Overgrown Pasture


New Member
Hey guys, first post on the new site but really excited to be a part of the group. I have a property with a 7 acre field that is currently overgrown pasture, but according to previous owner it was good tillable land and I want to transition it back and plant it to soybeans or corn next Spring/early summer.

The overgrown field has not been touched in what looks like 10 years or more. Small trees, blackberry bushes, etc. are currently growing as well as weeds and grasses. Looking at options for how to get it cleared efficiently and also keeping a budget in mind? Leaning towards getting a dozer out there to put a firebreak around it and burn it here in the next couple of weeks and then lime and fertilize as well as potentially put down some winter wheat seed to see if we can get any growth the remainder of this year, and then really start prepping, tilling, etc next year to get it ready for planting.

Located in NE Oklahoma. Any thoughts would certainly be appreciated!
Welcome to the forum. Always great to have another Okie on board.

Sounds like you have a good plan with burning. I just don't have the guts to do prescribed fires on my place. I reclaimed a 20 year old fescue field two years ago. I just mowed real short and waited a couple weeds for everything to get growing again and then sprayed with a good dose of gly. It was originally 8 acres and I have converted about 3 acres of it to food plots. My pH was 6.3 so I didn't lime. I would definitely get a soil sample started. Should be able to drop a sample off to your county extension agent.

good luck
How big are the trees that are growing? Do you have a tractor and brush hog?

We reclaimed a 3 ac field (at least most of it) with just a brush hog and a pair of balls the size of basketballs! hah!
Our tractor/hog will cut trees down up to about your wrist size, so it takes a good bit of growth to get past that size. It will make you pucker some times when you get a 15 ft tree under the deck, but it works!!

We have just cut the biggest trees down with a chainsaw as needed.

If you want a less work and likely better result, I would get a dozer out there......just make sure they are peeling off 12" of topsoil.
I would clear the trees with the dozer (to remove stumps) and then mow with a heavy-duty bush hog and then spray like Doc explained. I would minimize the dozer work as it can/will remove valuable top soil that you will need/want later (a point I think CAS was trying to make). A good burn would help clear up any residue left, or plow it under (good way to add organics to the soil). If you plow it under you will need to disc to simply level things back out.

Soil test is a must. I would lime this year per the soil test if needed. If you decide to plow - spread your lime first and allow the plowing to get that lime down into the soil faster.

I would only fertilize this year IF your planting a "cover crop". Otherwise hold off on fertilizing - you want to fertilize the plants you want and not the next round of weeds. IF I was to put out a "cover crop" it would be cereal grains and brassica. This is more for nutrient mining, soil health and weed suppression more so than actually feeding deer this year.

Consider your edges of your newly created plot. Keep things like "hard edges" and edge feathering or buffers in mind. I see it a lot in farm country with lots of hard edges and the deer stand in a weak understory and can see large fields without every having to expose themselves. They can easily and quickly visually search for other deer or see your movements as well and you have no idea the deer are even there. Just something to keep in mind as well.
You do not say if you are trying to set up for archery or rifle but consider that laying out the 7AC into bow huntable sections leaving the already in place cover as the new "bounderies" that make deer feel safe as they approach open areas ...this method will without doubt place more deer in the general area as some others have begun to express in their posts to your quest ...It is a great way to use many different planting plans at once should you chose to leave the all corn and beans program ....10 years of natural cover bounderies are very valuable and I urge to carefully study this as a diamond cutter studies a raw stone

Well remember, a 7 ac field that you just described is a food plot, just not one you see on a mag. I'd do sections of it as you are talking if you want, and follow recommendations given to get soil test. You can get your lime down now. And fall is good time to do a gly burn to kill the cool season plants.
Another thing I have done, is spray the gly, then fert, and overseed with mix of WR,WW,RC, oats, AWP with decent results. Good luck, and enjoy your place. Sometimes it helps to sit back and observe before making a lot of changes.
Thanks for the feedback guys! I have been watching this whole property the last 2 years and definitely think the best option for this particular field is to add some food as the surrounding properties really don't offer a lot. I like a lot of the ideas and appreciate all thoughts. I think I am going to go ahead with burning in the next week or two depending on weather and maybe try to get some type of food source in for the winter. And then this winter and into the spring, probably plant some of it into a food plot, and let some of stay in successional growth, just want to get rid of those damn trees with the thorns on them.

Thanks again guys!!
Not to throw a wrench into your plans but I had such a field on my place and have hunted near/around overgrown fields at another place. I had much better deer numbers in my overgrown field than I have ever had in my food plot. Once it's done there is no going back. Consider carefully.
Deer love those overgrown fields and so do I.
My dad has 40 acres and within that 40 is 20 acres of pasture. Before he built his house at the farm he had let the pasture go for 7 years. A ton of awesome native growth had taken over the pasture. During that 2 or 3 year cycle before he built his new house I was seeing huge numbers of deer and still to this day the biggest buck I have ever seen in my life and that is including magazines. After my dad built his house he mowed the pasture and took the upper ground and turned it into tillable ground he rents out (maybe 10 acres). Since that time the deer numbers have dropped drastically and big buck sightings are limited.

