has taken the industryleading product to the next level.


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The goal throughout the past six years of Hanna’s work has been to improve the vigor, attractiveness, and heat and drought tolerance of the product, along with a heavy emphasis on high sustained attraction and nutrition. Coming up with a clover that improves on all factors is a tall order. Though some would argue that the Imperial Whitetail Clover seed that’s been serving customers since 1988 is simply the best, what Hanna and his team have come up with is the next generation of Imperial Whitetail Clover. Seedling vigor: To determine plant vigor, Hanna closely observed the germination rates of the seeds being studied compared to the Imperial Whitetail Clover being marketed. What he and his team were looking for initially was a white clover that germinated faster than www.whitetailinstitute.com

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the current variety. He also looked at how the old and new plants reacted to many environmental conditions that would affect how the plants thrived and survived. Throughout the testing period, he saw that the new plants performed equally or superior to the current Imperial Whitetail Clover offering when subjected to tough growing conditions. Heat and drought tolerance: A big part of testing for vigor involved seeing how well the new plants would stack up to the old Imperial offering when subjected to hot, dry conditions. “For starters, I planted 8,000 to 10,000 plants on 18-inch centers and let them grow,” Hanna said. “Periodically, we defoliated the plants to simulate grazing to see how vigorously the plants grew back. “It should be pointed out that you cannot do an adequate test in the first year because most clover will look good and do well in the first year, so a one-year study will not tell you much. It’s in the second and third year that you see just how good a plant does when subjected to environmental conditions like hot, dry weather. Doing a study for an extended period of time also lets you know how disease tolerant a plant is. “So studying the test plants over a two- to three-year period allowed us to select the best plants. When this was done, we took stem cuttings from the superior plants, grew them into plants and allowed bees to do their thing and help produce the desirable characteristics we were looking for.” Attractiveness: Since Imperial Whitetail Clover was first introduced, its attractiveness to deer has been one of its major selling points. Therefore, Hanna worked hard throughout the new offering’s development to ensure the attractiveness of the next generation of seed would be equal to or better than the old. “This was a tall order because when you are the top-quality clover on the market, it is difficult to improve its attractiveness,” he said. “Some of the ways I believe we’ve improved Imperial Whitetail Clover is by coming up with a seed that has leaves equal in size or better than the seed of the past. We succeeded in doing this. Also, our newest Im-

perial Whitetail Clover has robust growth, few flower heads and succulent stems built into it, all of which adds to attractiveness.” High sustained nutrition: During the past 25 years of planting food plots, I’ve continually looked to products that can offer the deer on my farm the highest possible nutrition. This is one of the reasons I began planting Imperial Whitetail Clover more than 15 years ago. Twenty years ago, our family built a 35-acre whitetail deer enclosure on part of our farm to study behavior and nutrition. The enclosure has up to 11 food plots containing a variety of plant offerings. Throughout the growing season, we monitor how the plants are growing and how well our deer prefer them. One of the things that has continually impressed me about Imperial Whitetail Clover is the way it holds its high protein level throughout the growing season. So, I was particularly interested to hear how Hanna addressed this issue as he worked to develop a better Imperial Whitetail Clover. “We put the plants in replicated trials and harvested the plants two to three times a year for several years to study nutrition levels,” he said. “To perform the analysis, we harvested foliage, dried it, ground it up and then used analysis procedures to evaluate it for digestibility, protein and lignin levels. We had some harvest dates when the nutrition was equal with but never lower than the Imperial Whitetail Clover that was being marketed at the time. Overall, the nutrition levels throughout the test years were higher than in the past.”

The Future “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” That great quote best describes the vision of Whitetail Institute’s leadership. Since 1988, its team has worked to develop and market the best products for food plot practitioners and will continue to do so in the future. Simply, they do not rest on their laurels. Though today’s Imperial Whitetail Clover is better than it has ever been, you can be assured of one thing: It will continue to improve in the years to come. ^

The author uses Imperial Whitetail Clover because of its attractiveness and high nutrition levels


/ Vol. 25, No. 1


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

Food Plot Procrastinator A Handbook for the

rocrastination is widely viewed as a measure of immaturity; something that universally inspires the wrath of mothers and wives. Although classical artists might work with oils and clay, my creative medium is procrastination. Why is this relevant to food plots? Simply, I can tell a good story about food plot management — what to do and when. Yet I always have a dozen other commitments and am at least two weeks late with any food plot task that forces me to cut corners. When this condition arises, I have a compressed list of food plot tasks that are essential for the chronic procrastinator to succeed. Liming

Lime neutralizes soil acidity, which is a natural condition in most of the eastern United States. Soil acidity makes essential nutrients chemically unavailable for uptake by plants, regardless of how much fertilizer is applied. Soil acidity also alters the valence of the naturally occurring element aluminum, making it toxic to crops. In food plots, failure to adequately neutralize soil acidity with lime simultaneously starves and poisons forages. Fortunately, lime is cheap and resists weathering, meaning that applications are effective for two or three years, making this a periodic task. Agricultural lime is slow acting and takes several weeks or months to neutralize soil acidity. Applying lime just before planting does not immediately neutralize acidic soils, and you won't always see earlyseason benefits. However, late lime applications are far better than no lime applications, if for no other reason by benefitting forage plantings for two to three years in the future. That will save the procrastinator time in upcoming seasons.

Apply Prescribed Amounts of Fertilizer I won't open a can of worms by detailing the cost of our hunting


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hobby and all its ancillary activities, but I can assure you that fertilizer cost is a small sliver of the total hunting expense. Skimping on fertilizer will cost you short- and long-term. Conversely, why throw hard-earned money away by grossly over-fertilizing? The time-proven practices of soil testing and following the recommendations eliminate forage growth reduction because of underfertilizing and waste because of over-fertilizing. A friend routinely asks me about fertilizers and rates for food plots. He asks the same question year after year. Basically, he wants an endorsement to use 50 pounds of 10-10-10 on a half-acre food plot. His site is a sand hole in the middle of a pine forest. This is a pitiful amount of fertilizer that provides virtually no benefit to any forage planting. My response is something like, “Don’t be penny-wise and dollar-foolish.” Fertilizing the prescribed amount is an essential production practice that directly affects forage growth and palatability. Procrastinators must not cut corners by skimping or eliminating fertilizer application on any forage planting.

Seedbed Preparation In the career context, most of us can name one person who strongly shaped our professional lives. My mentor was J. Frank McGill, retired peanut agronomist with the University of Georgia. Frank is an oldschool agricultural professional and wonderful communicator from our Greatest Generation who instills enthusiasm in his audience. I was hired as Frank’s successor, and he often traveled with me during my first year. In a casual conversation with peanut growers, Frank stated in a manner much like the fictional Sheriff Andy Griffith that, “Maximum yield potential is set the moment seeds are placed in the soil.” Think about that for a minute. Yield potential (in our case, forage growth) can be reduced by drought and pests during the growing season. However, yield potential cannot be improved after the fact. www.whitetailinstitute.com

Seedbed preparation is a critical factor to establishing maximum yield potential. Forage seed tend to be small and need a well-prepared seedbed to have seed-soil contact necessary for forage germination. Well prepared means finely tilled, no clods and weed-free. Cutting corners in seedbed preparation because of procrastination is a recipe for food plot disaster. It's essential that you allow ample time for equipment adjustment and operation for this phase of food plot establishment. Basically, a poorly prepared seedbed sets the food plot yield potential dismally low, and there is no chance to completely recover the loss.

Set Your Sights on

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Forage Selection Food plot forages are planted across a wide diversity of environments and soil types. It's a no-brainer statement that no single forage species is adapted for all locations and conditions. For example, in my region of southern Georgia, sandy soils are the norm. Drought stress is only two weeks away because sandy soils have poor water-holding capacity. This means year-round staggered plantings of annual forages perform more consistently in my region compared to perennials. Trust me, I would be elated to be able to plant perennial forages if there was a reasonable chance of them surviving for multiple seasons. However, perennial forages struggle to survive in South Georgia, sandy soils because of periodic drought. That knowledge, based on my personal hard-luck experiences, conditioned this procrastinator to plant annual forages multiple times throughout the year. My choices are PowerPlant in spring and Pure Attraction in fall. The take-home message to procrastinators is to hedge bets by choosing forages with the greatest chance of success in your prevailing conditions. Actually, that's pretty good advice for anybody.

