We’ve all seen hunting shows filmed in early to late December with piles of deer in a standing corn or bean field. The deer seem to flock to these fields from miles around and hunters have plenty of opportunities to harvest a deer and are often able to watch them for hours. I always thought these scenes were a bit Hollywoodized and assumed the deer were already on the property for other reasons such as dense thermal cover or low hunting pressure.
Now, to be fair, I’ve never hunted over a standing corn or soybean field but I’ve spent countless hours sitting over picked fields. You see I hunt on our family farm in central Minnesota. We have 120 acres with an even split between hard woods and agriculture but come mid-October all our ag fields are clean picked leaving very little food behind. Sure, I’ve seen one or two deer at a time scavenging for the corn kernels the combine missed but 5, 10, 20 deer at a time? Never. I decided it was time to test the power of late season food.
After a year of coaxing I persuaded my dad to annex a two and half acre section of an existing field to plant a food plot. This was a large project for us as we’ve never attempted a food plot of this size before and we don’t have fancy equipment. We have an old 1947 Alice Chalmers with a jimmy rigged three point hitch, a King Kutter 5′ disk and cheapo tow-behind seeder from Fleet Farm. However, with a fair amount of prep work (including a soil test, some cooperation from our renter and some sweat equity) we had the fertilizer, lime, and seed in the ground and all we had do was pray for rain. And rain it did.
Come opening day of bow season I was blessed to be sitting over a beautiful stand of beans and brassicas. The only problem was the deer weren’t feeding in it. Sure a few does would stop by on trail camera but nothing like what I was expecting. I told myself, “It’s because the deer are still in the standing corn, once the crops are out, they’ll hammer this plot.” But when the crops came out, still nothing… By this time it was nearly November and I was a little upset – this field was packed with forage. I couldn’t understand it. Gun season came and went with the highlight of my dad shooting a nice buck heading into the field but come Thanksgiving, the field was still packed with beans, turnips and rape weed.
Like most people, I spend quality hours with family and friends from Thanksgiving to Christmas and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. But with that said, I think I missed the best deer hunting of the season because on New Year’s Eve I received a video from my dad. He and our family friends were out snow shoeing and the deer sign in the food plot was so impressive they needed to record it and show me. Deer tracks everywhere. Dug up snow and trampled brassicas everywhere. But the standing beans seemed untouched.
January 18th was the next time I could make it up to our property and I had to see the field for myself. When I arrived, I couldn’t believe it. Every single bean, bulb and piece of greenery was gone. Seriously, there was nothing left but the stalks. In 18 days our deer population completely wiped out a two and a half acre bean field.
Some of you may not be impressed by that but for me it was an eye opener… He with the food has the deer. We just finished planting that same plot this past weekend and I can promise I’ll spend a little more time in the bow stand come December because it turns out those hunting shows are more fact than fiction when it comes to the importance of late season food.
(December 31st) (January 18th)