Building A Hunting Haven: Part 4 Of 16

I’m new in town, still hopeful but increasingly doubtful of making a good impression with the local people. At the post office, the clerk greeted me with a wide smile and said, "Wow, you smell great, what have you been cooking?"

"I made some spaghetti sauce with bear sausage," I answered, as her smile evaporated. "A lot of garlic in it," I mumbled, thinking, well that was a conversational dead end.

One week later, it happened again, as I handed her some packages marked for the Penn State agricultural lab.

"Hey," she said, shifting the bags back and forth,

"What’s in there?"

"Dirt," I said, and another fledgling conversation screeched to a stop.

The small fields will be planted with annuals for huntin’.

Analyzing Soil Is A Must
I don’t mind being a woman who would mail dirt and eat bear, but I can appreciate that someone else might not understand it. I don’t know much about making food plots, but here’s what I do know — without a soil sample, you don’t know what’s in your dirt. And if you don’t know, and don’t improve the soil, you’re wasting your time trying to grow food plots.

The first attempt at getting a soil sample failed, due to canine interference. Kevin Titus, who’s been giving me all the advice on food plots, had brought his friend Scott Thomas to the farm to use his soil tester.

"This is a really good soil tester," Thomas said, pushing the prongs of the soil tester into the half-frozen ground of the big field. "I’ve had it a long time, and you can’t get them any more."

Just then my young German shorthaired pointer, Lozen, swooped by and without breaking stride, snatched the soil tester out of the ground and gleefully ran around in the field with it. Before I could run her down, she’d shattered the dial.

Planting A Band Of Corn
Soon Titus was using a shovel to do the soil test. We plan to plant a narrow band of corn around the perimeter of the field, which he says will make the deer feel safer when they go there to feed. Eager as little children leafing through a catalog of Christmas toys, we’ve pored over the seed mix selections from Heartland Wildlife Institute.

When the seeds come, it’s like an early Christmas.

Inside the perimeter of corn we’ll plant an acre each of Hi Pro Forage Blend and Rack Maker Plus. The Hi Pro is a blend of two-thirds perennial clover and one-third annual brassicas, and the Rack Maker Plus is a blend of alfalfa, clover, forage chicory, and birdsfoot trefoil.

In the first small field, where Titus used his tractor bucket to rip down a dilapidated wooden blind of some sort, we’ll plant Buck Buster Extreme, which has winter oats, winter rye, forage soybeans, and three brassicas. In the next small field, which I’m calling Two Pines, we’ll plant Secret Weapon Blend, which is Heartland Wildlife Institute’s maximum food plot attraction.

Thanks to the strategic placement of brush piles, the Two Pines will be excellent trees for hiding ladder stands. The Secret Weapon has winter peas, forage soybeans, and a blend of brassicas, turnips, forage rape, and hybrid forage turnips. We won’t plant those fields until mid-August.

On the trail between the two fields, and on a little stretch of trail we’ve opened by cutting birch and small maples, we’re going to plant another Heartland Wildlife Institute seed mix called Forested Trail. It’s a shade tolerant clover blend, which can be planted in early spring; it’s probably the first seed, which will go in the ground.

I also can’t wait to try their Annual Wildlife Mix, which includes millets, sunflowers, buckwheat, and soybeans. It should provide good cover for the quail I use for training the dogs. That will go in the front field, near the house — I’ll have to restrict the dog training to that area this summer so that the deer can get comfortable in the food plots.

According to the soil test, we need three tons of lime.

Soil Needs Lime
The results of the soil test have told us we need lime, and the lime truck has spread three tons per acre. First to go in the ground will be the corn, Forested Trail, and Annual Wildlife Mix. In the meantime, Titus has turned over the soil in the small fields. We’ll let the weeds grow, keep it mowed, and then spray to kill the weeds before planting in mid-August.

Some of the areas I’d like for Forested Trail are ready, but some are not. I hope to use my Mantis tiller to prepare more areas back in the woods, in the old logging roads. The big three-acre field has been left wild too long — Titus’ 30 horsepower tractor isn’t enough to do it. I’m hoping a local farmer will make good on his promise to chisel plow it, and then Titus and his friends have an ATV and a Plot-Master to take over from there.

Please read more in Part 5.

For a fine selection of hunting gear, click here.

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