By Braden Arp
The drought of 2007 had a devastating effect on food plots throughout the country as illustrated by this north Georgia food plot.
-- There are few frustrations in the outdoor world more disappointing than spending countless hours and dollars on your self-made food plot only to have it look in six weeks the way it did when it was plowed. There is no denying that the drought of 2007 is one for the record books. Last year, the food plots at our hunting club proved this.
I have seen dry spells and gone through the dog days in the Deep South, but never witnessed a place so dry that an 8-foot cutover looked like a Christmas tree farm after two months. The briars didn't even survive the drought. Even small game hunters were fully aware of the condition. Our February rabbits even packed up and left.
I wasn't as disheartened about the situation back in the spring before the drought set in. I eagerly watched as comrades planted their spring plots. Along the way I answered their questions as to why I hadn't prepared mine.
"I think I will wait it out," I told them, hoping that the torrential rains would come. It would have to. I had a plan, or at least I thought I did.
It was nothing but sad talking and slow walking over acres of burnt orange during the spring months. Eventually, the first reports came of a front moving in, and I made haste to get my food plot ready. I had plowed it early and had been liming the ground to prepare for what surely was going to be the next cover photo on a Pennington brochure. I had spent hours upon hours with my boys cutting brush and piling limbs. Planting day was here, and we were ready.
"When we come back, boys, we should be able to turn goats loose in here. It will look like a lush pasture," I said. We were ready for the rain.
Armed with a plan, a few supplies and some ingenuity, the author was able to draw deer to his once prosperous food plot after he constructed a homemade 55-gallon feeder.
By mid afternoon the clouds rolled in. We sat on the porch, waited and watched for the rains to arrive. It thundered for three days. NO, I don't think you got that. Three days, and all it did was thunder without a drop of rain.
Three weeks passed with no rain in sight, and I knew I had to do something quick if I wanted to have a chance at drawing deer to this plot. I went out and bought a feeder head and mounted it onto a 55-gallon barrel.
I devised a plan to be able to empty 50 gallons of feed at one time so that I wouldn't have to refill it. I have to give you this bit of information because it worked. I drilled two holes in the top of the barrel and inserted a piece of 11/2-inch galvanized pipe through the barrel. I then ran a chain through the pipe and hung my feeder with two eyebolts between two trees. This allowed me to fill the barrel to the top without the barrel losing its shape so that the lid would go back on with the locking ring closure.
I had left two young oaks in the middle of my plot so I could position the feeder right where I wanted it. When it was all said and done, it looked like I had planned it that way all along. The Saturday afternoon four-wheeler patrol came by as we were finishing up.
"I wish I would have done what you did. You cleaned the ground so that the deer could easily find the food as it spreads from the feeder," said one of my friends.
I never told them any different. I didn't let on that I had spent over $300 on this site to be a lush green food plot. It was just too painful to even recall.
This lush, green food plot from 2006 was a distant memory by the time the 2007 hunting season rolled around.
The barrel worked like a champ. The feed ran out as deer season arrived and we christened the "Food Court" stand on opening morning. You have to give your stands snazzy names, so if you harvest a trophy you can include it in the story.
On opening morning the deer filtered in first, followed by a drove of turkeys, two raccoons and a hog. I realized immediately that a lush food plot wasn't the only means by which to draw deer. Out of the 38 food plots on our hunting club, the Food Court was the only one with food in it and that was because I put it there.
I had spent a lot of time trying to determine a planting day as it coincided with the rain. It just didn't work out. I couldn't predict the rain and couldn't stop the drought, but I could tell you the precise time that supplemental food would land on the ground at the Food Court. There was no guesswork to it.
This year I will attempt to grow another food plot, but I will certainly put more time into supplemental feeding. It is guaranteed nutrition.
Editor's note: Braden Arp's wildlife feeder was built for under $75. Click here to view and print instructions as to how you can build your own wildlife feeder.
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