3 Easy Poor Man’s Food Plots

By Bernie Barringer

Think you need a lot of heavy equipment
to plant an effective food plot for whitetails?
Think again!

Radishes and turnips for a deer hunting food plot

Plants in the brassica family such as these radishes and turnips are relished by deer. The deer will eat the leaves down to the nub. The “second course” comes after frost sweetens the tubers – deer will dig them up and eat them too. (Photo: Bernie Barringer)

It seems like many of the major whitetail hunting magazines and TV shows have forgotten about the ordinary working man, the weekend warrior who loves to hunt but will most likely never have the funds to buy and manage a property just for deer hunting. Most don’t have a big chunk of private land, nor the machinery needed to plant big food plots. That’s me.

I don’t own a tractor with all the pull-behind equipment to create acres of food plots. But I do have some tricks up my sleeve. I’ll explain three low-budget food plots I have used to create a place where you’ll find deer feeding during the hunting season.

Keep in mind that bigger isn’t always better. In fact, small food plots have some key advantages. With cover close by, mature bucks feel more comfortable feeding in a small plot tucked in the woods than they do in an open field — so they’ll more likely be found there during daylight.

Small food plot tucked back into timber

Effective food plots do not have to be large. Small plots tucked back into the timber are more likely to be visited by bucks during shooting hours. (Photo: Bernie Barringer)

1. Rake-a-Plot

A small clearing in the woods can be turned into a food plot with a few hours of sweat. If the ground cover is heavy in the clearing, you can spray it with a glyphosate based weed killer such as Roundup®. I rent a small sprayer to pull behind my ATV, but you can do this by hand. A gallon of Roundup will kill off nearly a half-acre of vegetation and the jug comes with a built-in hand sprayer. Come back two weeks later when everything is brown and dead. Then it’s a matter of taking a garden tiller to it or just turning it up with a spade.

Sow your seed with an ATV spreader, a hand-held crank spreader or broadcast seeds by hand. Then you just rake them into the ground and let nature take its course. Clover works well in the spring and summer. Brassicas such as turnips, sugar beets, forage rape and radishes are a good choice for planting in the summer so they are in their prime during the fall hunting season. A mix called Plot Topper is my favorite. Winter-hardy oats like Buck Forage Oats will still be attractive to the deer until deep the snow covers them.

This Rake-a-Plot method can be done on private land where you have permission to hunt. Also find out if you’re permitted to plant food plots in existing clearings on public land — most states have no restrictions.

2. The Throw-and-Grow Corn Field Foot Plot

The corn field food plot is going to take some understanding by the landowner.

Here’s how it works. Deer relish turnips, and they love them the most when a frost has made them more palatable. For the best timing, they should be planted in July; if you have a late variety, perhaps August. You can choose an area in a corn or bean field near your treestand and hand-seed turnips right into the crops. Walk down the rows of corn and spread the seed on the ground, then simply rake it in. It will sprout and grow slowly until the corn is harvested; then it grows quickly once the corn is gone, assuming there are still some warm days. These plants become the most favorable food in the area and they’re right in front of your stand.

If a farmer wants to till the ground the moment the corn comes out, that can be an issue unless you can talk him into leaving a small section through the hunting season. Even when chisel plowed, much of the turnip plants and bulbs will be available to the deer. They will eat both leaves and tubers until they are gone.

Deer hunter checking his DIY food plot

Planting brassicas right into a cornfield is a great way to create a cheap food plot. They are ready for action when the corn is harvested. Here the author checks on the progress of his turnips. (Photo: Bernie Barringer)

3. Fruit and Mast Trees

Most people do not think of planting fruit trees or nuts trees as a food plot, but it’s a great way to share with the next generation. I have often said I don’t plant trees for myself anyway; I plant them for those who come after me. Once again, there are normally no restrictions on planting trees even on public lands. Two or three apple trees planted in a small clearing in the forest can create a deer hunting gold mine in only five years. Deer love pears even more than apples. Pears will survive mild winters, but do not do well where temperatures stay below freezing for months at a time.

Oaks, hickories and chestnuts are very attractive to deer but they take longer to start producing. Even if you plant well-developed nut trees, you are still looking at close to a decade before they become a hub of activity for deer in that area. But once they do, the deer are drawn to them like magnets when the nuts are falling.

