Soil Sampling and Successful Food Plots

Show Notes

Regardless of the task at hand, preparation and planning is a gateway for success.  Too often in the world of food plots folks try to put the cart before the horse.  Seed blends, food plot shape, planting methods, herbicides, all of these things are important but need to be addressed after the basics. One of the things that drives Mitch crazy is the amount of bad and/or misinterpreted information in the food plot world.  Many food plotters have a lack of understanding as it relates to fertility and properly preparing soil for successful plant growth.  Before you go purchase the next miracle juice or throw-and-grow mix, do the one thing that is cheap and yet provides the most information for getting started: TAKE A SOIL SAMPLE!

This week on the Pennsylvania Woodsman, Mitch invites his boss Eric Rosenbaum to walk us through the basics in food plot planning.  Eric is the owner and Senior Agronomist of Rosetree Consulting, a private agronomic consulting company that works with farms all throughout Eastern Pennsylvania and partly in Maryland and New Jersey.  A large part of the job entails making cost effective decisions with growers that maximize plant yield and profitability.  Nearly all of this begins with proper soil preparation!  Eric walks us through the basics of how to pull a soil test, where to send it, how to interpret results, how to address deficiencies in a cost effective but also efficient way (especially with minimal equipment), and more.  Lack of planning typically yields poor food plot results.  Pull your samples now, and plan ahead to achieve maximum plant quantity and quality.  Don't overlook the basics!

Show Transcript

Mitchell Shirk: [00:00:00] Hey there everybody. Welcome back to another episode of the Pennsylvania Woodsman Podcast. I am your host, Mitchell Shirk, and we are rolling right along through the month of February here. Things are drastically warming up If you've been paying attention at all to the past couple episodes. If you've been listening to any of the last few that we've had, you've noticed that we're talking about things that are.

In the realm of planning and preparation of next season, and if you've listened to this show long enough, you know that I have a dire interest in food plots and a passion for private land stuff. It's what I grew up doing and being around. I used to remember the first time that I started planting food plots and just seeing how connecting [00:01:00] habitat quality and hunting strategy came together.

And it's just a passion of. And that's part of the reason why I got into the career that I'm in as an, as a, an agronomist. I started off as a biology degree and hoping to get into something that would involve me working with wildlife and whitetails and of such. And, some cool stuff has happened from the time that I started this journey to where I'm at now as a row crop agronomist.

But one thing's for certain. It's just allowed me to get more knowledge, more experience, all wrapped around food plots to the point where I feel really comfortable working with people and making recommendations and some of that knowledge that I've acquired, in fact, a lot of that knowledge acquired was was helped was helped retained by the this week's guest.

So this week we are speaking with my boss, Eric [00:02:00] Rosenbaum. Eric is, and he'll introduce himself, but he's the owner of our company, rose Tree Consulting. He's he's a wealth of knowledge, he's done a ton of speaking engagements over the years and works with a ton of clients here in Pennsylvania as a crop consultant.

And, he wears a lot of different hats, but, his true passion is is agronomy. And we dive in this week talking about just the basics and how not to overlook the simple things like, Soil condition and soil testing. We go through what a soil test looks like, how to address it, how to amend the soil properly, and set yourself up for success in the long run.

We go through what types of soil amendments are out there to address the deficiencies you might see on your soil test how, which might be the right direction for you and which might not be, we let that up to you. But based on what's available to [00:03:00] you and how to make that work, depending on the the size of your food plots, this is a great episode for you to not only learn a ton from, because Eric is very well, he's a very well spoken individual, does a very good job of explaining things in a way that folks can understand it, even if you're not a soil nerd.

And even if you are somebody that's. Interested in soil health, soil fertility. You can, you still learn a ton for him in the way he dissects things. And I was really appreciative to have him as a guest on the show. And I really hope that you enjoy this week's episode. I hope it's something that helps you plan.

Now with this warm weather, the ground is thaw out. Now is the time to get your soil test and do the preparation you need to set yourself up for success this fall. So again, hope you enjoy this episode. Let's get into it. Get the ball rolling here. So we are rolling in Eric's Nice pretty office here.

And , I [00:04:00] have to ask you, of all the speaking engagements you've done, have you ever done a podcast?

Eric Rosenbaum: No. No. I think I've probably done over 200 speaking engagements over the last 10 years, but they've all been in person and webinars, nothing's been a podcast. So this is a new one, .

Mitchell Shirk: And of all the things that you would get asked to do, it had to be one for an outdoor hunting one, and it wasn't actually agronomically speaking.

So of course it

Eric Rosenbaum: was that. Yeah. No, I'm excited. I'm excited. I love to talk about hunting. I don't get to hunt as much as I used to, but I still really enjoy it.

Mitchell Shirk: Yeah. So we're we're rolling here with with my boss, Eric Rosenbaum. So thank you for taking some time and and doing this with me. This is great.

Yeah, absolutely. So you yeah, he said that the time thing is, big, and we talk about that all the time. But when when I asked you about doing this a few weeks ago, it was right at the time where you had like all kinds of speaking games. Its lined up. I was like, I don't really think I want to ask him for one more thing on his plate,

So I'm glad it worked out. One, it did . Yeah. This is great. Did you so right now [00:05:00] you're, we're in the heart of, our winter season, which involves a lot of meetings and involves a lot of speaking agent. You said you've done how many speaking engagements over the years? Mostly all agronomic stuff.

That kind of we're skirting around what you do. I'll let you introduce yourself and talk about, how you started your business and. Go from there.

Eric Rosenbaum: Yeah, so my name's Eric Rosenbaum. I'm a, I call myself like the senior agronomist of Rose Street Consulting.

Mitchell Shirk: I love that title, by the way, on the underneath your email,

Eric Rosenbaum: the senior agronomist.

Yeah. I call myself the senior agronomist because I really don't like calling myself the owner of Rore Consulting. It's not that I'm very proud to be the owner of Rose Tree Consulting, for any business to succeed, it has to be because of the team that you put in place and to call myself the owner of it takes away from.

all the contributions that our team gives. So I take the role senior agronomist, right? I feel like that makes me just the oldest person on the team. , .

Mitchell Shirk: You don't have that many gray hairs. That's good.

Eric Rosenbaum: But it hopefully it gives the [00:06:00] connotation that we're more of a team and we do things together and yeah.

Yeah. But yeah, so we started, roastery started in 2009 and, our business is doing a lot of crop scouting and getting out into the field wi with our customers and doing soil testing and giving them recommendations. And, in some ways it. It transitions over into to wildlife management because we're all looking for the same thing, right?

We want high quality forage and soils that produce because whatever we invest in our soil, whether it's, we're investing in corn seed for to run the combine through and sell that corn, or we're investing in clover seed to grow monster bucks, like we just, we want it to work. And so a lot of what we do is working with our customers to make sure that they can reach their end goal.

So if your goal, and I know your goal is to put out as many food plots as you possibly can and shoot as many giant bucks as you possibly can. like there, there's a soil component to that. We wanna make sure that whatever we're doing in the soil is going to lead. To, to enough [00:07:00] forage, enough biomass production that it's gonna draw these animals in and they're gonna feel comfortable coming in, not just in September, but they're gonna be there in June, July, August.

They're gonna be there in November, December. Like it's a place they want to be. And that can really start with soil testing and how people prepare to prepare that food plot for the year to come.

Mitchell Shirk: Absolutely. So and you started Rose Tree on your own in 2009, right? Yeah. Yeah. So then it was 2017 you had me on, it's been a downhill spiral ever since.

Seriously? When did you realize that? At the point when I was started working with you, they're like, this guy has a little bit of a problem. . Yeah.

Eric Rosenbaum: I think people need to know how you and I came to work together. Like that story is just pretty funny. Oh, that is a classic. , right? And so that story is, I get a call from your wife's grandmother saying that her granddaughter has met this really nice young man and he's working at the Game Commission and it's a seasonal job, and it's going to come to an end.

