Taking a Look at Our 2017 Food Plots
Mapping It Out:
When hunting season ends at Double Cluck, that means it’s time to start planning for the next one. With unseasonably warm temperatures spreading through Central Illinois in February, it sure felt like Spring was going to get started a little early but reality hit this week with about 6″ of snow. Although we still have some controlled burns to get accomplished and some fish structures to put in lakes, a snowstorm in March means we can sit down and start planning out our year at Double Cluck.
With as many food plots as we try to maintain from year to year, it’s best to plot things out on a map. The beauty of integrating technology with this process is that we can also get an estimated acreage for each plot and ultimately each type of plot. This will help when it comes time to start fertilizing, spraying, buying seed and so on.
Click on the map to see what we have going on. You can zoom in, hover over each food plot and see information about each.
Food Plots 2017
Breaking It Down
As you can see, we have each plot broken out for this season. Each plot fell into a specific category…Food Plots, Wetlands or Sunflowers. These are our most basic categories around the property.
Wetlands will be planted to corn this Spring but some areas remain wet or collect more water than others. These areas are generally planted later to Japanese Millet or Buckwheat depending on if the soil is wet or has dried out by June. (Buckwheat tends to do better in drier soil while Japanese Millet can grow even when broadcast onto a mud flat.) The addition of Small grains will help us capitalize on early season birds, create decoy holes around our blinds and make sure we have as much feed as possible in our wetlands even if we can’t get areas planted to corn.
Sunflower fields are tough to manage when it comes to disease and volunteer plants. One of the best ways to help control disease and volunteer sunnies in your fields is through crop rotations. With almost 15 acres set aside for dove hunting, we are rotating our fields within one another. One half of the field will be planted to Winter Wheat each fall and then we can fall till the other half preparing for Spring planting. In larger fields the wheat and sunflowers will be planted alternating across the field to help spread hunters out and keep doves moving from one area to another. Next year each field will be planted just the opposite creating an effective crop rotation within the 15 acres designated to our sunflower program. We will use Spring Barley or Wheat, if available, to fill in any areas that didn’t grow well this Spring. These seeds will mature ahead of the sunflower seeds and allow us to start mowing them a little earlier without sacrificing our sunnies and the doves really seem to love them as well!
Food Plots are the most vague of the three categories. Each food plot is broken down by specific seed that we intend to plant in each food plot this year. This takes into account what was planted there last year, if we are doing controlled burns in that area this year, (which means we must replant) or whether it should sit fallow. One of the best sayings I have ever heard about managing for upland game is “the best food plot is last year’s food plot”. Sometimes we get to focused on providing food and cover for next Winter, that we forget to leave cover and nesting habitat for the Spring and Summer. This philosophy is important for imprinting on waterfowl during the Spring migration, geese during the nesting season and help us in providing shelter food and cover for wildlife throughout the entire year.
Below is a breakdown of our seed mixtures we like to use and why…
- Beans: We will be doing around 8 acres of beans this year. We plant a mixture of regular soybeans and forage beans mixed together at about 50/50. Beans are simple to grow and with these two blended together, you get a nice mix of food and cover. The forage beans (generally a Large Lad variety) can get as tall as six feet and usually arch over in late Fall which provide food and cover during heavy snowfall. The soybean is usually preferred by deer but won’t hold it’s pods as long as the forage bean, by mixing them together you get a great plot for deer and upland.
- Corn: We currently have about 6 acres of corn to plant outside of the corn for our wetlands. We are not so worried about producing high yield corn in our food plots and will generally only spray them once with little to no fertilizer. We will however try to plant them into areas where we had beans last year. On the right years we will get a nice mixture of volunteer beans and short (maybe waist or chest high) corn. The corn will generally sit fallow the following year so the better the cover we can produce the better. If foxtail and other species grow back between our rows, it just means the birds have another feed source and more cover from aerial predators.
- Milo and German Millet: With another 6 acres to plant this year we will be doing one of our favorite upland blends. Sometimes it doesn’t work out if growing conditions are to dry but when both plants grow in together, the results are amazing. Grain Sorghum, also known as Milo, will grow thick and put on tons of seed. It is a great combination of food and cover for upland and deer alike. German Millet or “Brown Top” millet is a nice seed to broadcast over the milo after the planting process is complete. Generally do this right ahead of a rain to ensure better seed to soil contact. The millet will help compete with other plants such as foxtail and other grasses that will choke out your milo. Milo is not roundup ready so controlling grasses can be difficult in these plots. The Millet will help control these grasses…It actually looks a lot like a giant foxtail plant but its seed head is bigger and dark brown.