Corn stands tall in a food plot planted on State Game Lands 57 this summer by members of the Quality Deer Management Association.Submitted Photo
North Mountain Branch of the Quality Deer Management Association vice president Steve Germick, Jane Clements of Chesapeake Energy and QDMA branch president Chris Denmon stand in front of a corn field planted on State Game Lands 57 this spring. Members of the Quality Deer Management Association planted more than 18 acres of food plots on SGL 57 this year.Submitted Photo
Steve Germick was faced with a challenge.
As habitat chairman for the North Mountain Branch of the Quality Deer Management Association, Germick wanted to make improvements to the vast landscape of State Game Lands 57. With limited staff and time, the Pennsylvania Game Commission did manage to plant and maintain a fair number of food plots on SGL 57, but Germick knew more could be done.
But would it be possible to successfully plant food plots in the numerous open areas and abandoned fields that dot the game lands? After all, these areas hadn’t seen a plow in decades.
“A lot of people questioned would things like corn and soybeans grow there,” Germick said. “We were pretty sure we could do it.”
Five years later, it’s clear that Germick and the other members of the North Mountain Branch have proven that food plots could not only be established in the soils of SGL 57, but they can thrive. For example, more than 18 acres of plots were planted this year, and they have all grown into a lush, green oasis that benefits not only deer and turkey but all species of wildlife.
That includes acre plots seeded with mixes of brassica, buckwheat and oats along with towering stands of field corn mixed with soybeans.
And with the crops come wildlife.
Deer, bear and turkeys are frequent visitors to the food plots that dot SGL 57. So too are small game species, songbirds and even a variety of insects.
Chris Denmon, president of the North Mountain Branch, said while hunting opportunities are created by the food plots, that’s not the main reason behind creating them.
Most of the volunteers who spend hours working on the food plots don’t even hunt in the area, he said. And the benefits derived by wildlife last far beyond the fall hunting seasons.
“These plots provide food and cover well into winter at a time when wildlife needs it most,” Denmon said.
“This is for everybody, no matter what your stance is on deer management. One thing we can all agree on is the importance of habitat,” Germick added. “Everyone who uses the game lands, including hikers and bikers, can benefit from the food plots and the wildlife they attract.”
While the work is done by volunteers, the food plots still carry a cost due to the machinery, seed, fertilizer and spray that is needed.
To help offset the costs, Chesapeake Energy Development contributed $10,000 to the QDMA chapter last year and another $5,000 this year.
Jane Clements, Chesapeake’s coordinator of corporate development, said sponsoring the food plot program fits the corporation’s long tradition of partnering with landowners, land trusts and outdoor enthusiasts to improve natural areas.
“Pennsylvania is blessed with thousands of acres of state forests and game lands within easy access to all Pennsylvanians for public enjoyment, and we’re proud to help ensure their continued viability. It’s partnerships like this that enhance the quality of life for everyone in the communities where we live, work and raise our families,” Clements said.
Germick said in addition to Chesapeake other groups have helped as well, including the Red Rock Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation and PGC Land Management Officer Bill Williams and his three-man Food and Cover crew.
Williams said the QDMA food plots successfully augment those planted by his crew and expand the diversity.
“With the buckwheat, chicory and soybeans that they’ve put in, it really expanded the variety of food sources available for wildlife up there,” Williams said. “State Game Lands 57 is almost 50,000 acres. With a three-man crew to manage that, the efforts of QDMA and other groups are a tremendous help that ultimately benefits game and non-game species alike.”
Germick said there are plenty of open areas on SGL 57 to accommodate more food plots in the future. He hopes to plant more next year, but it is dependent on volunteer help and funding.
“There’s a lot of opportunity to do more, but how much we can do is dictated by how much money and help we can get,” he said.
For more information on the QDMA food plots or to help out, call Chris Denmon at 477-2238.
The North Mountain Branch of the Quality Deer Management Association will host a seminar next week to raise money for food plot plantings. On Saturday, Sept. 10, world-renowned outdoors writer and photographer Charles Alsheimer will host a deer hunting seminar, discussing deer biology, hunting techniques and his research on the rut.
The seminar will be held at the Cross Creek Community Church on 370 Carverton Road in Trucksville. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and the seminar begins at 7 p.m. Door prizes and raffles will be held. Alsheimer’s books will be available for purchase as well.
Tickets are $5, and children under 16 are free. Tickets can be purchased in advance at the QDMA booth at the Luzerne County Fair, Matt’s Shooting Supplies, Sweet Valley Hardware, Sutton Archery or at the door the night of the event. For more information, contact Chris Denmon at 477-2238 or email firstname.lastname@example.org