And [00:08:00] don't you have anything that he could do after his game, commission job ends. And I'm like, Yeah. Yeah, we do .

Mitchell Shirk: Do I really want to open that can of

Eric Rosenbaum: worms, but it, I think the funniest part was, I call you up to just to talk to you and and say, Hey, what are you doing this fall and do you want to get together for breakfast?

And you're like, yeah, I'm hunting. I could come and meet you for breakfast. So I think you were hunting that morning and you got out of the tree stand drove and we met for breakfast and you went back to the tree stand right afterwards. ,

Mitchell Shirk: You bet you . It was funny because that fall, so when that job came to an end and I was in a Lowell period, I was talking with you and was looking at a lot of other jobs that's pretty much all I did was just look for jobs and I just hunted that whole time just because it was like, I got free time, I can do what I want.

And Leanne was like, You need a sense of direction. Really bad. . She's you have no organization going on right now. If this continues, there's no way we're gonna last .

Eric Rosenbaum: But it's been, it, like her phone [00:09:00] call was like, like a little old angel giving me a call and being like, Hey, this is what you need

Right? And it was just awesome to have that. And it's just awesome to have you on our team and just everything that you bring and your passion and your drive and

Mitchell Shirk: before we get too sappy, cut you off now, ,

Eric Rosenbaum: right? Let's t like you have a passion for hunting and for sure. You're out scouting for customers, but you're taking pictures of turkeys and you're taking pictures of deer and I think you're working, but you're actually looking for sheds, , and

Mitchell Shirk: I don't find

Eric Rosenbaum: too many , but you definitely have a passion for this. And so I enjoy just listening to your stories and I enjoy being here today being part of this.

Mitchell Shirk: Thank you. . It's definitely been interesting. It's fun to see at the point, I think the, one of the first, I think it was like the first month of me working with you, he's Hey, I have this this client that has deer hunting related questions.

Can you go meet with him? I'm like, this is like week two of my job. What's next in store? . So[00:10:00] it's been interesting. But you were talking in the beginning and I wanna kind of circle back. We were talking about what we actually do and it, I find it really interesting cuz I have people ask me all the time, what do you do?

What do you do? I try to explain, that we're a third party consulting company and how that works. And, if somebody has a very beginner level knowledge of agronomy, there's still so many questions in trying to interpret it. So like when people ask you what you do, whether that's somebody that's you're out on a farm and a neighbor that to that farm walks out and say, it's like, what are you doing?

Like, how do you. How do you communicate that? Because it's, I always find myself. Bouncing all over the place to try to make sense for people.

Eric Rosenbaum: Yeah. I think there's a couple ways to look at it. If you're looking at it from that super high level, like it's our job to work with our customers to make the complex simple.

And we're doing that with our testing that we do. And when we're out walking the fields, we're trying to figure out what's going on, what's impacting growth, and we're trying to put together a plan to address that. And it can be often [00:11:00] very complicated, but it's really our job to come up with a simple, clear path for the customer to take in order to achieve their goals.

, I never tell that to a stranger because they'd be like, What? Yeah, . So I usually, I tell people like, oh we're the people that look for bugs and weeds. That's what we do. We look for bugs and weeds. We go out we walk the fields. Like I'm out walking the fields for Jeff, whoever, and looking for bugs and weeds and anything that's going on in the field.

And then we're gonna come up with a plan of action to take care of whatever we find. And usually landowners are, they understand that for the most part. Yeah.

Mitchell Shirk: Yeah. Finally, my friends too. Friends and family like, or. , whatever. They're like I still don't quite understand what you do. It's that's okay.

Just believe me, I'm giving value somewhere. . But no where I find in interesting, when I find the overlap between agronomy work and driving yield and trying to help our growers a lot of it's just understanding the basics and not overlooking the basics when you're moving forward.

And I'm talking along the lines of soil amendments [00:12:00] and managing things to grow. And I find that in when you translate over into the world of wildlife management and food plots most of those people don't have an agronomic background. And I think it is really easy to get marketed into purchasing something or doing something to a food.

that is just a waste of your money. Or you don't realize, and this is what opened my eyes when I started a job in agronomy, is the price gap when you start talking about the same overlaying products Oh yeah. That we put in ag fields. Yeah. And it's prepack, it's repackaged and sold in the food plot world and the price gap is huge.

And, there's probably people that would listen to this that would kill me for that. But I don't care cuz I wanna help people. And I think there's a potential there to really educate people. First things first in, in my point of view, I get asked all the time, can you come look at this food plot, whether that's just a friend of mine or maybe it's even one of our landowners.

They'll ask questions about that. So I'll go look at it. And a lot of the times it's basic [00:13:00] things and why it's not working. But first and foremost start off with a soil test. So simple. Literally soil tests are. Cheap

Eric Rosenbaum: soil tests are cheap. Almost every state is gonna have a land grant university, and that land grant University is going to have a testing lab.

Penn State, right? We're in Pennsylvania. Penn State has a soil testing lab. Anybody can walk into an extension office. You can buy a soil test bag for 20 bucks. And you can go out into your food plot take a sample, fill that bag, send it to the lab, and that lab will return results to you within two weeks.

You can put right on the package what you're growing, like I, I'm doing this for a food plot. And they'll return recommendations to you for limestone, for fertilizer, for nitrogen. And that way you have an unbiased recommendation of what to go off of. And almost every state is going to have a testing lab at the university that is gonna be able to help people do.

And I,

Mitchell Shirk: one thing I try to tell a lot of people when they ask me questions on fertility, like we are a third [00:14:00] party consultant, and we do that same thing, but more fine tuned to the growers and what their goals are and, knowing a little bit more history. But I think that's what's important because a lot of times what I've seen with people who plant food plots is they get a soil test through a company that they buy product from, and it's easy to then buy product or something that they don't need or misinterpret what they need from that soil test result.

I think that's, to me, that's a big one because I, I think it's easy to get the, easy to get the rug pulled over. Innocent For sure.

Eric Rosenbaum: For sure. Like any company that does soil testing, whether you're a fertilizer company or a chemical company or a consultant like us when you send your samples to the lab will ask you what kind of recommendations you want to push out.

And you get to choose, you get to choose what you're going to identify as an optimal level or what you're gonna identify as a deficient level. And then you get to say, okay. if phosphorus comes back deficient, this is how much I wanna recommend to somebody. , so the testing part of it is pretty much gonna be standard no matter [00:15:00] what lab you send it to.

Feel confident that the numbers that are on that page are accurate. Nobody is interjecting their opinion into those numbers. But then as soon as you start looking at the recommendations that are coming off of that soil test, that's when you have the risk of having somebody's opinion. Overlaid on top of your recommendations. So that's why I would say a land grant university, they have no skin in the game as to how your food plot is doing. They're not trying to sell you anything. They're simply trying to fulfill a service of that land grant mission by doing soil tests for. . So if you send a soil test there and you get your recommendations back feel confident that those recommendations are exactly what you need and no more.

If you send your sample to someplace else and it's coming back with specific product recommendations, I think then you want to just take a step back and take an evaluation of how that recommendation is coming to you and what they're looking at. You can always go online if you're not sure that they're [00:16:00] recommending the right thing.

You can go online to Penn State or any land Grant University. You can figure out what the optimal levels of phosphorus and potassium and pH are supposed to be, and then you can look at your soil test and the recommendations that they're providing and say, okay, does that make sense? , it's probably a 10 minute job for somebody to do.

But I feel. . When I look at the recommendations that are coming down through the ag retailers, the people that are selling fertilizer to the 500 acre farmer they're fairly well close, aligned on the major nutrients. Absolutely. I feel like they're recommending limestone for pH about, like we are, they're recommending phosphorus and potassium about like we are.