Grass Control I can tell a good story about weed control, and have been doing so for more than 30 years. Questions would arise regarding my competence if you actually observed the weed control in my food plots. Speaking from first-hand experience, it's horribly discouraging when you realize that deer are not attracted to crabgrass. When I break out of my procrastination-fueled malaise, I spray Arrest Max to control grasses. Delaying weed-control efforts assuredly means large grasses. I compensate by not skimping on rates (using the same logic previously mentioned for fertilizers) and boost the application with a crop oil concentrate. Grasses will destroy a food plot quicker than any other group of weeds. In addition to forage growth reduction, grasses reduce the longevity of perennial forage plantings, particularly during periods of drought stress. That realization will inspire the hard-core procrastinator to prioritize grass control. Fortunately, Arrest Max is a noninjurious, cost-effective, consistently performing tool for food plot hobbyists, particularly the procrastinator. Attempted humor aside, all of us have a life outside of deer hunting. Time compressions usually arise between home and hunting, family commitments and demanding careers. I am fortunate to live five minutes from where I hunt and still have those difficulties. My recent food plot successes resulted from a stringent regime of prioritized tasks that compensate for being chronically late. In an ideal world, extreme prioritization based on desperation would not be needed. In regard to our common hunting interests, I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t live in an ideal world. I suspect that a lot of readers of Whitetail News are in a similar situation. ^

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Vol. 25, No. 1 /


REAL HUNTERS DO THE TALKING about Whitetail Institute products…



e use five food plot products (Winter-Greens, Tall Tine Tubers, Imperial Whitetail Clover, Secret Spot and BowStand). Since using these products, we have noticed a much healthier deer herd and our bucks have packed on more mass over the summer. We couldn’t be happier with these products. The results speak for themselves. One example of the results is shown in the enclosed photo. The Whitetail Institute staff has been very helpful from the beginning, helping us get the most out of our food plots. We look forward to working with Whitetail Institute for many more years.

Joe Austin – Iowa

began ordering 30-06 Mineral Supplements about nine years ago. I always made sure to put out and maintain my mineral sites starting late winter into the period before green-up. I have two small properties that abut each other where I have done a lot of habitat improvement for deer. I’ve released and daylighted some old apple trees, and under them, seeded with Imperial Whitetail Clover and Secret Spot. A long, narrow meadow has long been a favorite corridor for deer travel. At one end, I’ve established a lateseason plot of Winter-Greens. At the other end is a Chic Magnet plot, and because of this, there is now a great scrape with a licking branch located between my two food plots. Over the years, many big racked bucks make a point to cruise through these spots to check on the does that have made the property home. This past year, I passed on many deer during bow season. It finally paid off when I got this talltined 8-point during muzzleloader season. He was cruising the narrow corridor that connects the two food plots checking for does when I harvested him. Whitetail Institute products are the best and definitely have made my hunting better. Thank you Whitetail Institute.

Bob Thomasian – Massachusetts


bought two acres worth of Whitetail Oats Plus, and I am blown away by the quality, growth, production and how much the deer love them. I have been a loyal customer of Whitetail Institute for over six seasons now, planting only Whitetail Institute products. When I plant Whitetail Institute products, I feel like I am guaranteed success. I follow the simple instructions provided and always have a great crop. The Whitetail Oats Plus this year were stunning. Deer we had never seen before showed up and had their heads buried in the stuff! Whitetail Institute has another winner on its hands. I can hardly wait until next year! The attached picture is from last year where I had planted a strip of Winter-Greens. I think the picture speaks for itself. It’s not hard to tell where the Winter-Greens were planted. The deer had a party!

Tim Mason – Wisconsin


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icture # 1 is my buck from last year, which I shot within a few yards of my Winter-Greens food plot. He is a 13-point that scores 176-6/8. Picture # 2 is my buck from three years ago that I shot going to and 15 yards from the Imperial Whitetail Clover. He is a 9-point that scores 157. Thank you Whitetail Institute.



Russell LaRose â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Illinois


have been using Whitetail Institute products for four years now and I will never use any other company's products again. I hunt and manage a small 20-acre piece of land in southeastern Minnesota in the heart of agricultural country and currently plant three acres of Whitetail Institute products. I have used most of the products Whitetail Institute has produced. I can honestly say I am in awe every opening morning of the bow season when the

sun comes up and I am staring at a lush green Whitetail Institute food plot. My whole point of this note is you can read all day about the nutrition your products provide, but after four years, the proof is in the pudding. The number of fawns seen in the stand and on my trail cam has gone up every year, and this last year, we calculated we had at least six fawns frequenting the food plots. To me this is more exciting than the stud


first planted Imperial Whitetail Clover seven years ago. I also planted some winter wheat and some brassicas from another company. I was amazed at how the deer would walk right across the green wheat and brassicas to graze the clover. I have since added approximately 100 acres of CRP and five more food plots and watched my deer herd grow from approximately 15 deer to more than 50 over the past five years, even with a very heavy doe harvest to balance my buck/doe ratio. Two years ago, I planted Alfa-Rack Plus and didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t receive rain for months. However, when the rain finally came, I had a very impressive plot. I also planted PowerPlant and was very pleased with the tonnage and how the deer would practically live right in the cover of the food plot. I have consistently killed bucks around 150 inches. This year, however, I shot my best buck ever with a muzzleloader. It scored 193 inches non-typical with 21 points. Thanks Whitetail Institute for your great products.

Jeff Strickler â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Kansas

buck pictures we get, because these fawns are the future, and the future looks bright. Being a father of two boys who will be hunting in five years, this is very exciting when I can give back and have an impact on the fawn survival rate. I attached a few trail cam pics. One shows four fawns and two mothers heading towards my 1.5-acre Chicory Plus plot. Quite impressive. Thanks again Whitetail Institute for your products and support. Keep doing what you do.

Al Wiseman â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Minnesota

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Food Plots On Borrowed Ground By Mark Kenyon Photos by Charles J. Alsheimer

y experiences with food plots began much differently than most, and much of that had to do with being laughed at. I got laughed at when I told the local bulk fertilizer dealer I needed just one pound of potash. I was laughed at when I told the landowner of the property I hunted that I’d like to plant something specifically for deer to eat. And I got laughed at when I walked down the side of the road with a push rototiller on my way to till up my first plot. But when it was done, I got the last laugh. Because with one simple question, a lot of hard work and a careful plan, I was able to plant a food plot despite not owning any property. Since then, I’ve found that the dream of planting food plots for deer isn’t reserved just for landowners. If you can handle the occasional raised eyebrow or chuckle and are willing to put in the work, I’m con-


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Vol. 25, No. 1 /


fident you can enjoy the benefits of food plots on borrowed ground.

The Ask The story of that first food plot began the first year I had permission to hunt that property. I’d wanted to try my hand at food plots for some time, and I was finally on ground where I thought there might be an opportunity. There was only one thing in my way: getting permission. That's the first and most important step toward planting food plots on land you don’t own. But unfortunately, it’s a step many hunters struggle with. Whether they’re afraid of asking or simply assume the opportunity isn’t there, some hunters never bother asking landowners about potentially planting a food plot. But if you don’t own land and still want to try food plotting, you need to get over that. You must eventually take that first step and ask. For some, asking permission to plant a food plot might seem simple enough, but for others, it might be awfully intimidating. This first step doesn’t need to be scary, but there's definitely a right way to go about it. I recommend that you first put together a basic plan for how you’d like the conversation to go. You’ll want to be prepared to explain exactly what you plan to do, what equipment you’ll use, when you’ll take action and where you’ll do it. With that prep work done, when you finally ask for permission, you’ll be able to preemptively answer the landowner’s questions right off the bat. Most often, that will put them at ease quickly and immediately eliminate concerns that might arise. You might also want to be prepared to explain why you’d like to plant a food plot and how it might benefit them. For example, if the

landowner is a farmer or homeowner who’s sick of their landscaping being eaten, you might explain that you’re creating these “improvements” to help you more efficiently hunt deer. You might also point out the numerous benefits of food plots to other wildlife species. For many landowners, food plots are a foreign concept, so a simple explanation could be helpful. When asking for food plot permission, I recommend starting with small queries. Yes, it would be great to plant an entire field into a fouracre Imperial Whitetail Clover plot, but projects of that scale have a way of causing worry. Instead, try asking for permission to plant one 1/2 or one-acre food plot in the opening behind a farm pond or to plant the edges of a power line clearing. Such small improvements will seem safer to the landowner, but will hopefully buy you an opportunity to prove your responsibility and trust and could eventually lead to opportunities for larger projects. Speaking of safe, throughout your permission conversation, reassure the landowner that you will be very careful not to damage any lawns, roads, gates, farm crops or other property when conducting your food plot work. With my first food plot, after the initial surprise at my request, the landowner was on board with my plan and even willing to lend a hand. Whatever worries I had about asking for permission quickly vanished, and in the coming days, I feverishly got to work getting ready to finally become a food plotter.

Planning When you’ve gotten permission to plant a food plot or two, it’s time

Getting permission is the first step to planting food plots on borrowed ground. Even though it can be intimidating, it must be done.


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to put a plan in place. Developing a food plot plan is important regardless of whose property you’re working on, but when someone else’s ground is in play, it becomes even more crucial. You must remember that when working on someone else’s property, you’ll likely be faced with more challenges, greater limitations and added time constraints. You’ll need to plan ahead to account for these things. Obviously, one of the first items you’ll want to plan for is where to plant your food plot. As with any food plot endeavor, location is tremendously important, and the proper placement of a plot will depend greatly on your goals. That said, in addition to your goals for the food plot, you’ll also want to consider several factors. First, consider how you can get food plot equipment to your proposed work area without damaging or affecting any of the other ground. Is there a location where that kind of safe access with equipment is possible? Second, is there a space available without needing to change the landscape further? Although not necessary, in the first year of planting food plots on someone else’s property, I wouldn’t recommend making major changes to the landscape. As mentioned, start with baby steps. I’d steer away from something like clearing an entire wood lot for a plot and instead try to begin in areas that are already relatively clear. You’ll also need to begin planning what equipment to use when planting. Sticking with the theme of low impact, avoid using any equipment that will too negatively affect the owner’s property. The goal is to plant your food plot so the landowner will hardly know you did anything. So, for example, if you’re planting food plots in a small, tucked-away area at the back of a property, you’ll probably want to avoid bringing in a full-sized tractor on a muddy day or pulling a 16-row planter and knocking down the apple tree saplings your landowner planted a few years earlier. Therefore, the use of small food plot equipment is often the best route when planting on borrowed ground. I’ve used everything from a rake, to a push rototiller to an ATV-attached disc to prepare food plots, and there are plenty of other options. The critical consideration, in my opinion, is to use the minimum level of equipment to get the job done with the least collateral impact on the landowner’s property.

