2018 Food Plot Update

Spring rains boost crops in Central ND
Fallow next to new crop

The food plots we planted earlier here in central North Dakota are doing very well. We have been getting rain literally every three or four days this spring – much better pattern than in 2017. As a result, both the soybeans and corn, and the weeds, popped pretty quickly. We use Roundup Ready seed we get from Pheasants Forever, and so we waited this year until the weeds came in thick before hitting them. In the past we have hit the fields with glyphosate once after turning it up and once again after emergence. We have now learned that waiting until everything is well-established and then hitting it works better, and is more cost effective. We used a 2 ½ % solution in our ATV sprayer and sprayed on June 8, about four weeks after planting.

Corn and beans intermixed

We planted corn and beans simultaneously through the same planter, so we will have rows of beans and corn intermixed. This was more a situation of mixing the seed on hand in order to have enough to complete our seeding. Ideally we would switch corn and beans in alternate years. As noted earlier we also fallow half our fields each year and then rotate to planted crops – so we have half fallow, with old crop still standing, and half new crop each year (see pics). The sorghum we get from PF is not RR, so we planted a strip which we plowed up, hit with RR and then planted the sorghum. We planted heavy enough so it would choke out any weeds and it looks like it will work.   Note there are two types of sorghum – grain and forage. We planted forage once and it grew 10-12 feet tall – stick to the grain type.

IT'S ALL ABOUT THE EDGE

Planting May 13
New crop next to old

This year we made a special effort to cut our larger 10-acre food plot into smaller chunks easier to hunt. So we cut it in half by running the cultivator across it a couple times to make a 25 foot break. We also either tilled up the edges or hit them with glypho to keep it bare and clear.  I expect we will have to till about once a month until September to keep it open. Now any roosters will likely take flight rather than run across the open areas or scramble to the end of the field.  As a bonus, young broods of upland birds will be working these edge areas as they have more insects and quick cover. Plus the Huns love an edge.

Break in center of large plot

The other beneficial practice, from a wildlife standpoint, is to back your food plots up to cover – we have all our plots next to cattail sloughs. Come winter-time in ND, the cover provided by these sloughs and the nearby food source means life or death to pheasants, huns and deer. We don’t have turkeys; the sharpies evolved here so can take care of themselves – but without cover and a ready food source we will lose a lot of pheasants to the elements.

Lots of edge, adjacent to slough

The pics included show us planting the food plots on May 13th, the break midway thru the big food plot, the mix of old crop and new crop, and all the edge that was created. I’ll post some additional pics in September after the crops mature. We leave everything in year-round, no harvest of any kind. Not coincidentally, we have critters in the plots year-round also. As this is written (late afternoon) there are likely a few mallards, a bunch of doves and a pheasant or two working the fields. Muddy prints also indicate deer, coon and coyote nighttime visits.

Want to extract a few birds from this mix this fall? Check out our "Hunting Packages" link above. 

The author is a former US Fish and Wildlife Service and US Department of Agriculture manager. In retirement he owns and operates Prairie Smoke Ranch, located in central North Dakota, the duck hunting hub of the northern plains. All rights reserved.

 


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