October 30, 2011

Club's deer food plots thicken

A Rangeley group tries to grow the herd with two 4-acre thickets of specially developed clover.

By Deirdre Fleming dfleming@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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A Maine club’s food plot is visited by a cow moose. Although the plots, which are rich in protein from clover and oats, are intended primarily to aid whitetail deer, they also benefit moose, turkey, bear and some 50 species of songbirds, studies show.

Marcia Baker photos

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Marcia Baker, a volunteer with the Rangeley Region Guides and Sportsmen’s Association, stands by a fence on one of the club’s deer food plots. The fence is used to monitor to what extent the area outside the fence is being grazed.

"They were bringing it to spread on the dump, but putting the wood chips back into the forest is truly recycling," Baker said.

The past two years, the seeds have been spread and planted by the 650-member club in July. They produced rich clover right about now, giving the deer a boost heading into winter. The seed mix is made up of clover, oats and rye grass.

"You need the tops of the clover to show just before frost. That's when you want the deer to eat, right before October and November," Baker said. "The clover was very high in protein; it will fatten them up in giving that extra layer of fat to help them withstand winter. In the first year, the plot in August was right up to my thigh. When you see that, it makes you want to do more plots."

As the state's largest deer plot program heads into its third year, its success is still undetermined. Club members monitor plot usage with circular enclosures of wire fence; the height of the clover inside the fence, where animals can't graze, is compared to the height of the browsed clover around the fenced-in areas. There is a marked difference, and the wildlife cameras set out by the club have caught deer moving in the fields.

While the future of the pilot program is uncertain, the enthusiasm around it is not. Baker is already trying to find ways to grow the project. This year she did research to come up with experimental plots that included turnips. And last spring, she held a workshop to teach 11 small landowners how to grow deer food plots.

"Biologists say it will take 10 years of hard work by small property owners to get back to where the deer herd was in the 1980s. Our little plots are just a drop in the bucket," Baker said.

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

dfleming@pressherald.com

Twitter: Flemingpph

 

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