Adam Keith of Land & Legacy makes a comeback in this episode to talk more about food plots. He emphasizes the need to discover what’s lacking as far as what the deer need and try to fill that void. You cannot plant just anything and hope for a fantastic result. Adam directs attention to a deer’s instinct on wild vegetation and how it affects your plans. He also sheds light on supplemental feeding during the winter season. Learn more about land management so you can reap the maximum benefits for years to come.
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Land & Legacy Food Plot Part 2 with Adam Keith
I’m with Adam Keith from Land & Legacy and we’re talking about food plots. This is a segment of Adam’s discussion of food plots. The topic is you’ve got to grow what the deer want, not what you think they want or not the TV’s all-star.
Not what the people are telling you to buy.
It’s the greatest thing in the world and we all fall for marketing. A huge buck, gorgeous green field, and you’ve got to have X. If you have X in this bottle, if you put this on your thing or if you plant with Y, you’re going to have Booners of network. I’ll guarantee you there’s no sperm, no stud in the forest that have 180-class genes. You’re not going to have it.
That’s right, and I’ll add to that. You’ve got to give them what they want, but you’ve also got to give them what they need, then you’ve got to give them what you can provide them. If they need carbs and you don’t have any open ground, you can’t give them corn or you can’t give them soybeans. We’ll digest this the best we can from, “You’ve got to give them what they want. You’ve got to give them what they need.” One of the biggest things we see with our Land & Legacy consulting business is looking at something and going, “Okay.” When we look at food plots, nine times out of ten we’re planting food plots because we want to have more hunting success. We want to be able to at least attract more deer on the property. Maybe we’re not hunting over it, but we know that there are more deer in the area because that food plot’s there. Nine times out of ten, that’s why we plant food plots. It’s just so we can increase our hunting success. When it comes to, “You’ve got to give them what they want,” let’s look at it and say, “What do they want? What do they need?” When we look at what’s in the neighborhood, that’s one of the biggest things.
One of the properties I hunt is a working cattle farm and there are alfalfa fields. I don’t know how many acres, lots and lots of acres devoted to alfalfa because the farmer bales it for hay. It’s food for the cows and it’s also a great lagoon so it’s great forage for the deer. If I was to plant a clover food plot, which is right there providing the same thing, it’s providing protein. I’m not going to have very good success hunting because they have 200-plus acres of alfalfa that they can go eat on. Coming in that little clover patch isn’t doing them any good. Look at what’s lacking in the neighborhood as far as what the deer need, then try to fill that void. Don’t look at it and say, “This is what I’m going to plant and let’s hope that it’s fantastic,” and expect to see the same food plot and the same buck standing on it as you see on the bag.
It might work, that’s my disclaimer. July comes and everything has grown. The deer are out there. Their coats are slick and they’re looking good. The fawns are romping and stomping and some bucks are starting to grow out. You’re getting what’s coming along and you start dreaming about your hit list. August comes and then all of a sudden, something changes. In your opinion, what changes? It’s at that magic time, where did all the deer go?
In the Ozark Mountains of Southern Missouri, just as the sun comes up every morning, the same thing happens almost every single year. Every single year, early fall, deer vanish from the alfalfa fields or the food plots or they just vanish in their normal summer patterns. Where do they go? Almost always it’s because the acorns started dropping. White oaks and red oaks start dropping. Traditionally, it’s the white oaks first. As we said, you can have the best food plot in the world, the best food plot in the neighborhood but when the acorns start falling, there’s a good chance they’re going to start eating acorns. That’s one of those things that you can’t outcompete.
Why? Do the deer know there’s more nutrition, the protein content and all? How do they know that? Has mama taught them to do that or how does that work? Because they know it.
It’s instinct. There are some food plots you can plant that would probably be a better forage than an acorn. The thing about it is with an acorn, they’ve been doing it from the creation of a deer. They’ve been eating acorns. Regardless, you can’t take that instinct, that natural, that wild animal out of them and say, “Okay.” Because if you do, if you were successful in getting deer to stop eating acorns, what’s the difference between them and a cow? There isn’t much. You’ve domesticated them. The wild part about them is that they eat wild vegetation a lot of times, and a lot of times that’s in the form of an acorn.