Through the years, I’ve planted many small food plots in such situations, and I’ve found several Whitetail Institute forage products that accomplished my goals for the food plot and also were easy to implement with limited space and equipment. I’ve had success with Imperial No-Plow, Whitetail Oats Plus, Winter-Greens, Imperial Whitetail Clover and Pure Attraction. That said, I’ve developed favorites for a few specific situations. In situations like what I faced with my first plot, where I was limited to a very small area and couldn’t bring in proper equipment, I’ve enjoyed success with the easy-to-establish No-Plow. In areas where I can bring in an ATV and implements, I’ve come to favor a combination of Winter-Greens, Whitetail Oats Plus and Imperial Whitetail Clover planted in strips to offer attractive options throughout the year.

Implementation When it comes to finally preparing or planting your food plots, the first step is again to be clear with your communication. If you’re bringing in big equipment or extra people to help with your work, make sure to alert your landowner so they aren’t unpleasantly surprised. I’d also try to plan your trips to conduct food plot work to be as efficient as possible. Because you don’t own the ground and might be traveling from far away to get there, it makes sense to try to get as many things done in one trip as possible. But this is also important as a means of minimizing the visible impact the landowner will see. If you’re working one day and gone the next, the landowner likely won’t notice or be bothered by your presence. On the other hand, if you’re driving in and out of the property with trucks and trailers four consecutive days, you might start to catch the landowner's attention. Finally, when you begin actual work on the plot, continue to focus on the low-impact approach. Don’t rut up the access road with your tractor. Don’t accidentally spray the farmer's neighboring cornfield with Round Up. Don’t back up the trailer over the landowner’s garden. Treat the property as if it were your own, except better.

Conclusion What To Plant After you’ve decided where and how to plant, you’ll need to determine what you’ll plant. In such a situation, where you’re limited by location and the equipment that you can use, you’ll also be limited in what you can plant. However, don’t be tempted to plant a forage just because a guy you know says it’s great. Instead, carefully consider the right options for your specific situation and the unique limitations on the owner's property. If you’re working with a small planting area, look for a food plot forage that can handle heavy browsing pressure. If you’re planting a small plot deep in the timber, make sure whatever you plant is shade tolerant. If your only available location for a food plot is in a lowland area, be sure whatever you plant can handle wet feet.


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Trying to properly manage, hunt and provide food plots for a deer herd on a property you don’t own is tough. I can’t deny that. But it’s also very plausible, and that’s something that can’t be denied, either. I remember that first hunt over my inaugural food plot as if it were yesterday. It was an early-October morning, and when the rising sun finally broke through the canopy to light the ground at my feet, I filled with pride at the sight of the green patch of clover and brassicas. And when that first deer, a young button buck, stepped into the plot, I couldn’t help but chuckle. He was seemingly not on his home turf, didn’t quite know what he was doing and seemed to catch an incredulous stare from other deer standing nearby. But he was determined, focused and hungry for a food plot. I could relate. ^ www.whitetailinstitute.com


The ^hitetail Institute… Where Innovation Meets Old-Fashioned Values By Matt Harper ne of my least favorite things is to spend hours upon hours on the phone with a help-center representative. Say your computer is wigging out, and having used all your technical know-how of rebooting and unplugging, you call a toll-free number to take advantage of the technical service plan you purchased. You are greeted by a warm, comforting computer-generated voice of an entity I call “the maestro.” Why maestro? Because the voice leads you through a bewildering sonata of, “Press this, if, for, to get this,” and sometimes even lets you say what you want. But apparently cyber-translation is difficult, because the voice never seems to understand what you’re saying. Finally, after mashing zero or # enough times, a real person answers the phone, and you think you are getting somewhere.


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Eventually, you are sent on a global tour from one call center to another, with each stop allowing you 20 minutes or more of stimulating on-hold music. Eventually, your 11-year-old walks in the room, having been disrupted by the sound of your head beating on the computer screen. The child does some kind of wizardry with the keyboard, and suddenly, all is fixed. Yep, calling tech service is what keeps blood pressure medicine manufacturers in business.

Founding Principles of the Whitetail Institute The Whitetail Institute was built on specific principles, and since 1988, those principles have been the bedrock of how the company conducts business. First, innovation is a critical element in all products the company offers. That is apparent, because the Whitetail Institute started the food plot industry and has produced more innovative products than any other deer nutrition company. Second, the Whitetail Institute is researched-based, not marketing-based. Of course, every business has to market its products, but the Whitetail Institute decided from its inception that research would always trump marketing. Regardless of how “cool” a product might appear or how


easily marketed it could be, unless it was extensively researched and proven to be needed, innovative, viable and successful, it would never get the Whitetail Institute label. Last, the Whitetail Institute never compromises the quality of customer service and will always adhere to the Golden Rule of treating others as they would like to be treated. Whitetail Institute customers have a passion for hunting and deer management, and with that passion comes many questions on how to best use the products. That's why the Whitetail Institute has made it a top priority to have a staff of experts that can assist with the myriad of questions about food plots, deer nutrition and land management.

Innovation The term innovation is used too loosely in business today. It's a good marketing word that sounds impressive to consumers, but products are seldom truly innovative. Innovation is described as a new idea, device or process that provides better solutions to a given market. Innovation can also be related to the development of a product or process that revolutionizes an industry because of the advancements it provides. When examining Whitetail Institute products, innovation is not only evident but is the overriding property of each new product launch. It began with the birth of an idea: food plots and deer nutrition. Before the Whitetail Institute hung up its shingle, there wasn’t a food plot industry. In fact, the word food plot was not really even known. A few folks in the Southeast planted “green fields” consisting of agricultural-based forage varieties such as wheat, rye and oats, but food plots were largely unknown. Enter Ray Scott. Innovation and Ray are synonymous, as Ray (founder of B.A.S.S. and Bassmaster) was the leader in developing the sport fishing/tournament fishing industry. Being a deer hunter as well, Ray knew the green fields he was planting on his hunting property attracted deer. Over 30 years ago, and because of a series of coin-

cidences, he planted clover and found out that it was much more attractive than what he had been planting. This created the question in his mind — “why?” That question led him to Dr. Wiley Johnson, a plant geneticist at Auburn University. Together, they developed the first food plot product specifically for whitetail deer, Imperial Whitetail Clover, which was truly innovative and revolutionary. At that moment in 1988, the food plot industry was born. However, the innovation did not stop with Imperial Whitetail Clover. The Whitetail Institute developed Imperial Alfa-Rack, the first alfalfabased food plot designed for browsing whitetails. No-Plow was the first minimal-tillage product ever designed for folks who had little to no tillage equipment. Later, the innovation of Extreme provided food plotters with a perennial product that could withstand low-pH and drier climates and soils. Imperial 30-06 and 30-06 Plus Protein innovated the deer mineral market and were followed by Cutting Edge Nutritional Products, the first year-round nutritional supplement program for deer. Those are only a few of the innovative products developed by the Whitetail Institute, and that innovation continues today with new products and the continual improvement of existing products.

Research The term, product research, is another oft-used but infrequently practiced business cliche. Research is normally not clearly defined, at least in terms of the methodology in which it is conducted. For example, someone could come up with a deer block, set it in their backyard, take a couple of photos of deer sniffing it and call it “researched and proven.” That does not account for habitat, regional or seasonal variability, or define whether the block is actually doing anything positive for deer. But because the photos provide “proof” and can be placed on the package, that can be labeled as research. The Whitetail Institute takes a far different approach to research. Its methodology is comprehensive, detailed and duplicated. Whitetail Institute research projects last years, with products undergoing multiple tests on characteristics such as palatability, hardiness, nutritional value and more. Further, that research is conducted in multiple regions across the country to identify regional variability caused by differing soils and climates. Research is conducted in controlled environments to look at specific product characteristics and extensively tested in real-world studies on test farms across the country. Researchers then analyze test data and make product changes, or, if data shows positive results, re-test for duplication. In other words, a product must work multiple times before the results are good enough to pass Whitetail Institute standards. The development of a new forage variety provides an example of the extent of the company's research. It often begins with a plant geneticist working on individual varieties in a greenhouse lab, looking for specific plant characteristics. Specific plants are cross-pollinated, and the offspring are then multiplied. This process can take several years, before the new variety even makes it to a test plot. Then the process of field-testing begins. If at any point the results don't reflect what researchers are seeking, the process begins again. As you can imagine, conducting research in that fashion is expensive and time consuming. However, the Whitetail Institute believes in real research, not just marketing-quality research, and does not compromise the reputation of the company by rushing a new product to market.

