Food Plotting During Drought/And Over-Grazing
With pretty much all of my plots planted in soybeans so far this year, I was overly confident that they would lead to a very successful fall hunting season…and then the rains didn’t come. Oh, some of the plots turned out ok but on my farm in Iowa the combination of deer browse and lack of rain pretty much cut my soybean yields in third if I’m lucky. At this point in the growing season (late July) I have some decisions I need to get ready for. All is not lost by any means, and I’ll explain why.
Food plot attractiveness is by and large a product of competition. In farming areas, especially in areas where the crops are abundant, it takes a heck of a food plot strategy to compete with what the farmers are planting. But when drought strikes, believe it or not it actually gets easier for the hunter planting food plots as few farms are replanted in the fall. And if you are planting the food plots in areas where there is little farming to begin with, drought just means you have to adapt going into the fall.
For my soybeans I have a couple more weeks to watch and see what happens. The same goes for a drought stricken corn crop. There are a bunch of options to choose from but over the years I have come to rely on two choices for drought stricken plots. I should point out this would also be the same scenario and decision process I would go through If I a planted a small bean plot that simply got over browsed during a normal rainfall year.
Option 1: If over the next few weeks I determine that there will be no soybean crop, I will most likely disc up the ground in mid-August and plant a brassica blend if my intentions are to hunt this plot throughout the fall but want a standing crop for late season. If my only intentions are to hunt this plot during the archery season say into mid November, I will hold off working the ground and planting until about the first week of September at home in Wisconsin or even a week later on my farm in Iowa. I still like a brassica blend for this but will mix in some oats or winter rye. It goes without saying that planting these crops in the fall requires some rain to get germination. It can get tricky but for me I don’t worry about what I cannot control and thus over the years I just plant at the times mentioned above and for the most part it does work out. If you have more than one plot on your farm that needs replanting, try both methods as this will increase the variety of food available and spreads out your risk with the rains.
Option 2: If I determine that there could be some beans that make it to fall and would rather leave the plot intact, I will overseed the entire plot in mid-August with a brassica blend. In this case, the ground is not worked at all. I use a hand held seeder and simply broadcast the brassica seed right over the top of the soybeans. The brassica seed is incredible at germinating with a little rain without any tillage. If the edges of the plot are completely destroyed, I have already over seeded the middle of the plot in mid-August and worked the outside edges up and planted with either the straight brassica blend or with some added oats or rye in early September. This will yield a plot with some beans and mature brassica in the middle and some young fresh green growth around the edges. Could you ask for a better plot?
I don’t get too stressed out over drought or over browsing because there are very effective methods in recovering from the scenarios. Oh, and I probably should mention that in most cases I won’t even bother fertilizing again. And remember, in the case of a drought if you are lucky enough to get some rain in the fall there is a very good chance you will have the best food sources in the area with very low competition; setting yourself up for a very good fall hunt.