You get into some of the other micronutrient things, and I think there's probably a diverging path of how we handle recommendations. But for the major things that people are gonna be looking at within a soil test I find the majority of the ag industry does a pretty good job. Now, I don't know a whole lot about what the wildlife food plot industry is doing and how they're overlaying their recommendations.

But like I [00:17:00] said, you can easily go onto a Penn State. And see what those optimal levels are supposed to

Mitchell Shirk: be. And I think what you would expect from a wildlife side of things or a food plot side of things, there's a lot of parallels in interpretation. And what I mean by that is it's so easy to want to find a new buzzword, the new thing that's gonna drive, yield or make something better.

And the thing that comes to my mind is, we get in our winter meetings that we do. The way it works the year works for us. We go out in after crops are harvested, we pull soil tests and we take those samples, we meet this time of year go through those samples, what they mean, try to plug the lowest holes in the bucket on those samples and then make, a field plan for that year.

Then we're walking those fields and laying that out. When you're talking about going through the soil test First of all, our soil tests, when we get those results back we do a basic soil test, which is gonna include your pH, your buffer pH, your phosphorus, potassium, your CECs of the [00:18:00] soil your calcium, magnesium base saturations and organic matter.

And, there's options to fill other stuff out. But, we get, I get asked all the time, and I'm sure you have in, in plenty of cases too why aren't we testing for more in the soil? And I, one of the things I tell a lot of people is we need to make sure we cover the basics in those macros.

Really. Because I don't care what we do in the secondary and micro world if we're missing the mark on something as simple as having our pH correct, having potassium correct. Having phosphorus correct. I don't really care what we're doing beyond that because we're missing the market, in my

Eric Rosenbaum: opinion.

Absolutely. Get the basics right. Your return on investment from the basics is so much greater than your return on investment from all the small things. . If you're looking at return on investment from soil additives pH and putting limestone on, it's gonna give you a big return on investment.

Making sure that your potassium and your phosphorus levels are right, that's gonna give you a really big return on investment. Then you start to get into some of your [00:19:00] secondary nutrients like sulfur or boron or zinc or manganese. And the return on investment just goes down so fast.

That before you even start to think about looking at some of those smaller micronutrient things you've really gotta get the pH, the phosphorus and the potassium. You gotta get that right. In Pennsylvania, what they're gonna consider an optimal range of pH is gonna be anywhere from six to 6.5.

So if somebody is doing a a multispecies food plot mix that's gonna have some cereals, it's gonna have some Forbes, it's gonna have some legumes. Each of those species is gonna have a different ideal pH. But if you can keep that pH. Somewhere between six and six five. Those plants are gonna flourish and do everything that they need to.

from a phosphorus perspective, phosphorus is really gonna be a 30 to 50 part per million optimal range. There's zero need for you to have phosphorus levels much above 50 when it comes to a food plot. Potassium is probably [00:20:00] the potassium and pH are probably the two most common deficiencies that we see.

And from a potassium perspective, we want those potassium levels to be about a hundred to 200 parts per million. If they're below a hundred parts per million. You will see signs of potassium deficiency. So I usually try to keep it simple for people and I want 'em to remember three numbers, right?

If you want optimal pH, it's six five. If you want optimal phosphorus, it's 50. And if you want optimal potassium, it's 150. . And until you can get all three of those numbers pretty close within your soil test, don't worry a whole lot about some of those other secondary nutrients. Once you do get pH phosphorus and potassium nailed down.

Okay. Then maybe let's start taking a look at sulfur. Let's start taking a look at some of these other things that are maybe gonna influence forage quality more so than they're gonna influence forage quantity. , right? We gotta get the quantity thing down first and then we can start looking at some of the other

Mitchell Shirk: things.

Absolutely. And when we talk about product and adjusting and [00:21:00] missing the mark. One, one simple thing that I see too before we get into talking about product and addressing it with amendments I. I've had two, two circumstances happen, a lot of cases. Number one, I'll either get why is my food plot look like crap, , and I'll look at the soil test and they either don't have it or, they're not managing those things that you just said.

The second thing is I'll get a soil test and I'll look at it and go, wow, everything looks the way it's supposed to. So if there's experiences, something else going on why, what exactly is going on? And it's so amazing to me how many times I go out and again, we miss the basics. Is it in the location that there's absolutely, there's really poor sunlight getting to that.

So many times I go to places and food plots are put in the absolute worst possible places you could think. Old log landings logging trail. dozed out paths that are narrow and don't have adequate sunshine, wet soils that have poor drainage, wet soils, log landings that have extreme [00:22:00] compaction.

That's a huge problem why we would have that, because you don't have any anywhere for roots to go. So stuff like that. So I can't not miss that because I've been places where the soil test comes back and you go, this should grow a perfect food plot. And then you look at simple characteristics and you say your food plot will do a whole lot better if you take a chainsaw and you cut down a bunch of trees on this side of your food plot because you're gonna allow more sunlight.

And that's an extreme part. And that's something. . Extremely simple, but overlooked. When you're going through and don't look at that now when you're looking at it in February, you think, oh, I've got plenty of sunlight coming through . No, the problem is gonna be during the grown season.

Yeah. That's it sounds simple, but so overlooked. That's typically when I go to places and look at food plots, that's almost the number one thing that I have a problem addressing. It's like you need to create space, not just for the plants where you're looking at it, but you need to look outside that perimeter.

Eric Rosenbaum: That's a big one. Yeah, that's true. I think compaction, people can probably identify compaction pretty easily when they're taking a soil test [00:23:00] like. I don't know about you, but most of the food plots that I've sampled for people over the years have been like, it's either wet and has a really high water table, or it's just rocky is all get out.

And in those ones that are rocky is all get out. I can't use my regular soil probe and we go out and do soil testing for our customers. We have this aluminum soil probe that you push in six to eight inches and you do that 15 times throughout the field and it's super handy.

There's no rocks or very minimal rocks in an ag field. Then you go into the food plot and you can't get your soil probe in an inch and a half because it's all rock. Exactly. And so then I just use a shovel, right? I always have a four foot shovel in my truck that I can use for soil tests. And when I'm getting a soil test in a food plot, oftentimes what I do is I'll dig a.

eight inches deep with my shovel. And then once I get that whole dug eight inches deep and I have a clean face along the backside of the hole, I'm gonna move my shovel back about an inch, and then I'm gonna derive it down as, as hard as I can and get a clean cut so that I base basically have an inch of [00:24:00] soil the length of my shovel face. And I'm gonna take that, put it in a bucket, and I'm gonna go around the food plot maybe three other times and get, four, four holes dug, four faces, put it in a bucket, mix it all together and then I've got my sample. But they can identify compaction when they're doing that because if you're gonna have compaction in the soil, you're gonna have a difficult time digging down.

If my shovel face is 12 inches, I'm gonna struggle to get down three, four inches if I have compaction. And that's probably what you're talking about with those landings. Oh, absolutely. How deep do you need to go before you hit that compaction level?

Mitchell Shirk: And sometimes pretty darn deep when you're talking about running skidders and, log trucks on places like that.

Sometimes it's extreme and you gotta keep in mind and or try to keep realistic. I think people think that it's gonna be overnight work on some of these places when you're talking about deciduous force and I've pulled soil tests that have PHS under a five and that's, that's gonna take a significant amount of time just to get the pH to a level of optimum that's not just a one year fix.

Oh, yeah. Yeah. Getting back to. The [00:25:00] pH side of things, the p, the k in managing those macros and the low hole in the bucket, so to speak. I get asked all the time, what do you think about this product or this product? Y we already addressed that in a soil test. If you get a recommendation from a grant, let's say it comes back with a two ton per acre application recommendation of lime, or maybe it's gonna come back with a 200 pound per acre application of potash.