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Vol. 25, No. 1 /


such as drought or flood that have thrown them into a panic. The Whitetail Institute team will walk through all the options, describe what to do and when to do it, and then stay on the line until that customer is satisfied that all their questions have been answered. Regardless of whether the customer spends $20 or $20,000, each customer is treated with respect and thoroughness, whether the phone call takes five minutes or an hour. Why would the Whitetail Institute adhere to that level of customer service when the rest of the world is going the other way? The answer is simple: The Whitetail Institute truly believes in the Golden Rule.

Customer Service: The Golden Rule Whitetail Institute’s approach to customer service differs from that of typical modern business philosophy. Most companies believe in automation or outsourcing customer and technical services to save on expense. Just as with research, the Whitetail Institute will not compromise on customer and technical services. Staffers believe that if you have a question or need help, there should be a live, knowledgeable, courteous person on the line. Why? First, questions about growing food plots cannot be answered in canned, pre-recorded messages. When planting a food plot, you're dealing with soil, weather, varying habitats, equipment availability, deer herd numbers, level of farming knowledge and other concerns. So many variables exist that only a live human being can help answer questions, as every situation might call for different advice. Further, you have to talk to someone who knows food plots inside and out — someone with experience, training and hands-on knowledge of property management. No other food plot company has a more knowledgeable customer- and technical-service team than the Whitetail Institute. Collectively, the staff has almost 200 years of food plot knowledge, and regardless of the question, the Whitetail Institute has someone who will have an answer. Whether the question is about planting, maintenance, equipment, minerals, deer nutrition, habitat management, deer biology or almost any other food plot-related area, the Whitetail Institute staff is there to help customers. And most important, the staff works by the Golden Rule of treating others as they would like to be treated. The staff is courteous, even when a customer is dealing with dire circumstances,

Conclusion The hunting industry is filled with good people and fine companies. However, in today's market, the pressure to drive down costs, increase revenue and build margins has led some companies down the road of comprising on principles that were originally responsible for their success. Having been in the business world for many years and in different industries, I know it's easy to slip into this business model. In fact, so many companies have gone the direction of automation, with the removal of personalized customer service, that as consumers, we have come to expect it. But during the past two decades (almost three), the Whitetail Institute has continued to grow and still adheres to its core principles of innovation, research and customer service. In fact, company leaders attribute that growth to those principles. And as the world continues to go down the road of depersonalization, you can count on the Whitetail Institute to remain innovative but old-fashioned and they will follow the Golden Rule when it comes to customer service. ^


You’re invited to fish America’s most famous private bass waters Noted outdoorsman and B.A.S.S. founder Ray Scott is making a long-time personal dream come true. As a proud supporter of his home state’s new initiative — Alabama Black Belt Adventures — he is opening his personal lakes, his home and guest accommodations to a limited number of anglers to enjoy great fishing and gracious southern hospitality. Guests at Ray Scott’s Trophy Bass Retreat will fish in the wake of presidents, first ladies and fishing superstars like Kevin VanDam, Rick Clunn, Bill Dance and Roland Martin — all amidst 200 acres of live oaks, Spanish moss, whitetail deer and blue herons. And they will also enjoy many outstanding amenities as well as the opportunity to visit with host Ray Scott. Ray Scott’s Trophy Bass Retreat is located just south of Montgomery, in the heart of Alabama’s Black Belt, a land of rich history, rich traditions and rich black soil that is credited with contributing to the outstanding fishing and hunting that has been treasured by so many generations of outdoorsmen. Whether you’re with your best fishing buddies, son or father, or important business clients or employees, your Ray Scott Trophy Bass Retreat will provide an exclusive, one-of-akind fishing experience to be remembered.

Your all-inclusive Trophy Bass Retreat package includes: • • • • •

3 nights lodging • 2 full days of fishing • Airport pickup All meals provided with relaxed family-style dinners Comfortable accommodations with private baths • Boats available or bring your own Two miles of private, scenic jogging road • Secluded pool Lodge area with large fireplace and big screen TV • And many other amenities

Bookings: All lodging is based on double occupancy with private baths. Booking and fishing is in pairs only. There is a maximum of eight guests. Booking groups of four in the Presidents Guest Cabin is a recipe for fun and fellowship. Bass is good business: The guest cabin for four — or the whole facility for eight — is perfect for incentive and reward trips or tax-deductible corporate team building. Be sure to inquire about the limited number of Ray Scott’s trademark marketing seminars, “From a Fishing Hole to a Pot of Gold” personally conducted after fishing hours by the Bass Boss himself. Or call to book the whole lodge and customize your own tax-deductible marketing and motivational agenda with Ray.

Named “Best Bass Lake” in America by “Outdoor Life” Magazine

Call 800-518-7222

Availability is very limited. Bookings on first-come, first-served basis.



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Lessons Learned from 20 Years of Food Plotting:

COMMON MISTAKES TO AVOID By Gerald Almy Photos by the Author

saved for and bought in northwestern Virginia, I’ve made just about every mistake possible for a food plotter. I’ve made some several times over. But eventually, I caught on to what I was doing wrong and learned how to improve the plots by not making that mistake the next time. I've been planting plots for more than two decades, and I’ve learned the eight mistakes listed here are some of the most common other novice food plotters make. By seeing what I did wrong and, more important, what I should have done, hopefully you can save some wasted time, energy and hardearned cash by avoiding these flub-ups. It’s a lot easier to steer clear of potholes if you see them ahead of time. Hopefully, this piece will help you avoid some food plotting potholes.

’ve learned a lot about growing food plots for deer and other wildlife from books, websites and magazines. But the best lessons I’ve learned — the ones indelibly riveted in my thick and sometimes stubborn skull — have come from dirt-under-the-fingernails work in my own plots. Seeing what works and what doesn’t makes a strong impression — especially the latter. Putting lots of hard work, time and money into a plot and then seeing it perform poorly makes you want to get to the bottom of it. What went wrong? What could I have done differently? Through the years working on the 117-acre parcel my wife and I


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Potential Problems


NOT REALIZING THAT SOME POTENTIAL PLOTS DO BETTER WITH ONE PLANT THAN ANOTHER. If you’re a farmer, you’d never make this mistake. Reading some of the material on www.whitetailinstitute.com carefully, will also help you avoid it. But when you experience success with one type of plant, it’s difficult to resist the urge to put in more of it everywhere you have an open site. When I got into food plot planting in the early 1990s, I found one of the earliest offerings available: Imperial Whitetail Clover. I had good luck when I started with a plot in a bottom near a creek on my property. With that boost of confidence, I began planting it in lots of other places, including some dry upland areas. Big mistake. Those plots lived but never thrived or grew as thick and lush as the ones in the lowland, which had heavier soil that held more moisture. You need to target your choice of seed to the approwww.whitetailinstitute.com

priate site. For those latter spots, Alfa-Rack Plus, Extreme, Edge or Chicory Plus would have been better choices, with plants that would do better when the dry areas became parched in the hot August sun. Eventually, I switched those areas to more appropriate plants, and the results were far superior. The staff at the Whitetail Institute can help you decide which plant is best based on information you give them about the site. And the Product Selector feature at whitetailinstitute.com is a new feature that helps make sure you make the best choice. If you’re planting in a clearing in the woods that is tough to get equipment to, you want a product such as Secret Spot, BowStand or No-Plow that requires minimal ground preparation. If the soil is very poor, consider an annual or a perennial product such as Extreme, designed to thrive even in lower-quality soil. Extreme can also withstand low pH better than other perennials. Before deciding what to plant, give a lot of thought to whether the soil will hold moisture or is well drained, what implements you can bring to the site and other important factors. The more you target a specific food plot product to a specific site, the better your results will be.


NOT KILLING WEEDS AND GRASSES ADEQUATELY. This is a common problem for food plotters. Before you plant, you should kill the weeds you see, the weeds and grasses that will emerge from seeds in the soil that haven’t sprouted yet, and others that will be brought to the surface and germinate from tilling or disking. Two words describe what’s required for this problem: patience and persistence. You should kill all the weeds you can before you start. Then you must keep after them and control or kill them throughout the life of the plot, when possible. The first assault on weeds and grasses usually begins with a thorough spraying of glyphosate. Then give it plenty of time to work — at least seven to 10 days. If more green is showing, spray it again. Then wait the same amount of time or more, and till the plot. To make sure I kill as many weeds as possible, I like to wait another week or two and then till again, and perhaps a third time if a spot is particularly troublesome. If you plant annual seed mixes such as Winter-Greens, Tall Tine Tubers, No-Plow or Pure Attraction, they will usually shade out and outcompete any remaining weeds. With perennial plots such as Imperial Whitetail Clover and Alfa-Rack Plus, you have to continue weed surveillance. Mow the tops of the weeds when they grow above the legume. If they get out of hand, spray a selective herbicide. Use Arrest Max for grass competition and Slay for a variety of broadleaf weeds, and follow the directions carefully.

places where there’s good cover for a buck to approach unseen will almost always yield the best chance for getting a mature animal to use your plot in daylight hours. Small neglected corners or strips between larger fields are also worth considering. Sure, put the plots in the easy-to-reach places. But don’t neglect those hard-to-get-to places. Even if you can’t get equipment in to work the ground, you can put in no-till seed mixes such as No-Plow, BowStand and Secret Spot with just a few hand tools and some sweat.


