What to Plant in Deer Food Plots

food plots for deer 005Time to start thinking about what to plant this spring:

If you live and hunt in the Northeast: Try planting a 60/40 mix of perennial clover (Imperial Whitetail Clover is my favorite) and chicory. Later in July or August, plant a couple of cool-season (fall) plots heavy with brassicas and the like.

If you live and hunt in the Mid-Atlantic: Trebark camo creator turned deer-management guru Jim Crumley plants good old ladino clover on his 300-acre property along the James River in Virginia. “It’s a low-maintenance, high-quality perennial (25% protein) that, once planted, will last for 5 years and can be easily over seeded,” he says.

If you hunt in the South: If you have the land, equipment and money plant corn and soybeans. After Labor Day, plant plots and strips with fall attractants like wheat, oats or clover.

If you live and hunt in the Midwest: Some of the best big-buck hunters I know in this region plant 2- to 4-acre fields of soybeans in May. From late August to mid-September, they come back and plant 20-yard strips and borders of oats around as many of the bean fields as they can. The green oats will attract deer during October, and the beans (20% to 25% protein) are the best food source for Midwestern deer from November to January.

Potential State Record Mule Deer Sheds!


My friend Ricardo, a New Mexico hunting outfitter who specializes in limited-entry archery hunts for giant mule deer, found this antler on public land. Look at the size and deepness of the front and back forks–that is what you look for on a trophy mule buck.

The shed taped out a tad over 96 inches. “If you double the antler score for the other side and give him a 30-inch spread the buck would score 223 4/8, potential state record! I’ll keep looking for the other side.”

Picture below is last year’s shed off the same buck. “He put on a lot (tine length and mass) this year, but lost the extra point,” Ricardo says.

Deadline to apply for the New Mexico mule deer and elk draw is March 21.


Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD): Should You Eat The Deer Meat?

cwd map







Map: Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance

This fall you shoot a whitetail or a mule deer in an area where CWD is known to be present in the deer herds. How do you handle that deer…should you eat the meat?

Research has shown that in an infected deer CWD prions may be present in tissues and body fluids, including blood and muscle, but they are most prevalent in the brain, eyes, spinal cord, lymph nodes, tonsils and spleen. Thus, it is recommended that hunters in a CWD area wear gloves and bone out harvested deer (or elk). Take extra precautions when cutting around or handling organs where CWD prions are most likely to accumulate.

Biologists have told us for years that there is no evidence that CWD can be transmitted from deer to humans. But now, meat from deer contaminated with CWD may be more dangerous than originally thought, according to ongoing research conducted by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the University of Calgary.

At this point in that study, 2 test animals that were exposed to CWD by being fed infected meat have become infected with CWD.

The implications here are enormous and game-changing. The CWD Alliance now says on its website: Public health officials recommend that human exposure to the CWD agent be avoided as they continue to research the disease. Accordingly, hunters are advised not to eat meat from animals known to be infected with CWD.

If you shoot a deer in a known CWD area, you don’t know for certain if that individual animal is infected with CWD. It may be or it may not be. Experts now say to have your animal tested for CWD before deciding whether or not to eat it. Contact the state/local wildlife agency for info on procedures and submission locations.

Sounds reasonable, but how practical is it for most hunters, especially those in the backcountry? How many hunters will go the extra step to have the meat tested? How is the test conducted, how long does it take, how much of a hassle?

Lots of questions that lead to big dilemmas. Every good hunter wants to kill and process an animal cleanly, and feed the venison to his family. Every good man or woman protects his family at all costs; if there’s the slightest risk that deer meat can be harmful, he or she will discard it.

If you so throw out a deer, is that considered wanton waste, which is illegal as it should be in virtually all states?

Then there is this. Even if you get your deer tested, the CWD Alliance says: remember, while disease testing is an important tool for detecting CWD, it is not a food safety test.

I say research where you are hunting, and know if CWD is a potential risk in the area. If so and you shoot a deer that looks, acts or smells in any way sick, obviously don’t risk the meat. If you shoot a deer that looks and acts normal, have it tested for CWD and go from there and make your decision—safety first

How Deer React to Extreme Hunting Pressure

???????????????????????????????Researchers at the University of Georgia put GPS collars on 13 does and monitored them during a period of extremely heavy hunting pressure with deer dogs.

Every doe hung out and hid in her core area until the dogs got too close and the heat too intense. The does then ran a mile or so out of their familiar area and found thickets where they could shelter in place.

Deer are crepuscular, wired to move at dawn and dusk every day. Once the sun started setting and the dogs and pressure ceased for the day, every doe got up and made its way back to its core area. Every doe was back home within 12 hours.

What it means to you: Bucks are crepuscular too, so you can surmise they do the same thing when subjected to pressure. They’ll try to hide and wait the pressure out, but when things get too intense they’ll run a mile or so and hide in a hole where there’s no pressure, no human intrusion. But eventually, after sundown, they’ll start making their way back home.

2017 EHD Tracker: Outbreak Spreads in Kentucky

KY more ehd bucks 2017

Jeff sent me this picture via Twitter of 3 more bucks dead from EHD in eastern Kentucky.

This update out of Pikeville reports a “significant outbreak,” and that authorities are responding to incidents at the rate of “1 dead deer a day and sometimes up to 3 dead deer a day.”

What is especially troubling about this occurrence of EHD is that it started so early, in late July, and it might not end till October, or whenever the first hard frost kills the midges that bite the deer and transmit the disease.

I have not heard any other reports of EHD across the country. Let’s hope it stays that way, but let me know if you hear of an outbreak anywhere.