First of all I tell people all the time, cause most times food plots are small. How many square feet are in a food are in one acre? And a lot of times people tell me, oh, I have a, I have an acre food plot. And you look at it like this might be a quarter to a half in that range. I do that all the time. So first of all 43,570 square feet is one acre.

You got it. So that is the number to keep in mind. Yeah. When people want to figure out how much product you need to put on the field, that's a big one. . But second of all, we're talking about a pretty substantial amount, one ton, 2000 pounds of [00:26:00] lime, one acre. That's a lot of material to move.

So people all, most food plotters are talking about doing something with, hand equipment, atv maybe with a drag spreader. So then you get products like Like something you'd maybe you'd throw on your lawn. Maybe you're talking about a liquid lime in a sense, and people go this says it does the exact same thing.

And it's the interpretation. And I'd like you to talk about that. I've talked about this a little bit, but it's the difference in my mind between a plant amendment for that year and a soil

Eric Rosenbaum: amendment. Yeah. Yeah. So let's talk about pH, for instance. PH is a logarithmic scale.

So a pH of six is. , like 10 times lower than a pH of seven. , and a pH of five is a hundred times lower than a pH of seven. So logarithmic scale. So pH is very much sensitive to to, to that swing. So when you get PHS in your soil that are, Down much below 5.8 and pH. All it is just, it's a measurement of [00:27:00] hydrogen and it's a measurement of aluminum in the soil, at least in, in the mid-Atlantic region.

That's what pH is measuring. Hydrogen and aluminum. And not just aluminum, but free floating aluminum. So when you get phs that are down below five eight, you have a lot of hydrogen present in the soil and you have a lot of aluminum that's not attached to something just floating around the soil and it just eats roots away.

Your roots can't survive with that much hydrogen in the soil. They can't survive with that much free floating aluminum. So when you put lime on right, that reaction is you're putting lime, which is calcium carbonate, and the calcium dissociates from the carbonate and the carbonate, which is CO oh three, right?

One of those oxygens is gonna pop off of that and it's gonna latch onto two hydrogens and create water. . And so now you're left with water. Carbon dioxide and some extra calcium. And so the pH rectification goes through that carbonate molecule. So you can get calcium carbonate, you can get magnesium carbonate.

Those are probably gonna be the two most common ones. If [00:28:00] I were talking to somebody about, what kind of product to use to, to rectify pH, I would probably lean towards doing like a pelletized lime, right? A pelletized lime comes in 50 pound bags. You can get it in calcium carbonate, you can get it in magnesium carbonate, easy to handle.

You can put it in a toe spreader, you can just throw it around with your hand. Pretty. pretty easy to manage, right? That's what I use for my yard. It's what I use for my orchard. Pelletized Lime works great. A little bit on the expensive side. , but like I said worth the investment. The liquid limes, I've used the liquid lime on my yard one time and I had to order it , it took forever for it to come in.

I had to drive like an hour to a truck stop to pick it up from somebody and I brought it back. I was super excited. I got liquid lime. and it clogged up my sprayer like nothing else. Okay. It clogged up my sprayer within three minutes. My pump got clogged up, my nozzle got clogged up. I was trying to use just the spray wand.

I have a 10 foot boom on my sprayer, but the, I knew the nozzles on my boom were gonna be too fine. There was no way I was [00:29:00] gonna get liquid lime through the nozzles on my boom. So I thought, okay, I'm just gonna use the wand sprayer on the tank. And like I said, within three minutes I had a clogged pump.

I had my wand got clogged up, and then I ended up having to buy a whole new pump, . . And I had to replace my wand. I had to replace my filters. It was awful. Awful. So I would I would caution people, if you have low pH, which would be pretty common for somebody with a food plot on a mountain side to have a low pH. Just given the nature of that I would lean towards doing app palletized lime. I think it's gonna be an easier product for people to handle. Because I just don't want people to go through that experience of having to buy a whole new pump and clean out all their stuff. It was just, it was nasty.

Once they get that limestone put on don't expect immediate changes. You're looking at a mineral that you're applying to the soil in order to achieve a chemical reaction. And so you're gonna apply lime in April, and if that limestone reacts by August, you're gonna be pretty happy about that.

Absolutely. Like it just takes forever. . Now what I usually tell my customers is, Hey, [00:30:00] you've got a pH of 5.5, and in order to take that pH from a 5.5 to like a 6.5, it's gonna take three tons of lime per acre. But in the first six months, the amount of limestone that reacts is very small.

, right? The most of your reaction is going to occur in that six to 18 month period following application. So just keep that in mind, like when people have food plots, if their pH is low and they're trying to figure out how much lime to put on put on what you can this year. and then knowing that it's gonna take six to 12 months in order for you to start seeing that reaction.

And then maybe soil test it again and see what the pH is. And then you can apply Lyme over a period of years in order to get that pH to where you want to. You don't have to do it all, all at once

Mitchell Shirk: E. Exactly. And I'll, a couple years ago I was at an event, it was a food plot event and one of one of Lebanon County's finest extension agro ups was there.

Del Voy I'll name him. Good [00:31:00] for this guy. Yeah, he's good guy. He's doing forever, guy. Yeah, he has, and he was one of the speakers there and he was talking about a couple things and, me being me, I had to stir the pot in a sense because I love doing that. And I asked him, cause I knew he would give a great answer and he.

I said to him, I said, Dell can you just, when you were talking about the basics in the soil test for this food plot parameter project that you were doing, that you just presented to us, I said, can you explain to everybody listening here, the difference between the liquid lime and running a bulk product?

Because, liquid lime it's, I'm not, I don't wanna talk negatively that it's a bad thing. It's not, it has its place. There's ethic, there's products out there that have a lot better efficacy to prevent the problems that you experienced. . It's awful . Yeah. That's bad.

But there, there's products out there to prevent that from happening. But he put it in such a simple way of thinking. He said, think about it. You're getting a recommendation for two tons of material. He said that Lime might have. A CCE of 80, [00:32:00] 90, 90 plus percent, which is

Eric Rosenbaum: so CCE calcium carbonate equivalent.

Yes. Yeah. So that is the percentage of the material like comparing it to raw limestone. If pure limestone was a hundred percent, it'd be a hundred cce calcium carbonate equivalent. A lot of materials are what, 80 to 90%,

Mitchell Shirk: right? Yeah. So still you're talking about a lot of product to make major changes within the profile of the soil.

And he said, think about that, and then think about putting liquid lime on in the sense of the five gallon jug that you get for that food plot. He goes, yeah, you're making changes to the soil, but it's minuscule. Yeah, it's minuscule. It's short term. . And a lot of people will make that argument in the food plot world, all that.

You've got this section way back on your property. It's hard to get to. This is an easy solution. And maybe it is in certain cases, maybe that's gonna be easier to do on an annual basis to maintain, but you get to a point where if you're doing this for 10 years straight to me managing it [00:33:00] the first two to three years you're set for a long time in food plot cases most of the time.

Eric Rosenbaum: Yeah, for sure. pH is not gonna go, it's not gonna, it's not gonna go up and down fast. If I took a soil test today and the soil pH was a 6.5 and I came back next February and took a soil test in the same spot, my soil test might be a 6.4. It goes down very slowly through time that it's not you.

A couple of years getting your pH up to a six five, and now you're gonna wait another three years before you soil test. And in that three year period, your soil test isn't gonna go from a six five to a five five Exactly. It's maybe gonna go from a six five to a six two, maybe a six three. It's very slow decline as that acidification process occurs.

So yeah, once you get that initial investment done in pH, you should be set for a pretty long time.