I was hunting elk in New Mexico years back and we got into shrooming bulls. The bulls will find the mushrooms and it’s two or three days and you just got to be there. You can’t figure it out. It’s a certain elevation, a certain everything. When these mushrooms start coming up, they’ll literally stay in that contour and circle the mountain eating those mushrooms. I love mushrooms and so do bull elk. The first time I saw it, we’re seeing the elk and they’re doing all those wonderful things. The guide runs away from them and he says, “We’re going to intercept them.” We shut up, we just played the wind, did everything right and didn’t close the deal. It didn’t matter, it’s something I’ve never seen. Shrooming bulls, that’s what we called them because it was that defined time. That’s what they wanted to eat. They had all the other forage in the forest, but they were on mushrooms.9 times out of 10, you plant food plots so you can increase your hunting success. Click To Tweet
I think of a couple times growing up hunting, there was one farm that I got permission to hunt on. It’s a weird scenario, but all of a sudden, we started noticing deer on a defined pattern going from southeast to northwest. It was like, “Where are they going?” In the mornings, they were coming back and they’re walking across the pasture and we could not figure out where in the world they were coming from. We’re like, “There’s a house up there.” That only happened for about ten days. What we figured out one night, driving by the guy’s house is there was a pile of deer standing in his yard and they were all eating under an Arkansas Black apple tree. That tree was producing fruit that year. There were no acorns. That was the best food source in the neighborhood and that’s where they all went. We tried to take advantage of it the best we could and we saw a pile of deer during that little stretch of the window before they ate all the apples up.
They don’t have any texting, don’t have cell phones. They do communicate. They’re very vocal but it’s the instinct part of it. If it isn’t here, it’s over here and they can smell it. It’s interesting to figure all that out if you think about that.
It’s one of the greatest things about them is trying to figure that out. To me, that’s probably one of the most fun things about it, just trying to figure out that animal and going, “Where are they going?” and not just that where are they going. At that point, we knew they were going to that apple tree, but where is the bucks? They’re probably going to get there a little later. Where are they bedding them? Where can we get to them before dark, so we can see them during daylight? That’s the fun part.
My takeaway from this change of eating is simply to back off. Don’t keep pounding that field. Don’t expect them to be there where they have been and back off and go find them. Find them from a distance. They might not be on your farm. The bad thing is that they might not be on your land. They’ll probably come back to your land because you’ll see them again. If you can figure that out, then you can start putting it in your journal and say, “September 10, they disappeared but they went to Barney’s place because of X,” whatever it is. That’s how you’ll learn and that’s how you become a better hunter because if you can, you’d intercept them.
I think that goes into the strategy of food plots, of trying to figure out what to plant, what’s going to be the most successful thing for you. If you’re in timber country, you look at it and go, “There’s not a whole lot of corn or spilled grain during the winter, during those cold months, November through January.” During hunting season, by that point, most of the acorns are eaten up. There are not as many of them. You need a much better food source so probably the most success we’re going to have hunting will be a late season food plot. We always preach planting diversity, trying to replicate nature but you can plant diversity but still have standing soybeans or standing corn. You just add those other things with it. If you plant soybeans or corn in the spring, that fall, you turn around and you broadcast your grains, wheat, oaks and turnips, even some clovers in there to where you have that diversity, to where if the acorns are eaten up early in the season or you don’t have an acorn crop, you still have food available. You’re preparing for that success of when the acorns are eaten up, you have plenty of quality food source to hunt on during the latter part of the season.
I’m staying on this disappearance time. It gets back to these smaller food plots that you can entice them with something that they like. It may work and it may not. I don’t know that.
That’s a great point. When you look at, “What are they going to do?” we know they’re going to feed during the night and they’re going to bed down during the day. How do we know where they’re going to bed down and where they’re going to feed? If you have a woodlot that’s got great acorn scattered through it and that’s the time of year where they’re eating acorns, I know they’re going there but I know they’re bedding here. How about we place a little kill plot, a little transition plot in between the two, probably more closer to the bedding area? That way I can slip in and hunt as they’re working their way to the big chunk of timber where all the acorns are at.
