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Troup extension agent: Wildlife management — Food plots for deer

This is the time of the year that most deer hunters start thinking about food plots.

Evidence from all the soil tests that UGA Extension processes indicate that many hunters in Troup County plant food plots. The variation of what’s planted is very diverse as well, from alfalfa to soybeans to chicory and chufa.

The cost of establishing a typical 1-acre food plot, according to the University of Florida, is approximately $260. Before spending that kind of money, there are several considerations that shouldn’t be overlooked.

The first consideration that should be looked at is what is the overall purpose of the food plot:

• Are the food plots going to be used to even out the seasonal fluctuations of the natural forages on your hunting land?

• Are you trying to increase the carrying capacity of an area for deer?

• Are you trying to improve the health, nutritional status and quality of the deer herd?

• Are you using the plots to attract deer to your stands?

• Are you planting food plots for more than one game species?

• Are you going to establish a summer or fall plot or both?

More considerations are the location, size and distribution of the food plots. Deer feed along edges and need close proximity to escape cover. If the plot is upwind of escape cover, they will often avoid those plots. Try to avoid frequently flooded bottoms that will make food less available and may prevent establishment.

Abandoned fields, natural meadows, fire lanes, utility right of ways, edges of interior roads often make good locations. Lots of sun is also important for good forage growth. Proximity to water and away from human activity will also promote the use to the food plot.

The size of the food plot usually should range from one to three acres. Several small plots are preferable to one large one. Deer are reluctant to graze in the center of a large field. A good rule of thumb is that you should have from 3 percent to 10 percent of you hunting land in food plots. On 100 acres at least 3 to 10 acres should be in food plots.

Irregular shaped plots located near edges work best but usually are impractical from a standpoint of being able to fence them. Fencing may be required to allow establishment of the forages and to keep cattle or feral hogs from damaging the plots.

The first step is to soil test so that you know how much lime and fertilizer that needs to be applied before you start planting. Other considerations are selecting the forage species for your target game, establishing and managing the plot. To learn more see below:

Planting food plots for deer: The how, where, why and when

Harris, Meriwether, Muscogee and Troup County extensions are sponsoring wildlife program on Sept. 1 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Oakhurst Farm, Ga. Highway 219 in West Point. The farm is located just south of Jones Crossroads — the intersection of Ga. highways 219 and 18. Dr. Mark McConnell, UGA wildlife outreach specialist, will be the guest speaker. To preregister, call Brian Maddy at 706-883-1675 or Susan James at 706-672-4235. There is no cost to the program. Space is limited so call soon.

What’s going on in Extension?

• Georgia Master Cattleman Program starting Sept. 6. Tuesday evenings from 6:30–8:30 p.m. at the Ag Center. Eight classes. Cost is $75. Call for more information.

• Market on Main: Every Saturday Morning from 8 to 10 a.m. Come by and enjoy the pick of the day. Carmike Cinemas LaGrange 10 theater parking lot at East Depot and Main streets.

If you have any questions or concerns, stop by or call the Extension office.

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By Brian Maddy

Contributing columnist

Brian Maddy is the ANR Agent for Troup County Extension. The Troup County Extension office is located at 114 Church St. in LaGrange and may be reached at 706-883-1675, Monday–Friday 8 a.m.–noon and 15 p.m.