Mitchell Shirk: Absolutely. Because a lot of the time the things that reduce our pH over [00:34:00] time, like when you're, when I'm thinking like from agronomically in our corn bean wheat rotations, the things we do on an annual basis kind of.

make that process go quicker. That's the easiest way to put it. Versus a food plot where a lot of the time when you get your basic stuff that we're talking about managed, you get stuff into optimum levels. You're not doing a ton of tillage. I talk constantly about how to do no-till food plots with minimal equipment, stuff like that, and the benefits to that and how that equates to hopefully a better quality food plot and better hunting in yada, like the process of throwing seed and managing weeds.

We don't have a very fast process of acidification. No, we

Eric Rosenbaum: don't. We don't. Most of your acidification is coming from your parent material. It's coming from the rocks at the bottom of your soil. And so people are gonna put lime on the top of their soil profile. And if their pH is super.

like you need to do the tillage and incorporate that limestone through your whole soil profile. And I'm a huge proponent of no-till [00:35:00] love, no-till production. . But if you surface, apply your lime, it's only gonna leech down through the soil profile at about an inch a year. . So if your roots you're gonna go out and you're gonna plant a multi-species mix and it's gonna be some clover and it's gonna be some sorghum and buckwheat and whatever else you're thinking.

And those roots are going down, 24, 36 inches. How real, really, what is your options for affecting that soil pH through the whole Root Pro profile? It's fairly limited. So if you have a low pH to start, you're probably gonna need to do the tillage and incorporate that limestone as deep into the soil profile as you possibly can, because if you surface apply it, it's only gonna leach down at an inch a year.

So now you've got a pH of 5.3 at 12 inches and you surface apply your lime in a no-till situation, and it's literally gonna take 10 years for the limestone to get all the way down to that 12 inch mark to have an effect on pH. So if people have super low phs, I hate to say it, but do the tillage.

, get that limestone down as deep as you can, affect [00:36:00] as much of the soil profile as you possibly can. And then once you get the pH. Danger zone then. Yeah. Yeah. Let's talk about doing a no-till system and just letting that limestone leach down through at its natural level. Yeah.

Mitchell Shirk: We've been talking a lot about soil tests and that's the stuff I wanted to talk about.

So if people are listening to this you're still hanging on with this, then that means you're really interested into this nerdy stuff because it doesn't love pH. Exactly. It was funny because you spoke at an event two weeks ago or a week ago, and one of I'll shout out to Pa Plotters who's probably listening to this right now.

He he sent this post about this presentation he went to, and I was looking at his post and I'm like that was the place that my boss was speaking at. And I scrolled through his pictures yeah, there's my boss in his presentation is . It was funny. So it was really cool to see that Mike was going and he was really interested from an agronomic perspective, soil health and I think that's a big stuff.

Soil health in the world of Whitetails and Wildlife management. , I feel like, has become a little bit of a buzzword in some sense. It's not that it is a buzzword, [00:37:00] but I feel like a lot of people are harping on it so much and missing the mark of why we do it in the first place. And it's, the reason that I do it is for a the system that I like to use makes my life simpler when, when I'm looking at the amount of food plot acres that I plant on an annual basis.

If I can avoid having to take a tractor or a four-wheeler with a disc and be disking constantly, that makes my life a whole lot simpler. , but the aspect of the soil health the way nutrients work through your soil and the way the plant interactions are occurring in the soil the less we disturb that from a food plot sense.

Why would we, especially from a a wildlife perspective to me it just makes sense. But it's really hard to communicate the, how a simple system like that really benefits you over time. Cause I think people get so hung up on, I need to have the absolute most attractive plants and I gotta exchange the most nutrients through the plants to better the fawn production and milk production and deer and inches [00:38:00] and antlers on whitetail.

And that's great if that's your goal, but. This is probably a statement for another podcast, but I don't really care the quality of milk production and the antler growth that you experience in all your deer if you are doing your hunting strategy wrong and you're chasing them to get shot on your neighbor's property anyway.

And that's a whole other topic

Eric Rosenbaum: of discussion, but, so you guys have a, you've done a lot of food plots at your place over the years, it's mountain ground, it's rugged territory. How much time did you have to invest in getting your soil right so that you could look at some of these soil health issues?

Mitchell Shirk: To be honest with you the amount of work that would've been done to get the pH just in check, like we were talking about that, that some of the first. Were really small. And I remember we used to take the old dump truck, fill it with ag lime and shovel it . And it was like your forearms would be look Popeye.

Oh yeah. Like Popeye, when you were [00:39:00] done. And not that we need to bore everybody this but ag lime is one of the things that breaks down the slows when compared to palletizer or something like that. I remember we shoveled it on and it took a very long time for that to break down. In years we did intelligence stuff like that, but the the soil health component of it we didn't really start to pay attention to that until I probably started paying attention to it from an agronomic perspective.

So within the past five to seven years as I was going through my education and stuff like that and translating some of that how that needle has moved over time, it's been very small. But what I the benefit that I like is number one. The ground that I work with is thin tops in the first place.

Why would I want to till it in the first place? Because it doesn't take much for it to run off if we leave that bear. Yeah. I remember dozing out locations and getting five inch rains and those five inch rains or whatever ridiculous summer rains we got. You just see piles of tops at the bottom.

Huh? There it goes. What you had . So holding soil is what's most important to me, but the[00:40:00] we talked about, a lot of these just basic macronutrients. I don't really care how much you do in that sense. If you don't get rain, it doesn't grow. And if you can't hold the rain, that's important.

. I, it sounds so simple, but I'm saying these simple things because these are the conversations I have constantly when I get questions about this liquid fertilizer to put on for the plants and if it's got molybdenum and zinc and boron and all this. Those are all really important things, and I'm not discrediting those because from an agronomic perspective, we see a lot of micronutrient

Eric Rosenbaum: deficiency.

Plants need them. 18 essential nutrients. Exactly. But if you're gonna grow, you're gonna grow a sorghum plot for deer, right? It's gonna take what? A hundred pounds of nitrogen? It's gonna remove 60 pounds of phosphorus. It's gonna take a hundred pounds of potassium, and it's gonna take a quarter pound of zinc.

And all those micronutrients, zinc, boron, beli, mangan, manganese. You name your micronutrient, like the difference in need is [00:41:00] so great, right? It's literally like a hundred pounds of potassium that, that crop needs versus a quarter pound of copper. . And it's night and day.

Yeah. You just don't need much of those micronutrients. But when you buy it in a jug, like one of the most profitable things that a, a chemical or a fertilizer company can do is sell you that jug. And it's got 0.01% copper and 0.02% boron. And it is a very profitable product for them to sell.

May not be benefiting you all that much, but it's great for them.

Mitchell Shirk: And one thing that I've learned one statement I've learned in our travels and our job is if you put anything into a depleted system, you will see a response. The example I'll give is, there's a new food plot I can think of, and.

the pH I believe when it started was like a 4.9. The phosphorus was less than 10 parts per million. We already said 30 to 50. Optimum. The potassium was probably 40 parts per million. Optimum's, 130 plus. So [00:42:00] extremely depleted system. It called for a lot of lime, called for fertilizer, and we did some of those things.

But the breakdown and where that soil is, and that Virgin State is very poor. That same year one of my buddies bought I'm not gonna name the product, but it was a very well known liquid fertilizer product to get your food plot up and running and sprayed it in a couple of locations and we put a couple check strips out and put fences up and you could see a major difference in those cases.

And it was like, wow, look at this. We need to run this on more places. And my point and why I was such a negative Nancy about that is, yeah, it did it for a short term solution. And maybe that's something that I should consider if I really want to try to maximize as much as possible, maybe something on a really poor startup situation that's a benefit if you're trying to get forage in the fall.

But from a soil management and a long term management, and I'm always thinking with what we do, I'm always thinking long. You're not gonna see that exact same major response when you get the basics right? And that's the thing I try to

Eric Rosenbaum: stress [00:43:00] all the time, right? Yeah. Even if you look at products, you're gonna go to your local agway or your local, store, you're gonna get a bag of 10, 20, 20, right?

