|Over the last 15 years, landowners and hunters throughout the United States have focused their attention on supplemental feeding programs for wildlife, particularly the white-tail deer. I believe there are two major reasons that have made it necessary to implement these programs. (1) Timber harvest has been heavy throughout most of the nation and the endless hardwood bottoms of yesterday that covered forest floors with acorns are now seldom seen. (2) Large row crop farming operations that were plentiful in the 1970's are gone now and no longer supply wildlife the diet of high protein crops such as soybeans, wheat and corn that were once abundant, especially in the southeast.
The Wildlife Group recommends a simple, environmentally sound method of strategically planting mast and fruit producing trees that will supplement any supplemental feeding program on a permanent basis. We offer a variety of trees that will offer cover, food, and nesting that is sure to increase habitats and the wildlife population as a whole. With a little time and effort through the first few years, these trees are capable of production in five years.
The major concept of the Permanent Ideal Food Plot is to supply wildlife a year round, permanent source of food. The cycle begins in spring with Honeysuckle blooming and producing new sprouts of growth relished by deer. Fertilized Honeysuckle is very high in protein (16%) and is a major food source for deer where it is available. When summer arrives, the fruit trees fill with apples and pears and begin to drop around August, providing a tasty tart deer cannot resist. Any experienced bow hunter knows to keep a stand near a productive Persimmon tree; look for Persimmons to fall in mid October. When winter arrives, the Sawtooth Oaks will fall first, followed by acorns from the oak trees which should be on the ground in December and January. One mature Sawtooth Oak can produce 1,000 pounds of acorns a year. When the acorns are gone, the annual green plots in the fall will last until spring and the cycle starts again. Don't wait another year to install your Permanent Ideal Food Plot. When the trees begin to produce, we are sure you will be glad you did.
- Location and Size Selection
- First, let's start by saying that anywhere you can plant hard or soft mast trees will greatly benefit wildlife. The Wildlife Group suggests planting around new or established food plots. Most wild game food plots have the right soil makeup, moisture content, and with the help of fertilization, make the ideal spot to start your trees. In addition, trees planted in food plots receive full sunlight, allowing for faster growth. Almost all fruit and nut trees perform best in full sun.
After the location has been selected, a variety of hard and soft mast trees are recommended. Trees of different species will mature and drop at different times which will extend the time that the tree plot will be productive. For example, we frequently use different species of Crab Apples in the same tree plot because their fruit matures at a different rate.
The ideal size of the complete Permanent Ideal Food Plot is 5 acres. Choose an area that is well drained and receives good sunlight. We recommend a variety of different hard and soft mast producing trees and shrubs (see Food Plot Cost Comparisons). Place your trees in straight lines approximately 40 feet away from the edge of the field. Consider the size of equipment such as disks and bush hogs, and space rows of trees accordingly. Plant your trees completely around the field edge leaving the center section for your annual green plots. When you go in to bush hog, disk and fertilize your green plot, you can easily include the trees, allowing much better growing conditions for quicker production. If you do not have 5 acres available, use several one-acre openings with different varieties in each to create a series of orchards on your property (old loading areas work well for this method). NOTE: Varieties may be substituted to owners' satisfaction.
- The first step in planting is preparing the hole. No matter what size tree is being planted, the general rule of thumb is to prepare a hole twice the diameter of the existing root system. However, it is only necessary for the hole to be slightly deeper than the root system. The larger hole allows for lateral growth of the root system. Caution should be used not to compact the soil around the tree or the newly dug hole.
Once the hole has been prepared with soft edges, some fresh soil should be added to the bottom of the hole. While placing the tree in the hole, be careful not to bend the roots upward. Adjust the seedling so that the root collar, the portion of the tree where the root becomes a stem, will be at ground level . We then suggest filling the hole half way and place one tablespoon of Double Action 9 month slow release fertilizer in the hole, then completely fill (this will fertilize the tree for one year). See Planting Instructions
- Proper Field Care
- Once the trees are planted, we suggest the "Plantra Jump Start" tree protectors. Tree protectors are plastic tubes that allow some sunlight to penetrate. Tree protectors act as mini greenhouses conserving moisture and increasing carbon dioxide levels around the seedling and have been shown to increase seedling growth by 600 percent during the first two years. In addition, they serve as protection from hungry wildlife that eat the fresh young growth. Protection is also needed from bucks who have a habit of rubbing young trees in open areas.
- Production Times
- Mother Nature plays the key role in production time on anything growing in the wild. However, there are several steps you can take to help speed up the production times of your trees. Soil samples taken will give proper fertilization rates and types of fertilizer that will allow better growing conditions. Annual pruning and spraying at the base of trees will allow better growing conditions which will in turn help to produce quicker. Bush hogging and weed eating will also enhance growth by eliminating weed competition and allowing better sunlight to reach the tree. Remember, the more care given to the young trees, the better results you can expect. Mark all trees with forestry ribbon to keep the trees visible.
- Tree plots are an excellent addition to your already established winter plots. They do take longer to become productive, but tree plots will create very predictable feeding areas, and a one time planting will potentially last a lifetime.
The Permanent Ideal Food Plot, once matured, provides excellent quality forage and can annually produce five to 10 or more tons of quality forage per acre. In comparison, most forest habitats only produce 50 to 500 pounds of quality forage per acre annually. It's easy to see why the Permanent Ideal Food Plot can easily help a deer herd flourish and increase antler development tremendously