QUESTION: Bob, I'm at wits end! I live and hunt in Louisiana on a nice lease. I took a 12-pointer my first year on this lease officially measured by a local BTR scorer at 159 2/8-inches, so we have good genetics.
Most of our lease is planted with pines, but we have clear cuts too. Unfortunately, the ground is terrible for food plots. We've tried lime, fertilizers and different seeds, but simply cannot achieve good results.
I believe if we feed year-round, plant better plots and remove problem hogs, with the genetics on the property, we should harvest 170-inchers in a few years.
Do you have any suggestions for planting in the extreme heat and our poor sandy/clay soil? - Rich J.
ANSWER: I can understand wanting to build your own sportsman's paradise, but I suggest you start by putting things into perspective.
In your first year there, you took what would be the buck-of-a-lifetime for most Louisiana hunters; your situation is not as dire as you seem to indicate.
You mentioned you've tried several things: lime, fertilizers and different seeds, all with undesirable results. Did you first test the soil?
Southern soils can be tough, but if you test, then treat according to the recommendations you should have better results.
Even if industrial pine plantations are the principal land use, there are things you can do to improve the habitat for deer.
There are some areas in pine groves that simply will not grow pines. Search for these places on your lease. Even if it's just a small spot or a couple of rows that didn't take, turn over the soil and throw down some lime, along with a quick application of No Plow seed mix.
Check with your timber company to see if they know of areas with beetle infestation or isolated storm damage.
In beetle-infested areas, foresters often drop all infested trees in an isolated area, along with several surrounding trees, to prevent spread.
With beetles or storm damage, tree removal is often not cost-effective, but at least you end up with a tangled mess of prime bedding cover. Or, the foresters may let you go in and manage the area until the entire stand is cut.
Skid roads offer another opportunity. While turning them into food plots might not benefit the forester, he usually won't object either, but check first. Skid roads are among your least labor-intensive potential plots since loggers have already done most of the work for you.
If all else fails, you can sometimes buy a variance from the landowner where they'll take the land out of production and let you plant it.
Editor's Note: On my hunting lease in Alabama, the timber company allowed our members to hire a bulldozer and clear areas of beetle infestation to make new food plots. Our rep even called me when potential food plot areas opened up after a clear cutting. If you lease timber company land, it pays to have a good relationship with your company's hunting lease representative. - Tim H. Martin/Online Editor