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Recent entries

Kevin Hahn

Food Plotting

Protecting Your Food Plots

Thu, June 20, 2013

I had to replant one of my soybean food plots due to deer browsing the stand down to almost nothing within a week after the soybeans emerged.  The soybean plot is a small area surrounded by timber and the Ag fields nearby are all planted to field corn.  This meant that my small soybean plot became an instant deer magnet.  So this past Tuesday, as my second planting of soybeans were emerging, I installed an electric fence system to protect this plot. 

3-Wire Electric Fence System
The electric fence system that I use consists of 2 rows of electric fence with the rows spaced 3 feet apart.  The outside row is a single wire at a height of 18 inches and the inside row has two wires at 10 inches and 24 inches off the ground.  I first learned about this 3-wire electric fence system in the early 2000’s when I visited Chesapeake Farms (formally the Remington Firearms Farm) on Maryland’s eastern shore.  Chesapeake Farms is a 3000+ acre wildlife, agricultural research, and demonstration area. It is my understanding that the staff at Chesapeake Farms developed this electric fence system on the farm to protect the agricultural crops.  Currently, I am aware of a couple of vendors (Gallagher and Non-Typical Wildlife Solutions- Hot Zone) which provide complete electric fence kits based on this 3-wire system.  I grew up working with livestock and thus was familiar with electric fence systems, so I get my supplies at the local farm supply store. 

The illustration below is from Gallagher’s website and shows the 3-wire fence layout with wire heights and spacings. 

Schematic from Gallagher website

Proof this 3-wire electric fence system works
Aaron Zobrist sent me this picture taken in 2012 of his soybean field that he used the 3-wire electric fence system to protect a part of this soybean field.  The soybeans on the right were on the outside of the 3-wire system and received heavy browsing.  The soybeans in the inside of fence received no damage.

Pictures of my installation of the 3-wire fence this past Tuesday
I started by putting rigid T-posts on the corners and sections where the fence will change direction with curves.  If there are no curves, then I only use rigid T-posts on the corners.

When the fence changes directions as with curves, rigid posts need to be installed along the curve.

I use inexpensive fiberglass posts (3/8” diameter - $1.25 each) between the rigid posts.  These posts will not work on curves or corners because the tension of the fence wire will bend them over.

My electric fence charger operates off of a 12 volt deep cycle battery.  I like to get the chargers which will burn/chop through vegetation that may touch the fence, preventing it from shorting out.  I still keep the plant material from touching the fence by string trimming under the wires as necessary.  The battery will typically last for 4-6 weeks without needing a recharge.

The wires I use are standard electric fence wire for the two inside wires and a polyrope wire for the single outside wire which is more visible.  Some recommend using more highly visible polytape, but I found it doesn’t really matter.

How the fence works
Often many people’s first impression is that this fence setup will not be able to keep deer out.  After all, the highest fence in only 24 inches high and the spacing between fences is only 3 feet.  I can easily jump over all three wires and so could a deer.  However, evidently a deer’s depth of field vision is not that good and thus as a deer views the three wires from the outside, it looks to him to be a much greater distance—so some experts speculate. 



I’m sure it won’t be popular opinion but i’ve never been able to bring myself to fence off the plots, not that I think it’s wrong, I just really have peace in knowing those small sprouts in the plots are building fawns up, button bucks and even mature does and bucks for a stronger existance. If they eat them down, I just plant them again. we’ve planted beans as late as the first week of august with good results.

also mixing beans and peas takes some stress off of each crop, they hit the beans first, then peas letting the beans grown then back to the peas and so on…

again not nocking this approach just haven’t been able to wrap my mind around keeping them out during critical growing periods

good read and as always thanks for the thorough information, best around!

Posted by Flatlander on June 21

Matt, here are a couple things to keep in mind…

I doubt that all the food plots on the farm are protected to keep deer out from the beginning.

Also think of the extra tonnage your animals will gain from having some of the plots protected in the beginning and not wiped out.

There is a time and place for every type of plotting strategy, and fencing off some sections of it on certain properties is definitely a key tool to the overall success of keeping animals on the farm year round… you need food 12 months of the year and saving sections definitely helps do that.

Then on the flip side, not every landowner wants animals all year long, some only want the animals to have food to attract them during hunting seasons.

So anyhow what Im getting at is there definitely is value to this approach for various situations.

Posted by Nate on June 24

Can you do this fence set up with out the electric fence? I have heard doing it with ribbon. Any thoughts?

Posted by outdoorswoman on June 24

Outdoorswoman…I have heard of some success ( on other forums) with just running the three strands without the e-fencer, but I do not have any direct experience.  If you try it, let us know the outcome.

Flatlander…every situation is different with different goals.  I personally value the soybean grain as late season/winter food source for the deer vs. allowing my soybeans to be browsed during the summer to the point that grain is not produced or severely reduced in yield.  I feel the spring and summer months have the most food sources the deer will have available encounter during anytime of the year—at least on my farm.  I have clover, and much natural browse.  Also if deer have a need to feed on green soybeans, they can usually find them in Ag fields within a 1/4 - 1/2 mile. I do like to plant soybeans in the August as you mention to provide a source of high protein browse for when the natural browse is starting to dry up in late summer and my clover tends to be dormant due to the heat.  These August planted beans are very attractive to the deer, especially lactating does with fawns (based on my trail cams), but they will only last until the first frost, so I sow a mixture of oats and cereal rye into these beans in early September to provide browse after the frost.  The soybean grain has made for some good late season hunts, so I like to place my kids in stands near those plots.  As Nate has commented, protecting soybeans from early browsing can result in tons more forage later in the season—bigger soybeans can bounce back from heavy browsing, whereas small seedling soybeans are often browsed below the growing point and thus will die.  Other considerations are limiting time and resources to replant multiple times during the year.


Posted by Cooper on June 24

Here is another approach to protecting plots.

Posted by Gohunt88 on July 11

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