SKIMPING ON QUALITY SEEDS. It’s tempting to try to find seeds that will produce quality food plots for less money. Everyone likes a bargain. But I’ve found with food plots, such an approach simply doesn’t pay off. Sure, a generic or low-priced seed might come up green. But it most likely won’t have the attractiveness, the tolerance to cold and drought, or the resistance to disease that quality seeds such as those from the Whitetail Institute. They also likely won’t establish roots as strong or grow as lush and thick with as much tonnage of forage. Like most high-quality products, they cost a little more because more effort, time and expense were put into developing them. In the case of the Whitetail Institute, years of research go into building each product, often with proprietary seeds available only from the Whitetail Institute. If you ever question whether paying for quality seeds is worthwhile, do this test, which I’ve conducted several times through the years. Plant half a plot in a high-quality seed and half in a cheap or generic version of the same plant, whether brassicas, clover, oats or whatever. Then, compare how the two grow as the season progresses. Also, see which gets browsed more, or put a wire exclusion cage in both plots


IGNORING SMALL, UNLIKELY FOOD PLOT SITES. When planning out food plots, most folks look to the obvious spots. I’m the same way. Natural meadows, fields that aren’t in crop production and the like get the first plots — places that are flat and easy to get equipment into. Those are great for providing nutrition for your deer herd. But for the best hunting plots, smaller, overlooked areas are often preferable by the deer. A log landing in the woods is a good example. You can also daylight forest trails or logging roads enough to put plots in. Even if you have to hire a dozer to do some work, it might be worth it. Planting plots near — but not too close to — bedding cover and For the latest promotions, sales and news visit www.Facebook.com/WhitetailInstitute

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NOT DOING A SOIL TEST AND APPLYING APPROPRIATE FERTILIZERS AND LIME. This is like several of the other mistakes I’ve made. At first, it might seem like you can get away with it. You can get a food plot to come up, and you can have deer use it. But you won’t get the best growth, most deer usage or maximum potential from your plot unless you do a soil test and follow lime and fertilizer recommendations. The Whitetail Institute offers tests for under $15, or you can use an Agriculture University or some local farm co-ops to get an analysis done. They will recommend the specific needs of the soil for the seeds you plan to plant, including nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. The soil test will also tell you the amount of lime you need to apply to get the soil pH into the best range for that plant.


OVERHUNTING YOUR FOOD PLOTS. Making this mistake is the surest way to hurt your hunting. If you let deer know you’re hunting a plot, they’ll often head elsewhere or simply wait until dark to feed in it. Experienced hunters know this, and several recent studies by biologists have proved it. One good solution involves creating some plots for providing nutrition and a few smaller ones tucked away closer to cover that you hunt only occasionally, and only when the wind and other conditions are right. Some hunters never hunt their plots but set up back in cover leading to the plot along ridges, ditches, brushy hollows, strips of tall grasses or staging areas adjoining the food source. If you’re after a mature buck before or after the rut, this is often the best approach, and it's one I use often.

Avoiding mistakes can help lead to great bucks like this one harvested by the author. to compare usage (outside the cage) and growth potential (inside it). Enough said. The results will be eye-opening. Or you can save yourself some time and money because I’ve already done it.


NOT WATCHING YOUR TIMING. My intentions were good when I made this mistake several times in the past. One time, for example, I wanted to put in my Tall Tine Tubers earlier than recommended so they would grow even taller and produce more quality forage for deer. But there’s a reason why Whitetail Institute recommends a specific time for planting. It’s because the plants produce maximum forage when you put them in then, and they most often won’t grow as well planted before or after the recommended planting dates. My premature plantings came up well but withered in the hot August sun. Those that survived then flowered, reducing their appeal to deer. Similar plantings of Imperial Whitetail Clover in hot early-summer months have fared poorly compared to those put in at the recommended time in late summer or early fall. Putting in crops later than recommended has down sides, too. The roots of perennials can’t get established sufficiently before heavy frosts. Likewise, brassicas won't experience sufficient growth to create a large amount of forage for deer if they’re put in after the appropriate time-frame.


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BITING OFF MORE THAN YOU CAN HANDLE. It’s tempting to clear and plow every potential food plot site on your land and plant more plots. But there are several drawbacks to this approach. Unless you’re retired and have unlimited time and finances, it’s hard to do a thorough, quality job on too much acreage. Chances are you’ll end up with weeds and grasses in some plots that you didn’t have time to spray, another you didn’t have time to fertilize and still another that didn’t come up well because the seed bed wasn’t prepared properly or you neglected to do a soil test. Or maybe you’ll skimp on seeds because you have to plant so many acres. Bite off only as much as you can do thoroughly and do well. “We would always rather see someone do five acres right and get the full benefit than to plant 20 acres halfway right,” said Steve Scott, vice president of the Whitetail Institute. “In most instances, they will get more tonnage and benefit from the five acres done right than they would from 20 acres with corners cut. “The best strategy is to move slowly. Don’t get in a rush. Take the time to do things right by talking with a Whitetail Institute consultant and laying out a plan. Don’t try to do everything in a weekend or two.” That is, if you spread yourself too thin, your plots will most likely be thin as well.

Conclusion Yes, you can make plenty of other mistakes with food plots, but these are eight of the most common gaffes I’ve made through the years. Avoid them from the start and you’ll have thriving plots that will improve the health of wildlife on your land and the quality of your hunting. ^ www.whitetailinstitute.com

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Deer Prefer Winter-Greens It’s all about the blend By Hollis Ayers

Photo by Charles J. Alsheimer

ll brassicas have a few things in common. For example, they establish quickly, grow rapidly and can remain available into the coldest months. They also become sweeter after the first frosts of fall convert their starches into sugars. There’s at least one way, though, that all brassicas are not the same: attractiveness to whitetails. Like standard brassicas, Winter-Greens establishes quickly and produces lots of tonnage, but it’s far more attractive to deer than any other all-brassica product the Whitetail Institute has ever tested. And that’s not surprising, considering that’s what the Whitetail Institute developed Winter-Greens to be. 62 WHITETAIL NEWS

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What Makes Winter-Greens So Attractive to Deer? The key to the attractiveness of Winter-Greens lies in the nature of the brassicas in the blend, which includes lettuce-type brassicas — brassicas with a vegetable genetic background. Designing WinterGreens around these lettuce-type brassicas is undoubtedly why deer prefer it so heavily. Through several years of side-by-side testing of Winter-Greens against other brassica plantings, deer showed time and again that they preferred Winter-Greens.

Why Did the Whitetail Institute Wait Years Before Offering Winter-Greens? The Whitetail Institute has included brassicas as a component in blends of other Whitetail Institute products for more than two decades. Even so, it didn’t offer an all-brassica product until it was certain it could produce one that would be the most attractive to deer with only brassica components in the blend. To explain, let’s turn back the clock more than 25 years, soon after the Whitetail Institute originated and started the deer nutrition and food plot industries with Imperial Whitetail Clover. Although the company’s research in those days focused mostly on developing perennial forages that would provide year-round nutrition, a trend appeared in the number of hunters and managers asking for a truly high-quality forage product that could be planted with a minimal amount of ground preparation. That was the catalyst for the Whitetail Institute’s develwww.whitetailinstitute.com

opment of its second forage product, Imperial Whitetail No-Plow. Since then, the company has continued to improve No-Plow when it developed an improved component. Even so, the reasons brassicas are included in No-Plow has remained constant, and the main reason is to act as a timing element — to provide attraction and tonnage for late-season hunting Since those early days, customers regularly asked Whitetail Institute for an all-brassica forage product, but Winter-Greens wasn’t offered until after extensive research and development. The reason? The Whitetail Institute wanted to make sure its first all-brassica product would dominate in preference testing. And because of its lettuce-type brassicas, Winter-Greens does — in spades. Winter-Greens does indeed dominate the brassica food plot market.

Winter-Greens is Specifically Designed for Late-Summer or Fall Planting Like other brassicas, Winter-Greens should be planted in late summer or early fall, depending on your geographic location. Because it’s

so tender and attractive, deer often hit Winter-Greens much earlier than they do standard brassicas. And when the weather turns cold, Winter-Greens gets even sweeter and continues to attract and hold deer into winter, an especially critical time when most natural food sources are too tough for deer to use or not even available, and other forage types can slow or stop production.