That being said I would take a slow approach as stated above. If you are just using this field for food I don't believe you will need the entire 7 acres. I would leave some edge cover as well as around 3 or 4 smaller plots to make the plots feel secure for your deer herd that will be utilizing them. Not that I know anything at all but if I had an overgrown open pallet to work with that is what I would do rather than go with it all being food. Of course I have no idea what you have for security and timber around it either.
Welcome fellow Okie...

7 acres in one patch - I would have to do as suggested and break it up leaving some areas in old growth and 3-4 plots throughout that area so you can hold and feed more doe groups to pull the boys in during the rut. Deer stress each other when too many are in a field together...

Sounds like you have some black or honey locust trees in there (trees with thorns)...
Are you wanting to plant it in beans/corn to harvest or is this just for the deer/wildlife? If deer/wildlife is your goal then, like others have said old field is about as good as it gets. Sure, you can plant some plots in it, but I don't think I'd do the whole thing.

We have lots of old field area around our place and do everything we can to keep it old. I bushog strips that are getting too tall, the taller stuff shades the understory and reduces the amount of food it produces. I always try to have some of each progression available out to about 5yrs.

If you want to REALLY give it a boost fertilize what you have and lime it (if soil samples calls for it). Honeysuckle and all types of forbs look incredible when fertilized, they also boost protein count to above what beans offer.
You could lease it out for a few months to a local rancher and have their cows graze it down, it would give you some extra $$, and the cow crap manure will fertilize the area for future use such as a food plot, just a different idea.
A vote for leave it alone for now. Try to hunt the edges and get an idea of how deer use the area. 7 acres of monoculture and zero cover seems unnecessary in most scenarios. Remember the 10:1 rule: if you're putting 7 acres into food plots, you better have 70 acres of awesome cover surrounding it to get the most wildlife benefit.

Get a professional opinion. Otherwise you're just hacking away and hoping for the best. Not pushing anyone on you, but having a guy like Steve Bartylla or others give you their very educated 2 cents, which might save you years of regret and their foresight might save you from making grave mistakes that could possibly be avoidable.

Now if you just want to cash rent it, then fine, plow away. It won't really help the deer hunting as much as you think.
Here's my experience which sounds like yours... if I had use of a track loader, I'd go that route 1st.
Had a 4 acre field that I reclaimed that had 1-2 inch saplings with a bush hog and 25 hp Kabota. Bush hogged for 3 years waiting on roots to rot, this year I thought I was good to go. I sprayed waited 2 weeks, mowed then started to plow. Well that didn't work at all, roots kept wrapping around plow and lifting it up. So plan B, hooked up subsoiler same result, plan C remove subsoiler blade and use the ripper. After all that, the roots still had me, plan D is to keep disking and chop up all the vines and roots and spread winter wheat and start over in the spring. Winter wheat is in now and looks good.
Id make a boomerang plot with a stand in the middle.Pick a tree for your your middle and make sure it has good approach and exit.Make this plot about 1.5acre,long and lean and line the plot trees like DCO and chestnut and Sawtooths and red oaks and everything really.Plant the trees 20' inside the edge of the growth.Take a saw once a year and clear some of the competition from those planted trees.Plant this twice a year and stay out of it when you are there.Let the rest of the regrowth keep growing but go in with a chainsaw yearly and cut down the biggest trees and let them lay.About 150yrd shot per direction is plenty long.
Definitely appreciate all the feedback. Yes OkieKubota, I found out today those are locust trees. I hate those things! Also for some more background on the property, there are still an additional approx 244 acres (we have about 255 acres total) that are primarily all timber, as well as surrounding properties being mostly timber with some cattle land mixed in. They have tons of cover areas, some that we have prescribed burned, some that we have not touched at all. Trying to make sure we have a little bit of everything to really try and hold the deer as best we can year round. Currently the 4 acres of food plots that we have are more geared toward winter time feeding, and thats why I have been considering what to do with the 7 acres there more or less in the middle. It's been a 2 year project and I am finally ready to pull the trigger. My hope is that adding food, whatever the final number is, will provide them with that year round food source, enough bedding and cover, as well as some water options to make them stay on our place. Fortunately, I also have some great neighbors that are like minded when it comes to wanting to harvest old mature deer.
Spread a winter annual mix on it now then graze it hard. Remove trees this winter and treat stumps. Then drill the summer annuals in spring. Other than lime and potash, you will do just fine.....address those late summer 2017.
If you are gong to remove the trees I'd strongly suggest you kill them first!!

I did a WHIP project which involved thinning/removing a bunch of trees (dozer) and I fought regrowth from the roots for years. If you can, I'd either hack and squirt or basal bark spray them with a mixture of Remedy and diesel, then give them a few months to die before you remove them.
If you are gong to remove the trees I'd strongly suggest you kill them first!!

I did a WHIP project which involved thinning/removing a bunch of trees (dozer) and I fought regrowth from the roots for years. If you can, I'd either hack and squirt or basal bark spray them with a mixture of Remedy and diesel, then give them a few months to die before you remove them.
Sorry to hijack the thread, but diesel as in diesel fuel? Could you elaborate on your mixture? We're looking at a 12 acre area to add an orchard (for commercial production) and it has scattered pines, sweetgums and a few cedar trees. I was planning on just have a dozier come in and push them all in a pile and burn.... sounds like from your experience that may not be the best method?