FORKSTON TWP. — Randy Storrs eased his four-wheeler onto the old logging road and sprayed the vegetation to prepare the ground to become a food plot.
It was the beginning of a long trek, one that will last five miles and take three years to complete.
Members of the Red Rock Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation and the Northeast PA Chapter of Whitetails Unlimited have partnered with the Pennsylvania Game Commission to establish what could be the longest food plot on state game lands.
The strip, which extends from Henri Lott in Forkston Township to Cider Run on SGL 57, is a logging road that was used in the 1960s. The Red Rock Chapter and Whitetails Unlimited have partnered to establish and maintain more than 100 acres of food plots on the game lands over the last eight years, but the current task is their biggest undertaking.
“We’re used to big challenges,” said Steve Germick, habitat chairman for the local Whitetails Unlimited chapter.
This particular challenge began eight years ago when the groups planted a small food plot on one end of the road. Dale Butler, president of the Red Rock Chapter, drove the entire length of the logging road and measured five miles on his odometer.
“This has been on my mind a long time,” he said.
Over the last eight years, numerous conservation groups have partnered with the Game Commission to build and maintain more than 100 acres of food plots on SGL 57, which is still minuscule compared to the 57,000 acres that comprises the tract.
Still, the benefits are apparent.
Germick said the lush vegetation found in the food plots makes for bigger and healthier deer and attracts a variety of wildlife.
“These plots even help the bears when they come out of hibernation and are looking for quick food source,” he said.
So far most of the food plots were planted on smaller openings in the forest, but the current project is unique in several ways.
The five-mile road is roughly 50 yards wide, Butler said, and much of it is overgrown, making it difficult to maneuver even a four-wheeler through the area. The Game Commission will work ahead of the groups, clearing and widening the road with a bulldozer and the volunteers will follow behind, spraying, liming and planting the cleared sections.
For a group of eight to 10 volunteers, Butler said the task is daunting.
“Acreage-wise this is huge. It’s a challenge to get supplies up here such as seed, fertilizer and water for spraying,” he said.
When it’s done, the five-mile strip will be planted with wheat, oats, chicory, annual clover and some perennials. The work will likely never end as the volunteers will need to return to where they started to maintain and replant sections over time.
Once the strip is transformed into a lush, green food plot it will also serve the dual purpose of acting as a natural firebreak, Butler said.
So far, the PGC has cleared two miles of the strip and the volunteers will spend weekends spraying and planting.
It’s a big project but it needs to be done,” Butler said. “There are very few food plots from Henri Lott on out, but this is a game-rich area due to the timbering that has taken place.”
Germick said the five-mile strip is more beneficial than a traditional food plot planted in an open field. The narrow layout of the strip is more appealing to wildlife, allowing them to feed without venturing too far into the open.
“Lineal food plots are better because wildlife feels safer using them,” Germick said. “This will be a perennial plot so it will feed deer from early spring right into winter, and benefit other species as well.”
Even after the planting is complete, the groups will keep returning to the five-mile strip to fertilize every year and frost-seed more perennial species in the spring.
“This is the largest food plot we’ve ever done, amounting to more than 20 acres,” Butler said. “But this is better because it’s not just 20 acres in one place. We’re covering five miles and crossing through different home ranges of deer, bear and other wildlife.”