How To Cut Mineral Stumps For Deer

msu stump 2

Ever noticed how whitetail deer love to browse the sprouts from recently cut tree stumps? 

Marcus Lashley, assistant professor at Mississippi State’s Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture, has figured out why—and developed a simple, cost-effective way to create more good feed for the deer on your land.

Marcus had long noticed that even when forbs and other foods were in abundance, deer still preferred to browse the sprouts from cut hardwoods when available.

“As a kid sitting on a tree stand, I noticed that deer were eating from the stump of a hardwood I’d cut down. I was curious about why, because hardwood trees are nutritionally poor for deer,” he said.

With research funding through MSU’s Forest and Wildlife Research Center, Marcus and grad student Don Chance cut a range of red maples (a species known for being nutritionally poor), and measured the nutrient quality of the leaves. They also monitored the stumps’ attractiveness to deer with game cameras.

They found that the sprout growth from cut stumps had much higher nutrient levels and was highly attractive to deer.

“Trees maintain an even distribution of nutrients throughout the roots and above ground foliage,” Chance said. “When the tree gets cut, the nutrients get redistributed, and the tree up-regulates the nutrients in its roots into the sprouts on the stump, which leads to nutritious forage for (deer).”

They found that tree cutting is especially beneficial during the summer, when plants begin to dry and lose their nutrients.

Cutting stumps during the summer months stimulates new growth that is 2 times higher in protein and 3 times higher in most minerals than before being cut. This makes the woody regrowth as nutritious as most food plots.

Marcus and colleagues plan to expand their research by select cutting other species of hardwood trees that produce no mast and have little food value for deer, and examining the nutrient loads of the sprouts that might benefit deer.

This new understanding of what they call “mineral stumps” will enable hunters and land managers to create more food for deer, especially during times of lean forage in the woods.

“All it takes is a chainsaw,” Marcus said.

By cutting/clearing some maples and other tree species that have no value to deer, you’ll not only create mineral stumps where animals will browse, but you’ll also open up the forest canopy to let in sunlight, which will generate more weeds and forbs on the ground.

Imagine the deer forage you’d create if you went bigger and select cut/thinned 20 to 30 acres or more, leaving the oaks and soft mast trees. In short order, you’d have a nice mix of highly nutritious mineral stumps and ground forbs, plus high-carb mast for deer.

For more info on MSU’s Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture in the College of Forest Resources, visit

11 Easy and Affordable Food-Plot Tips For Deer Hunters

food plot planting datesIf you own or lease some hunting ground, it’s time to get your hands dirty. The better you plan, build and maintain food plots over the next several months, the more deer you’ll attract and hold on your land come September. Here’s a 12-pack of pointers to help you do it.

Design Before You Dig

On an aerial map, look for strips and pockets of open ground toward the interior of your property that you can turn into ½-acre plots. “Inside” planting keeps your plots—and the bucks they will attract–away from roads and the neighbors’ fence lines. Also, the closer you build a plot to thick bedding cover the better your chances that a mature 8- or 10-pointer will pop out into the plot to grab a bite one evening this fall. And think back to past hunts on the land. Whitetails are habitual animals that come and go in the same places from year to year. Where have you seen the most deer and found the found the most trails, rubs and scrapes over the years? Plant your plots in and around areas of established deer traffic.

Think Small

Rather than trying to plant and maintain 3- to 5-acre fields like deer managers did the old days, it’s better for the average hunter (you and me) to scatter 5 to 10 smaller plots across your land. Green strips and pockets of ¼- to one-acre are easier (and cheaper) to plant, maintain and hunt. Small plots are all the rage with the best deer biologists/managers these days.

GPS Your Plots

“Use a GPS receiver to measure the exact area of every food plot you build,” says Bill Gray, an Alabama wildlife biologist.  “Knowing the precise acreage of your plots will prevent over-applying seed, fertilizer, lime and herbicide. Better crops are always produced when the correct amount of seed, fertilizer and lime are applied.”

Plant North to South

“Configure plots to run more north-south than east-west,” says Dr. Grant Woods, one of the top deer biologists and land managers in the world. “Growing plants will get adequate sunlight each day, but they won’t bake in the summer.  The northeast corner of a slope generally has the moistest soil and is a particularly good spot for a plot.”

Logging Road Eats

Is your land crossed with old logging roads? If so, you’ve got a great opportunity. Clear, disc and plant 300- to 1,000-yard strips of wood roads with clover, which will provide tons of feed for the deer. Since the roads are already open, it’s an easy way to feed and attract deer.

Best Soil Sample

I can’t stress enough the importance of a soil test before you plant a single seed. Dig 5 or 6 six cups of dirt from various spots around a plot area, mix well in a bucket and come up with one representative soil sample. Have it tested at your county extension office or a seed company for recommendations on liming and fertilizing. Bonus tip: Ideally your dirt would have a pH level of 7, or neutral. But usually it’ll test 4 to 6. Keep in mind that it takes a ton of lime per acre to raise the pH one point, and it takes lime months to work most efficiently. Plan well ahead of time.

Plant Clover

For more than two decades wildlife habitat expert Neil Dougherty has experimented with food plots across the Northeast. After evaluating more than 1,000 test plots he’s found that planting a 60/40 mix of perennial clover like Imperial Whitetail Clover and chicory in late spring is best. By mid-May the clover, which has 30% to 35% protein, is producing major tonnage, and the chicory (40% to 44% protein) kicks in soon thereafter to provide a steady food source for lactating does and bucks putting on new antlers.