Or a bag of 5, 15 40, or whatever fertilizer analysis you're gonna buy, right? It's 50 pound bag, it's 10, 20, 20, right? So that means it's 10% nitrogen, 20% phosphorus, 20% potassium. So out of that 50 pounds, you have five pounds of nitrogen, 10 pounds of phosphorus, 10 pounds of potassium in that 50 pound jug, or in that 50 pound bag, right?

So now you compare that to a two and a half gallon jug of liquid fertilizer and a two and a half gallon jug, a liquid fertilizer, it probably weighs 10, 11 pounds a gallon. . So now two and a half gallons, you've got, let's just say 30 pounds of fertilizer or 30 pounds material in that jug, and it's 10% nitrogen, or it's 8% nitrogen.

Right now you've got three pounds. of, nitrogen in that whole jug. , right? So the people should really think about that and compare and contrast the products. When you have a soil test that's really low, go [00:44:00] to the dry products, you just get so much higher concentration of nutrients in those dry products and, put those 50 pound bags over your shoulder and hoof 'em into the food plot and sprinkle 'em around because that's gonna give you your biggest response in your biggest bang for your buck.

Mitchell Shirk: Exactly. And I think people get sticker shock from that because soil amendments and stuff like that, when you're talking about at any size, whether you're talking a half acre food plot or you're talking, 10, 20 acres of food plots it's an investment. And, most of the time what I've learned is people who lo love their deer, they're not afraid to spend money but

At the same time we're in a corner of the world where Pennsylvania, dutchmen like to cut corners where they can and see something cheaper and it's gonna quote, unquote, supply the same thing. And it's long term versus short term thinking is. What I try to communicate so hard and it's it's all a matter of how you want to interpret or what's gonna be the best situation for you.

But like I said, really reaping the rewards of fertility, soil health long term and what you're trying to do with a food plot, which my goal all the time is just to create[00:45:00] an opening of attraction that's gonna steer deer movement in a direction that's gonna be favorable to me. I don't wanna put a food plot in a location that's not gonna be favorable to me.

And any added benefit from a nutritionist standpoint is great. But when you're talking about making 1% of a property food plots, you're really doing a negligible amount to the overall nutrition. Not that it's bad, but I think a lot of hunters and people who look at it from a they're back 40 or less than that.

The impact you're having on the herd is insignificant. When you're talking from a nutrient standpoint, you have a bigger impact when you talk with a hunting strategy thing, which like I said it's another topic we've talked many times, and when you could put all the places together that you can keep deer from seeing you, hearing you smelling you, you don't expose them to pressure outside of your borders.

And that's what's important to me. So I went on a hunting tangent there, but I. When we're talking about fertilizer and stuff it gets [00:46:00] boring. But this is

Eric Rosenbaum: why we talk about it. No, it is. And the other thing I would point out is depending on when the last time you took a soil test is if you haven't taken a soil test in the last couple years, go do it this spring.

Yeah. But if your soil tests are pretty poor, , it's gonna influence the species that are gonna survive in that food plot. , right? So if you're not sure what your soil tests are, you're gonna be better served by getting a multi-species mix and putting it out there. The ones that are tolerant to a low pH, the ones that can really, are scrappy and can survive low potassium situations, they're gonna thrive and the species that can't, will die off.

Once you get your levels up to where they are more species should be surviving. . Like things that are not gonna do well in low phs. A lot of your clovers aren't gonna do well in low phs. A lot of the more fancier species that you want to try to promote aren't gonna do well in low pH.

They're not gonna do well in low potassium. You're gonna be stuck growing buck weed, Yeah. In some of those situations. So definitely get those levels up as fast as you possibly can. Go buy the bags of pelletized lime, go buy the bags [00:47:00] at 10, 20, 20, get it done because you can get it done pretty quickly.

Mitchell Shirk: Absolutely. One, one thing, the last thing when we're thinking about, cuz I'm running out of things to talk about from the end of the soil test. We talked about just the concept of bulk product and making sure you're treating it as an amendment versus, the one thing that you don't have on a soil test unless you specifically ask for it, is nitrogen levels.

We talk about our macronutrients, it's NP and K nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. And nitrogen isn't on a soil tus unless you ask for it, because it's a very mobile nutrient. So a lot of the time what I handle for people is just putting straight urea on after it's planted or at planting, depending on the crop, on the crop.

We get into situations of putting for. , a small overwintering forage, maybe that's like a a small grain silage with wheat and tread cow and stuff like that. And you're trying to really drive yield, we'll get into those a hundred to 130 pounds of total nitrogen that we're putting on it.

And most of the time what I've experienced in in a [00:48:00] system where we've maintained our pH, rrp and r k, and we're doing everything we can from soil health perspective that we're gonna talk about in later episodes. Is putting somewhere between 75 and a hundred pounds per acre of urea on is going to give you about 30 to 45 pounds of actual nitrogen.

And for the all intensive purposes of what you wanna see, that's plenty, plenty

Eric Rosenbaum: in most cases. Oh yeah. So I, with my, I have a 16 tree orchard down here on my property, which I have to have fences around cuz the deer come in and just destroy. I think if you ever wanted to put a great food plot up, just go plant a bunch of apple trees and they will come in and just destroy those apple trees within 30 days.

But I go to the local agway out here in Erda and they have bags of stabilized urea, right? . So urea is really susceptible to loss, right? If you surface apply your urea, a lot of that urea volatilizes within a couple days, if you don't incorporate. and at the this location I can get [00:49:00] stabilized urea, so it doesn't volatilize.

So I'll go out in the spring and I'll get a 50 pound bag of stabilized urea, a 50 pound bag of 10, 20 20, and three or four bags of pelletized lime. And that's my spring program for my orchard down here, go and just spread the pelletized line by hand. I don't do anything fancy. Same way with the 10, 20 20.

I spread that by hand. And then when it comes to the urea in a stabilized product, I can go and I can just sprinkle that around the tree line of each individual tree and use that as my nitrogen source. But it works out great and you definitely see a response to it. It's not it's not a huge investment that you have.

No, not at all. Sometimes it depends on the cost of fertilizer, but I would say that I get all that stuff for, a hundred, $120 probably. , which, hey, you know, 16 fruit trees, if they ever get big enough to produce fruit, I'm gonna be,

Mitchell Shirk: raking in the money. Yeah. I'll be coming down for apples and stuff all the time.

Eric Rosenbaum: I say that extremely sarcastically because after about four or five years of growing fruit trees, I've picked two apples and four blueberries,[00:50:00]

And I've replaced like three or four apple trees cuz deer just keep eating them if I don't fence 'em in.

Mitchell Shirk: Yeah that's a big problem. Yeah. Major. Major problem. Hey, we've been yaking for soil for about soil tests and trying to manage stuff for quite a long time, and I think at this point it's probably worth considering wrapping up, Eric, am I thinking about anything?

Am I missing anything? When you're talking about the basics, when it's coming to just growing a sufficient food plot based on a soil test, am I missing anything that, that people really need to think about?

Eric Rosenbaum: No. No. The thing that, that I would just wanna drive home to people is when you do that soil test, right?

And we wanna do it like every two or three years, right? , you're gonna go out and you get a soil test. We gotta get that soil test down about six to eight inches. So you're gonna use your shovel and you're gonna dig a hole, create that face, and grab that one inch of soil with a new shovel face.

Put that in a bucket, do it three or four times, mix it all up, and then you're gonna have a baseball size [00:51:00] amount of dirt that you're gonna put in a bag and send that to the lab. Just do it. Right? It'll take you. 15 or 20 minutes to do that soil test. It's not a big it's not a big job but it's so important for creating that foundation of how that food plot is gonna work for you.

