Monthly Archives: December 2010

You Want to Plant What?? Benefits of Diversionary Food Plots in Agriculture

Here is a blog I put together on a concept I like to call Diversionary Food Plots!

From the Patriot LWM Blog:

When the idea of planting food plots for white-tailed deer rolls across your tongue in front of concerned community members or agricultural professionals fed up with deer damage, the response is often the same. “You want to plant what??? The last thing we need around here is more deer, and feeding them will surely do just that.”

This statement is not far from the truth but the reasoning behind why it’s a good management decision may surprise you. 

The Origin of a Concept:

When Patriot LWM first began management efforts on a 250 acre tract with 132 acres of crop production agriculture and the remainder in timber and other cover types, the deer damage issue was at a breaking point. Hunter harvest practices were the first issue to get a facelift on the property including the increase in the reduction of adult female deer (does) and implementation of other techniques in line with the principles of “Quality Deer Management”. Initial population analysis identified the need for an extremely high number of female deer to be removed from the property, so much so that alternative harvest techniques needed to be considered.

 Supplemental Food Plots:

A well rounded wildlife management program incorporates habitat and forage management into its population control measures. So as a wildlife manager I am somewhat partial to the idea of supplemental food plots as a way to create a year round nutritional program for the overall health of my white-tailed populations. Food plots of varying species (such as clover, chicory, cow peas, etc.) with varying maturation times can be installed to supplement existing food sources (row crops, acorns, etc.). They can also fill gaps in the deer’s diet after other food sources are exhausted, such as after crops are harvested or acorns are depleted. Depending on their intended use and location, it is very simple for supplemental food plots to double as a diversionary food plot as well.

 Diversionary Food Plots:

My definition of a diversionary food plot is simply a plot installed for the purpose of diverting a deer’s feeding attention off of one source and onto another, such as off of row crops and into a clover mixture. Once again, your species selection along with its location will be the main determinate of the success of that diversion. Planting something deer have no intention of eating until late December will be of no comfort as the corn and soybeans get devoured in late summer.

Patriot LWM installed a mixture of clovers and chicory based on their perennial nature requiring minimum maintenance and also their high tolerance to deer pressure.   

For the purposes of our project, Patriot LWM  worked with the farmer and located a mutually beneficial site on the property. 15-30 feet of field edge bordering existing tree lines were donated to the “diversionary food plot fund”, another fact which raises eyebrows in an agricultural community hesitant to give up tillable acreage to the wildlife battle.

Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of this technique.           

Running the numbers:

Farmer:

  • Low yield in these sacrificed rows already due to deer damage on edges and shading under the “drip line” of trees
  • Reduced expenses on unused acreage
    • Seed
    • Fertilizer
    • Lime
    • Herbicide application
    • Fuel for equipment
    • Wear and tear on equipment striking trees
  • Hunters gladly supplement the cost of food plot installation for own benefit
  • Increased yield in the remaining acreage
  • Increases recreational lease value of the property

 Hunter:

  • Supplemental food source for improved health of deer population
  • Increased harvest opportunities
    • Creates harvest location along edges when normal standing crops would hinder harvest
    • Deer can be concentrated to particular areas for increased harvest
    • Brings deer to the “staging areas” near fields earlier allowing for more harvest opportunities before light expires
    • Keeps local deer populations on the property long after crops are harvested allowing hunters chances to increase harvest throughout the course of the regulated hunting season
    • Attracts deer from neighboring properties which may not have effective management programs to allow their harvest during daylight hours instead of them entering onto the property to feed outside huntable hours.
    • Provides space for hunter access to remove harvested deer while crops are up

In later blog entries we will take a closer look into the specific results of this project but initial findings are very positive. Diversionary food plots coupled with educated hunters practicing the principles of “Quality Deer Management” should be an option worth exploring for many landowners and farmers trying to win the war on deer damage. Stay tuned!

The Thankless World of Community-Based Deer Management, A Hornets Nest for Certain

Here is a blog on Community Based Deer Management I wrote for the Patriot LWM Blog:

Deer vs. human conflicts are increasing nationwide as a result of their prolific reproductive potential, a decrease in natural predators and an increase in perfectly designed deer edge habitat created by suburban development.

The problem with these issues is this:

  • A white-tailed deer’s reproductive potential doesn’t show any signs of slowing, although science is working on it
  • I don’t see significant numbers of wolves and other effective predators making a stand in suburban areas without quickly becoming the new human conflict
  • Although slowed by the recent economic climate, development will continue to occur in some form or another across the country, and even if it was to cease completely, the current community issues would still exist

These 3 problems usually first present themselves in the suburban fringe adjacent to agriculture or large green space. The conflict has an increased potential to occur were large numbers of humans interact in that fringe, better known as suburban communities.

A community-based comprehensive deer management plan is a complicated undertaking which should not be taken lightly. There are many deer management options available to a community ranging from fencing, scare devices, repellants and alternative horticultural plantings to multiple different options of population reduction techniques. Truly effective results are only achieved if done on a community wide scale through the proper procedures involving all stakeholders in the process. Community meetings, surveys, presentations from wildlife professional and more are all part of an effective path towards addressing the deer vs. human conflict. Even with the most diligent planning, be prepared for the simple fact that “You can not please everyone”. Managing the deer vs. human conflict is about locating that happy median between the two.

Read the linked story about a Patriot LWM managed project as it appeared in the Frederick News Post. (*Disclaimer* all numbers, pricing and figures in the article were inaccurate and/or used out of context by the author). This community did everything within their power to exercise due diligence in the process, and were ready to stand their ground because of it. Be prepared for that moment when one community members private agenda meets a reporter looking for a story. Welcome to the world of “Wildlife Management” . More to follow…