And More Clover…

I have lived in and hunted across the Mid-Atlantic all my life, and I have experimented with lots of seeds and blends in this region. Good old Ladino clover, which you can plant most anywhere there’s adequate soil moisture and sunlight, is still hard to beat here, and in most places. Ladino clover is a high-quality perennial (about 25% protein) that, once you plant it, will last for 5 years and can be easily over-seeded from time to time. It is low-maintenance, and that’s important because many hunters don’t have a lot of time and money to put into plots year after year.

Strip Plant

Here’s a trick I learned from fellow Virginia hunter Jim Crumley. Jim created Trebark Camouflage back in the 1980s, and now his obsession is growing and holding bucks on his farm. Jim clears, works and then plants a 10-yard-wide by 100-yard-long strip of clover…he leaves a 20-yard strip of natural vegetation like blackberry or honeysuckle beside it…then clears and plants another strip of clover…leaves another strip of native growth beside that and so on, until he has a one- or two-acre field full strip planted. “You have a smorgasbord to attract deer year-round, and the strips of native growth provide not only browse but also edge and cover for bucks,” he says.

Oats in the Mix

Here’s a killer strategy for the Midwest, say from Michigan to Ohio to Missouri. In late April or May, plant a couple of 2- to 4-acre fields with soybeans. (If you don’t have the equipment for the big job, it pays to hire a local farmer to do the work.) In August to mid-September come back and plant a 20- to 25-yard strip of Buck Forage Oats all the way around the beans. With rain, the lush, green oats will pop up and attract deer during the October bow season, and the soybeans, which contain 20% to 25% protein, are a great food source for Midwestern deer from November to January.

Kill the Weeds

All plots no matter the size should be treated with a herbicide to control unwanted grasses and weeds. Spray plots when weeds are four to 12 inches tall. Your local farm co-op can recommend a good herbicide and click here to see some great info from the QDMA.

2018 Pennsylvania Deer Harvest Highest In 14 Years…State “has never managed whitetails better.”

???????????????????????????????From the York Dispatch: “The (Pennsylvania Game Commission) reported that a total of 374,690 deer were harvested during the state’s 2018-19 hunting seasons, which closed in January.

“That total tops the previous year’s harvest of 367,159 by about 10 percent.”

The 2018 antlerless harvest of 226,940 was up about 10 percent over last year. Data show that most does—64%–killed by hunters were 2.5 years old, and the remainder were 1.5 years old.

The 2018-19 buck kill of 147,750 was down 10% from the previous season. The commission says that steady, heavy rain during opening weekend of gun season was the biggest reason for the decline—it kept a lot of hunters out of the woods, and the bucks didn’t move well in the poor conditions.

During any year, about half of Pennsylvania’s overall buck harvest typically occurs on opening day of firearms season. It’s like that in many states.

In a positive trend that you see in states across the country, the percentage of older bucks in the 2018-19 PA harvest was high. About 64 percent of the bucks shot by hunters were at least 2½ years old.

“That almost two-thirds of the bucks…were at least 2½ years old is a tribute to the science our deer managers use and the sacrifices a generation of hunters made in the commonwealth,” said Bryan Burhans, the game commission’s executive director. “The bucks being taken every day in Pennsylvania’s deer seasons are living proof that this commonwealth has never managed whitetails better.”

In the photo: Longtime BIG DEER blogger Terry “Big Daddy” Murphy shot this buck on October 16, 2018 on his land in Potter County. It was Big Daddy’s 40th archery buck in 40 years of hunting Pennsylvania, which is a 1 buck per year state. 

Grow Better Food Plots: Whitetail Institute Soil-Test Kit

WINA_Soil_Test_KIt_Front__16956.1370791652.1280.1280Whether you are a novice or expert at food plots for deer, whether you plan to plant 2 plots or 10 on your land this year, the first and most critical step to success is to do a soil test and determine the pH of the dirt you’ll be working.

Some soils are heavier than others…other dirt is lighter. Some soils hold moisture longer…some dirt dries fast… You get the idea–not all dirt is created equal. By testing the soil where you’ll be planting to determine its exact pH, you’ll know how much lime and/or fertilizer you’ll need for the planting process and optimal forage growth.

This test kit from Whitetail Institute gives you everything you need and makes it a breeze. Dig a dirt sample, put in a Ziplock and mail in to their lab. Easy-to-read results are emailed to you within the week, and often in a day or two. Best part: professional consultation from the pros at the Institute is included, and you can follow up with a call to their 800 number for further recommendations and to answer specific questions.

If you want to grow better food plots, this will be the best $15 you ever spent on Amazon Prime.

Good luck and have fun playing in the dirt!


Deer Food Plot Seed: Frosty Berseem Clover

nj jeff frosty plot seed

Our friend Jeff Herrmann, who is managing his New Jersey farm for whitetails, tells about a new seed blend you might want to try in your food plots:

“One thing I started growing this year is Frosty Berseem Clover, which is relatively new and would work great for a lot of guys that don’t yet know about it.  

“Berseems are very fast growing, but most are not cold tolerant. What makes Frosty unique is that it stays alive into freezing temps. As a bonus, it tolerates very wet soils (even standing water for days). That means it can be fall planted, even in very wet years like this one, or in chronically wet fields. It still puts on tons of growth before winter.

“Most of what you see in this picture is Frosty. I planted that section mixed with winter rye. Test plots have shown it to be one of the most preferred whitetail clovers available.”

For more on Frosty Berseem Clover click here.