Absolutely. So go do it, send your kids out to do it. Make it a fun time. Tell 'em there's a treasure hidden at the bottom of the of the hole. But just whatever it takes. Go and get that soil test done. Send it out to the lab, me personally, if I was advising landowners on their food plots, I would send 'em over to Penn State Extension.

, grab the bags everything, all the results are gonna come right back to you. They can email it to you, they can mail it to you, whatever you desire. But it's a fairly easy process. Then once you get those results back act quickly, don't beat around the bush and a little bit of this, little bit of that.

Hit that pH. With Lyme as hard as you need to, understanding that it could take a year, two, three years in order to get that pH up to the optimal level where people need it to and get [00:52:00] those phosphors and potassium levels up where they need it to go and buy a bag of fertilizer, put it on. The response from fertilizer should be pretty immediate.

, if you apply a fertilizer in April, that material will be available to your food plot in April. , it doesn't take any time for it to release, it's immediately available. So you should notice a response to fertilizer immediately. The limestone's gonna take a little bit longer, but go

Mitchell Shirk: out and get a ton.

Speaking of fertilizer response, you brought up a good point. So when you get stuff into optimum, your phosphorus, your potassium, calcium levels, phosphorus and calcium are the two that are always talked about because those are two that are very important nutrients when it comes to developing bone and developing young farms.

And I think people have this misunderstanding of how much you actually need and this concept that if optimum is good, a little bit more is better. And that's not always the case. Can you

Eric Rosenbaum: explain that? Yeah. So it is not a free pathway into the plant. If I am calcium and I am phosphorus, it is [00:53:00] not just an open door into the plant to get into that plant, right?

A plant has a highly regulated system for uptaking nutrients, and you can almost think about it as like the regulation process is like your house, right? The only way that people can get into your house is through the door. . And you get to control how far that door opens and if it opens at all.

And so nutrient uptake is exactly the same way, right? The plant knows how much phosphorus it needs, it knows how much calcium it needs to take in order to have that correct ratio of phosphorus and calcium. And so there's a different door for phosphorus to come in and there's a different door for calcium to come in, and the plant is actively regulating how far and how quickly those doors open in order to let phosphorus and calcium and really any other nutrient in.

When you think about what an optimal level is, . And if an optimal level is 30 to 50 parts per million and somebody's saying optimal phosphorus, 30 to 50 parts per million, my, if I increase my phosphorus to 200 parts per million, won't I [00:54:00] have just a so much healthier forage and get better bone mass?

, no you won't. You just have a lot of phosphorus. You just have a lot of phosphorus because the plant only needs so much and it has a highly active regulation process to regulate how much of that phosphorus gets into the plant. So really all you need to do is just meet those basic thresholds of being in an optimal range.

Once you get into the optimal range, the plant's gonna take care of the rest. It's gonna use its regulatory processes, and it's gonna be able to allow that phosphorus to come in, allow that calcium to come in and do what you want it to from forage quality. In some cases, once you get to that point where your levels are optimal, it may be cover crop species selection.

That matter more than what that actual fertility is.

Mitchell Shirk: Absolutely. Hey, before we go I want you there's one story I gotta hear. Oh, God. One of the fir, one of the first times I met you, my father-in-law was telling me stories about when you were young and you shot this giant buck, and you told the story of driving up to it and where your dad and I always butcher.[00:55:00]

It's, I gotta hear the biggest fuck in all of all.

Eric Rosenbaum: So when I was 12 years old, so I went and I got my hunting license at 12 years old and buck season is coming up, it starts with the Monday after Thanksgiving. , and this was like 1990 whatever. And wouldn't, you know it.

Like that October, I was in wood shop and I cut my finger off in wood shop. , I didn't get to hunt when I was 12 years old. So anyway, now I'm 13 and my dad says, he goes we're gonna build you a tree stand. So he builds me a tree stand in our pasture. And I said where are you gonna be dad?

And he's I'm gonna be over on the other side of the woods. So first day a buck comes along and, it's. A misty, like it's raining a little bit, like the fog is in the air. And he takes me out to the stand and he, I climb up the tree, I sit in my stand. He we call this tree stand the Taj Mahal because it was like as big as a conference table.

right? , like you, me and like our kids could have sat in this tree stand. It was so big. So I'm in the Taj Mahal and I'm sitting and my dad is maybe 200 yards up the [00:56:00] hill in his tree stand. Probably just thankful that he had a break from me.

Mitchell Shirk: Men mentoring like you're supposed to

Eric Rosenbaum: Exactly, yeah.

From distance from afar. mentoring from afar. So I had to borrow a gun from a neighbor when I was 13 years old. I didn't have a deer rifle, so I borrowed a gun from my neighbor, and it was a 3 0 8. And the guy that I borrowed it from was just, he was like, A hunting nut. Like he was into hunting.

And I would go over to his house and he taught me how to reload and when I'm, 13 years old and he's like, all right, your dad asked if you could borrow a gun from me, come on down and come pick Mike. I go down into his house and his whole basement is like a vault.

And there was just guns, like the whole wall. And I'm like, I'm amazed. I didn't realize one person could have that many guns. America. Yeah. America . So he takes me over to the wall and he pulls out this 3 0 8 and he's wow, this, I call this one my sniper rifle and it's got, the stock is all adjusted that you can adjust it for your cheek and it's got this giant scope on it.

And for somebody who's 13 year old, like I really thought I was using a sniper rifle . [00:57:00] So he takes me out and he teaches me how to shoot this 3 0 8. So anyway, that's what I'm walking out into the woods with that morning. And my dad, parks me in the Taj Mahal and he walks up to sit in his stand and he, the last thing he says to me, he's look, just shoot the first thing that comes along, just, he goes, just let's just, the first thing that comes along, you just shoot it because I don't care what it is.

Because we grew up on a farm. We had farm tags , so Doe Buck really didn't matter to him. We were gonna use the Cheerios boxes, our tag and report it to the game commission and everything was gonna be okay. So daylight comes and like the sun comes up and it's just barely bright enough that you can.

You can see, and here comes this dough walking down from my dad, like it had to go past him. Came walking down towards me and it's 20 yards away and I'm like, oh my gosh, here it is it's brown. Like I'm gonna shoot it. So I put my gun up. And I'm like, no, nah, I'm gonna, I'm gonna wait. I'm gonna wait and see what happens.

Like it's too early in the morning to to shoot this thing. A couple minutes past the dough [00:58:00] walks down farther in the pasture and I lose interest. And I'm looking around and the next thing I know, I look back towards where the dough is. And here she comes, she's walking back towards me and there's this monster buck, like just right behind.

And he's just trailing, six feet along behind her and she's leading him right back up the trail. And by this time, the, it's fully light in the morning and this buck comes within 20 yards of me, 20 yards away. I'm 13 years old. I'm literally wearing street clothes. I've done nothing to mask my scent.

I'm probably jumping up and down in the stand at this point. Like I I'm not being. Quiet. I'm not being still, I'm not doing anything. But he's following that dough and he could care less what I'm doing. So he gets within 20 yards and I shoot, and then he he runs out into a cornfield because the corner of the pasture was at, where I was sitting, was right on the edge of a cornfield.

So he jumps the pasture fence and he runs out in a cornfield 40 yards. And I'm like frantically trying to like, reload and get another shot. And I throw the gun up and I shoot and the thing falls over. There's only [00:59:00] ever one hole in that deer. So when it fell over, my bullet passed right over top of it.

So my dad comes down. And he's did you shoot? I'm like, yeah, I shot . Did you get it? And I look at him, I'm like, yeah, don't you see the rack sticking up above the corn? Because the corn stalks are, two feet tall or whatever. Yeah. And the rack is sticking up above the corn stalks.