So don’t feel like you need a big tractor and a bunch of farm machinery to improve the land where you hunt. Whether you hunt public or private land, you can increase your odds of bagging a deer by creating these simple dirt-cheap food plots.

About Bernie Barringer:

Bernie Barringer headshot 2015Bernie Barringer hunts and fishes for a variety of species in several states and Canadian provinces. He has published more than 600 articles in two dozen outdoor magazines and authored 12 books on hunting, fishing and trapping. The latest is “The Freelance Bowhunter: DIY Strategies for the Travelling Hunter.” He is a recognized authority on DIY hunting, and blogs his hunts on his website www.bowhuntingroad.com.

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5 Mistakes Veteran Deer Hunters Make

By Ron Spomer

You can always tell a veteran deer hunter —
you just can’t tell him much!

A single deer in an open field

“No self-respecting buck will be out in that open field at this time of day!” Oops! Never assume you know it all. (Photo: Ron Spomer)

We old timers who’ve been around the buck a time or two certainly know more than most young whipper snappers, but that superior experience sometimes comes back to bite us. Here are five big mistakes any deer hunter can make — even with many decades of experience under his belt.

1. We know it all. Except we don’t.

There’s always something new to learn about our quarry, our gear, our tactics and ourselves. Don’t make this mistake of thinking only “inside the box.” Keep an open mind. Research. Investigate. Try new things and be willing to learn.

Because some folks did this we now know that bucks are NOT spooked by human urine. That they do not stick to a tight core area throughout the fall rut period. That the oldest bucks do not always turn nocturnal and that the biggest buck in the area does not breed the greatest number of does. Know-it-all veterans (like me) have been shown that the right 75-grain .224 bullet will drift less in the wind than the wrong 150-grain .308 bullet and that a 95-grain 243 Winchester hits with more energy at 100 yards than a 170-grain .30-30.

A deer hunter scouting in a treestand

“This stand always produces!” Well, it used to. Don’t be afraid to move and find new and better hunting areas. (Photo: Ron Spomer)

2. We get stuck in a rut.

Hunting the rut is good. Being stuck in one is bad. The older and more experienced we get, the more likely we’ll fall into doing the same old same old. Just because that hot stand in the corner of the field produced five good bucks five years in a row ten years ago doesn’t mean it will do it again. Habitats change, hunting pressure changes, deer change. We must change.

Wake up and pay attention. Where are the best feeding sites? The safest bedding areas? The most secure travel lanes? Where has hunting pressure increased and where has it decreased? Figure it out and be ready to shift, move and change tactics. The good old days probably were good, but if they no longer are, admit it and set about creating the good NEW days.

3. We get lazy with gun handling.

This is an all too common but deadly mistake. Those of us who have handled, manipulated, cleaned, repaired and used “Old Death Wind” for two decades or more can get a bit sloppy about it. We forget to check the bore for obstructions after the off season. We get to reminiscing on the hike out of the woods and forget to unload the magazine. We grab an old box of ammo and load up without checking the head stamps. We start pushing down fence wires with the butt stock when crossing.

Yikes! The list of unsafe gun handling mistakes is a long and deadly one. Make a vow to stay on your toes when handling firearms. If you have to get stuck in a rut, the safe gun handling rut is the one to be stuck in.

4. We assume too much.

“No respectable buck is going to be out in that open field at this time of day.” So you drive over the rise and there he is — or was — courting a doe within easy rifle shot. If only you’d sneaked over instead! It’s smart to use what we’ve learned about whitetails over the years.

Being sure of what you know saves time and energy and often leads to success. But it can just as often lead to regrets. Instead of saying “always” and “never,” think “usually” and “rarely.” Then be prepared to take advantage of those exceptions.

A veteran hunter with two young hunters in training

“I don’t want competition from kids stumbling through my hunting grounds!” Hey – new recruits are our only chance for perpetuating both hunting and the game we hunt. Welcome them, train them. (Photo: Ron Spomer)

5. We discount new hunters.

Old friends are a comfort, but they could spell the end of hunting. Once they pass, who takes over? Who fights the fight we’ve fought for wildlife and hunting? Our increasingly urbanized, overcrowded world is drifting away from hunting and wildlife interactions. If we old timers go to our graves with our secrets and our passions, our grandkids will lose not only their right to hunt, but the wildlife they want to hunt. Even wildlife watching opportunities will diminish.

