August 06, 2015
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In the classic summertime baseball movie Field of Dreams, Ray Kinsella, the character played by iconic actor Kevin Costner, looked out into an Iowa cornfield and heard a voice whisper:
"If you build it, he will come."
Lee Lakosky, co-star of Outdoor Channel's Crush with Lee and Tiffany, has heard a similar voice as he has looked out into many an Iowa farm field.
Except the promised payoff isn't rebuilding a lost relationship with a wayward father or finding a famous baseball team suddenly taking up residence in Crushville.
No, when Lakosky hears that voice, he's hoping that a big, mature whitetail buck will one day move into an opening strategically placed mere yards away from a treestand.
With plenty of filming light remaining, mind you, and the Crush television cameras rolling and recording all of the action for Outdoor Channel viewers to see.
Hoping for several more BBD! moments this fall – as in "Big Buck Down!" – that is why Lakosky and his wife, Tiffany, the unofficial mayor and first lady of Crushville, are always so hard at work during the heat of summertime.
"The summer months are a big key for fall success on our hunting properties," said Lakosky in a recent interview detailing all of the hard work that goes into their fall hunting adventures and television show filming success.
From the start, Lakosky admits that not everyone can do what he and Tiffany do on their farms – it is their full-time job after all.
But he also notes that every deer hunter can do something to sweeten the pot this autumn on the land they have access to and for the deer that they will be chasing on such properties.
"It's not (any) different than fishing," he said. "You have to put bait on the hook to attract something (to bite)."
In the case of deer hunting, Lakosky said that often means planting food plots, even in the nation's breadbasket that produces such cereal grain crops as corn, wheat, alfalfa and milo.
"People ask, 'Why plant food plots among all of those fields,'" said Lakosky. "They ask 'Will it help?'"
Absolutely, said the mayor of Crushville.
"I can't stress this enough, food plots are going to change things on your farm (or hunting property). Everybody else might have food (available for deer right now), but most don't when (the) hunting season runs its course."
Lakosky points out that on one of the couple's farms, they hardly see anything in the summer months, just a few doe groups that are comprised by a dozen noses or less.
"Most deer go out and live in the big ag production fields all summer," he said. "But come October, those crops start coming down and the woods (around our food plots) start coming alive with deer.
"Over the years, the deer in our area have come to know that when the crops come down, there is still going to be food there on our places," he added.
With several farms now under their ownership and control across Iowa and the Midwest – and with more than 100 planted food plot fields and agricultural fields to boot – Lakosky admits that if he can plant it, he will.
Because in the final analysis, he is counting on educating a lot of deer – including big-rack white-tailed bucks whose home core areas may literally be miles away – that the chow line is always open in Crushville.
He points to one farm acquisition as further proof.
"One farm we bought, it had no real income coming from the land and it was open in parts due to being in the WRP (wetland reserve program)," he said. "It had a lot of tall grass, no real food area and some timber that had been harvested."
Doesn't sound like the next deer hunting Valhalla, now does it?
Au contraire, says Lakosky.
"The owner had a hard time selling it and we got it for a really good price," he said. "The first week we had it, we went in with a dozer and dozed in a couple of food plots in the timber and along the edge of the WRP area.
"That's still not a lot of food – maybe 15 to 18 acres of food plots total – but it was just two days with a dozer and we spent around $1,500.
"That's not much work, that's not a lot of money (in the overall scheme of things)," he added. "But the deer are really coming in there now and the place is phenomenal.
"In fact, now, it's one of our best farms."
While Lee and Tiffany strive for a 50-50 mix of timber lands and lands in some sort of food production (agricultural production crops or food plots), he admits that isn't always possible.
"Every farm is different," he advises, meaning that there usually isn't a one-size, fits-all kind of prescription.
Another case in point is a farm owned by the Laskosky's that has a spot known as the "Jordan Field." After already owning a good-size piece of land, the couple jumped at the chance to buy an adjoining 70-acre site that became available.
"The whole place was basically cedar, but we put a little clover field in it and things were really good," said Lee. "Bill and Tyler Jordan of Realtree Outdoors both shot a big buck out of there.
"After that, we shut it down for the rest of that season because we figured that we could shoot about every single deer on the farm out of that spot, but we didn't want the show to be all out of the same tree and on the same field.
Lakosky says that this year, even more big-buck action is anticipated on that small property in front of the Crush TV cameras.
"It's all back in corn this year on just two small food sources," he said. "You don't have to have a giant piece of land for good things to happen."
Just as every farm or hunting property is different, Lakosky says that every year is different too – some are wet, some are bone dry and others fall in between.
The key is to find the "planting windows" that allow some sort of food to be planted, food plots that will help fall hunting activity and help the deer to make it through the barren months of late fall and winter and on to the green-up time of next spring.
"We typically like to plant our Evolved Harvest Rack Radish Crush and Canola Crush stuff in June or July," said Lee.
Both of those fall annuals provide high nutrition and protein through providing such cold weather forage as Daikon radishes, T-Raptor rape seed, hybrid turnip plants and leafy brassicas, plants that will both attract deer due to their palatability and help them find nutrition to survive the harsh conditions when cold temperatures and snow prevail.
But given the unpredictable nature of Midwestern summertime weather – often hot and dry with temperatures soaring into the upper 90s to low 100s – Lakosky points to other options.
"There's always a window to plant something, even in drought years," he said. "On our farms, we'll have a mixture of corn, wheat, alfalfa, clover, etc., depending on what the weather allows for.
"We try to have a little bit of everything on each farm because depending on the time of year, each one is eventually going to shine," he added. "In the early season, clover, alfalfa and wheat fields are money. By the time we get to October and November, the turnip and radish fields are good. And by December and January, it's the corn and the bean fields."
Once again, the goal is to give deer a variety of food resource options to make it through the winter months, and to help hunting endeavors.
"One of our farms, we've got a good sized pipeline cut through," said Lee. "We plant that in clover because it's easy to look at deer with binoculars on a clover patch."
Especially on the right day.
"A lot of times in December when the weather isn't too bad and the snow melts off of the south facing slope, you'll look and there will be 50 deer out in the clover field planted down that pipeline," said Lakosky.
"But then you move on to the nearby corn field on that same nice day and you'll find only a few deer," he added. "But when the weather turns nasty, you'll find only a few deer out on that clover field. But drive down the road and there will be 200 deer out there on the corn field."
By planting a variety of fall and winter food resources, the deer get fed and every once in a while, another Big Buck Down! moment happens for the Crush television cameras.
"You always want to have something out there for them to get some food from," said Lee. "And to have some different options to hunt."
And if a hunter builds such fields, eventually, he – he being a mature, big-rack white-tailed buck rock star – will eventually come strolling down Main Street, right on into downtown Crushville.