Latest Improvement: Winter-Greens Now Includes Small Amounts of Tall Tine Turnips The Whitetail Institute is never content to rest on its success. Instead, it continually looks for ways to make its industry-leading forage products even better. Winter-Greens is another example. In addition to the lettuce-type brassicas, which remain the backbone of WinterGreens, small amounts of the Whitetail Institute’s Tall Tine Turnip have now been added into the Winter-Greens blend. Tall Tine Turnip is the only turnip variety developed specifically for food plots for deer. The addition of Tall Tine Turnips to Winter-Greens will boost tonnage even more and help Winter-Greens keep attracting deer even later into winter, as deer will dig the turnips up even in frozen ground or under snow. If you’re looking for an all-brassica planting that maxes out on attraction and provides tonnage from fall through the coldest months, Winter-Greens is what you’re seeking. You can find additional information about Winter-Greens by going to www.whitetailinstitute.com or calling the Whitetail Institute’s in-house consultants at (800) 6883030. The consultants are available from 8 a.m. through 5 p.m., CST, Monday through Friday. The call and service are free. ^

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Managing for Optimal Autumn Nutrition By John J. Ozoga Photo by Dustin Reid

nlike domestic livestock, the whitetail’s behavior, physiology, digestive processes and resultant nutritional needs change seasonally. Individual requirements also vary according to the animal’s sex, age, reproductive state and environmental pressures, which tend to vary regionally. Hence, identifying specific nutritional deficiencies and determining corrective measures can be difficult — there are no “cookbook” solutions. For whitetails, autumn is an especially critical period — a time of physiological change and shift in nutritional requirements in preparation for the approaching stressful winter. Young deer are especially vulnerable to nutritional shortage during autumn because they must simultaneously grow and fatten. As a result, deer populations nutritionally stressed during autumn can suffer many consequences that set the stage for long-term herd-management problems. Some of these maladies can readily be identified and corrected with proper food and cover management.

Basics Whitetail deer fawns have the inherent ability to grow rapidly and assume adult habits at a young age, provided they live in favorable habitat and have good nutrition. Fawns don’t become functional ruminants until they are about two months old. Before that, they are dependent upon a good supply of their mother’s milk, which will vary in quantity (but not quality) according to the mother’s nutritional state. By the time fawns weigh 30 to 35 pounds, at about two months old, the rumen-reticulum portions of their stomachs achieve nearly adult proportions. They are considered to be in the juvenile ruminant phase when 50 to 100 days old. At least on Northern range, fawns are weaned during late summer/early autumn — generally in late August or early September. The quality and quantity of nutritious forage they receive immediately post-weaning will determine how well they develop physically, the amount of fat they store and ultimately their chances of surviving winter. Given a favorable supply of nutritious forage during autumn, fawns can double their body weight between weaning and the start of winter, but do not reach their maximum body size and fatness until


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early December. Some might even achieve puberty. It’s important to note that fawns must simultaneously grow and fatten during autumn. The critical body weight for northern fawns is 77 to 88 pounds. Animals weighing less than that lose more body heat from cold exposure; have shorter legs, making travel through deep snow difficult; and are more likely to die from malnutrition during long, cold winters (as experienced during 2013-14). This is not to imply that autumn nutrition is not important for adult www.whitetailinstitute.com

whitetails. The nutritional status of yearlings, in particular, during autumn will at least in part determine their adult stature, possibly even their survival prospects. For example, yearling does malnourished during autumn are less likely to breed and conceive young.

Autumn Requirements In autumn, whitetails show a strong preference for energy-rich foods high in carbohydrates. Acorns, beechnuts and other starchy mast crops — as well as apples, cherries, grapes and other wild-growing and cultivated crops — are choice deer foods because they promote fattening. When sufficient acorns are available, a deer will eat about one pound of them per day, per 100 pounds of body weight. Because fat reserves can be metabolized more readily than protein for energy needs when nutritious forage is scarce, storing fat in autumn is a mechanism that enhances deer survival during the food-scarce winter months. Like other seasonal events in the whitetail’s life, accumulation of fat is cued to photoperiod and is hormonally controlled — it’s an obligatory process. That is, all deer are inclined to store some fat in autumn. The importance of digestible energy versus protein in the autumn diet of fawns was demonstrated in studies my colleagues and I conducted at the Cusino wildlife Research station in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. During a 10-week period (October through mid-December), fawns provided diets higher in energy (3,000 kilocalories per gram of pelletized feed) exhibited better body growth and fatness as compared to those fed low (2,700 kcal) energy diets, regardless of feed protein content (16.2 percent or 6.6 percent). This indicates that autumn food sources high in digestible energy are critically important for proper fawn development, whereas the amount of protein in the diet is not particularly important. In other words, in autumn, deposition of fat reserves takes precedence over body growth among young deer. Fawns nutritionally stressed in autumn might be reasonably fat but stunted in size at the start of winter, a consequence that can carry into adulthood.

What to Look For Deer are classified as “concentrate selectors” — they carefully select the most nutritious and palatable forages. As a result, overly abundant deer tend to remove the most nutritious plants, leaving the less nutritious ones to flourish. Consequently, areas of over-grazed herbaceous growth might not give the devastated appearance you would expect. Certainly, not all areas need or benefit from intense autumn range deer management. The presence of pregnant doe fawns, yearling does that routinely conceive twins, buck fawns with infant antlers, yearling bucks with respectable multi-tined antlers and a fawn-to-doe ratio approaching or exceeding one fawn per doe are a few signs of a socially well-balanced and healthy deer population. However, some areas might suffer from chronic shortages of nutritious forage, especially during spring, summer and autumn, because of infertile soils, old-growth forests, lack of openings, deer overabundance, unfavorable climate and other factors. Obviously, where deer are overly abundant, the first order of business would be to decrease deer numbers. Likewise, frequent late-breeding/late-birthing, as more likely occurs in the South, probably signals a socially unbalanced and/or year-round nutritionally stressed deer herd requiring harvest management changes. Late-birthing is less likely to account for runty

fawns and small yearling bucks sporting poor antlers in the North. In contrast, some areas suffer the consequences of more sporadic autumn nutritional stress. As an example, periodic drought, especially in the South, or unusually early snow cover in the North can negatively affect young deer development and survival, as can widespread nut-crop failure. In the North, just three or four inches of snow cover can cause deer to shift from foraging on succulent herbaceous forage to eating energy-deficient woody browse too early. Or, persistent early cold weather and heavy snow cover can cause unusually early deer migration to wintering habitat, which is sometimes devastating to local deer herds. Fawns of small stature, a high incidence of non-pregnant yearling does, low conception rates among adult does, delayed autumn coat molt, yearling bucks sporting short-spike antlers and high winter deer mortality rates are just a few considerations that might indicate serious autumn range deficiencies and a need to re-evaluate autumn deerrange management practices. Obviously, monitoring the autumn health status of young deer (fawns and yearlings) is the best way to detect autumn range shortages and to evaluate the success of changes in management efforts designed to rectify the situation.

What to Do About It The best deer habitat is diverse. It contains a mix of food and cover in the form of trees, shrubs and small openings that provide a plentiful supply of nutritious forage year-round. Food plots are not a substitute for proper forest and deer-herd management, but they add valuable diversity to the landscape. Most important, when carefully planned, food plots can target specific seasonal needs and provide forage much higher in digestible energy, protein, minerals and vitamins than typically is available naturally. In some cases, even diet supplementation might be used to improve autumn nutrition for deer.

Habitat Management The goal of deer-habitat management is to provide favorable interspersion of food, water, shelter and escape cover. Generally, deer do best in early successional stages of forest cover with plenty of “edge.” Given the regional complexity of managing forest cover for deer, employing a forest consultant to devise a forest management plan is essential. Such a plan will use a variety of clear-cuts, select cuts and shelter cuts best suited to the timber species and conditions involved. However, the plan should emphasize the importance of deer, including the development and maintenance of favorable autumn habitat for them. Such planning should also involve the interaction of burning, planting and opening creation to achieve optimal habitat for deer. There probably is no other natural food more attractive and valuable to whitetail deer during autumn and early winter than oak acorns — and they grow just about anywhere. Although generally low in protein, few other natural forages provide more metabolizable energy or fattening power than oak acorns. Acorn production can be increased through wise forest management, sometimes involving planting of new trees. Protection of large oaks and selective thinning is recommended, because acorn production is directly related to tree diameter and crown size. It is wise to identify good producers and mark them as “save” trees. Because of the acorn’s value as a deer food source, it is best that the white oak

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and black oak groups be left within managed forests to ensure some mast production each year. Early successional forests dominated by aspen are considered good summer and fall habitat for deer across the North. However, their value for deer is influenced by stand size, site productivity, the mix of plant species, tree age and stocking level, and location relative to other stands. Moderately stocked stands, with their inherently thin canopies, allow sunlight to penetrate and thereby provide favorable growth of herbaceous plants. Aspen management for deer consists of cutting and removal of all trees in a stand (clear-cutting) to allow sunlight onto the forest floor, which stimulates sprouting from the parent root system. The economic rotation for aspen is usually 40 to 60 years. Forest openings are grassy fields or meadows comprised of grasses, legumes such as clovers and numerous other herbaceous plants. Most existing relict openings are the result of fires, historical logging or failed agricultural development. They are especially valuable to deer throughout the snow-free period. A general goal is to have five to ten percent of the available upland habitat maintained as permanent natural openings. For best results, openings created for deer should be one to three acres and irregularly shaped to provide maximum edge. A general rule is to have one or two openings for every 40 acres of forested land. Although the nutrient content and palatability of plants grown in openings for deer varies between various soil types, the diversity and abundance of herbaceous plant species preferred by deer is best on the more fertile soils. Because natural openings tend to be invaded and filled by trees, because of succession, some maintenance might be required. Burning, machine mowing, cutting with hand tools or application of chemical herbicides can control invading tree species. Forest openings can also be created with minimum work and expense by clear-cutting on sites not particularly well-suited to food plot management. The best sites are pole-sized hardwood stands less than 50 years old, where there is little or no advanced reproduction. Select sites that are poorly or somewhat poorly drained, or spots that are excessively well drained. Frost pockets are also good choices. Simply clear-cut all hardwood trees on areas one to ten acres in size. Sites dominated by good stump sprouters such as red maple, basswood or aspen should be cut during summer. Then spray the stumps with herbicide to minimize sprouting.