Hunters rebuilt wildlife habitat and restored wildlife species across North America following the exploitation era of the 19th century. Our interests, political pressure and dollars have made and funded the incredible 20th century resurgence in whitetails, turkeys, elk, geese, wood ducks, bears, mountain lions, wolves, beavers, otters and more. Without hunters as watchdogs, the forces of urbanization would bulldoze wildlife and wild places off the map while young people seek solace in digital toys.

So leave your comfort zone, break your habits and spread the good news. Bring new hunters of all ages into your orbit. Show kids the joys of the outdoor life. Feed ’em jerky. Pass on your hunting heritage or it will disappear along with the animals that inspired it. That will be the biggest mistake of all.

About Ron Spomer:

Blog Author, Ron Spomer.

Ron Spomer is rifles columnist for Sporting Classics, field editor for American Hunter, travel columnist for Sports Afield and contributor to Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever and numerous other magazines and websites. He’s host of “Winchester World of Whitetail” on Outdoor Channel and dozens of informative videos on his own YouTube channel. Learn more at www.ronspomeroutdoors.com.

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4 Mistakes Beginning Deer Hunters Make

By Steve Sorensen

Learning to hunt? Don’t miss these basics!

Young deer hunter shooting from a tree rest

Young Erik Sorensen learned to shoot from a stable, comfortable position. Here, He’s sitting on a sling seat called the Sit-Drag, from E.Z. Hunter, LLC. He has the option of supporting his rifle against the side of the tree or resting his elbow on his knee. (Photo: Steve Sorensen)

Many hunters remember every detail about their first successful deer hunt. At 15 I was walking behind my father in the early morning darkness. We made our way through a patchwork of snow and wet leaves to our chosen stand site. Silently — except for the “zwish, zwish, zwish” coming from my legs. It sounded like I was cutting a 2-by with a crosscut saw. Although I shot my first buck that day, I vowed never to wear corduroy pants while hunting again.

If you’re a tenderfoot hunter, or mentoring a new hunter, it’s a good idea to learn from the wide range of rookie mistakes people make over and over again. Here are four kinds of basic blunders greenhorn hunters should avoid.

1. Wrong clothing — think comfort, color and quiet.

Corduroy pants are only one example of a foolish clothing choice for deer hunting. Other unwise wardrobe choices include cotton underwear, blue jeans and the shirt you changed oil in. You might get by with cotton underwear in a lot of situations, but if the weather is hot or wet, or if you’re doing a lot of walking, cotton underwear will soak up your perspiration and won’t evaporate. I know firsthand how uncomfortable that can be. You’re better off “going commando.” A far better choice is one of the new moisture-wicking fabrics.

Blue jeans are another no-no. They’re also made from cotton so wet weather will make wearing them miserable. Dry weather is not much better because blue jeans are one of the most unnatural colors you can wear in the deer woods. Some research suggests deer have extra sensitivity to ultraviolet light, which makes blue jeans almost appear to glow. Steer toward synthetic fabrics, quiet fleece or wool.

And wear your hunting clothes for hunting, not for working under the car, running your snowblower or doing any other activity. Every scent you’re exposed to will be deposited on your clothing, and foreign scents will alert deer.

A selection of foods to bring while on a deer hunt

Use common sense about food. The author favors foods that are unlikely to alarm deer: raisins, nuts, peanut butter sandwiches, apples and fruit juice. And don’t fool with noisy wrappers – unwrap your hard candy beforehand and keep it in a quiet zip-close sandwich bag. (Photo: Steve Sorensen)

2. Wrong gear — look for basic, serviceable equipment.

Some new hunters think they need all the best gear when starting out. Don’t fall for that. Even if you hunt with a guy who uses top end guns and gear, realize it took him years to work up to that.

On the other hand, don’t get a rattletrap rifle with functional problems. Buy a good used rifle in a common caliber, or borrow something serviceable. Top it with a mid-priced scope with a reputable name and make several outings to shoot it before going hunting. Also, learn how to shoot in the field from a rest, such as using the side of a tree as an anchor point.