What would you put in to entice them? Because it’s mid to late September, what do we put on the ground to entice them?
That goes with the question of what can I plant? You’ve got to plant what they want. When we say kill plot, let’s say it’s always under three quarters of an acre to where it’s something you can shoot all the way across. That’s 40 yards wide. You can’t plant soybeans in there because they’re going to eat them in the summer and there’s not a chance that they’re going to make it. You can’t plant corn in there because you might get some growth but there’s too much competition with the surrounding trees. One of the best things you can plant would be a blend of clover, that being the majority of that food plot area. That way, it can grow and produce great forage even with the trees around but most importantly, it can take the pressure that will likely happen being that close to the bedding area.
We get bedding area within 100, 200 yards. It depends on your forte because they could be bedding in a little swamp or up a ridge, against the acorn trees and they’re munching. We’re talking 100 yards.One of the biggest misconceptions is that you got to have a big land to kill a big deer. Click To Tweet
That’s where it comes down to. You may want to put a food plot in between the two but it’s side slope and there’s not a chance. You’re going to do more damage than good. No matter what we’re doing, food plotting, for scrub fire, timber stand improvement, we ask ourselves, “Are we leaving a good footprint?” Ten or 50 years down the road to where what we did was beneficial or is it more detrimental? If it’s beneficial, we’ll do it. If it’s detrimental, we’re not going to do it.
That’s why you need a plan for your land. Land management plan, everybody knows what that stands for. Adam works with QDMA, check them out. You get all the information in the world you could want from those guys. Just go to QDMA.com. Land management is so important because it’ll help you figure out where you can put up the best situation for your food plots, for your stands, for your sanctuaries. They can cover all that, it will make sense. As in their name, Land & Legacy, it can be on-going for ten years. I got a friend in Wisconsin, he’s been growing and managing a plot of land, 40 acres. Every year, he takes 140 or 150 deer or better amongst the competition. It’s taken him that long to get there. You don’t have a lot of stands on these 40 acres, but he’s planned it out. He knows almost every tree’s name, I think. He’s put that much into it and it’s amazing what he’s done.
He started off, “How am I going to compete here along Mississippi River, Trumbull County, Buffalo County area.” Good bucks, good genes, everything was there. I used to do, “It’s illegal. Let’s go to the bar,” when I was in college and growing up. Your hunting has changed because it was tradition. There were ten to twenty people hunting in our group. We’d meet at the farmhouse and say, “You go here.” There’ll be a guide just like hunting in Europe. There’s a hunt master and he says, “You go here, you’re going to drive. This is what we’re going to do. We’ll see everybody in about an hour back at the barn.” That’s what we did, then you killed two, five or ten deer. It didn’t matter because we ate them. We ate them and made jackets and all sorts of good stuff with them.
I was talking to some of them and I can remember the barn. You’d pull up and they’d have lights and stuff and this big plank tables. There’d always be something for the morning and then when you come back in, it’d be lunchtime. There’ll be lunch, then you’d hang the deer. You come back and then we take care of the deer before we start playing cards or having a beer, whatever. Then you’d have a feast and there’d be ten or twenty people, kids and women. The old guys, the elders, which I am now, they’re telling stories, “I remember Jimmy Jones. He missed that buck.” They start telling stories. I’m a little off food plots but hunting is a tradition and it’s the stories. It’s a fellowship. It’s all those types of things that the non-hunters don’t get. If you don’t hunt, get around somebody that has hunted and the whole family’s hunted. Listen to the stories because the killing doesn’t take long. It takes me about three pounds of pressure to pull a trigger and the bullet’s gone and it’s over in less than a second.
