In our travels looking at land, timber and recreational properties, we meet many interesting people with a variety of talents and expertise. Recently, I met Mark Buxton, who is a very talented professional in the area of habitat management. Mark’s expertise is manipulating and enhancing wildlife habitat to promote trophy bucks, turkeys, ducks, quail and other species of game all around the country. He created one of the most successful hunting properties in the southeast. This resulted in Mark being awarded the inaugural Al Brothers Deer Manager of the Year Award from the Quality Deer Management Association.
After spending a half day on one of our larger more diverse properties we have for sale, it was clear to me that Mark’s knowledge and character made me want to develop a relationship with him. I asked Mark if he would let me post a few short simple articles on our web site to stimulate some thought to our readers and he agreed to share some with us. This is the first of hopefully many articles that we hope you will enjoy, help you with your wildlife, and raise some questions for Mark or myself. Mark’s contact information will be at the end of all articles and many thanks to you, Mark.
As a wildlife habitat consultant working throughout much of the southeast, I find that the clients and hunters I work with always ask the same question. What’s the best thing to plant in my food plots for deer? In a perfect world there would be one plant that worked in every state and every field, but that’s just not the case. I usually answer this question with a few of my own. Where is your property? What type of soils do you have? Do you want a harvest plot or a nutrition plot?
Have you ever noticed how most of the ads for food plot seed show a field somewhere in Iowa or Illinois where the soils are some of the best in the country? How many ads do you see for food plot seeds that were planted in the sandy coastal plain soils of the Carolinas or Georgia? How about the rock hard clay soils of upstate Carolina or Georgia? The reason for this is that the number of food plot components that can survive in these environments is very limited.
I tell most of my clients that a food plot should feed as many deer as possible for as many days as possible while providing the highest level of nutrition possible. On the sandy soils of the coastal plain there just isn’t one food plot component that is capable of doing this. Therefore, a mix of several good components that are in full production at different times of the year is what is needed.
A mix of oats, crimson clover and arrowleaf clover is hard to beat. When planted in late September and early October the oats will provide a quick green up and a carbohydrate source throughout the fall and winter. The crimson clover will provide a late winter and spring protein source until it goes to seed and dies off in late April. The arrowleaf clover will provide a protein source from late spring until mid July when it seeds out.
The beauty of a plot like this is that both crimson and arrowleaf clovers are excellent seed producers. The plot can be disked very lightly the following fall and the seed produced from the prior crop will germinate and produce a stand. Oats can be spread on the ground before this light disking and you will have a complete mixture. If maintained correctly you should not have to purchase clover seed for many years.
The period from July to September when none of your food plot components are in production is an excellent time to spray the plot with Roundup to remove any weeds. You can actually do nothing to the plot and the crimson clover will reseed on it’s own, but the arrowleaf clover has a hard seed coat that must be scarified, so a light disking is best. Just remember if you disk the plot too deep you will bury the tiny clover seed and it will not germinate.
If you are blessed to have some heavier bottomland soils then Pennington’s Durana clover is for you. Durana is the only perennial clover I have seen that can continue to produce throughout the year here in the south. Although it will become dormant during a dry period, a few rains will put it back into production in a few days. I have several stands of Durana that are 5 years old and look as good or better than the first year of production.
Remember, just because a bag of seed has a picture of a big buck on the bag and the seed producer tells you it will work everywhere, it just isn’t so. You have to consider your soil types before purchasing any food plot seed. The combinations I described above have worked for me for many years and they are just what I am planting this fall.
Southeastern Wildlife Habitat Services
P.O. Box 95
Ehrhardt, SC 29081