Hunting isn’t a fashion show, so don’t feel like you need to dress in the coolest camo. Don’t think you need a pair of boots that will last a decade. All you need is footwear that will support your feet and keep them dry. And don’t invest in a custom knife. The Havalon knife is second to none — it’s wicked sharp, reasonably priced and will do everything you need it to do.

3. Wrong advice — experienced hunters can lead you astray.

Experienced hunters can be a big help, but they can also give you bad advice. Some have forgotten what it was like to start out, and may explain things in a way you don’t understand. Some will try to sound like the experts you think they are so you’ll keep them high on a pedestal.

Two things must come with every piece of advice. The person advising you should remember that you’re a beginner, and he should give you confidence that you can get it done. If he acts as though you should already know certain things, or belittles your efforts, seek advice elsewhere.

4. Wrong expectations — wait until after the hunt to call the butcher.

Some people think if they don’t come home with a nice buck the first time out they have failed. Believe me, that’s as far from the truth as North American whitetails are from Indian elephants.

Your expectations should be realistic. Getting exposed to hunting in a positive way should top the list. You also want to learn about deer habits, learn about the land and learn how deer relate to the land. You should also expect to enjoy hunting in the way an athlete enjoys his game. You win a few, lose a few and go home tired but confident you can play better next time out.

A sign for a butcher shop for wild game

Know where the butcher shop is, but don’t be so overconfident that you call him before you shoot the deer. (Photo: Steve Sorensen)

Remember Daniel Boone? You’re not him.

Chances are you won’t be the rookie who stumbles into the woods, picks his head up and sees a trophy buck that’s oblivious to his presence. You might be the person who analyzes everything, considers every contingency, makes a detailed plan and still goes home skunked. Don’t be frustrated. You gave it your best shot. Daniel Boone sometimes went home deerless, too.

Or, sometimes you’ll get a deer despite your mistakes, as I did. But did I tell you? That was my fourth year hunting. So, be patient.

About Steve Sorensen:

hunter outdoor writer steve sorensenSteve Sorensen is the author of “Growing Up With Guns” and “The Everyday Hunter Handbook Series.” He writes an award-winning newspaper column called “The Everyday Hunter®” and edits content in the Havalon Post. He has published articles in top magazines across the USA, and won the 2015 “Pinnacle” Award for magazine writing. Invite Steve to speak at your next sportsman’s event, and follow him at www.EverydayHunter.com.

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6 Ways to Get a Woman into Hunting, Part 2

By Tracy L. Schmidt

That favorite woman of yours —
what will draw her to becoming a hunter?

The front door of a hunting lodge

Hunting camp is not a males-only domain. In today’s world women are perfectly welcome. (Photo: Steve Sorensen)

Part 2: Sustenance, solidarity and self-respect

*If you missed Part 1 of “6 Ways to Get a Woman into Hunting,” you can read it here.

4. Teach where food comes from

One great reason to get into hunting is to comprehend where your food actually comes from, and to respect the sacrifice an animal makes as it becomes sustenance for you. It seems to me that allowing an animal to live the most natural life possible before it becomes food should be important to everyone.

Hunting is a huge contrast to the conditions large-scale commercial farms create for animals before you pick them up on a foam board in a supermarket. The hunter respects the animal by letting it have its freedom until it dies, and fair chase means it has a chance to escape. Dan helped me to look past steaks wrapped in plastic and see that hunting treats animals in a far more humane way than commercial meat processing. As a woman, I don’t pass the responsibility for what I eat to someone else, and I have a philosophy about meat I wholeheartedly support.

5. Show that deer camp is not a boy’s only club

Another great thing my husband did was teach me about other women hunters. I’m talking about real women hunters — not wannabes, but women who stand on their own as hunters, gals including Alabama’s Tes Randle Jolly, Tennessee’s Joella Bates, Illinois’ Vicki Cianciarulo and Iowa’s Kandi Kisky. I especially loved the way Randle Jolly paid homage to her dad. Family and friends are great motivators. Many of the great women hunters were inspired by them.

To me it was empowering to see other women who had an undisputed place at hunting camp, and to see that hunting binds woman and men in solidarity. I decided I had every right to earn my place there, too.

