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Minimum Size for Food Plot


LittleM
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I am in the process of clearing a section of overgrown pasture (multiflora rose, Japanese barberry, Japanese honeysuckle, some sort of privet species, and Autumn olive).  It's a real PIA, mostly because I don't have access to a dozer or excavator.  I am going to clear and then herbicide and then hopefully get a disc in to turn the soil.  So I am wondering what the minimum size would be for some success, meaning attracting deer and keeping enough feed through the hunting season.  I am thinking of just planting corn.  I will prolly fence until September then open it up.   Any thoughts?

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Be sure to get a soil sample from the area you will be planting and send it out for analysis.  You can get a soil test kit from your county Rutgers Extension Office for about $20.  The first thing you need to worry about is the pH of the soil.  The pH dictates the availability of the nutrients in the soil that are plant available.  More than likely, the pH will be low and you will need to get some lime on the ground.  It takes time to adjust pH so the sooner you get lime on (if needed), the better.  Next, depending on what you are planting, in this case you mentioned corn, you will need to fertilize the soil to get the best results.  Corn needs nitrogen to produce grain at a rate of about 1 lb nitrogen per bushel of expected yield.  If you do get soil test and need help, feel free to contact me and I can help you out with lime and fertilizer recommendations.

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On top of soil conditions, a food plot will support about 3 1/2 deer per acre from everything I've read.  If you have a high deer density as most of NJ does, the fencing of the plot while it grows will become critical unless you have enough acreage to overcome their browse pressure.  I'm not sure if you own the land you are looking to do this on, but the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) which is part of the US Agriculture Department, has grants for private landowners some of which can help you get a wildlife food plot established.  The funds might help offset hiring someone to do some of the work to prep the area and/or plant it for you.

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Another thing to consider is the length of the year that your food plot will feed deer.  Corn is one of the shorter crops.  Clover would be on the other side of that coin and is a year round plot.  There are tons of options including doing two or more types.  I've been researching this a bunch myself for my NJ spot as well as having done these for decades on our PA farm/hunting camp.  We do mostly corn and clover in PA, leaving up 5 acres of corn each year and letting our farmer cut our clover for silage or hay.  But we've tried other plots from the QDMA or other whitetail crop suppliers.   

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The WMAs down this way, very sandy soil, often (or used to) plant winter rye. Definitely was a good attractant for the deer and seemed to grow pretty well.

 

Some of the local farms up north here plant winter rye as a cover crop and the deer are in it often.  Pretty sure it's an annual unlike clover which will give you 3 - 5 years until it gets filled with unwanted weeds.  That's another consideration - annuals versus perennials.

 

For me here in NJ, my biggest issue is a lack of equipment to till the soil.  If I had a tractor or a quad with planting implements, it wouldn't be a big issue.   

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Don't let Bucksnbows know that I said this since honeysuckle is considered an invasive, but if you fertilize the honeysuckle you jack up the protein content.  The honeysuckle stays green into the winter and makes a great winter food source in addition to providing good cover.

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Don't let Bucksnbows know that I said this since honeysuckle is considered an invasive, but if you fertilize the honeysuckle you jack up the protein content.  The honeysuckle stays green into the winter and makes a great winter food source in addition to providing good cover.

 

Unfortunately, true.  But then again, deer love autumn olive as well.  And clover which I like to plant for food plots is European  :)

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Its not my property but I am very lucky to basically do what I want.  The area I am interested in is a mosaic of old overgrown pasture, think of three relatively narrow fingers coming off a hay field and extending into an area with high rocky overgrown forested areas, basically some white ash and cedar choked out with barberry, rose, olive, honeysuckle, and I forgot to mention originally, American bittersweet.  Its a real invasive species paradise.  The invasives have since taken over the pasture areas. Its thick.  Pastures prolly total 5 acres, but I would not convert all of it because I would never be able to watch it all from any one spot.  I'd like to take the largest area I can see from a good stand vantage point, considering the wind and the route in and out and make the plot.  I could get maybe an acre.  It would be so secluded and buffered from adjacent properties and the road that no one would be able to "cut me off" as deer traveled to it.  But I am thinking that if I cannot get an excavator in to clear I can't get it done.  It would prolly cost me the same amount in Round-up as the excavator would if I tried to burn it all off. But I might see if I can get the farmer in there with his scoop tractor.  HHMMMMM, maybe after a 30-pack...................

 

As far as soils and nutrients go, I have that covered.  As far as the corn versus other species, the corn would be best as it would be different from the other crops planted in the area.

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i am basically in the same boat as you...i,m going to cut it next week than lime the hell out of it...than in the spring spray it all ..give it 2 weeks than lime it again. than using a ground hog maxx (check it out online) going to till it for the first time and than again before the august planting..the first year i'm going with whitetail institute oat with winter wheat mix...and just cover the feild with clover seed the flowing spring..important to do the ph test..i know if you need atleast a 6.5 to 7.5 ph and you have a 5.5 you will need a ton of lime per acre ..witch will take 6 months to really get down into the soil. also no matter how much lime you put down your soil will only absorb so much. so it might take to seasons of liming to get it right.

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As far as the corn versus other species, the corn would be best as it would be different from the other crops planted in the area.

 

In addition, standing corn provides cover as well as food while other food plots create big open spaces with no cover.  

 

The best hunting I have ever experienced was a 5 year period on my Uncle's farm when the corn was left standing until spring each year.  There were 2 nasty thick overgrown pastures full of multiflora and honeysuckle and 50 acres of standing corn all winter.  The hunting was phenomenal.  

Edited by Rusty
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The fact that your property was old crop land or was pasture land makes a difference.  Since it was likely tilled in the past, it should be much easier to prepare now other than the nasty invasives which prefer to take over former agriculture fields much more readily than former and current forest habitat.  Sounds like your farmer might have the equipment you need to use to get it opened up and planted.  You might run a Brush Hog through it and have someone follow with a healthy dose or Round Up for the stumps of the invasives and natives so they won't grow back and then plant.  But I think corn would require those root systems to be fully removed which is more work.  

 

The site I'm considering is currently and has always been forested land.  It is currently completely free of all invasives, but there are tons of tree stumps (or will be after my logger clears it for me this winter or next). 

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Just remember the 7P's.

 

Prior Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance.

 

Make a well-thought out plan and go over it to work out as many issues as possible, then do what you can to prepare without the equipment and then when you're ready, rent the equipment needed. This way you'll only need the rental equipment for a minimal amount of time.

 

Here are two places that my brother and I have rented from numerous times, backhoes, bobcats, 1ton rollers, augers, you name it we've rented it from these places. Even though it would be awesome to own all this stuff, it's easier/cheaper to rent it. 

 

Grand Rental Station: http://www.grandrentalnj.com/index.asp  (Hackettstown NJ)

HomeCraft Rentals: http://homecraftrentals.com/index.asp       (Ledgewood NJ)

 

Pretty sure you will find everything you need in earth-moving and lawn & garden.

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