Secrets to Early Green Field Planting for Deer
Day 1: Why Northern Hunters Plant Their Green Fields Early for Deer with Chris Kirby
Editor’s Note: If you'll get your green field crops in the ground early, then they'll come up in your green field prior to deer-hunting season. Let's look at some of the advantages you can enjoy by planting your green fields early, fertilizing natural plants and creating unconventional green fields.
Chris Kirby, the president of Quaker Boy Calls in Orchard Park, New York, has learned some years ago what other northern hunters only just may have recognized - the benefits of planting green fields for deer hunting. However, Kirby realizes that for the best northern food plots to attract whitetails and produce additional nutrition for the deer, he can't plant the same crops as southern landowners do, since northern deer often must feed in areas of deep snow during the winter months.
"You need to get your fall and winter green-field crops in as early as possible, so that they'll have a longer growing season and produce more food for the deer prior to cold weather," Kirby explains. "Just watch for the farmers when they begin to plant their fall and winter crops. When they're planting, you also need to be planting - often as early as late July, but definitely in August and September to prepare for winter. You won't get as much forage for deer if you wait until late September or October to plant.
“At this time of the year, I recommend you plant a green field with a number of turnips, kale and rape in it. Before frost hits, even if you have poor soil, your turnips may become as big as golf balls by then. If you have really-good soil, the turnips may be as big as baseballs or softballs. Once the frost hits, it pushes those turnips up out of the ground. Then the deer can feed on these very-sweet, sugary-tasting turnips. An advantage of having turnips in your early-season planting is when the snow comes, I've seen deer dig through the snow to get down to the turnips. Since the turnips are on top of the ground, the deer don't have to dig through frozen ground to get to them. Another thing the snow does to the turnips is it causes them to put out an odor that the deer can smell through the snow. The deer can follow that odor, dig through the snow and get to the turnips."
Most northern hunters haven't planted green fields for as long a time as hunters in the South have. According to Kirby, "Perhaps this is because of the number of agricultural and large dairy farm operations in many sections of the North. There's a lot of soybeans, buckwheat and corn grown in my part of the North, and here, generally hunters rely on the agriculture to feed the deer and to pull the deer out into the open where they can take them." But since farmers harvest most of the agriculture before deer season arrives, hunters will find little agriculture left by the time they actually can hunt. That's part of the reason why more and more hunters in the Snow Belt today plant green fields - to harvest deer and to feed deer during the region’s harsh winters. "What many hunters don't realize is that in the North you generally don't have to have a 50-acre field to plant food plots for wildlife," Kirby says. "Most of the food plots I plant are only 1/4- to 1/2-acre in circumference."
Kirby also recommends that northern hunters plant product that has many-different seed types in it. Then each kind of seed will mature at various times of the year. You need to plant a product, so that your first crop often will come-up within 10 to 14 days of planting. When that crop reaches maturity and starts to die-off, a second crop will mature.
Tomorrow: A Mistake in Planting Green Fields Is Failing to Get a Soil Test with the Whitetail Institute’s Steve Scott