Food Plots The role of food plots in deer management is a relatively new science. Originally viewed with skepticism by most dyed in-the-wool wildlife habitat managers, the use of food plots to target spring and fall food stress for whitetails is now well accepted as sound scientific management. There are no cookbook formulas for creating and maintaining food plots for deer, because environmental factors are so highly variable from one region to the next. Texas A&M University scientist David Hewwitt noted “There is a bewildering array of forages that have been planted in food plots (at least 60 species).” For this reason, those considering establishment of food plots for deer should consult an expert for advice. Remember, although there might be regional similarities in autumn deer nutrition requirements, as well as associated problems and likely solutions, what works in the South might not in the North, and vice versa. Georgia scientist Karl Miller noted, “Obviously, winter stress is greater for deer in Northern regions compared to many areas in the


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South that have a milder climate and a greater abundance of natural forages during winter. However, even in Southern regions, winter nutrition can be a significant concern. Targeting supplemental plantings … to provide high-energy nutrition during fall to allow deer to maximize fat reserves before winter can provide significant benefits to a deer herd.”

Supplemental Feeding Providing nutritional supplements to enhance the diet of deer has increased sharply in recent years. In the North, it is frequently used in emergency situations to reduce malnutrition-related losses during severe winters. In the South, diet supplementation on private lands is routinely used to increase productivity and survival of deer in areas of inherently poor habitat. Studies my colleagues and I conducted in Upper Michigan showed that feed increased survival, body mass, antler size and productivity (conception rates among yearling does doubled). Commercially available pelletized rations formulated to meet the whitetail’s basic nutritional requirements are recommended for supplemental feeding of deer (Results Deer Feed). The strong case against widespread supplemental feeding of wild deer rests on economics, practicality and the potential spread of disease and damage to the associated habitat. Deer also readily use mineral supplements, available in granular or block form, during spring and summer, but their use during autumn seems minimal.

Conclusions Autumn for whitetails is a time of physiological change, a shift in nutritional requirements, increased need for high-energy food sources and fattening among all deer in preparation for winter. Because these changes are hormonally driven and cued to changing photoperiod, autumn fattening among deer is obligatory and takes precedence over body growth among young deer. Unfortunately, fawns (and even yearlings) must simultaneously grow and fatten during autumn, requiring a high-energy diet. Young deer subsisting upon an energy-deficient diet might become reasonably fat before winter but stunted in body growth, signaling the need for range management focused on increasing the amount of high-energy food sources in their autumn diet. Autumn can be a nutritionally precarious time for whitetails, especially at northern and southern reaches of their geographic range. Limitations in nutritious autumn forage sometimes might be because of overgrazing by too many deer, which can be remedied simply by herd reduction. In other instances, autumn nutritional shortages might be chronic because of infertile soil, adverse climate or otherwise unfavorable habitat. In contrast, deer in some areas only experience periodic autumn nutritional failure caused by drought, early snow cover, nut-crop failure or poor habitat management. A variety of habitat manipulations can increase the amount of highenergy foods available to deer during autumn. Although routine forest management (cutting, burning and planting) can improve autumn habitat for deer, intense oak management, opening creation and food plot management will produce the best results. However, all require careful planning and often professional assistance. Left unchecked, poorly managed autumn habitat will continue to produce poor-quality young deer that grow to be inferior adults. ^ www.whitetailinstitute.com

Islands in the Sea:

Why Farm-Country Food Plots Really Matter By Scott Bestul Photo by Charles J. Alsheimer

There were two days left in Minnesota’s archery season, and it was my favorite type of hunt. Bitter cold, stout winds, high pressure, six inches of snow and the moon hanging in the afternoon sky — bowhunting at its most plain and simple. All I cared about was making meat, and all the deer cared about was finding food. Would I be able to read the sign, pick a stand, endure the conditions and make a lethal shot? Sometimes, the most gratifying challenges are the simplest.

I had a couple of options for the afternoon hunt, but one stand stuck in my head. It hung from a cherry tree that grew on a field edge. Nearly bare of cover, the cherry was the only suitable tree for a hangon, so I’d cut a few leafy branches from a nearby pin oak, and then zip-tied them under the stand platform and on bare-limb branches near the stand. It wasn’t a great camo job, but it was all I had. Fortunately, the stand had been hunted only twice in our 100-day bow season. Maybe the hungry late-season deer wouldn’t suspect danger if the branches looked just slightly bigger on a cold December night? The food plot was, of course, my only hope. I was surrounded by farm fields — hundreds of acres — that had, only two months earlier, been bristling with ears of corn and pods of beans. That once-verdant


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salad bar was now gone, replaced by furrowed rows of plowed dirt. And the same whitetails that had for the most part left my food plots alone were now flocking to them. The brassicas that grew only a bow shot from my cherry tree stand now looked like a helicopter landing field, the snow sprayed helter-skelter in the circular patterns that indicate deer digging for food. And that evening, with the temps plunging toward zero and my limbs struggling to control my bow as I drew, I arrowed a fat, mature doe and called it a season.

Farm Country Conundrums I’ve hunted almost my entire life in the Midwestern agriculture belt, www.whitetailinstitute.com

where a huge share of the nation’s corn, beans and alfalfa are grown each year. And for many turns of the calendar, those farm crops are more than enough to feed whitetails. Check out a hayfield in June, and it’ll be packed with does and their newborn fawns. Scan some soybeans in late July, and you’ll see bachelor groups of bucks that will slacken your jaw. Glass a just-picked cornfield the first week of October, and it can seem like the whitetail circus has come to town. These scenarios have led many farm-country deer hunters to wonder what in tarnation a food plot is worth. How, they ask, can a small patch of whitetail seed compete with lush fields that stretch for miles? I’ve given seminars at several whitetail expos and hunter’s shows, and this is one of the most common questions I field. For the latest promotions, sales and news visit www.Facebook.com/WhitetailInstitute

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And the simple answer I give is, “They can’t.” There isn’t a food plot seed developed, a fertilizer strong enough, an herbicide or pesticide or piece of tillage equipment out there that can make your plots better than what a farmer can grow. When it comes to head-to-head competition, we cannot win. But here’s the thing: Our goal should never be to compete with a farmer. He feeds deer by mistake, at a time when there’s food in abundance. Our goal is to feed deer on purpose, at times when food is not only critical for them but hard to get. I like to think of farmcountry food plots as islands in an ocean. They might seem insignificant surrounded by row crops, but planned and planted carefully, they’re a lifeline for deer. Because the hard fact is, there are critical times in the life of a whitetail, and in the season of a hunter, when agriculture crops are pretty much absent. So let’s look at three of those times.

Spring Perennials Whitetail Institute kick-started the food plot movement with Imperial Whitetail Clover, which — let’s be honest — most hunters embraced as just another vehicle for helping them shoot more deer. But as hunters became more educated and morphed into managers, they realized that Imperial Whitetail Clover was far more than just a lushlooking killing field. It provided nutrition at a crucial time for deer and fits in perfectly with a farm-country food plot plan. Think about this: Across most of America’s Breadbasket, the corn and soybeans that get so much credit for feeding whitetails are not even planted until April (in the average year) and aren't a legitimate food source until many weeks later. Meanwhile, does are dropping fawns and lactating at one of the most stressful nutritional times of their entire year. And bucks? You got it. Emerging from a rugged winter and trying to not only rebuild emaciated muscle and skeletons, but pushing hard to grow that tall, branching set of antlers we all say we’re managing for. Traditional row crops contribute almost zero to this critical process. Imperial Whitetail Clover, which is one of the first things to green up in the spring, fills this niche perfectly. Green, highly palatable and packed with protein, it serves as the perfect bridge between the rigors of late winter and the bounty of summer for deer. When spring breaks, deer converge on the green stuff like mallards piling into the only open water in an early-winter pond. When does and their fawns, as well as a bevy of bucks, start working on a lush clover plot when the rest of their world is brown/gray, the reward is great.

Early Fall Mix Time Another period when a food plot can shine in farm country is early to mid-fall. I like to think of this as transition time, a season when ag crops hold some attraction for deer, but that attraction is in a constant state of flux. Take soybeans, for example. Depending on when they were planted, soybeans will suck deer in from July (when most plants blossom) through early September. But when the leaves on a bean plant start to yellow, deer avoid feeding on these beans until the pods are ripe and brown. In the Upper Midwest where I typically hunt, this period often coincides with the archery opener, and it can be a frustrating period for many bowhunters. The bucks hunters have observed easily during late summer suddenly vanish like smoke, and it’s not unusual to play catch-up with deer for a week or two. In my experience, those first


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weeks of bow season — often referred to as the October lull in the Midwest — frustrate hunters because deer are switching food sources. Acorns are falling, beans are drying up, and much of the green stuff deer enjoy eating is withered and dying. Because successful deer hunting means always staying on top of food, hunters waste valuable hunting time trying to figure out the latest, greatest food source. You can often short-stop that learning curve by planting several plots with an annual blend such as Whitetail Institute’s Pure Attraction. This mix of oats, peas and brassicas has been a killer early- to mid-fall plot for me whenever I’ve planted it here in Minnesota. I typically establish these plots in late July and early August, and by our mid-September archery opener, I’ve got excellent green forage at a time of year when that's tough for deer to find. I’ve also found if I can plant a fall-seeded plot like this in interior food plots (those close to or surrounded by timber, particularly oaks), I can offer deer a double-bang option that allows them to hit acorns and a food plot in the same feeding session.