The population of women hunters is growing by leaps and bounds, forcing manufacturers to offer clothing and gear to make anyone comfortable in the field, man or woman. I even have pink on my bow (although I have to say the color accent doesn’t affect the quality of my shot one way or the other).

A boy with his bow and arrow shooting a deer decoy

When both Mom and Dad are hunters, a kid will grow up appreciating their worldview and taking pride in outdoor pursuits. (Photo: Steve Sorensen)

6. Instill pride

As you guide that new enlistee into the ranks of hunters, you are also giving her a role to play in the greatest conservation movement in history. No continent on earth has a better model for wildlife management than North America. We truly have something to be proud of because hunters have made sure wildlife is abundant — and accessible not only to hunters but to non-hunters. The role hunters play in the welfare of wildlife is without parallel, and people need to know about it. Who hasn’t seen a deer? Who hasn’t enjoyed songbirds? Who hasn’t watched a huge flock of Canada geese flying in a V-formation? People can thank hunters for all of it.

Simply by purchasing hunting licenses and hunting gear, hunters raise millions of dollars for wildlife. Those dollars provide professional wildlife management. They also create and improve wildlife habitat, not only for game animals but for every species.

All sorts of affinity groups stand for “pride” these days. Hunters should be proud, too. They have nothing to hide from those who do not understand our way of life. As a woman hunter you don’t have to adopt an in-your-face attitude to show pride. But once you’ve learned what it means to be a hunter, and you’ve acquired some skills, and you understand what attracts people to hunting, and you have become a true conservationist, your worldview will be changed for the better and you’ll have something to stand for. Stand tall with self-respect in being a hunter.


Many women experience a conflict between society’s concept of being feminine and killing an animal. That first shot is a huge step for a woman. In my case, I launched an arrow at a big doe, and it was a watershed moment for me. It confirmed my new way of life — integrating what I truly believed with what I was now willing to do.

It was not an issue of nature versus nurture. In a split second, nature and nurture combined for me in a brand new way. I was caring for my loved ones by putting dinner on their plate. I was going to be able to stand on my own two feet in providing food for myself. Having decided to shoot has not made me less feminine or converted me into some kind of heartless critter killer. Both stereotypes I feared that sat on the tip of my broadhead staring me in the face that day.

A female hunter with her buck

Most men now realize a woman can be just as good a hunter as a man – Audrey Zimmerman’s husband, Dick, says she is just as good a hunter as he is, maybe better. (Photo: Steve Sorensen)

Historically, many women have had to provide for their families while their husbands were fighting overseas. For example, during WWII women had to step up to put food on the table so their children and the elderly could survive — and they were still considered women. Those who expanded their points of view survived. Knowing how to hunt and take care of yourself is just plain smart. Why wouldn’t you want to do it?

How do you get the woman in your life to take up hunting? Help her see how and why you love it. Help her see how she can be a welcomed and respected part of your team. Let her see, step by step, that by putting in the time she will get the results. Help her to be part of the big picture. I hope my journey helps spark a few conversations with the woman you hope to inspire.

About Tracy L. Schmidt:

Tracy Schmidt headhsotTracy L. Schmidt is a certified master food preservation specialist and the author of the book “Venison Wisdom.” Each of her recipes is tested and perfected. She is married to Daniel Schmidt, editor in chief of Deer & Deer Hunting magazine and host of “Deer & Deer Hunting TV” on NBC Sports. Tracy enjoys the versatility of Havalon Knives in both the kitchen and the field.

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6 Ways to Get a Woman into Hunting, Part 1

By Tracy L. Schmidt

That favorite woman of yours —
is there a chance she can become a hunter?

Tracy Schmidt in blaze orange holding a shotgun

Some people may not think a woman with a shotgun is politically correct, but it’s real life. Women are the fastest growing segment in the world of hunting. (Photo: Daniel E. Schmidt)

Part 1: Stereotypes, skills and stuffed animals

I am a hunter — but I did not grow up a hunter. As a kid I didn’t know a single person who hunted, much less approved of hunting. You see, I grew up just 15 miles from Boston, Massachusetts, New England’s largest city. We had many malls, restaurants, arcades and far more fast food and asphalt than 100-acre woodlots. Natural areas were for hiking and bird watching, definitely not hunting.

