Forage bean keeps food plot kitchen open
The big deer of the Boone and Crockett Club tell a soybean tale. Take a USDA–National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) soybean map, county by county, and note the darker greens of heavy production. Overlay the USDA–NASS map with Boone and Crockett antler data and note the parallel: The better the soybeans, the bigger the deer.
A proper soybean variety, served on a food plot plate, is a Cadillac protein source for deer. Eagle Seed Company has unlocked the genetic doors to forage soybeans with big plants, massive leaves, heavy pods, regeneration and near year-long field presence. When deer walk into one of Eagle Seed’s soybean plots, the kitchen is always open and stocked.
Doyle, sales manager of Eagle Seed in Weiner, Ark., his wife, Joyce, and a host of family members run a business, originally started by patriarch George Berger, that’s been selecting unique forage traits for more than 40 years. Eagle Seed produces a range of crop seed but is renowned for unique forage soybean qualities with glyphosate tolerance.
In the Ozark Mountains, Grant Woods plants two-acre forage bean food plots to attract deer.
“Our forage beans can regenerate after browsing. Deer can tear off an entire plant in one bite, and most of the time the plant dies, but our forage beans regenerate new trifoliates and keep growing,” Doyle says. “That’s unique and critical for food plot growers.”
Later-maturing (MG 7 or 8), pod-heavy plants are cloaked in leaves growing 300% bigger than normal and packed up to a 42% protein level. Plants sometimes reach 84" in height and hold pods all the way through food-scarce February. Eagle’s forage soybeans translate to an antler factory.
The more time deer have access to food, the greater genetic potential they express. Deer shed antlers from January to March, according to geography and nutrition. Bucks bank nutrients and use them in summer to develop antlers up until mid- to late September.
“Even in a top soybean state, you can’t depend on grain soybeans. They’re cut in September or October, and once harvested, the premium protein source for antler growth is gone,” Doyle says.
In a food plot nestled in rough, rocky ground in the Ozark Mountains near Branson, Mo., Grant Woods is surrounded by an outrageously lush stand of soybeans. A renowned whitetail expert and host of www.Growing Deer.com, his series of two-acre Eagle Seed food plots has plants with 30 to 40 nodes shooting off each main stem. Beyond the heavy vegetation, his plots hold 40 bu. to 60 bu. per acre, plenty of seeds and hulls to provide fodder.
Woods often overseeds Eagle’s Broadside wheat, radishes or turnips in soybean stands. A green and grain buffet attracts deer in winter: greens on warm days and grains when it’s cold. “I’ve never found a forage bean as versatile as far as planting in the North or South or in poor soils,” he says.
The timing of food plot planting should parallel production soybean planting. Woods suggests 80 lb. to
90 lb. of seed per acre for heavy deer populations and a 50-lb. to 60-lb. rate for plots with lower deer density.
With three forage blends tailored to the North, Midwest and South regions, Doyle recommends an inoculant, soil testing and nutrient application. “Lime as early as possible because lots of plots haven’t been in crop production,” he says. “Three weeks after planting, hit the plot with glyphosate and do it again three weeks later.
“Diet is crucial, and soybeans are one of the best protein sources available,” he adds. “Planting the right soybean food plot is truly one of the best hunting techniques.”