Post-Rut Kill Plots Of course, the ultimate period for a farm-country food plot to shine is late fall and into winter. By then, almost every acre of agriculture that once offered whitetails a feeding option has been harvested, stalk-baled and chisel-plowed. And just as in spring, whitetails are now dead-dog serious about eating. With food sources dwindling and energy demands soaring (think bitter cold and possibly deep snow), deer simplify their lives. Meaningless wandering all but disappears as whitetails bed close to premium food sources and try to pack on the calories that allow them to recover from the rut and survive winter. My favorite food plot offering at this time is the Whitetail Institute’s Winter-Greens. These hearty brassicas have been an almost no-fail late-summer planting that can handle some drought (critical if I plant in August, one of our iffiest rain months) and grow rapidly, tall and strong. That towering leaf is important come December, when snow depths climb. Whitetails don’t have to dig quite so deep to reach Winter-Greens, but even if they do, the taste must be a powerful motivator. It gets better. Although I’ve had deer start chewing on my WinterGreens in early fall — which is fine, of course — in most instances, whitetails focus on other food until hard frosts release the sugars in the leaves. So just when dining options are down to near zero, Winter-Greens come into their own, just as the story in this opening illustrates. I’ve had spectacular late-season hunting over Winter-Greens, and the hearty, leafy plants continue feeding deer well into winter — and also make for a great place to look for sheds.

Conclusion I live in southeastern Minnesota, one of America’s top corn and soybean producing regions. And because many of my closest neighbors and dearest friends make their living as full-time row-crop farmers, I know firsthand of their expertise. It’s been quite a relief to not have to compete with them when it comes to feeding whitetails. When I plant food plots, I’m offering something my farming friends can’t — food when deer most need it, and at times and places when it’s also beneficial to my hunting and management goals. ^ www.whitetailinstitute.com

REAL HUNTERS DO THE TALKING about Whitetail Institute productsâ&#x20AC;Ś (Continued from page 47)



planted Alfa-Rack Plus in my food plot this year. This is the planting that attracted the most deer this summer and fall. I probably had over 1,000 pictures. This year, I had the most big buck pictures Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve ever had. Also, I harvested my best buck ever since I started hunting for deer in the early 1970s. I will be putting in more Alfa-Rack Plus this year. I also like reading Whitetail News magazine. Thank you.

have been using Whitetail Institute products for 10 to 12 years on two hardwood tracts in central Louisiana. One is a 1500 acre tract in Concordia Parish named Duck Pond Hunting Club and the other is a 1,215 acre tract in Tensas Parish named Hurricane Lake Hunting Club. We began with PowerPlant, and incorporated more Whitetail Institute products each year and now we use PowerPlant in spring, and in fall we plant Edge, No-Plow, Chicory Plus, Extreme, Alfa-Rack Plus and Imperial Whitetail Clover. We also use the 30-06 mineral supplement blocks and the new 4-Play blocks. Our goal was to have a herd of healthy deer with bucks that would score over 150, and we worked toward that by planting high quality seeds from the Whitetail Institute in the spring and fall on the food plots. Since using the Whitetail Institute products in our food plots on those two tracts, I have seen the benefits of providing quality nutrition to the deer with the increase of their body size and the mass of the bucksâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; antlers. The bucks have increased from 120 class to an occasional 140 class, and now we have more 140s, 150s, 160s, and a

Bob Cancilla â&#x20AC;&#x201C; New York

í˘˛ í˘ł


e have been on the Whitetail Institute program for years, in both Virginia and Pennsylvania. This past season was our best deer harvest ever. Even the neighbors are thanking us for our game management program. This season we harvested a 16-point, 13-point, two 11-pointers, two 10-pointers and some 8-points. We added four acres of Winter Peas Plus to our farm this fall. The results have been outstanding. A picture is enclosed. We have added 800 acres to our Virginia property and we will be adding food plots to this area next year.

Robert Wert â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Pennsylvania

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í˘ą record 182-2/8-inch buck that was harvested last January. It is important to me that every deer that walks out is not harvested. The club rules are that bucks need to be at least 8 points with an 18-inch spread and 4 years old or older unless it is a â&#x20AC;&#x153;cull buck.â&#x20AC;? If a buck is harvested, it has to be mounted. We simply want to give a big thank you to Whitetail Institute for making such great products. Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re excited to see what these two tracts will produce in the upcoming years. On the Hurricane Lake tract on Dec. 7 last season, Madison Keyes, a 17-year-old high school senior, harvested the 165-inch, 215-pound, 10-point in photo 1. Mike Centanni harvested the buck in photo 2 on the Duck Pond Hunting Club. Mike said this buck was 40 inches bigger than any buck he had ever killed. He took it to an official scorer who scored it at 182-2/8, and it weighed 225 pounds and had 16 points. Now that Mike had harvested his dream deer, he said, â&#x20AC;&#x153;If I never shoot a deer that size again, it would be fine with me. I praise God that I was raised in the outdoors and this deer is a gift from him.â&#x20AC;? Derrick Savage harvested the 140-inch 10-point in photo 3 on the Duck Pond Hunting Club two seasons ago.

Rena Pitts â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Louisiana ^

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 Vol. 25, No. 1 /





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/ Vol. 25, No. 1


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Vol. 25, No. 1 /


Joey Martin – South Carolina

Jason Egly – Indiana

I killed two pretty good bucks off Pure Attraction last year. However, my 11-year-old son killed this great buck this past Friday morning at the crack of daylight. I got down on all fours, and he laid my 30-06 across my back and killed him at 175 yards. The buck weighed exactly 230 pounds, a perfect 10-point. I’m sure you get stories all the time, but I have to tell this. In 1986, my dad gave me this Browning .30-06 rifle for Christmas. I was 14. The next year, I killed my first deer with this gun. Dad died on Jan. 3 of this year. He was a devoted hunter and fisherman and loved to get children involved in hunting and fishing. My son, Jayse, used that same .30-06 and killed his first deer. Thanks again to the Whitetail Institute for helping kids and families make life-long memories.

It was opening day of firearms season last year. My 12-year-old daughter, Zoe, and I were hunting from a buddy tree stand at the edge of our woods beside a patch of Imperial Whitetail Clover. A little over an hour into our hunt, a doe passed by at 15 yards, I told her to get ready because an 8-point buck with three broken points was not far behind. He followed the trail of the doe, and at 30 yards, I grunted at him. He stopped and turned broadside. I asked Zoe if she had him. She said yes. I asked, “Are you sure?” She said yes again and shot. The buck dropped where he was standing and didn’t move at all. It was her first deer on her first hunt for deer. Thanks Whitetail Institute for your products. Imperial Whitetail Clover is the deer’s first choice of our plantings.


/ Vol. 25, No. 1


Bridgett Morgan – New York

James Stuebs – Wisconsin My neighbor has a food plot and no matter what I planted, he always had more deer and bigger bucks. But not anymore. This year we planted Alfa-Rack Plus, and we saw more deer this one year and bigger bucks than we have in the last three years combined. My daughter got her first buck right off the Alfa-Rack Plus food plot. We sure had a good year. Thanks!

My family owns a small parcel of land in central New York and my dad does a lot of food plot work using exclusively Whitetail Institute products. On an average morning or evening sit we will see anywhere from 4 to 30 deer in any of our four food plots. I couldn’t wait until I was able to go with dad for the first time. Finally I was old enough when New York lowered the age to 12. Two years ago I went out two times and I couldn’t connect, due to the amount of deer we had all around us that they would pick up my movement every time I would attempt to draw my bow back. So my dad bought an enclosed blind for us to get in. The rest is history, my first time out last year, I harvested a doe with my bow and then on opening day of gun season I harvested this 6-point with my .243. My dad says repeatedly how the food plot industry has changed hunting forever and if you put in a little work in the summer, you reap the rewards in the fall. Thanks so much dad and Whitetail Institute.

Paul Graner – Mississippi I have been planting Imperial Whitetail Clover and Alfa-Rack Plus in my plots for the last five years. And also planting PowerPlant in my plots for the summer and have noticed a large increase in buck activity on my property. This year’s youth weekend, I had the pleasure of taking my 11-year-old grandson with me to hunt. Please see the picture that I have enclosed showing the nice 180-pound 8-point buck he killed with his .243 rifle over one of my Imperial Whitetail Clover fields. Note the smile on his little face. This is something money can’t buy and he will never forget. I am, of course, having it mounted for him as his Christmas present. Thank you Whitetail Institute for your quality products and making memories that my grandson and so many other young hunters will never forget. ^

Email your First Deer digital 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. For the latest promotions, sales and news visit www.Facebook.com/WhitetailInstitute

Vol. 25, No. 1 /


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 and visors are made from top quality cotton, and feature detailed embroidered logos and graphics. Beige Logo Cap

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