I honestly can’t imagine the deer densities that some of you guys contend with. On the Cumberland Plateau in southern Tennessee where our 1000-acre lease sits on a pine plantation, there are no ag fields within many miles. Our deer density is medium, at best. Probably more like medium-low after EHD hit us hard in 2017. On what was previously a 1/2-acre WINA clover plot, I planted WINA Power Plant (39.53% vining forage soybeans, 21.67% Iron & Clay cowpeas, 17.82% Hutcheson conventional soybeans, 10.89% sunn hemp, 8.94% Peredovik sunflowers) on the first of June and it managed to grow into a small jungle 6+ feet tall. When deer started showing interest in mid-July, they barely dented it. When they really started hitting it hard in mid-August (start of summer stress period), they would vacuum up many of the soybean and cowpea leaves, but by then there were so many soybean and cowpea vines in the plot that a few days later it would be loaded with new tender leaves again. This 1/2 acre plot kept producing and drawing deer through the first 5+ weeks of bow season until the first frost hit in late October. This was the first time our deer had seen sunn hemp, and they didn’t start browsing it until the sunn hemp was 4+ feet tall and covered with soybean and cowpea vines.
This year I’m doing Power Plant again in this plot and 2 additional plots of similar size. I want to see if it keeps ahead of the deer now that they’ve had a year to figure it out. I highly recommend Power Plant, or a homemade mix like it. The combination of sunn hemp and the vining forage soybean in the mix seems to be a winner.
By comparison, a half mile away on the lease we did a 1-acre plot of pure Eagle forage beans. These were planted late (early July), and the deer never let them get more than 6” tall. They kept pumping out new leaves and the deer kept pounding them. I think they would have fared better had we started them on the first of June when we planted the Power Plant.
I’m interested to see if a mix like Power Plant, as opposed to stand-alone beans, allows for small summer plots to reach critical mass on our lease so they can rebound quickly from browsing once deer start slamming them in late summer and into bow season.
Just for your consideration, based on my experience. The first year I planted a mix of cowpeas and soybeans, on 1 5/8 acres, the deer left them alone and they got knee high. Once they started to flower and the scent filled the air, the deer came in and fed on them, but the cowpeas kept ahead of the nibbling. I counted one cowpea that had 24 bites taken out of it and tried to regrow leaves, but it kept going.
The next year, having been so smart , I planted 5 acres and increased the seeding rate by 50%! I'll fool those critters!!!! Well, the next year, they knew what beans and cowpeas tasted like and they never let them grow. Soybeans were sticks and cowpeas were 2 leaves and then the weeds and grasses overpowered them. My suggestion would be to have a back up plan, if your results become similar, like a mix of joint vetch and alyce clover you can quickly over seed, if you see your plot getting wiped out.