You talked about anti-hunters or non-hunters. Look at it from a standpoint. I try to ask myself this question, “What’s the best chance we have at getting them into the outdoors?” Is it going to be by saying, “You want to come deer hunting?” because you want to try and kill this big deer or is it going to be, “You want to come to deer camp? We’re going to fry up a bunch of this food, hang out, we play some cards, have a lot of laughs.” We make it up and go hunting, we may not go hunting. If we kill something, we know we’re going to eat it. I think that’s going to be the better way to get them in the outdoors than saying, “You need to start this because you want to have the biggest buck on the wall.”
I showed you that picture on the Roger’s Farm, along the Buffalo River. There’s not twenty people anymore in the family.
How many people hunt it now?
We got 30 on the farm and you can’t hunt it. As the kids grew, everybody’s got 160 of his own or 180 or 40, and 20. We killed 120 acres along that river because you know it. You learn things along the way. We’ve got one stand and if you do it right, you can kill deer. We’ve got one behind the storage sheds. Every year, somebody will go in there and kill a buck and a doe on opening day. Why? Because it’s the fall. This thing is 200 yards off a highway, behind storage sheds. It’s just a bull. A lot of bedding area and sanctuary. We’ve got a ground line in there. We’ll take a kid in there, drop him every opening weekend, either Saturday or Sunday. You got to set it through, you will kill a deer in there. It’s excellent. It’s surrounded by houses. It’s in the county but this house is there. It’s amazing when you start making twenty acres.
That’s one of the biggest misconceptions is you got to have big land to kill big deer. If you have the right twenty or even the right five or six acres, you can kill good deer.
It’s the family’s land so we can hunt it but those people right up on the ridge, they’re listening to us banging away. You’ve got to give Whitetails what they want, when they want it and that’s the other thing. We talked about this and I know a lot of people like to feed deer. A deer ruminates and so they eat a specific thing. You know more about this, the biology of it. When they breakdown in browses, what they went around in. In Wisconsin, some of the deer yards were notorious before the wolves came in. Huge acreage. You can see the browse line where they go up and they couldn’t get any higher. They get this deer yard so they could lay there and move around and feast. That’s all they have. There wasn’t anything else. With this supplemental feeding, it changes. Tell us about the pros and the cons of supplemental feeding for deer during the wintertime.
During the wintertime, as you mentioned being a ruminant, as they’re eating different things they’re building up bacteria where they can breakdown the food. If you go out in an area where deer have not consumed any corn and you start dumping corn on the ground and they start eating it, then it builds up the bacteria in their gut to break it down. You’re going to end up killing them because they can’t break down that food. They have a belly full of corn and they die of starvation. That’s definitely something you need to look out for. That’s why we preach so much about land management and habitat improvement is hopefully you can do some things on your farm to where you don’t have to rely on the bag of corn. You can know that they’re getting quite a bit of food in the work that you’ve done. A lot of times it’s just as simple as going out with a chainsaw and cutting down some trees that aren’t going to have any income in the future. You’re cutting species that are softwoods and they’re never going to make a valuable log. You’re cutting that tree down and now you’ve taken the canopy of that tree and you’re making all this forage available 100-foot in the air, then you bring them back down to where a deer could reach it.
That’s in the form of young growth and young forest regeneration. A lot of times that’s what we do in TSI projects is go in and cut the trees that aren’t ever going to make any value and know that what comes back, whether it’s that tree sprouting or it’s all the weeds and other forms and things that are growing around it because you opened up the canopy and let sunlight hit the forest floor. In the real estate side of it, I’m a real estate agent as well, you look at the farms that look ugly because there was a logging operation that went on. You’re thinking, “It’s ugly. There’s so much growing. There’s so much underbrush.” That’s where all your native food is. It’s in that native vegetation. Food plots aren’t as important on those farms as it could be on a farm that’s got wide open park setting where you can see 200 yards to the timber.
With that folks, we’re going to close up on, “You got to grow what they want and have it there when they want it.” On the next segment, we’re going to talk about having food January 1 through December 31st consistently. You got to give them what they want, when they want it and what they need. Deer know what they need, you’re just going to help them find it. Adam, how do people get in touch with you should they want to reach out and have a discussion?