It was that big . So it, it turned out it was like a 25 or 27 inch spread seven point. It was the biggest buck I've ever shot in my life. . And I shot it by eight o'clock in the morning or

Mitchell Shirk: whatever. That's just the way you want it just the way you want. Yeah. You're my father-in-law told me that story that like, you guys were going up and be like, don't you see it, dad?

No. Where is it? Yeah it's sticking up above the corn, sticking

Eric Rosenbaum: up above the corn. And he's what

Mitchell Shirk: the heck did you just shoot for your first ear? Yeah. I love that story. The first time I heard that ,

Eric Rosenbaum: so the neighbor came down, who's gun I use? And he was ecstatic. And he is we gotta take this to the butcher.

We gotta get it mounted. We, oh, we gotta go . I. But [01:00:00] yeah, I have not shot another deer that big since. I don't even think I've seen many deer that

Mitchell Shirk: big since. No, it's a special thing for me, when you can experience something. I've been pretty blessed to be part of some really cool buck harvesting, some mature buck over the years, but it's usually few and far between in most cases.

And unless you're doing some crazy stuff, but you used to shoot a lot of competition archery.

Eric Rosenbaum: I did. Yeah. You loved shooting archery. I got into archery when I was in college and it was just a way to not get in trouble.

Mitchell Shirk: Oh, absolutely. Cause it was funny, like the first time when we were, you know, when I first started working, we were making conversation, getting to know each other and stuff, and started talking about archery.

Cuz you knew I liked Archery Hunt. And I, I started talking like really basic. Oh, this is what I'm doing with my bow and this is why I'm doing, and you're like, oh yeah, I used to shoot that. I'm like, oh, you shot Bow and you start going into the depths of your shooting. I'm like, oh, you shot in college.

That's pretty cool. And then you're like yeah, I was a, statewide champion or whatever. I'm like, Yeah. What? Yeah. LA Larry Wise used to coach I'm like, hold on a second. Who the hell am I working for now? . [01:01:00] I'm like, what is going on? You start going in and telling me the stories about getting coached by Larry Wise, which for those of you, most people listening to this probably know who Larry Wise is, but he's like the guy who wrote the book on back tension releases.

Yes. And back tension form and archery, which Oh yeah. Is, huge in the world of

Eric Rosenbaum: competition archery. Yep. So it was, everything happens by luck and by dumb circumstance. So I go to Penn State and we're just a bunch of dudes shooting at Targets and and having, having a good time. And the, this one woman walks in and she. Are you guys the archery club? And we're like, Y yeah, we are. She goes, oh, I was expecting more . And she introduces herself and sh her name was Carrie and she was like national champion of archery from Texas, right?

. And she was at Penn State doing her master's degree. And she goes, have you guys ever thought about doing tournaments? And we're like, no, but if we get to travel, we are in. Yeah. So she's great, we're gonna do, we're gonna do tournaments, we're gonna start shooting tournaments. So we [01:02:00] ended up shooting.

all these indoor tournaments throughout Pennsylvania. And we got on like the indoor circuit of going around all the different clubs and we end up doing the state championship. And so we go down to the state championship. And by that time this was all in, in one season. By that time we actually decided we should go and get Penn State shirts and all wear our Penn State shirts together.

So we go to the championship and that's the one I ended up winning. . And and then somebody said to us, Hey, why don't you guys go down to the shoot in Atlantic City? And we're like, what? We have no idea about the shoot in Atlantic City, but Atlantic City has a big archery shoot. At least.

And you get the shoot, 40, 50, 60 meters indoors. And so we go down to Atlantic City and we walk in with our Penn State shirts and there's this guy in shooting crossbows, and he is you guys are from Penn State? And we're like, yeah, shirts. Penn State. Penn State. We're from Penn State. He goes, yeah, I'm a professor at Penn State.

I'll be your advisor. and the guy's name was Stan. So Stan was he was a professor of plant [01:03:00] physiology. . And so he became our advisor. And so after that Atlantic City trip he goes, when do you guys meet? And we were like, we meet Tuesdays and Thursdays down in the white building. He's great, I'm coming down Tuesdays.

So he showed up Tuesday night and again, like he walks in and he. This is what you guys do . Yeah. Yeah. This is what we do. He goes, how did you make it to Atlantic City doing what you're doing? I don't know, it was just on luck. He goes, I'm gonna call Larry Wise. And we're like, great. We have no idea who Larry Wise is.

So he called Larry Wise on a, that night. And Larry Wise showed up at our practice on Thursday. Wow. And Larry lived, 40 minutes outside of State College. And he goes, oh. He goes, you guys are, you're gonna shoot competitively. I can help you with this. He goes, I'm gonna show up once or twice a month.

We're gonna give you lessons, things to work on and over that, over that, between that year and the next year, Larry really did like he, between him and Stan, they would come to our [01:04:00] practices. They would give us tips, they would give us pointers. I learned how to shoot the back tension release through.

Through him and just an amazing experience. But all through dumb luck .

Mitchell Shirk: That's hysterical. Cause it was funny cuz like we're talking about shooting and I haven't done a lot of target archery just because of time and stuff and, I was always focused on hunting, but I took a lot of target archery concepts and I used to shoot indoor shooting three spot at 20 yards.

Just because that, to me, that is such a fantastic way to better yourself as an archer. And, when being able to shoot, a quarter consistently at, 60 shots to shoot a 600. And I think like the best I ever did on a half round at 300 was like a 2 98. And I was like, oh man that's really good.

And when we start talking, you're like, oh yeah I've cleared cards and stuff. I'm like, who the heck is this guy ?

Eric Rosenbaum: So when I was in, when I was learning from Larry and it really. In my most competitive state I would use the back tension release in the tree stand. Yeah. Just shoot deer with a back tension release, it'd be rifle season and I would just take my bow out and shoot and, no problems.

I [01:05:00] never had a problem shooting a deer with a back tension release. Now I couldn't even imagine

Mitchell Shirk: doing it. Yeah, when you be, when you're so far, removed from it I actually shoot a hinge release now to hunt too, just because what I've learned with myself is when I get under pressure and get excited, the only thing that I have a remote possibility of having a little bit of control is with that release.

And it's not like it's not like it's, that released does so much more for me. It's just the fact that it's a mental thing that allows me to execute my shot better because I've tried, I've shot for, all off season and shoot my hinge release and then go into shooting an index caliber release and.

It's like a deer comes in front of me and I forget what I'm doing and I just get so dang excited and, forget my shot process, punch the trigger and, wound something or miss or something stupid like that. So I've resulted the past few years. I've been shooting my HN release for hunting and I've really liked it for the most part.

I've actually considered maybe trying to go back again and shoot my index release just cuz I, I'm always tinkering with [01:06:00] stuff not like I used to. Cuz time is of the essence, you know exactly what that's like because we talk about that all the time and you're somebody that I've looked up to in a lot of sense because you talk about priorities and you said to me one time you were like, I love all that stuff.

But at the same time I've got, my career, I've got my family and my kids in the phase of life that they're in. I, that'll come back to me. That's another thing. And I try to keep that in perspective of me cuz you know so well that, it's so often the first thing on my mind when I wake up in the morning and the last thing before I go to bed.

And that's just the fact of the matter is there's so much more. And I said this year, like my main thing is really just trying to focus on priorities and so that's one thing I've really enjoyed outside of agronomy, just, BSing with you over time, but Yeah, so we've been rolling for plenty long.

So Eric, thanks thanks again for for doing this. Hopefully this is helpful. This is the planning phase when it comes to food plots and stuff like that now, so Yeah, absolutely. Plan now

Eric Rosenbaum: And work now. Yeah, it was enjoyable. I'm glad we were able to do it, man. I would just let people know, if they have questions about food plots, like you're the man, you know how to advise 'em, so reach out and let's get some successful food plots.

[01:07:00] Absolutely.

Mitchell Shirk: Hey, thanks again.