Use a deer exclusion cage to evaluate deer usage on a food plot. This is the least expensive option and can be constructed on each of your food plots.
The simple device prevents deer and other animals from eating what’s inside the cage, and by observing how much and what kind of forage grows inside and comparing it with the rest of the food plot, you can see how much forage is being produced and how heavily the deer are browsing the plot.
Make your own exclusion cage
There is no right or wrong shape, provided it’s built so deer cannot reach what’s growing inside, but round cages are the easiest to make
STEP 1) Obtain a roll of 2in. by 4in. welded fence that is 4ft. high
Tip>>>a 50ft roll costs about $38 and makes approx. 6 cages)
STEP 2) Roll out the fence on a flat surface so it is easy to cut
Tip>>>wear leather gloves to prevent injury while handling wire
STEP 3) Cut an 8ft piece of wire with wire shears or a fencing tool
Tip>>>Cut the fence on one edge of the 2in horizontal wires, which will give you 2in closure tabs along the vertical wire
STEP 4) Make a Circle with the 8ft section and connect the ends with the wire tabs
Tip>>>Plastic cable ties or zip-ties can also be used
STEP 5) Place the circle cage upright in a food plot after it’s planted and stake the cage down to prevent animals from knocking it over
Tip>>>Use rebar or T posts as stakes
STEP 6) Remove the cage or mark it with bright orange tape before mowing or tilling the plot because it may be difficult for a tractor operator to see.
What the cage will tell you:
Study the amount and type of growth in the cage compared to what is outside it to understand how much the deer are feeding on the food plot.
Case 1) If the crop inside your cage is equal to the crop outside, little browsing is taking place
- There are few deer in the area
- There are abundant natural food sources being used
- Deer may not be moving due to poor weather conditions
Case 2) If the crop inside your cage is thriving, and the crop outside your cage is eaten to the ground, over-browsing is taking place
- There may be too many deer in the area; the deer population is probably beyond the carrying capacity of the habitat
Individual results may vary.