My perception of hunting was that it was completely unnecessary in these modern times, and what I knew about guns was what I saw on the news — gangs and crime.

That all changed when I moved to rural northcentral Wisconsin where hunting is thoroughly ingrained in the culture. Compounding matters, I enrolled at a university famous for its natural resources curriculum, which produced many hunting-related professionals. I soon discovered I had a lot to learn!

When I moved to Wisconsin, I vowed I would never date anyone who hunted. So much for the best laid plans. A few decades later I’m not only enthusiastic about hunting, I’m married to a key person in the hunting industry.

So what happened? Actually, quite a few things. Six concepts changed my thinking. I hope they will make sense to you as well, help you embrace this holistic lifestyle and give you the tools to get someone you know interested in hunting.

Father and daughter pose next to a doe used for family food

Young children are not so tender they can’t understand the circle of life. In fact, that’s the time to teach them. (Photo: Tracy Schmidt)

1. Break down the stereotypes

First, I discovered a huge misunderstanding — I equated hunting with wasteful killing. I failed to perceive wild animals as a renewable resource, as populations with the capacity to replace themselves. I also became acquainted with people who need to hunt to provide their families with food. I had never known anybody who ate wild game, so I never really thought of it as a food source. To me, going out to take a nature walk was hiking through some man-shaped “natural” area that wasn’t natural at all. Hiking meant staying on the trail and being subject to a controlled experience passing through nature, and see a few birds, squirrels, chipmunks, turtles and an occasional snake. Hunting, by contrast, takes you off the trail and provides you with a completely interactive experience.

I also learned that many hunters donate deer to food pantry programs. With that kind of societal need for meat I learned hunting is not as simple as killing an animal for sport. I don’t consider “thrill kills” justifiable. Yes, it happens, because every pursuit has both ethical and unethical people, so you can’t judge those who do good by the actions of a few who do wrong.

A great way to begin changing attitudes toward hunting is by challenging stereotypes calmly, and by helping one other person understand why hunting is important. My husband, Dan, was very good at letting me talk about some of these issues and he let me know about venison-receptive food pantry programs and how important hunting is to feeding families.

2. Reinforce the required skill set

Another thing that helped motivate me to get into hunting was the technical challenge. Archery was a great way to start, and I began with a compound bow. Each night after getting home we would run out into the backyard and shoot targets. Dan challenged me to group all my arrows in a pie plate before I could hunt with him. He worked hard with me and as we practiced we developed as a hunting team. When I shot up my pie plate he was just as happy as I was.

I had never understood how much practice and preparation go into hunting. The skill required was impossible to dismiss after experiencing the process in person. The act of inviting someone to join you in practice where they can see how much fun you are having is a great way to break the ice. They will want to have fun, too.

A child wearing blaze orange hunting gear

Taking a child hunting gives them a sense of responsibility and makes them a part of something important. (Photo: Tracy Schmidt)

3. Debunk the culture of animal personification

I was raised to think of animals as the warm, fuzzy, baby things desperate for our protection. Throughout our culture, many different forms of media have perpetuated this idea. Like many, I failed to grasp the huge difference between wild animals and pets until I moved to the country.

I had to stop thinking of the stuffed toy on my childhood bed as an animal and begin thinking about what predation in the natural world is all about. One thing that helped was going out scouting with Dan. He took me with him long before I headed out in to the field carrying my bow.

I remember scouting turkeys by sitting out under the pines at night. Dan hooted like an owl and the turkeys gobbled in response — very cool to observe and experience. If you want to get someone to go hunting, expose them to the natural world in ways non-hunters don’t see. It’s an amazing education to learn how to blend into the natural world around you. Without a doubt, good hunters have the best observation skills.

Don’t miss Part 2 of “6 Ways to Get a Woman into Hunting.”

About Tracy L. Schmidt:

Tracy Schmidt headhsotTracy L. Schmidt is a certified master food preservation specialist and the author of the book “Venison Wisdom.” Each of her recipes is tested and perfected. She is married to Daniel Schmidt, editor in chief of Deer & Deer Hunting magazine and host of “Deer & Deer Hunting TV” on NBC Sports. Tracy enjoys the versatility of Havalon Knives in both the kitchen and the field.

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