Rod, Gun and Game: Successfully grow your own giant deer with a food plot
Some people do not think that food plots work as advertised, but I spoke with some successful hunters and asked them what they do with their plots.
These patches are essentially health-food gardens raised in the woods to attract deer and turkeys. While NYS law Part 189 of Title 6 makes it illegal to feed deer with food attractants, such as apples, corn or anything that is not alive or comes in a bag, the law does allow agricultural crops, including wildlife food plots.
Veteran hunter Paul Cwiklinski of East Aurora has enjoyed big deer success on his 17-acre homestead and as a pro-staff field representative for Invite X-tream. He said that he has used many brands of seed, over the years, but is proud of his X-tream products.
Allen Gray owns 15 acres of land near his Wyoming County home in Bliss. He said that he has tried many planted food brands, but often became frustrated with them. He recently heard about Cwiklinski’s small landowner food plot tactics.
Using a small tractor, Gray prepared the one-acre plot area, by killing the weed growth, then waited two weeks, before plowing the area for planting. He checked the soil pH and used lime and fertilizer to balance and enrich the soil, prior to hand-casting Invite X-tream seed. “I started seeing deer three weeks later,” he said. “We couldn’t believe it.”
Gray used a mix of turnips, buckwheat, clover and brassica, in his plot. On the opening day of regular firearm season, Gray downed an eight-point buck with a 17-inch inside spread. The next day, Gray’s neighbor, who hunted the same food plot, downed a buck with 10-inch long, G-2 antler beams. Gray used a 12 gauge Mossberg 835 shotgun with scope and rifle barrel with Hornady SST slugs to harvest his deer, at 35 yards.
Gray’s brother Lloyd, who lives in Wales Center in eastern Erie County, killed a 6 1/2-year-old buck on Nov. 18. Lloyd Gray called this his most enjoyable hunting year ever, because he and his neighbors saw deer, all the time. Hunting with a .45 caliber Thompson Center Encore black-powder firearm with a 3-7X Burris scope and loaded with 100 grains of Triple-7 powder and 245 grain PowerBilt bullets, Gray downed his deer at 30 yards.
The hunter said that he knew his deer was 6 1/2 years old, because this particular deer had a broken leg that had healed over. He walked with a distinct, bobbing motion. The same deer had been captured on Gray’s friend’s trail camera, three years earlier, about 1 1/2 miles down the road. The large rack deer was estimated back then at 3 years old.
The Gray brothers are joined by many other sportsmen and family in this regard, including Rick Walczyk and his wife, Lori, of Springville.
Walczyk had advised the Grays about the food plot idea, as the result of his own success with Invite X-tream seed. Walczyk said, “I was hunting the edge of our area food plot near Rushford Lake, where large oak trees and pines offer browse, with a mix of wild apple trees. Due to the extremely late frost and drought this year, there were no acorns and very few apples to be found.
“Earlier in the year, we planted a couple of small, half-acre food plots, with help and advice from Paul Cwiklinski, using the Invite X-tream seed. Deer started harvesting, as soon as the plants started to take shape, less than a month later.”
At 8:30 a.m. on opening day, Walczyk saw an eight-point buck came through the woods, toward the food plot and scrape line. Using a Remington 1187 with Lightfield hybrid slugs, he downed the deer with one shot, at 70 yards.
“I can’t wait to do this all again next year,” he said. “It’s been a special hunting season, for me and my wife and family.”
Cwiklinski’s food plot is an irregularly-shaped area of less than one acre that is located in the heart of the woods. He uses Invite X-tream as well, since he is a New York state field representative for that seed company.
“They boast of using only premium quality seed and germination rates in the 96 – 98 percent range. I believe it. During the height of the drought this past summer, my brassica was 22 – 24 inches tall.”
This year, he planted five seed types, including rack exploder, which is a combination blend of brassica, chicory and clover blend; X-tream perennial, is a blend of clover, alfalfa and chicory; sweet beets and wildlife turnips. He also tested a blend of Martin grain sorghum and eagle forage beans. “I like to plant a variety of seed, because deer are like people. Not everyone likes the same foods and they mature to sugar-like taste at different times,” he added.
To start a food plot of your own, contact Cwiklinski at firstname.lastname@example.org or 479-2824. Check out the seed at www.invitefoodplots.com
Cwiklinski will be a featured speaker at the 2013 Archery Trade Association Show in Louisville, Ky. Jan. 7 – 9. For more information about that event, visit www.archerytrade.org.
After that, he will spend three days on a speaking engagement at the Safari Club International Hunter’s Convention in Reno, Nev. Jan. 23 – 26. For more information, visit www.www.showsci.org.
The regular firearms deer and bear season will end this Sunday, Dec. 9, but will be followed by the extended late archery, crossbow and black-powder season that will run from Monday, Dec. 10 – Tuesday, Dec. 18.
Safari Club game dinner
The annual 2012 WNY Safari Club game dinner is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 14 at Michael’s Banquet Facility. This is a fundraiser for the club, which sponsors many local youth events and outdoor activities and also offers multiple scholarships.
To purchase tickets, call Mark Mann at 864-7523 or Bob Keicher at 668-1353, ext. 311 or visit www.wnysafariclub.com.
NYS Conservation Council dinner
The New York State Conservation Council is an all-volunteer organization and advisory wing to the state legislature and governor’s office, regarding the formulation and establishment of conservation practices for the sportsmen and conservationists of New York state.
On Sunday, Dec. 15, NYSCC President Chuck Parker will be present at the Southtowns Walleye Association clubhouse, located at 5895 Southwestern Blvd. in Hamburg, for an informal fundraiser from 3:30 – 6:30 p.m. All WNY hunters and fishermen are invited to attend the roast beef dinner.
The NYSCC is attempting to raise funds for officers’ and volunteers’ travel expenses and administrative staff funding. To purchase a ticket, call Dan Tone at 655-0975.
Dec. 10: Start of southern zone late deer and bear bowhunting and muzzleloader season.
Dec. 14: Safari Club dinner, Michael’s Banquet Center. Call 542-9929 to purchase tickets.
Dec. 15: NYS Conservation Council fundraiser, held at the Southtowns Walleye Association, 5895 Southwestern Blvd., Hamburg, 3:30 – 6:30 p.m. For more information, call 655-0975 or 640-2776.
Dec. 18: End of Southern Zone late deer and bear bowhunting and muzzleloading season.